The autumn signals the start of Vietnam’s “Wedding season”, with most Vietnamese coupes choosing to marry in the fall and winter months. The city of Hue looks even more romantic than usual, the sky seemingly higher and bluer. I watch girls in fluttering ao dai tunics cross the Trang Tien Bridge in the early morning, as white clouds fly overheard.
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Hue, home to Vietnam’s Nguyen Dynasty during the 19th and early 20th centuries, is a blissful spot for a honeymoon Hue’s nostalgic streets; Blue River and ancient architecture make it unlike any other cirt in Vietnam.
According to principles of Phong thuy, the ancient Vietnamese art of geomancy, the city is protected by a Green Dragon and a White Tiger, as well as by the Perfume River and Ngu Mountain. Long considered sacred, this site’s auspicious aspect is said have shielded it from wars, disasters and destruction. Today, I find that Hue us as beautiful as an old poem and as romantic as a watercolor painting.
Three raparts encircle Hue’s royal citadel. Morning and evening, bells peal from the city’s many pagodas. People living in traditional garden houses observe ancient customs. And old tombs remind me of the city’s former rulers.
The city’s relics and nostalgia, while its citadel hints at the court’s vanished opulence. Started in 1805 and completed in 1832, the Royal Palace is unforgettable with its blue stone terraces, red-painted ironwood pillars and roof tiles shining green and gold in the sun. Covering 5.2 square kilometers, the grounds contain dozens of places, mansions and pavilions Dragon and phoenix patterns adorn the walls and massive bronze ums stand as testament to the kings’ power.
Not content to just live well on earth, the Nguyen kings built massive tombs and these beautiful, park – like sites have become major tourist attractions. The tombs of Tu Duc, Ming Mang and Khai Dinh are the best-known and most visited. Lying southwest of the city, the tombs are all laid out according to complex rules of geomancy. Surrounded by pine trees, King Tu Duc’s tomb contains wooden pavilions decorated with hundreds Ming’s tomb is as symmetrical as a Chinese Tang poem, its ponds covered by pink blooms.
Most striking if all is King Khai Dinh’s tomb, which mixes Eastern and Western elements. Behind stone statues if high-ranking mandarins, elephants and horses stand a huge wooden gate carved with gothic motifs. On the roof of a pavilion I find a masterful fresco titled: “Mine dragons hidden behind the clouds”. A life – size throne and statue of the king testify to the skill of Vietnam’s long-ago artisans.
In the evening, I take a ride on a “royal boat” on the perfume River. I release paper boats containing lit candles onto the waves and make a wish, as performers in old fashioned dress sing Hue’s traditional court songs.
Another evening, I bypass the city’s tourist hotspot and head to a modest restaurant on Kim Long Road, on Hue’s outskirts. Here, girls who are not wearing makeup serve thin rice flour cakes that are much tastier than those served in the fancy restaurants. This is the true Hue – poor but peaceful. Such simple pleasures combined with my pride in Hue’s glorious past make my visit to Hue unforgettable.