Hue - A dynastic citadel.

This ancient imperial city remains one of Vietnam's main attractions. The charm of this timeless old city lies not only in its historical & architectural value, but also in the natural beauty of its location along the banks of Song Huong, or the fabled Perfume River.

The city divides into three urban areas. The 19th century walled Citadel on the north bank of the Perfume River, contains the once-magnificent Imperial City. Across Dong Ba canal to the east lies Phu Cat, the original merchants' quarter of Hue where ships once pulled in is now a crowded district of shops & houses. What used to be called the European City, a triangle of land between the Perfume River's south bank & the Phu Cam Canal, is Hue's modern administrative centre.

Three walled enclosures make up The Imperial City. Hoang Thanh (Yellow Enclosure) & Tu Cam Thanh (Forbidden Purple City) are enclosed within the all-encompassing Kinh Thanh (the exterior enclosure). The Yellow Enclosure is the middle wall enclosing the imperial city & its palaces, temples & flower gardens. Four richly decorated gates provided access to Ngo Mon (the southern gate or Noon gate), Hoa Binh (northern gate), Hien Nhan (eastern gate), & Chuong Duc (western gate). The Forbidden Purple City was reserved only for the emperor & the royal family behind a brick wall of 4 metres thick. Each of the seven gates set into the wall had a special function & name glorifying the ancestral virtues. This area was extensively damaged during the American Vietnam war in the sixties.

A boat trip on the Perfume River is one of the city's highlights passing rowing boats loaded with vegetables heading for the Dong Ba market, workmen with bamboo baskets ducking down to dredge the shallow banks for building sand, & all the slow bustle of river life. The boat journey will take you to the tower of Thien Mu Pagoda & Hon Chen Temple.

Another Hue rewarding sight is the Tombs of the Nguyen dynasty. The Mausoleum of Tu Duc is sited in large lyrical pleasure gardens of trees, elegant pavilions & serene lakes that the emperor created for his own world  hidden from the outside. The walls & twelve-hectare park took three years to build. Although he had 104 wives & a whole village of concubines living in the park he fathered no children. It is a rather daunting place charged with depth & mystery.