Our first taste of Vietnam was in Hué after a long bus trip and border crossing from Pakse, Laos. Even after our friends prepared us for the crazy traffic and chaos that embodies the country, we were still very surprised! We can’t tell you the amount of times we had to shoo motorcyclists away who were offering rides and then marijuana. Hué is smack dab in the middle of Vietman, and was the capital city of Vietnam during the Nguyễn dynasty for 150 years. The main section of the city runs along the Perfume River, and near there you can visit the main attraction in the city; the walled Imperial City. Along the south side of the river to the east there are some fun bars and restaurants, but overall Hué provides only a small taste of Vietnam. Check out the Imperial City and surrounding area then make your move to Hoi An or Hanoi as soon as you can.
How to Get There
We took a slightly different route than most when arriving in Vietnam, as we entered from southern Laos. We booked a 5:30am bus that took us all the way to Hué from Pakse for 230,000 kip. It was one of our least favourite bus rides, and even more annoying as it took place during the day, but it saved a lot of money in the long run. You can check out our post on Crossing the Vietnam Border for more info.
If you’re not arriving from Laos, you’ll probably be travelling through Vietnam starting in the north or south. From what we’ve heard, the easiest way to do this is to buy a hop on/hop off bus ticket that will stop in all the major cities on the way down or up. We travelled from Hué to Hoi An via a tour bus which stopped at a lot of cool destinations along the way, including the marble mountains! It only cost 260,000 dong, you can learn more about it in our post here.
Where to Stay
Hué Boutique Homestay – Every hotel we stayed at in Vietnam had unrivaled customer service, and the friendliest staff imaginable. They are also super cheap and very comparable to hostels. Our Boutique Hotel in Hué was no exception. Our private room was basic but clean, and had an en suite bathroom, A/C, and a TV. It cost $10 US each a night, and included breakfast. It was located right in the middle of a bunch of bustling bars and restaurants near the river, and was within walking distance of the Imperial City. The hotel staff were very helpful and recommended restaurants for us to try, and set us up with a tour bus drive to Hoi An along the Hai Van Mountain Pass with stops at sights along the way (including the Marble Mountains) for 260,000 dong. You can book at Hué Boutique Homestay online here.
What to Do
- Imperial City – A must see if you visit Hué, this ancient walled city housed past empires of Vietnam during the Nguyễn dynasty. The impressive front gate leads you into a collection of fantastic buildings. It also encompasses the Forbidden Purple City, which is mainly in ruins due to the Vietnam War. There is also a Vietnamese theatre there that puts on cultural shows, but not enough tickets were purchased (80,000 dong) when we were there to have the show. The theatre was still cool to visit! Be sure to spend a few hours wandering around the ancient buildings to get a sense of what life might have been like. It costs 150,000 dong to get in.
Where to Eat
- Risotto Restaurant – An Italian restaurant that was open late and right around the corner from our hotel. They offer free brushetta and fruit with your meal, and the food was great!
- Century Bar and Beer Garden – The busiest bar on the street, this bar was loud and really fun! A DJ was putting on some party music and the drinks were fairly cheap. Devon always seemed to get free drinks everywhere we went in Vietnam, but Alex managed to coax a tequila shot from the bartender as well when Devon got one!