When Harmony and I arrived in Hue, we were apprehensive at first. It was the hassle you get in the street and how work-in-progress the city's developments felt. However, once we checked into our hostel, had breakfast and explored more, we came to love the city just as much as Hanoi. The Perfume River and surrounding area was particularly nice.
Joining the main part of the city and the Citadel side are a few big bridges. We were heading to the Citadel (an old palace and fortress surrounded by a moat and large stone wall) until we realised there were no nearby ATMs and we had now cash to pay the entrance fee. Instead, we just carried on walking to another bridge and back to our hostel (making the resulting route a bit of a circle). Along the way, we walked through parks, admired all the greenery and watched dragonflies as they chased one another.
The following day, we had a tour booked to see some of the amazing tombs and temples in and around the city. There was actually a bit of a mix up with the tour at first - it seemed like the other people and Harmony and I were just thrown together into one big group, even though we paid for completely different things. Everything quickly resolved itself though and we split up to do what was (more or less) originally planned for us - a boat tour.
The rain was pouring down so, thankfully, the boat was fully covered. It plodded down the river until we arrived at a very old, traditional home. Inside the home, our tour guide explained a bit about the culture in Hue and how it differs from other cities in Vietnam. We were taught about the rules leading up to marriage, showing affection in the streets and women's rights (amongst other things). Our guide also showed us the traditional Vietnamese "cheers" and gave us tea! In the garden were lots of different trees - each have their own use, be it medical, wood or tasty fruit.
Our next stop was Thien Mu Pagoda and it was just another short trip down the river. The ancient temple is home to a 20m high tower, a few Buddhist monks and the car that transported the infamous monk, Thich Quang Duc, to where he burnt himself alive in protest of what the government was doing to religious freedoms in the country. There are also many statues around the site, as well as a huge bell that rings to remind the monks to do good.
After lunch, we spent the afternoon seeing some of the different tombs in and around the city. The first was Minh Mang's tomb, then Lang Khai Dinh's tomb and, finally, Tu Duc's tomb. They were all so unique and interesting so I could've spent days looking at them! My favourite tomb was Tu Duc's tomb because of how serene and peaceful the whole area was. Lang Khai Dinh's looked like the only tomb that hadn't been refurbished. So, it was even more interesting to look at but, unfortunately, we only saw it from the outside of the gate to save time.
The next day wasn't nearly as action packed... We wanted to explore the Citadel again, but it was way to hot to do anything other than sitting down and chilling out! We found a nice spot by the river, played some music and enjoyed the sun.
A couple of days later, and it was finally time to go to the Citadel. Most of the buildings are ruins due to war, but some have been tastefully reconstructed. A lot of weathering has taken place to, which gives it a more authentic and old look. In the first building, I found the throne to be very impressive and really like the painted pillars and the red and gold patterns and poems on the ceiling. The gift shop was also very cool and the short documentaries and digital reconstructions were even cooler. Outside are some pretty gardens, peaceful canals and some pretty cool gazebos.
On our last day in Hue, the rain got pretty bad. In the evening, the wind picked up to speeds of 30mph. Thankfully, we had no reason to go out and nothing left to see as, in the words of the hostel staff, it was not "safe to go out!" There was lightning every few seconds and water slowly made its way into the hostel. The sound of stuff crashing in the streets echoed through the night. It was such an exciting experience but, by morning, it was as if nothing happened. It was a fortunate thing that the weather cleared up as we had a long bus journey ahead of us to Hoi An.