After my night out in Hue, and saved by the 2 am bahn mi trolley, I woke up EARLY to try to avoid the worst of the heat and humidity by getting to Hue’s Royal Citadel soon after it opened, so I could explore the massive complex in relative comfort. I should have just skipped sleeping all together and gone in the middle of the night . . . there was just no escaping the humidity in Hue!
Nevertheless, I was at the citadel by about 8:30 am, after a short and cheap taxi ride across the Perfume River from my hotel. The complex is GIANT. As the only person from my tour who enjoyed the more cultural side of things, the one word I used to describe it to them was vast. At 10 km square, it took me three and a half hours to see most of the complex (I skipped the museum), and I was walking for almost all of that time. Did I mention it was about 37 degrees?? Thank God for my Camelbak!
As I mentioned in my previous post, Hue was the capital city of Vietnam from 1802 – 1945, under the Nguyen dynasty. The Citadel contained the Purple Forbidden City, which housed the ruler, his wives and concubines, other members of his family and his advisors. The Citadel is surrounded by a moat and walls that are over 2m thick, and used to be home to hundreds of buildings of important cultural significance, but due to the Battle of Hue in 1968 during the Vietnam War, most were completely obliterated, and most of what still stands in the Imperial City today is a reconstruction.
The breezeways of the citadel are impressive in their ornate decorations. Having not been to mainland Asia before, and not having much experience with the architectural styles there, I was constantly impressed by the level of decoration and detail of painting and colour. The red and gold was striking and vibrant, and it ordained all of the walk ways around the complex.
I just wandered and wandered the complex, marveling at the buildings and the care and work that has gone into restoring them. The Citadel was almost completely destroyed by the Vietnam War, so restoration work is ongoing and time consuming. The restoration work never interfered with any of the sights in the Citadel, and the efforts of the restorers clearly worth it.
See the small gallery below for more pictures of the Imperial City and Citadel of Hue.