If you are heading from South Vietnam to North, you will come across the city of Hue in central Vietnam. It is worth a quick-stop as it has The Imperial Citadel, and a beautiful Thien Mu Pagoda (The Temple of the Celestial Lady). One can rent a Bicycle and Ride along the Countryside to visit markets and meet locals.PS: Imperial Tombs – tombs of Tu Duc, Khai Dinh, and Minh Mang have hefty entrance and parking fees and are NOT worth visiting.
The Vietnamese are a proud and fierce group of people. These are the starving rice farmers who withheld the might of American Military for decades with nothing more than homemade traps and ingenuity. The locals are highly welcoming to Indians and I managed to get a lot of free drinks.At no point during my 9 day trip did I feel alone with a lot of people making an effort to connect even without speaking any English. There is something beautiful in sharing drinks and meal with people you are communicating with only with laughter and gestures. In fact, while visiting the Cao Dhai people near the Cambodian border, I even received a celebrity experience with all youngsters wanting to take pictures of me. It got tiring very quickly and I felt a bit bad for how foreigners are treated back home in India.Pro Tip: Relax around locals. Sometimes, they are just curious. It is a safe country with loads to offer you if you let it.
Vietnam had multiple royal kingdoms ruling over different parts off it for thousands of years. The northern kingdoms always had to defend against Chinese with whom they have a lot of cultural similarities. The Southern kingdoms against the Khmer and Thai rulers. As you travel from north to south you can see subtle changes even in the pagoda architecture with the northern ones built in the Chinese style and the southern one more derivative of the Indian and Thai pagodas. There are so many palaces that are well preserved but for an education in Vietnamese history, there is no better place than Hue. The Nguyen dynasty ( with a lot of help from the French) ruled over most of Vietnam from Hue and the imperial city is a wonderful location for history buffs.One quirky similarity with South Indian culture that I found was the high importance given to Ancestor worship. The Vietnamese live in thin houses built a few floors high and the topmost floor is dedicated to worshipping your ancestors.Pro tip: Have a flexible schedule. Move around your dates to fit in what is happening at any given time. I happened upon couple of festivals because I was willing to shift my timelines.
It was a beautiful building apart from we opted for no air con and it was ridiculously hot! We were on the top floor where of course most of the heat gathers and after a couple of nights I couldn't take it anymore and was getting irritable so we moved to air con which made me much happier. When in Hue we visited the citadel which is an Imperial enclosure with restored buildings and ruins. It was about the most interesting sight Hue has to offer which isn't saying much. We wandered around and found a famous wall covered with bullet holes. The other popular sight are the many royal tombs dotted around the countryside surrounding the city. We rode to the one most visited called Tomb of Tu Duc. On arrival we payed the tourist price as usual and explored the grounds. It was pleasant but not spectacular.
A day tour of Hue. (Touristy, but well organized. You get enough time for each place.) Night stay at Hue.On our second day in the city, we went on a typical 8 dollar tourist bus that took us to all the major destinations around Hue:Pagoda of the Celestial LadyTomb of Khai DinhTomb of Tu DucThai Hoa PalaceCung Dien Tho