Vietnam Diaries (central) – Hoi An and Hue

Tripoto
Photo of Vietnam Diaries (central) – Hoi An and Hue by Muthu Venkatesh

Recently I had been traveling in Vietnam for almost two weeks. Starting from Ho Chi Minh City in the south I was heading north to the capital city of Hanoi. Hoi An in the central Vietnam was my fourth stop after Vung tau, Ho Chi Minh City and Nha Trang in the south, which I have covered in a separate blog. The old town of Hoi An is a UNESCO Heritage site and the main tourist attraction there. From Nha Trang it takes an over night bus to reach Hoi An.

Day 9

Once in Hoi An, without wasting much time I booked for an half a day tour to My Son sanctuary which is another attraction there but not well known outside. My Son sanctuary, consists of a bunch of abandoned and partially ruined Hindu temples mainly dedicated to Lord Siva. The temples were believed to be constructed between 4th to 14th century AD by the Champas, who were independent Hindu kings in south and central Vietnam with roots from central Java. If you had visited Prambanan temple in Jogjakarta, you can immediately spot the striking similarity in the construction style of both. Though not as grand as the Angkor wat temple complex of neighboring Cambodia, which maybe one of the reason it has not out reached tourism much, My son will surely leave you awe struck on the fact that how vast the ancient Hinduism was spread till the far east.

Temple cluster of My son

Photo of My Son Sanctuary, Duy Hoà, Quang Nam Province, Vietnam by Muthu Venkatesh

Crater due to American bombing

Photo of My Son Sanctuary, Duy Hoà, Quang Nam Province, Vietnam by Muthu Venkatesh
Photo of My Son Sanctuary, Duy Hoà, Quang Nam Province, Vietnam by Muthu Venkatesh
Photo of My Son Sanctuary, Duy Hoà, Quang Nam Province, Vietnam by Muthu Venkatesh

One of the renovated temple

Photo of My Son Sanctuary, Duy Hoà, Quang Nam Province, Vietnam by Muthu Venkatesh

It is definitely economical and sensible to book the guided tour from the hotel or guesthouse if you are interested in visiting My Son. It takes roughly about an hour and a half to reach sanctuary from Hoi an, which is located inside a thick forest cover. I couldn’t avoid but appreciate the efforts of the Vietnamese government to preserve and promote tourism in the sanctuary despite the heavy damages caused by carpet bombing during the American war. One highlight of the tour was the Apsara dance performance which was very exotic and eye catching. And also need a special mention about our tour guide who was very engaging and entertaining throughout. After the tour I opted to return via a boat back to Hoi An, that would cost a few extra dollars than if you opt to return by the bus.

Apsara dance

Photo of Vietnam Diaries (central) – Hoi An and Hue by Muthu Venkatesh

Apsara dance

Photo of Vietnam Diaries (central) – Hoi An and Hue by Muthu Venkatesh

Apsara dance

Photo of Vietnam Diaries (central) – Hoi An and Hue by Muthu Venkatesh

Later I spent the second half of the day roaming around the Old town of Hoi An which was very scenic at the back drop of the rain clouds. Once a bustling trade hub of mainly Chinese settlement, the Old town of has now been turned into a commercial tourist center just like Malacca, in Malaysia. Most of the buildings have either been turned into a heritage site or shops and restaurants as all the local population have been moved to the new town outside. Almost all of the attractions in there are ticket-able including the Japanese bridge which makes one of the entrance into the Old town.

Old Town of Hoi An

Photo of Hội An, Quang Nam Province, Vietnam by Muthu Venkatesh

One of the many Shop in Old town

Photo of Hội An, Quang Nam Province, Vietnam by Muthu Venkatesh

Japanese Bridge

Photo of Hội An, Quang Nam Province, Vietnam by Muthu Venkatesh
Photo of Hội An, Quang Nam Province, Vietnam by Muthu Venkatesh
Photo of Hội An, Quang Nam Province, Vietnam by Muthu Venkatesh
Photo of Hội An, Quang Nam Province, Vietnam by Muthu Venkatesh
Photo of Hội An, Quang Nam Province, Vietnam by Muthu Venkatesh

Despite that you can get into the Old town trough other entrances and walk around freely. When the sun goes down the entire streets are lit up with colorful lanterns which makes it more delightful. Also do check out the food stalls in the Cho Hoi An market there for some of the local delicacy.

Old town after Sun down

Photo of Vietnam Diaries (central) – Hoi An and Hue by Muthu Venkatesh

Cho Hoi An market

Photo of Vietnam Diaries (central) – Hoi An and Hue by Muthu Venkatesh

Dinner in Cho Hoi An market

Photo of Vietnam Diaries (central) – Hoi An and Hue by Muthu Venkatesh

Breakfast in Cho Hoi An market

Photo of Vietnam Diaries (central) – Hoi An and Hue by Muthu Venkatesh

Next day after a late breakfast I left to the imperial city of Hue. It roughly takes 2-3 hours to reach there by bus. But if you get a chance to rent a bike, then I would recommend to take the scenic road through Hai Van pass which is one of the most decorated route among travelers. Unfortunately I couldn’t see the Hai van pass since the bus went through the tunnels instead. There is also an option of daily tour shuttle from Hoi An to Hue that leaves in the morning hours and would go through the Hai van pass and also have pit stops in Marble mountain and Lang Co Beach on the way.

Day 10

Hue was the former capital of Vietnam until 1945 and also was the seat Imperial Kings of Vietnam. The city is also linked to the history of Vietnam’s freedom struggle against the French which I came to know through the walking tour later. The main attraction there is the Citadel or the Imperial city which slightly resembles the forbidden city in China. Best way to spend the evening in Hue is by taking a stroll along the Perfume river and visit the night market nearby Truong tien bridge which itself is lit up colorfully in the night giving a spectacular view. Phạm Ngũ street considered as the backpacker hub there is also great place to hang out in the night with few bars and restaurant. Gecko pup in there is the meeting point for the free walking tour.

Riverside Park

Photo of Hue, Thua Thien Hue, Vietnam by Muthu Venkatesh

Night market along riverside

Photo of Hue, Thua Thien Hue, Vietnam by Muthu Venkatesh

Truong tien bridge

Photo of Hue, Thua Thien Hue, Vietnam by Muthu Venkatesh

Royal Palace lit up during night

Photo of Hue, Thua Thien Hue, Vietnam by Muthu Venkatesh
Day 11

Recommended by one of my hostel mate, I too decided to join the walking tour the next day. Organized by two young enthusiasts who likes to interact with travelers and to refine their English speaking skills, the tour was both informative and fun. We finished the tour with having lunch in a nice local restaurant recommend by them. After the lunch I parted from the group to visit the Royal palace, which was not covered in the tour.

Explaining the freedom struggle of Vietnamese

Photo of Hue, Thua Thien Hue, Vietnam by Muthu Venkatesh

Central Market, Hue

Photo of Hue, Thua Thien Hue, Vietnam by Muthu Venkatesh

Entrance to the Citadel

Photo of Hue, Thua Thien Hue, Vietnam by Muthu Venkatesh

In front of Royal palace

Photo of Hue, Thua Thien Hue, Vietnam by Muthu Venkatesh
Photo of Hue, Thua Thien Hue, Vietnam by Muthu Venkatesh

I Love Hue

Photo of Hue, Thua Thien Hue, Vietnam by Muthu Venkatesh

The Citadel itself is very huge with two layers of moats one for the outer wall and another for the Royal Palace. Inside the Royal Place were a bunch buildings scattered around for various Royal processions. It would have been best visited with a tour guide, but I simply went around on myself just clicking some pictures like any other tourists did. Other than the citadel, there are also few tombs of the Emperors on the upstream of the Perfume river, which would take another one day to visit. Since I was on both time constraint and budget constraint, left from Hue that evening to my next destination in the North.

Main Entrance of the Royal Palace

Photo of Vietnam Diaries (central) – Hoi An and Hue by Muthu Venkatesh

Inside Royal Palace

Photo of Vietnam Diaries (central) – Hoi An and Hue by Muthu Venkatesh
Photo of Vietnam Diaries (central) – Hoi An and Hue by Muthu Venkatesh
Photo of Vietnam Diaries (central) – Hoi An and Hue by Muthu Venkatesh
Photo of Vietnam Diaries (central) – Hoi An and Hue by Muthu Venkatesh
Photo of Vietnam Diaries (central) – Hoi An and Hue by Muthu Venkatesh

Located little north of Hue, Phong Nha caves are another fascinating place in Vietnam which I had unfortunately decided to skip. So if you have enough time and budget do consider visiting there.

Travel tip: Travelers from most countries are eligible for visa on arrival when visiting Vietnam by air, but unlike other SEA countries Vietnam require a unique process of getting a pre-approval letter for your visa on arrival. There are various online web based agents for getting the approval letter and their charges for processing the letter various randomly. The cheapest one I found is https://www.vietnam-visa.in/, which I had verified personally. Upon arrival you need to pay an additional 25 USD as visa fee for getting your passport stamped. There are lot of travel agencies booking the local tours and coaches for inter city transfer. Make sure you enquire at least in 4-5 places before making the booking as prices vary randomly. That applies for money exchange as well, jewel shops in general give better exchange rates.

Check until next time :)

This blog was orignally published on 'mytravelhustle'

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