Hon Chen Temple
Ho Chen Temple is a small, peaceful place, surrounded by woodland, where local people come, by boat, down the Perfume River in order to pray, especially during Tet.
I'm sure every foreign visitor follows the intriguing path past the temple to see what's at the end. It's a public toilet, so if you're on an all-day boat trip, you'll know where to find one.
- Arts and Culture
- Historical Travel
Lang Co Beach
Hue itself does not have a beach. The banks of the Perfume River are muddy. But, less than an hour's drive, 50km to the south, on the road to Danang, is Lang Co Beach, an unspoilt stretch of golden sand.
There is a luxurious, 4* resort here, with villas and bungalows from $59 upwards, if you want to stay for more than a day. But, the almost empty beach is open to the public.
If you really want to get away from the crowds, this is the place.
- Luxury Travel
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
- Road Trip
The Rockpile, in northern Quang Tri Province, is the first stop north of Hue on the DMZ tour. It was a famous listening post during the Vietnam War, which US troops were helicoptered in and out of, and from which they guided bombers. It was also an artillery base with a huge array of big guns, including 175 long Toms, 8-inchers on tracks, 105s and 155s.
I found this story from a Vietnam vet who was based there: ' I had a pet rat on the Rock Pile. One night I awoke with him crawling across my head. I figured out he was after my food. So after that, I would leave a little piece of food at the foot of my sleeping bag. The rat would come up at night, eat the food, When I would wake up in the morning, the rat would run out.' Jim DeMers, USMC, 1st Radio Batallion, January 1967.
- Historical Travel
- Budget Travel
Disturbing relic from the 60s
At Thien Mu Pagoda, a battered green sedan sits in a garage. This may seem strange to those who don't know its shocking history. In the 1960s, Vietnamese Buddhists contended that they were persecuted by the regime of then-president Ngo Dinh Diem, who was a Catholic. In protest, on June 13, 1963, the monk Thich Quang Duc took this car to a busy intersection in Saigon. There, he set himself on fire while remaining seated in a lotus position. The event understandably caused an uproar in Vietnam.
Copper bell and bronze drum
Several places in Hue are historical sites and must be preserved. Sometimes these belong to the public, and the caretaker lives on the premise. Sometimes these belong to locals; enterprising owners may decide to erect a cafe or restaurant around it. We found these in a neighborhood just outside the wall of the Citadel. There's a cafe next to it.
Bronze drums with stylized reliefs of people and animals on top are among the earliest known Vietnamese archaeological artifacts. They appropriately are the country's heraldic symbol. Strangely, the decorative motif is similar to that of objects found from Myanmar to Indonesia, suggesting cultural exchange or even a common ancestral root.
FRENCH BUNKER ALONG THE BUFFALO RIVER
On a recent trip to Vietnam, I had the pleasure of having the company of several American veterans of the American Intervention into Vietnam. They had come along as part of a health clinic team both to help out with the clinics and to revisit places of their past. Seeing Vietnam through their eyes brought about a different and unique perspective. The veterans had varied experiences during their times in Vietnam, to say the least. Some saw no combat at all during their year here while others …. A couple of the veterans were American advisors to South Vietnamese military units - one remembered his ARVN cavalry unit suffering a casualty rate of some 150% during the time he served with it. Another gentleman served as an advisor to a local militia unit whose responsibility was to guard a train bridge across the Buffalo River just north from Hue. Our van driver was able to find the bridge after some time - there are only so many bridges when there is just one rail line. Then, we took off on foot to cross the bridge to look for the bunker - originally built by the French - where he had spent his time with the locals. Dubious at first, with our help, we found the old bunker now hidden away in the forest above the river. On our return, we shook hands with the present bridge guardians who ran back into their guard house when they realized we wanted to take pictures so they could grab their hats.
- Historical Travel
the royal tomb of Tu Duc
the Royal Tomb of Tu Duc's tomb is located near Thuong Ba village, in a pine forest 8 kilometres from Hue. it was built in three years, from 1864 to 1867. There are about 50 constructions inside, surrounded by a tall and massive wall, and one peculiar detail is that each one includes the word Khiem in its name... Khiem means modesty. he should have also included "harmony"...
In general modesty can be seen in this tomb... while beautiful, it is not stunning... at least in its architectural parts... what is stunning is nature here... the wood and the lotus pond. The wooden pavillion built over it is truly a gem. The emperor Tu Duc was also a philosopher and poet, so he wanted his tomb to reflect his "poetic" soul, for this reason he chose to have it as much as possible blended in with nature.
CAO DAI TEMPLE
Rising somewhat incongruously along the north side of the massive Celadon Palace Hotel is the newest Cao Dai temple. Outside of temples erected in the US, this is the northernmost Cao Dai temple to be erected. I am not sure what kind of following the religion has this far north from its roots in Tay Ninh on the northern edge of the Mekong Delta next to Cambodia, but I do know that the temple in nearby Da Nang is the second largest Cao Dai church.
- Historical Travel
- Religious Travel
the royal tomb of Minh Mang
The royal tomb of Minh Mang's is one of the seven royal tombs of emperors of the Nguyen dinasty. Its construction started in September 1840, and the Emperor died in January 1841, before its construction was completed. His son, Thieu Tri, had the task of finishing it... which was only in 1843.
In this tomb, spread over a large area, there are 40 constructions.... gates, palaces, temples, pavillions and so on.. all simmetric. The tomb itself is located in a circular mound/construction at the very end... on a tiny hill, after a crescent-shaped pond.
The commplex is divided in 3 main parts: the gates, the temple area and the tomb itself. This tomb is located 12 km form Hue, on Cam Ke mount, near Bang Lang fork, on the west bank of the Perfume River. If you come by boat, you can walk there in a few minutes.
the royal tomb of Khai Dinh
The royal tomb of Khai Dinh (1885-1925) is the tomb I liked most, of the three I visited. Khai Dinh ruled Vietnam for 9 years, but his tomb took 11 years to complete... by then the Emperor had already been dead for six years.
Khai Dinh was a well-travelled man - he had been as far as France... so it's not a surprise to see some western elements in his tomb, together with more traditional eastern elements... and there was electricity, too...
The stone in which the tomb complex is built is very dark, so photos do not do it justice... but when you visit it, it's pure magnificence, in particular the colored glass and ceramic mosaics. The tomb is located on the slope of Chau Chu mountain (also called Chau E), 10 km from Hue. if you come by boat, you'll need to hire a mototaxi to get there, as it is quite a few kilometres away from the river.
There are several places in Vietnam to see the smaller minority villages (some 54 minorities exist in Vietnam). Day trips from Hue often include them, particularly the DMZ tours.
Many of these villages live daily lives with the barest of essentials. Despite the fact that they do not have running water, many of them still have the paradoxical satellite antenna for their TV's.
They often still speak their own dialects and live self sufficiently by their own harvests. Many of them live by the farming practice of slash and burn. They burn portions of the forest. The burnt vegetation adds nutrients to the soil which will in turn fertilize their crops on the steep hills.
You can get to these by browsing the DMZ tour pamphlets.
hon chen temple
The hon chen temple is located the bank of the Perfume River, about 10 kms from Hue, on the slope of the mountain Ngoc Tran. Here people worship an interesting deity, Po Nagar, which was the the Goddess of the ancient Cham minority. If you go to Nha Trang you will see the Po Nagar Cham towers... Here in Hon Chen the goddess has changed name, nowadays, she's called Y A Na, but it is still the same goddess.
The Temple is also known for a festival organized twice every year in the 3rd and the 7th lunar months. There is also a night procession on the river, with lights... and then a performace. We came at the worng time, but we would have loved to have seen it.
Entrance to the temple (July 2007) was 22000 dongs.
thien mu pagoda
The Thien Mu pagoda, located on the Perfume River is a beautiful (and free) place to visit of historical importance. It was founded in 1601 by Nguyen Hoang, the governor of Thuan Hoa province, because of a prophecy he had had: a 'fairy woman' (Thien Mu) had told him that if he had built a pagoda there, the country would have had a long properous time.
The first thing you'll notice is a spectacular octagonal 21-meter tall tower built in 1844, you will also see some smaller pavillions and statues, as well as a huge bell. There are also the living quarters of the monks residing there and a shrine dedicated to the now deceased monks... and a rusty Aston martin car. Why? because in this car a monk from the temple, in 1963, drove to Ho Chi Minh and set himself on fire to protest against the government.
The pagoda is located four kilometres from Hue.
though I was only about five years old at the time, the image is one that I still remember.
Tomb of Minh Mang
To my mind, the most serene of all the Royal Nguyen tombs is Minh Mang - about 12 kms from Hue on the west bank of the Perfume River (and the furthest away from Hue).
Renowned for its architecture, the tomb was built between 1841 and 1843. It's a series of Chinese influenced temples, gateways, courtyards, gardens, lakes, bridges and pavillions, creating a harmonious whole.
Entrance fee is 55,000 Dong.
Tomb of Tu Doc
Built after Minh Mang, between 1864 and 1867 and was actually used before the emperor's death, such was the vast scale of the 'tomb' (ironically, no-one knows where his body actually lies - all 200 servants involved in his burial were beheaded to prevent grave-robbers!).
It is very much inspired by Minh Mang's tomb - another harmonious synthesis of nature (lakes, gardens) and any number of temples, pavillions, a harem (now in ruins, but Tu Doc had 104 wives and countless concubines!) - even a theatre.
Tomb of Tu Doc is the closest of the Nguyen Royal tombs to Hue, approximately 5kms south of the city.
Entry to the tomb is 55,000 Dong.