It was raining when we woke up, so we had a lazy morning. We had breakfast at DMZ bar, where the waiter taught us some Vietnamese. It was warmer than yesterday, so we felt fine in short sleeves, and were looking forward to sightseeing in a bearable temperature. But the locals were freezing, and were wearing winter coats and large wool sweaters. Funny!
Between 1802 and 1945, Hue was the imperial capital of the Nguyễn Dynasty and the capital of Vietnam. We walked over the Parfume River (named after the aroma of the orchard flowers falling into the river in the autumn) towards the Citadel, the seat of the Nguyễn emperors. It occupies a large, walled area on the north side of the river. Inside the citadel was a forbidden city where only the emperors, concubines, and those close enough to them were granted access. This area is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, although it was considerably damaged during the Vietnam War and was neglected for a long time after the war.
We found an English-speaking cyclo driver with a lot of knowledge about the area, so he and a colleague took us to a couple of less visited sights before we continued to the Forbidden City. There are seven gates to the Citadel, one for each king, and we visited one of them and were able to climb to the top for some nice views. We also stopped by Ho Chi Minh’s humble house that now had an alter with photos of him and his parents.
The forbidden city was quite different from what we expected. It was built up similar to the forbidden city in Beijing, but because of the neglect it somehow felt more authentic. Since it was raining a bit in the morning there were not many visitors, and this probably enhanced that feeling. Several places we could see bullet holes in the walls, and sadly parts of the area were completely ruined during the war, but the rest was restored or under restoration. Because of the resent typhoon, it was very wet and slippery in some areas, but that was just part of the experience.
After booking a private car (and four stops) to Hoi An and a hotel there, we went to Nina’s Cafe for dinner. This was a very cosy family restaurant hidden away in the end of a small alley. Definitely not a place people stumble upon, but because of their good reputation and amazing food several people had found their way there. We had to start with a local speciality, where you roll pankakes and various vegetables in thin rice paper and dip it in a very tasteful peanut sauce. Their Chicken curry and Pork in clay pot was also delicious, and we even had some pancakes for dessert.