The next stop on our trip from southern Vietnam towards Hanoi was Huế. Knowing that we only had a couple days to spend in Huế we were determined to organize our stay as efficient as possible. Once we had worked out which sights we wanted to see and booked a ride to the different temples around Huế it was time to indulge in our favorite passion: FOOD.
Huế is famous for its imperial cuisine. It is said that the dishes you eat here were originally prepared for the emperor and his entourage. A few google searches and inquiries with hotel staff later we had found the place the locals go to dine: Lien Hoa restaurant.
Arriving at the restaurant and both of us starving, we decided to just order several dishes and hope to end up with one or two good ones. We ordered: sour soup (canh chua – 17k VND), jack-fruit fried crisply (mit chien gion – 18k VND), rice vermicelli with soup (bun nuoc – 14k VND), vegetable fried with mushroom (rau xao nam – 20k VND), fried green bean (cove xao – 18k VND) and some side sauces and dips the waiter recommended (if we understood her correctly).
For less than 5 USD (without the drinks), this is part of what they served us:
The food really was amazing. Definitely the “mostest” best vegetarian food we had tried so far 🙂
Or as Tini pointed out, probably a “veggie heaven”. Both of us being carnivores we were surprised to rate the food with 5/5 stars!
We were surprised that we did not miss the meat at all.
Vegetarian or not, you can’t go wrong with this gem of a restaurant! It was packed with locals and undoubtedly there is something very special about Buddhist vegetarian cooking. If you ever happen to visit this place, be sure to try the jack-fruit fried crisply.
Authentic Vietnamese food for unbelievably cheap prices. We enjoyed the outdoor garden under the bamboo roof and already miss that place.
After this delicious meal we headed back to our hotel which was in a very quiet, but slightly scary side street. The place was safe, but the street could use some brightening.
Our pho breakfast soup:
And off we headed to tour the temples. Huế plays an important role in Vietnams history, because in 1802 Nguyễn Phúc Ánh (later Emperor Gia Long) succeeded in establishing his control over the whole of Vietnam and made Huế the national capital. Up until 1945 it was the imperial capital of the Nguyễn Dynasty.
Minh Mạng was the second emperor of the Nguyễn Dynasty and reigned from 1820 (his 29th birthday) until his death in 1841. Minh was well known for his opposition to French involvement in Vietnam, and for his rigid Confucian orthodoxy.
The first temple we visited was Minh Mang’s tomb close to An Bang village.
Minh Mạng’s majestic tomb is renowned for its architecture and natural setting, surrounded by a forest. The tomb was planned during Minh Mang’s reign (1820–1840) but built by his successor, Thieu Tri.
On the salutation court one will find the Thanh stone statues of great mandarins along with elephants and horses representing the royal entourage that accompanies and protects the emperor in the other world.
The tomb consists of three entrances namely the great blessing gate in the middle, the left blessing gate and the right blessing gate on either side. Ever since the tomb was constructed only the left blessing gate has been used as an entrance. The middle and main blessing gate was only used once, to bring the Emperor’s coffin to the tomb, and has been tightly closed since then.
Minh Lau Pavilion built on Tam Tai Mount. It is a square pavilion with two stories and eight roofs. On both sides of Minh Lau two obelisks stand on the hills. In the back of Minh Lau there are two flower gardens designed as the character “Longevity”.
Minh Mang’s Tomb was built from 1840 to 1843. This 28 hectare tomb ensemble is surrounded with an oval protective wall of 1’700 meters.
After crossing a stone bridge over the crescent-shaped Tan Nguyet lake (lake of the New Moon), a staircase leads to a circular wall enclosing the sepulcher. A locked bronze door bars access to the emperor’s burial site: an artificial hill planted through with pines and brush.
Minh Mang’s tomb is known for its solemnity and precise layout. It is part of UNESCO world heritage since 1993.
The next temple to visit was Khai Dinh Tomb.
Khai Dinh was the second to the last emperor of Vietnam, reigning from 1916 to 1925. He is widely seen as a puppet of the French. The construction of his flamboyant tomb took 11 years.
Steps lead to the Honor Courtyard where mandarin honor guards have a mixture of Vietnamese and European features.
Up three more flights of stairs is the stupendous main building, Thien Dinh. The walls and ceiling are decorated with murals of the four seasons, eight precious objects and eight fairies.
Under a gold-speckled concrete canopy is a gilt bronze statue of Khai Dinh. His remains are interred 18m below the statue.
In comparison with those of the preceding emperors, Khai Dinh’s tomb is much smaller in area (120m x 50m) but therefore the more elaborate. It is the result of the intermingle of many architectural trends: European and Asian, as well as ancient and modern.
Next stop was at the Tomb of Tu Duc. It was constructed between 1864 and 1867 and is the most popular and certainly one of the most impressive of the royal mausoleums.
Emperor Tu Duc enjoyed the longest reign of any monarch of the Nguyen dynasty, ruling from 1848 – 1883. Although he had over a hundred wives and concubines, he was unable to father a son (possibly he became sterile after suffering from smallpox).
Emperor Tu Duc designed his tomb himself, for use both before and after his death. The enormous expense of the tomb and the forced labor used in its construction spawned a coup plot that was revealed and suppressed.
Tu Duc lived a life of imperial luxury and carnal excess (he had 104 wives and countless concubines), though no offspring.
Tu Duc freely admitted that he had made mistakes and chose to name his tomb Khiem which means modest.
The tomb which is enclosed by a wall, is only a drab grey monument and the emperor was never interred here. The site where his remains were buried (along with great treasure) is not known. To keep it a secret from grave robbers, all of the 200 servants who buried the king were beheaded.
After the Emperor’s death in 1883 his adopted son Kien Phuc took over as the Nguyen Emperor. Perhaps because he only ruled seven months before dying, a separate tomb was not constructed for him. Instead he was laid to rest in a small corner on the grounds of Tu Duc’s tomb. Between the tombs of Tu Duc and his son is the tomb of Empress Le Thien Anh, Tu Duc’s primary wife.
Next stop: Thien Mu Pagoda.
Built on a hill overlooking the Perfume River about 4 km southwest of the Citadel, this pagoda is an icon of Vietnam. The 21m high octagonal tower, Thap Phuoc Duyen, was constructed under the reign of Emperor Thieu Tri in 1844. Each of its seven stories is dedicated to a manushi-buddha (a Buddha that appeared in human form).
Interestingly the Thien Mu Pagoda has its roots in a local legend: An old woman once appeared on the hill and said that a Lord would come and build a Buddhist pagoda for the country’s prosperity. Hearing of this, Lord Nguyen Hoang ordered the construction of the pagoda of the “Heavenly Lady” (Thien Mu).
The octagonal Phuoc Dien Tower (1864) in the front of the temple complex rises 2m meters high in seven levels.
Thien Mu Pagoda was originally founded in 1601 by Nguyen Hoang, governor of Thuan Hoa province. Over the centuries its buildings have been destroyed and rebuilt several times. This is where the monks are usually involved in their daily routines of cooking, stacking wood, and whacking weeds. Novices might also be seen practicing their calligraphy.
And last but not least we arrived at the Imperial City which is a walled fortress and palace in the city of Huế, the former imperial capital of Vietnam. The grounds of the Imperial City are protected by fortified ramparts 2 km x 2 km, and ringed by a moat. The water in the moat is routed from the Huong River (Perfume River) through a series of sluice gates. This enclosure is the Citadel (Kinh thành). Within the Imperial City is the Purple Forbidden City (Tử cấm thành). Access to the innermost enclosure is restricted to the Nguyễn imperial family.
The Imperial City was actually a walled fortress and belonged to the ancient city of Huế which was the capital city of the Nguyen Dynasty for 140 years from 1805 until 1945.
The grandeur architecture was planned to be built in 1803 by Gia Long – an emperor who founded the Nguyen Dynasty. During 27 years from 1805 to 1832 the Imperial City of Huế was finally completed under the reign of Minh Mang, making it the most massive structure being built in the history of modern Vietnam involving thousands of workers, millions cubic meters of rock and a huge volume of burdened workload.
There are total of 10 main majestic gates leading to the Imperial City of Huế, which can be divided into two main parts excluding houses and mansions: The Citadel and The Forbidden City. The former served to protect the important palaces inside while the latter was where the emperor and the royal family stayed as well as the court’s workplace. Unfortunately the most inside places do not allow to take pictures.
Located inside the Imperial City, behind the throne palace, lies the Forbidden Purple City. It was reserved for the emperor and his family. Constructed in 1804 with brick walls encompassing the area of 325m x 290m. It includes 50 architectural constructions of different sizes and 7 gates for facilities of entrance and exit. Dai Cung Mon (the Great Place Gate) is in the front side for Kings. Other buildings are the Can Chanh Palace (the place for every day working of Emperors), the Can Thanh (Emperor’s Private Palace), the Khon Thai Residence (Queen’s Private Apartment), the Duyet Thi Duong house (Royal Theatre), the Thuong Thien (the kitchen for the King’s food), the Thai Binh Lau (King’s reading room) and many more.
After wandering around the different parts of the Citadel we started feeling we had been overloaded with temples. We really needed some rest and decent food. On our way back to the hotel we passed by a Japanese place we had read about, called TaKe. Not in the mood for searching for anything else we sat in and ordered:
Local festival beer, maguro sushi, California roll with sesame, sake maki, tempura sushi (fried mixed roll: tuna, egg, mushroom, vegetable), sake teriyaki (grilled salmon in teriyaki sauce) and Yasai tempura (mixed fried vegetable).
We’ll be honest, we reordered another beer before we got the food served. It was just what we had needed.
When the food was served, it was absolutely delicious.
Maguro sushi, California roll with sesame and Sake maki:
Tempura sushi (fried mixed roll: tuna, egg, mushroom, vegetable):
Sake Teriyaki (grilled salmon in teriyaki sauce):
Yasai tempura (mixed fried vegetable):
On this day we sure saw many temples and tombs. Having another day would have been nice but this extreme temple day had its up-sides as well. Seeing the different styles and architectures in such short time was great to compare them and spreading the visits out over two days would have not helped much. After all we are more foodies than tombies 🙂This entry was posted in Asia, WorldMap