It became necessary to destroy the town to save it,
While the above statement was in relation to Ban Tre, it could have equally been applied to Hue. In 1968,during the Tet Offensive, Hue was captured by the VietCong in an audacious assault.
In order to retake the city the US Marines and South Vietnamese forces leveled the city killing over 10000 people. We spoke to an American man who served with the Marines there at the time. He was back in Hue for the first time in over 40 years and he described in details the horrors they faced.
Fast forwarding to today. Hue is a vibrant, colourful city. The old Imperial Citadel of the Nguyen Dynasty is reached by newly built bridges over the Perfume River, which are surrounded by a newly rebuilt city. While we were in Hue the bi-annual Festival of Hue was on and this made the city more alive with live street performances along the riverside and colourful exhibitions and posters everywhere. Also special brew called Festival Beer was also available.
We spent most of our first full day exploring the Imperial Citadel. This large complex was hit quite badly during the Tet Offensive and is now a mixture of buildings,crumbling walls and fields, in particular the Purple Forbidden City is just an empty set of fields.As Hue once served as the capital of Vietnam these were both impressive in their details as they were expansive in size.
We had a very peaceful time here as it is next to empty and not many tourists.
The guesthouse we were staying in, Four Seasons Hue (not that Four Seasons!) was amazing. Run by a young Vietnamese couple they were so friendly and helped us with restaurant recommendations, all of which we acted upon. Our favourite was Banana Mango, which had some amazing Pho Bo.
At night the whole riverfront came alive and we joined the locals in sampling the atmosphere. Starting with a very local place for dinner before hanging out in the park and watching the live shows!
The next day we went for a tour of the Tombs outside Hue. Read more here, on the way back to town we stopped off at the Dong Ba market before pottering around the streets one last time.
That night we took the flight to Hanoi and said goodbye to wonderful Hue.
Did we mention how much someone loves Pho Bo!!