From the quaint riverside town of Hoi An, we traveled by bus to Hue, passing through some jaw dropping, big-skied country vistas. It is here that nature exists without airplanes droning overhead or blue skies cut into lanes by intrusive power lines. The horizon remains pristine, void of concrete buildings, stucco walls, or orange cranes erecting yet another high-rise apartment complex. Instead, quiet quilts of rice paddies gently drape the hills, bikes travel lazily along dirt roads, and young ones launch bright, yellow kites into salt-infused breezes.

Pristine landscapes.

Pristine landscapes.

Two days in Hue, Vietnam – Hue is home to some of Vietnam’s most interesting architecture and history. We only stayed two nights in the city and quickly passed through only a handful of the many “must see” tourist excursions. Here are a few of the more exceptional tours and sites that we took advantage of before heading north to Hanoi.

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Enjoying a boat tour along the Perfume River in Hue.

One morning found us catching a boat for a trip along the Perfume River to see some tombs of emperors from the Nyugen Dynasty. Dating from the 19th century, the best preserved examples of the emperor tombs are the Tomb of Tu Duc and The Tomb of Minh Mang. In addition, there were wonderful examples of Vietnamese architecture including the Tomb of Khai Dinh, the remote ruins of the Tomb of Gia Long, and the Tomb of Thieu Tri. It was a HOT day so we took many breaks in the shade while inspecting the ancient artifacts.

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Minh Mang Temple along the Perfume River.

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Elephant statue at royal tomb of Emperor Minh Mang.

The Minh Mang Temple, part of the UNESCO-recognized Hue complex, is located on the West Bank of the Perfume River in Cam Ke Hill. Construction began in 1840 and while it was being built, Emperor Minh Mang actually passed away. His son completed the work and his father was interred in the temple as requested.

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Thien Mu Pagoda

Later that same afternoon, we toured the Thien Mu Pagoda, one of the former imperial capital’s oldest buildings. The seven tiered Phuoc Duyen Tower was started in the seventeenth century and was completed in 1840. “It is an exquisite union of architecture in a natural setting along the Perfume River,” – – or so said our guide.

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Morning commute on our way to the Thanh Toan Bridge.

One site not to be missed is the Thanh Toan Bridge, a quaint piece of history from the 16th century, located about 8 km from downtown Hue. There are several ways to reach the bridge, including hiring a motorbike or paying for a group tour. We decided to scout it out on our own, and we set off on our bicycles just after sunrise with some very detailed directions and a hand-drawn map from our hotel manager.

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Thanh Toan Bridge.

The bridge is near Thuy Thanh Commune, and the path passes through rice fields, little villages, and narrow canals. Be sure to visit the small museum near the bridge, and buy a refreshing drink at the neighboring (very) tiny local market. Our bicycle adventure to Thanh Toan Bridge was the perfect way to end our visit in Hue: an afternoon of tranquility (not often encountered in Vietnam) and fresh countryside air.

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