A trip aboard a ‘royal boat’ on the Huong (Perfume) River is a great way to discover the historic town of Hue.
The central town of Hue is well known for its dragon boat trips along the Huong (Perfume) River. It is a great way to learn about the unique culture and history of the central region. On most trips, visitors can travel via these boats to visit the Nguyen Kings’ mausoleums while enjoying ca Hue (traditional Hue singing).
The Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1945) was the last monarchy of Vietnam and for a truly royal experience, visitors can opt to take a special royal boat adapted from the dynasty’s Yen Nhu boat. This type of vessel was featured at the Legend of Huong River Festival, part of Festival Hue 2008.
Compared with ordinary dragon boats that serve tourists, the royal boat is much bigger. It is 27 meters long, seven meters wide, and nearly six meters tall with seating for 120 people. Spectacular dragons and tigers are carved into the boat’s wooden floor and railings.
The cruise begins at Nghinh Luong Dinh Quay and lasts one and a half hours from 7 p.m. every night. On the voyage, visitors travel along the Huong River, from Truong Tien to Bach Ho bridges. The boat cruises gently past several scenic areas of Hue while traditional cuisine is served with musical accompaniment.
The trip is also enhanced by drama performances including royal songs, time-honored dances and poetry readings. Visitors can also share in the fun by trying on costumes like that worn by the kings and royal family during gala dinners.
Guests are sure to enjoy an evening of floating along the peaceful river while learning about royal culture and history.
A royal boat trip costs a base rate of VND50,000 (US$2.90) with optional activities costing more.
“Com hen Song Huong” is a dish served at room temperature, made with mussels and leftover rice. It is a complicated recipe that includes sweet, buttery, salty, sour, bitter and spicy flavors.
Com hen Song Huong (or Com hen in short) is the very simple and low-priced specialty of Hue, the ancient citadel of Vietnam. Accordingly, the way of serving this special kind of food is of great ancience, simplicity and deliciousness.
Com hen has a sweet-smelling flavor of rice, onion, and grease, as well as strange tastes of sweet, buttery, salty, sour, bitter, and peppery-hot. You have to arrive to Hen river-islet in the Perfume River to have the original Com hen. However, you can find out the dish on some streets in Hue City. It requires 15 different raw materials to prepare for the dish, including mussel, fried grease, watery grease, peanuts, white sesames, dry pancake, salted shredded meat, chilly sauce, banana flower, banana trunk, sour carambola, spice vegetables, peppermint, salad, etc.
Com hen is always attractive to many customers since it is tasty and, at the same time, economical to anybody.
What makes this simple kind of food popular is revealed in the great endeavor to adopt and process its main ingredient – mussel. Mussels are sea species, which must be dipped in water for a long while before being processed. Accordingly, people often say that com hen somehow expresses the strenuous work of the maker.
Where to find it? Very easy as it is popular everywhere in Hue and these days, elsewhere in Hue restaurants in Vietnam. More favorably, it is a low-priced specialy, thus you could eat it in luxurious restaurants in Hue or even in vendoring mobile shops on the streets.
“Visiting Hue could not miss Com hen, or else you have not come to Hue ever!” is the most common remark of visitors elsewhere to Hue. So, please come and enjoy it yourself!
Source: Vietnam Food
A visitor to Hue once remarked after his vacation here: “A visit to Hue would not be complete without a boat excursion on the gentle Perfume River, or else you cannot feel the romance of Hue”.
The Perfume River (Vietnamese: Sông Hương or Hương Giang; Chinese: 香江) is a river that crosses the capital city of Hue, in the central Vietnamese province of Thua Thien Hue. Perfume or Huong River is around 80 kilometers long, and owes its name to the fact that it flows through many forests of aromatic plants before reaching Hue, bringing with it a pure and fresh aroma.
Source and flow
The Perfume River has two sources, both of which begin in the Truong Son Mountain range and meet at Bang Lang Fork. The Ta Trach (Left Tributary) originates in the Truong Dong mountains and flows northwest towards Bang Lang Fork. The shorter Huu Trach (Right Tributary) flows through the Tuan ferry, landing towards Bang Lang Fork.
Then it flows in south-north direction passing the temples of Hon Chen and Ngoc Tran, and turns north-west, meandering through the Nguyet Bieu and Luong Quan plains. From this, the River then continuously flows int the north-east direction to Hue city, only an echo of Truong Son mountain, and passes the rest place of the Nguyen Emperors. The river of green water continues its itinerary, passing Hen Islet and various villages, crossing the Sinh junction, which is known as the capital of ancient Chau Hoa, before emptying into the Tam Giang Lagoon.
From Bang Lang to Thuan An estuary, the Perfume River is 30 km long and runs very slowly (as the river level is not much above sea level). The Perfume River darkens as it winds along the foot of Ngoc Tran Mountain – home of the Jade Cup Temple – where there is a very deep abyss.
The poetic romantic Perfume River is the deep inspirations to numerous artists, poets, and composers;
“Who turns to Hue
Who comes back to Ngu Mount
Who comes back to Huong River
The river water never sinks
Ngu Mount birds fly back to friends
Whoever are children of Hue remember to return…”
are the beautiful lyrics of a famous song, “Who comes to Hue”, written by Duy Khanh. In the autumn, flowers from orchards upriver from Hue fall into the water, giving the river a perfume-like aroma, and a beautiful poetic view. I have asked several artists about the reason for their inspiring love for Perfume River, and received nearly the same answer: “Well, my inspiration derives from the pure water, the fascinating landscape, and the gentle bridge over the river”.
Today, travellers coming to Hue could not miss a while of boating along the river. Most of them admit that this is one of the most beautiful and extremely splendid riverside landscape (especially at night when lights are on) that they have ever visited!
A river tour
Perfume River at night
As mentioned, the river flows through a series of beauty-spots, taking visitors to every corner of the ancient citadel when you travel by boat. Along the river, you can visit Da Vien, Phu Xuan, and Truong Tien Bridges, come to the Tomb of Minh Mang, Hon Chen Shrine, Thien Mu Pagoda, and finally to bathe in the sea. Upstream, at the Tomb of Thien Tho, you can hear the rustling of the pine tree, which may help you become a… poet!
When the night comes, the surface of the river glistens under the moonlight, and the songs of the boat rowers can be heard breaking the silence. Just come here and you will feel the pure atmosphere of romance and beauty!
Still remaining its form of City underMiddle Age and the constructions of monarchic, a invaluable museum of Vietnam, this is Imperial City – the last remaining section of 19th-century Hue, and it is now a modern experiment in recreating traditional Vietnam. The Imperial City was recognized as a World Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO on December 1993. Let’s take a trip through the most important historical and cultural monument of Vietnam.
The layout of the Imperial City
The main reason to visit Hue is the citadel of the old capital, along with the royal tombs scattered around the countryside. In the early 19th century the Emperor Gia Long chose the present site at Hue. The Emperor wished to recreate, in abbreviated form, a replica of the Forbidden City in Beijing. This vast structure is an unusual hybrid, built according to the notions of Chinese geomancy but in the style of the noted French military architect Sebastien de Vauban.
Dominating the skyline is the 37m (120ft) high Cot Co or Flag Tower, first erected in 1809. Cot Co achieved international renown on the morning of 31 January 1968, when communist forces seized the Citadel and ran their yellow-starred banner up its tall mast.
The lower part of the gate is stone, while on top is the “Belvedere of the Five Phoenixes” where the emperor appeared on important occasions, and where the last emperor abdicated to Ho Chi Minh’s Revolutionary Government in 1945.
Just inside the gate is a lotus pond with a bridge once reserved for the emperor’s private use. Across the bridge is the Thai Hoa Palace used for official receptions and other important court ceremonies. The columns supporting the roof are lacquered and inlaid with gold.
Thai Hoa Palace
Behind the Thai Hoa Palace are a pair of smaller halls used by mandarins to prepare for court ceremonies. The halls form a courtyard, the fourth side of which was once a wall dividing the more public area of the citadel from the emperor’s private residence, the “Forbidden Purple City.” The name conjures up images of grand palaces like Beijing. Unfortunately, it takes quite a bit of imagination to picture the buildings that once occupied what is now a grassy expanse. What wasn’t destroyed by a fire in 1947 was bombed in the 1968 Tet Offensive. The picture at above left was taken from the upper-most level looking back at the Thai Hoa palace and the Flag tower.
Off to one side of the central axis of the forbidden city, about midway, is the Thai Binh Lau or Royal Library. This small building stands in a garden and is fronted by small pond mostly taken up by a mountain-island well-grown with moss and bonsai. You will find similar ponds, fountains or even large bowls of water in many structures all over Vietnam.
Although you must enter the citadel through the main gate, you can exit it at several other points. Between the Thai Hoa palace and the halls of the mandarins, a path leads to the Hien Nhon gate (left). Leaving by this gate is the shortest route to get from the forbidden city to the museum at Long An palace. Along the path are a couple of buildings worth a look.
A visit to Hue might be considered incomplete without a boat trip on the outstandingly lovely Perfume River. Boats are readily available for hire, either for an exploratory trip in the vicinity of Hue, or for a longer journey upstream to the tombs of Minh Mang and Gia Long.
It’s hard to explain the uncanny beauty of the river, though doubtless the irridescent, aquamarine waters, together with the profusion of colourful craft and boat women sporting non la–the ubiquitous cream-coloured conical hat of Vietnam–all contribute to the effect. On a clear, sunny day the Perfume River can indeed be magical.