6 Days Central Vietnam Tour (2017) – Day 4 Hue City Citadel and Night Market

Very Good Breakfast at Serene Shining Hotel

Due to the location of Serene Shining Hotel situated in a side lane, road traffic noise was absent. So we slept to our heart’s content. By the time we got up, it was already past 8 am. Breakfast time was of course calling.

Down we went and we found the restaurant already busy with many hotel guests enjoying their breakfast. The friendly waitresses greeted us and gave us the menu to choose what we would like for our first meal for the day. We could choose whatever we wanted from the menu consisting of local Vietnamese and Western food items. So we made our order and then went over to the counter to collect fruits, fruit juice and more bread.

Our food came including Vietnamese coffee which was as expected, quite strong and sweet. We were greedy this morning. We ordered both Western and Vietnamese food for breakfast. The food was very good and we were so full after breakfast. The staff here really brightened our day with all smiles and ever ready to serve and help.

Sight-Seeing Time in Hue City

Back in our room after breakfast, we rested and made ourselves comfortable. We packed and tidied up a little to make it easy for the chambermaids to clean and make our room when we explored Hue City later. From our windows, we could see it was quite bright already but a little cloudy. Once we were ready, we left Serene Shining Hotel for our adventure for the day.

Our first objective was the Citadel. So we walked back to the riverfront at Perfume River we visited the previous night. Along the way, we checked out some sports shops. One of the shops near Le Loi Street before the Dragon Boats area had some sports shoes my wife might be interested. We took a look and told the young man and lady manning the shop we might return to check out the shoes after sightseeing in the city. We then continued walking towards the riverfront.

Boat Ride to Citadel

After crossing Le Loi Street, we were approached by a lady tour agent trying to get us sign up for a river cruise up the river to the Pagoda and then back to the market. We told her we did that two years ago. She then asked where we were going. We told her we were heading to the Citadel. She suggested we take a dragon boat ride up the river to cross over to the other side as the Citadel was quite a distance away. Actually, we had no problem walking there as the weather was pretty good and not so hot. She told us for 100,000 VND, we could have a boat ride and enjoy the views of the surrounding as we made our way to the Citadel.

We thought this would be just some novelty to take the boat instead of the taxi so we obliged. She called out to another lady nearby and told her to send us to the other side of the river where the Citadel was located. So we followed this lady to her dragon boat and another man waiting on the boat started the engine and we left shore.

The man and lady looked like a husband and wife team. So we sat on the plastic chairs and enjoyed the sights along the river as the dragon boat made its way upstream. It was cloudy so pictures taken were not as nice as those taken two years ago in May where we had sunny blue sky but it was super hot.

Sales Talk During Boat Ride

While we were enjoying our boat ride, the lady held a card written in English asking if we could buy some souvenirs she was selling. I told her to entertain my wife as shopping wasn’t really my cup of tea. This souvenir selling on boat was expected as the same thing happened two years ago. Two years ago, the elderly lady boat owner was rather persistent and my wife just bought a bookmark from her just to patronize her and get her off our back. She was selling stuff at inflated prices.

However, this lady boat owner was quite friendly and tactful and not pushy. So my wife bought a scarf and a pop-up wedding card from her. Moreover, she was not trying to scam us with severely overpriced stuff being her captive audience on the boat. So this shopping onboard wasn’t unpleasant at all. It was just some respectful transaction for both parties and no offence was present.

After that we enjoyed the river scene with passing boats on the river. The beautifully lit up lotus restaurant looked quite ordinary during the day even though its shape was quite unique. Night time was so different and special with this restaurant standing out as a centre of attraction at the night market area.

Our dragon boat was crossing the river heading in the direction of the Citadel. We could see the park across the river getting nearer. Not long after, we reached shore. The lady boat owner secured a metal ladder in front of the boat to allow us to get onto the grass shore and the whole boat ride took 15 minutes.

Heading to Citadel

It was 10 am as we made our way to the Citadel walking past a park. After getting onshore, we walked to the main road and crossed over to the other side. Tour agents and rickshaw riders were calling out to bring us around for a tour which we declined. We had come here once and we knew the way around.

Walking towards the Citadel, we passed some shops on our right. The entrance into the fortress was just ahead through a narrow entrance enough space for one vehicle to pass through at a time. This entrance is for vehicles to enter while another entrance is for vehicles to exit. From the bridge, the entrance wall and gate looked pretty ancient. A moat rings around this fortress ground and the only way to enter or exit is through one of the few road bridges connecting this fortress area.

Hue Citadel

After entering the fortress ground, a tall huge Vietnamese flag was clearly seen at the square on top of the fortress. It was a windless day so the flag wasn’t fluttering during this morning. Thankfully, it wasn’t very hot as we continued to make our way towards the Royal Palace. On our right were four pieces of ancient canons housed in a shed with some visitors near there admiring these antique weapons.

Once inside this fortress compound, we walked over to the square near the fortress where the tall Vietnamese flag was raised. We were of course not allowed to scale this fortress to get nearer to the flag pole. The square area is pretty big. Pity the sky wasn’t in its best form today otherwise, the place here would look very nice. So we were content with taking pictures from a few places and angles as we made our way towards the Royal Palace.

Hue Royal Palace

Tourists were near the entrance with their tour guides briefing them. This is the main tourist attraction inside the Citadel. Entrance fee for the Royal Palace is 150,000 VND. Regulations for this Hue Heritage Site are clearly posted in Vietnamese and English outside the main entrance. Tour guides were leading their visitors into the entrance while we were pretty happy just to take pictures of the surrounding.

Restoration works were still ongoing and we didn’t see the point of paying 300,00 VND for the two of us at this point in time to visit the palace ground. This place had been damaged during the previous wars so it would take some time to be restored. We had been to more magnificent palaces in other countries so we rather give this attraction a pass for the time being. In addition, if signage are not properly provided in English, we would probably not know what we would be looking at without a tour guide. Perhaps when this Heritage Site has been fully restored, we might pay a visit in the future.

Citadel Ground

So after capturing a few pictures, we walked towards the right along the wall outside the Palace ground. We noticed there were flower beds added to the ground near the wall this time. It was pretty clear the Vietnamese Government were beautifying this tourists attraction. The Royal Palace is surrounded by another moat within the Citadel so this is pretty interesting.

We walked on along the road among tall shady trees on both sides of the road. It was a very pleasant walk in March. Our previous visit was pretty miserable due to the high heat during the summer month in late May. It was freaking hot and we felt we were almost disintegrating by the time we reached our hotel that day.

War Museum Inside Citadel

When we reached the end of the Royal Palace, the war museum was just across the road. We could see the former war machines displayed in the open. Artillery pieces, tanks, helicopters and aircrafts were exhibited in the open. We didn’t have to enter the museum for a closer look. This is just a reminder of the past history of Vietnam during her time in turmoil and untold sufferings to her people during times of war.

Having walked to the end of the war museum, we reached the end of the road where a very interesting compound with a very grand entrance that resembled the monument we saw over the other side of the river the day before. The entrance gate was of the same colour as the monument and visitors didn’t seem to be allowed to enter this place.

School Near Citadel Exit

In front of this place is a school. A carnival was being held inside the school. There were singing and games and some adults and street hawkers were waiting outside this school. They might be waiting for school dismissal. Not far from the carpark is a fountain of European design, a remnant of its colonial past in this historical site.

We then walked on towards the exit of the Citadel. This small road is for cars exiting the Citadel while the other road we came in earlier was for incoming vehicles. This exit gate is pretty much the same design as the other entry gate. Road traffic wasn’t heavy and it was a pleasant walk inside the Citadel.

Shopping Outside Citadel

So we finally left the Citadel. We were checking out shops outside the Citadel. The main road outside the Citadel is a major thoroughfare. Hence, road traffic was significantly heavier. We stopped by shops to check out some clothes and then went into a very small shop selling sports shoes. My wife tried on a few pairs of shoes but didn’t get one her size. Nearby outside this store along the main road, we bought a waterproof jockey cap from an old lady for our daughter.

Walking a little further, we reached the junction with the main bridge linking back to the other side of the Perfume River. We didn’t want to walk further up the road to visit the market where locals do their marketing. So we crossed the road and walked up onto the bridge.

This bridge is pretty long. We enjoyed the river view from the bridge as we made our way across. It was a cloudy day so it wasn’t as pretty as during our previous visit two years ago. At least we were not fried to death nearly dying of heatstroke like the last time when we were here.

Back to Night Market Riverfront Park

We finally made it across the bridge. Looking down to the riverfront was where we roamed the previous evening. This is the location for the night market with the lotus shape restaurant along the river bank. This place didn’t look spectacular during the day. The riverfront park looked so deserted and dull. Night time was very different.

Instead of walking along the riverfront park, we walked further out to walk along the main road back to Serene Shining Hotel. Le Loi Street here was always busy as usual. The landmark here is the beautiful Hotel Saigon Morin across the road. This hotel is no doubt very strategic for tourists to visit the sites near the Perfume River.

Sports Shoes Shopping in Hue

We walked left along the park to return to the sports shop we wanted to buy a pair of sport shoes earlier. The park along the riverfront was pretty pleasant but pity the lack of visitors. We saw one or two joggers running at the park though. Quite clearly this park would only come to life during the evening with the night market, shops and restaurants bringing in locals and foreign visitors to enjoy the river park and perhaps catch a dragon boat ride along Perfume River and release lighted paper candles into the river. Shortly after we reached the other road junction. After crossing the road, we were back to the sports shop we stopped by earlier.

The young man and lady recognized us and attended to us. They patiently took out different pairs of shoes with various sizes for my dear wife to try out. We spent quite some time here trying out shoes. Eventually my wife settled her pair of Nike shoes. We also took pictures of some other shoes to check with our boys whether they would like to have a pair as well. So we left this shop and after walking through a few streets, we were back in Serene Shining Hotel.

Great Set Lunch in Serene Shining Hotel

It was noon time, just nice to head for lunch. The friendly and helpful waitresses attended to us with all smiles again. We had set lunch the day before so we ordered the other set meal this time. This other set meal was just as good as the other we had the previous day. Food presentation was great and most importantly, they were delicious. We were thoroughly satisfied after this wonderful lunch.

Before returning to our room, we went to the wellness centre to book a spa treatment in the afternoon. The lady on duty took down our details and gave us some information on the various types of treatment available for our consideration. We then returned to our suite room next.

Back in our very nice suite room, it was time to unwind and rest. The room was nicely made with toiletries and towels replenished. After the morning tour, a shower was in order. The bathtub was put to good use and after a good soak, we were very comfortable.

It was TV time and also checking with the boys whether they might like to get a pair of sports shoes here. Our younger boy didn’t mind to have a pair so we would return to the shop later during the late afternoon to get him a pair while we would also go back to the riverfront shop to get myself a leather belt.

Wonderful Massage in Serene Shining Hotel

After some good rest, it was time to head back to the wellness centre for our treatment. The staff on duty attended to us professionally. We were sat down and given ginger tea and some tidbits. We were also required to fill up a questionnaire providing important health information before the treatment. After discussing with the knowledgeable staff on the treatment to take, we were ushered into a couple’s room.

The treatment room was nice and smelt very good too with the aroma of the spices in the room. Slow piped music was played in the room. These masseurs were very good applying the required strength on different parts of our bodies to relieve our muscle aches after these few days of touring Central Vietnam. It was a great and enjoyable 90 minutes and we were totally refreshed. The damage after 30% discounts for hotel guests was only close to USD 40 for the two of us which was amazing value for money.

We then returned to our room to shower again to wash off the residual oil left on our body. It was so good after this body tuning that would see us through the rest of our tour in Central Vietnam. So it was rest time again, idling away watching TV waiting to head back out to the riverfront.

Heading out for Shopping before Dinner

At 5.30 pm, we could see from our room windows sunset was approaching. So we left Serene Shining Hotel again to head back out to the riverfront park. Along the way, we stopped by at the sport shoes shop we patronized earlier. The young man and lady were no where to be found. Instead, we were attended to by an elderly couple.

I then tried out a few pairs of shoes my son wanted and eventually got a pair for him using my feet as a gauge. After bargaining a little and paying for the shoes, we met the young lady coming into the shop while we were preparing to leave. This is a family owned business and customer service was very good. So far we found the locals here very friendly and accommodating.

Shopping Time at Hue Night Market

Our next objective was to get myself a leather belt. Couple of minutes later after crossing Le Loi Street, we were back to the riverfront. Dusk was fast approaching where the sun was no where to be seen. The riverfront was becoming livelier with locals and also tourists coming in to explore this attraction along the river.

Street vendors were setting up stalls getting ready for business. Dragon Boats moored along the bank next to the lotus shape restaurant already lit up were preparing for action in the evening. We walked on to enjoy the pleasant stroll along the river. It was pretty nice and we liked the vibes here.

Street lights were already turned on. The sky was rapidly turning dimmer and soon darkness fell upon Hue. This brought out the real charm of this riverfront park and the night market. We walked over to the shops to look for the shop selling leather product. Apparently, it was not open yet. So we roamed the park to check out other shops.

Made to Order Leather Belt at Night Market

Not long after the leather product shop was opening. We waited for the shop to be fully open and ready for business and then approached the young man we spoke with the previous night. He remembered us and attended to us straightaway. Soon his shop was getting crowded with visitors coming in. His other family members attended to them. They didn’t seem to be buying anything and just browsing around.

There are three categories of buckles with different prices available. I selected a buckle that I liked that happened to be the lowest price among the three. The young man then helped me matched the leather for this buckle and I agreed. Immediately he went to work to take measurement and then cut the leather to fit the buckle. Next he did some more cutting to shape the belt and measured the belt around my waist. After a final round of cutting, he fitted the leather belt into the buckle and it was done. It was all over in a few minutes as he proudly presented me with the new leather belt.

The total cost was just 150,000 VND and I was very happy with this purchase. I bought a leather belt at Danshui Taiwan in 2015 and it was very cheap. Unfortunately it didn’t last very long. I hope this belt would hang on for quite some time. So my agenda for this night market for the evening was done.

Pleasant Stroll at Night Market

Walking slowly along the riverfront back to Serene Shining Hotel, we passed the night market with vendors displaying their wares on the ground. We saw those young girls again where we bought a bear round neck tee-shirt from one of them. They remembered us and waved to us happily. It was good to see them around happy doing their business here.

Indeed the riverfront would come alive during the evening. Day time was pretty dull and unexciting here. Seeing these happy people enjoying some simple activities was quite refreshing. Young and old were out and it didn’t have to be luxury or sophistication to bring cheers to the people living here.

Soon we were back to the junction at the backpacker’s area. After crossing Le Loi Street and walking a few more streets later, we were back in Serene Shining Hotel.

Enjoyable Dinner at Serene Shining Hotel

It was already 7.15 pm. We headed straight into the restaurant for dinner. The waitresses were happy to see us again for our third meal here for the day. This time we didn’t choose the set meals. It was a little heavy for us. We ordered rice set and also the Vietnamese spring rolls that we liked. Of course not forgetting the very authentic and strong ginger tea where we could refill.

It was a nice dinner in the otherwise empty restaurant. Most hotel guests might be out at some restaurants and cafes at the backpacker’s area and the riverfront dining in atmospheric ambiance. But we preferred quiet restaurant for dinner. Very importantly, we could quickly return to our room to rest and unwind.

Unwind in Nice Suite Room

Back in our room, it was packing time. The next day would be a return trip to Danang by train. We showed our younger boy his Nike shoes and he was very happy about it and looked forward to wearing the shoes when we returned. With all our chores out of the way, it was time to relax and enjoy this wonderful suite room.

Visiting Hue the second time was to relive the charm we first experienced two years ago. The city here has a slow pace and the people here are friendly even though there is some communication problem with the language. By and large, we could still get things done with some simple sign language and a calculator and the people we met were very nice.

Reflection on Hue

We observed the people here were slowly but gradually changing. Two years ago we didn’t come across any lady coloured her hair. This time we saw a few. Even this small city is modernizing and catching up with bigger cities in the country. The city is commercializing but not as fast as Ho Chi Min and Hanoi.

So if you want piece of authentic Vietnam, here is still the place. This is what you could get to go back in time to experience Singapore in the sixties and seventies. Soon we might have to get to even more far flung smaller cities or villages to experience the authentic Vietnamese charms and simplicity in everyday life.

So back in the comfort of our spacious suite room, we while away the evening watching TV and catching up with everyone outside of the country. The wifi was very good and we had no problem with connection at all. Coffee and tea time came and that was our evening delight.

Our short trip to Hue was indeed fruitful and we relived a slice of nostalgia in this part of the country we had two years ago. It was great and quite relaxing as we were spared the scotching heat we endured during the summer month in May. So visiting in March was very comfortable and cooling although clear blue sky was missing. Anyway, we would wind down with more relaxation at Pullman Danang Beach Resort the next day. Thus we ended this night looking forward to the last leg of our trip with some fun on the beach.

Continue to Day 5

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