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One of the most significant cultural and historic centers of Vietnam, the former imperial city of Hue is celebrated for its tradition of intellectual thought, Buddhist piety, and the sophistication of its cuisine. Despite the damage it suffered during the Indochina Wars, it remains a place of great beauty, with the Perfume River flowing through it. To the north is the Citadel, containing the Forbidden City and the royal palaces, while to the south are many ancient pagodas and tombs, and the town’s French Quarter. Excellent hotels and restaurants along with its palpably French atmosphere add to the city’s many attractions.

Royal Antiquities Museum

Following extensive renovations, this museum has been relocated from the former private residence of Emperor Khai Dinh and his adopted son Bao Dai to its original location in Long An Palace in the Citadel. Originally built in 1845, the palace is supported by 128 ironwood  columns and features a multi- tiered roof.

The exhibits, which are all from the Nguyen Dynasty (1802–1945) include silver crafts, fine porcelain, antique furniture, and items from the royal wardrobe, Khai Dinh’s bed as well as Bao Dai’s shoes. Unfortunately, there is little explanation or information offered on this grand collection.

Dieu De Pagoda

Built during the reign of Thieu Tri, the third Nguyen Emperor, Dieu De fell into disrepair over the years, but was restored in 1889 by Emperor Than Tha. Renovated many times since, it dates from 1953 in its present form.

The pagoda is distinguished by drum and bell towers, and a sanctuary dedicated to the Thich Ca Buddha, or the Historical Buddha. As with other Buddhist pagodas in Hue, it is closely associated with the politics of nationalism and opposition to the oppressive Diem regime (1955– 63). In May 1963, Buddhist monk Nun Nu Thanh Quang immolated himself here in protest.

Dong Ba Market

Hue’s bustling Dong Ba Market is located to the north of the Perfume River, near the south- east corner of the Citadel. A popular local shopping center, it attracts huge crowds daily. Stalls here over flow with an astonishing variety of goods, from fresh produce and fish to clothing, toys, shoes, and cosmetics. The market is at its busiest and most fascinating in the early hours of the morning, even though it is open throughout the day.

Notre Dame Cathedral

Built between 1937 and 1942 in a hybrid Franco­Vietnamese style, this large and somewhat unappealing church serves around 1,500 local believers. Two masses are held daily at 5am and 5pm, with a third mass at 7am on Sunday. At other times, the main gates are generally locked.

Bao Quoc Pagoda

Giac Phong, a Buddhist monk from China, founded this historic pagoda on Ham Long Hill in 1670. It was later granted royal status by the Nguyen lord, Phuc Khoat (r.1738–65). In the late 18th century, the powerful Tay Son rebel, Quang Trung, used this house of worship for storing armaments. The temple was also given royal support by Emperor Minh Mang (r.1820–41). In 1940, it became a school for training Buddhist monks, a function it fulfills to this day. Though it was renovated in the mid­20th century, the pagoda retains its charm and aura of antiquity even today.

Tu Dam Pagoda

Founded in the 17th century, this temple’s chief importance is as a center for supporting Buddhism, a cause that has been at the heart of Central Vietnam’s political culture for a long time. The Vietnamese Buddhist Association established its headquarters here in 1951, and the temple was a major hub of activity during the Buddhist agitation against President Diem’s unpopular Catholic regime during the mid­20th century. As was the disturbing trend at the time, in 1963 a monk burned himself to death in the pagoda’s court- yard in protest against the oppressive administration. The central altar is presided over by the Thich Ca Buddha, and a tree in the temple grounds is said to have been grown from a cutting of the original bodhi tree in India.

Thanh Toan Covered Bridge

The little known but delightful covered bridge in Thuy Thanh Commune is architecturally similar to the famous Japanese Covered Bridge at Hoi An, as well as the covered bridge across the canal at Phat Diem. Getting to it is half the fun, and provides a great trip through scenic villages.

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