From my experiences traveling throughout Vietnam, Hue is the city with the most undiscovered hidden charm. It is famous for the Citadel, the tomb of the Kings, the Perfume River and the Thien Mu Pagoda. Most of the tours in Hue cover only these features, and they move tourists in a prescribed way from one site to another.
There is a very authentic way to discover the hidden charm of Hue and the places hidden away from tourists. It is by a very popular vehicle in Hue called the cyclo or rickshaw. We start our Hue Cyclo Trip by crossing the Perfume River on the Trang Tien Bridge. Then we ride along the famous Dong Ba Market. From here, we follow a branch of the Perfume River to an area full of local shops where you can see lots of trading activities. We will turn left into the area surrounding the Citadel where local people have lived for generations in their old style houses. This area seems not to have been influenced by the touristy area, and people still carry on their business and lives just as they did a hundred year ago. While sitting on the cyclo, all of the activities on the street, in the shops and in the houses, just happen around you, and you can feel like you are a part of it.
This area is located outside the Citadel of Hue. From here, we can view the outer part of the Imperial Citadel from a distance and then follow the beautiful bridge crossing the moat to one of its main gates. The traffic at the gate is very busy, and it will be fun to be on the cyclo in the middle of that traffic.
Between the outer citadel and the Imperial Citadel, there is an area that local people have inhabited since the old times. This is really a very interesting part of Hue, because all of the houses are only one story and are very open to the public. From the cyclo, you can view the activities of the families and the interiors of the houses. Like other cities in Vietnam, Hue people like to do all of their work and resting on the streets in front of their houses, and we can see all these interesting things from the cyclo. All of the pictures here have been taken by me on a cyclo trip in Hue. The cyclo moves at a very reasonable pace, and everything just appears in front of your eyes like in a movie.
I really did like the quiet and peaceful atmosphere in this area. Different from other parts of Hue, there is nearly no traffic on the streets. There are lots of green trees along the streets shading the local houses; houses with typical style gates, fences and gardens. The cyclo will take us past Tinh Tam Lake (meaning “Peace of Mind”). The lake was built by the King at the same time as the Citadel and is very well-known as the best place in Hue for growing Lotus. Strolling along its side, you surely can feel the peace and greenness of this most famous lake in Hue.
Going from Tinh Tam Lake toward the Imperial Citadel, you can see more trading activity at the many local shops along the street. Most of the items that people need in Hue are sold here. There is one whole street just for the selling of used motorbikes, a very popular item for every family in Vietnam. Many houses in this area have been turned into shops, but they still have kept the classic style that makes this area a little bit like Hoi An.
From here, you can see the wall of the Hue Imperial Citadel. The cyclo will take us around the Imperial Citadel before reaching the Noon Gate, whereas most travel company itineraries just take you from the city directly to the gate for a Citadel tour. You will get an idea of how big the Imperial Citadel is and how it fits into the surrounding area. You can also view the beautiful wall, the moat and some impressive gates. After the cyclo ride, the walking tour into the Imperial Citadel from the Noon Gate will provide great balance. And you will have experienced classic and lively Hue in addition to the historical and famous Imperial Citadel.
Hue Cyclo Trip is included in our Hue Imperial City Tour.