A number of readers are either former residents of Huê, or have visited Huê in the past – some Vietnamese – some foreigners. Maybe you have a twinge of homesickness for the beautiful city of Huê. If so, here is a ride around the city. I’m not going to include all the tourist places – though those are familiar landmarks – but rather both the famous spots and the not so famous spots.
Be sure to click on the photos to see a larger version.
This is not a famous place – it is the Phú Cam Canal looking west towards the bridge on Điện Biên Phu Street. Sometimes small sampans can be seen floating by, but most of the time it is quiet and peaceful.
But, just east of this spot is one of the most famous landmarks in the city – the Phú Cam Catholic Church. It is a cathedral – meaning the Bishop of the Diocese of Huê is seated here. While the architecture is obviously not Vietnamese, it is a beautiful edifice nonetheless. The Mystery Guest Blogger and I attend services there on Sunday evenings.
The street signs give you an idea of how Huê sees itself as the location of some of the most striking World Heritage sites in Việt Nam. The icon in the middle of the signs is a graphic of the Forbidden City – the residence of the emperors within the walled city built in the early 1800s as the new capital of Việt Nam. Nguyên Huệ Street is a main street that begins at Lê Lọi Street, the main east-west artery on the south side of the city that parallels the Perfume River. (By the way – check the link to the map on the right side of your screen.)
The walled city is called The Citadel, and it is still very much a residential part of the city. One of the central landmarks of the walled city is the Flag Tower. It is a beautiful sight that can be seen in many different parts of Huê.
The oldest and most prestigious institution of higher learning in Huê is Đại Học Sư Phạm – or the College of Pedagogy. Americans would call it a teacher’s college. Today, it is part of the University of Huê It is on Lê Lọi Street near the old bridge. Most tourists walk by the gates without realizing what it is.
On the other end of Lê Lọi Street from Sư Phạm is one of the three most prestigious high schools in Việt Nam. Entrance to Quoc Học (say quock hop) is extremely competitive, and it’s graduates go on to study at the best universities in Việt Nam. Both General Giap and Hồ Chí Minh studied here.
Húng Vương Street is the main north-south street on the south side of the river. It is the center of the tourist district. One of our favorite haunts is the Mandarin Café, shown here with its owner Mr. Cu and his wife Thanh. Both have not only kept us well fed, but have been good friends, helping us feel our way around a land where we don’t know the language.
Everybody has seen pictures of the famous old truss bridge over the river – but nobody takes pictures of the new bridge. The old bridge no longer carries heavy traffic (except for the occasional taxi that sneaks past the traffic police), but the new bridge is much stronger and wider and handles the truck traffic traveling up and down National Highway 1. Yes – that is the Flag Tower in the background.
Like most Vietnamese cities, Huê is a city of markets. One doesn’t go shopping for two weeks worth of groceries here – there is no way to store, refrigerate, or freeze your purchases. One goes shopping every day - sometimes twice a day. One of the larger markets in Huê is the Chợ An Cưu. (Chợ means market - An Cưu is the name of the neighborhood.) Its on Highway 1 at the Phú Cam Canal. It used to mark the southern entrance into the city, but the “suburbs” have grown well south now.
Huê currently has three over-the-air television channels, though the government is in the process of expanding that to ten within a few years. Two of the channels are national, with the third devoted to local broadcasting. The vast majority of Vietnamese have a TV in their home. It is the principle means of getting information out to the people. Programming is a mix of news, documentaries, corny soap operas (similar to Mexican novellas), and game shows. All of the channels emanate from this facility. The tall antenna is festooned with lights and is quite pretty at night.
If you have enjoyed this brief trip around Huê, leave a comment and let me know if there are places you would to see. Maybe we’ll do this again sometime.