Where would you like to go with Indochina Pioneer?
Please click on the countries below to read more about your desired destinations in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. These pages provide first-hand local travel information regarding transportation, accommodation, attractions, food & drink, entertainment ... together with some suggestions on ready-made tours to and from those places.
Ho Chi Minh City, also known as Saigon, is frenetic Asian city of markets, street clogged with scooters, street side food stalls, as well as foreig…
The name Nha Trang is a Vietnamese pronunciation of a Cham word Eatran or Yjatan. Ea or Yja means river, and tran means reed. According to the loca…
This is one of the best laid-back getaways in Vietnam. The town of Phan Thiet itself is a bustling little fishing port -- quite picturesque and goo…
120km (75 miles) W (over sea) from Rach Gia (Rach Gia is 250km/155 miles S of Saigon by road). The same size as Singapore, the island of Phu Quoc l…
Hanoi is relatively small and runs at quite an unhurried pace for a capital city. Resting in the Red River delta region, the centre is a mixed of t…
Taking a cruise on Ha Long Bay -- or the Bay of the Descending Dragon -- for many represents the pinnacle of their experience in Vietnam. eas…
The ancient town of Hoi An is located 30 km south of Da Nang on the banks of the Thu Bon River. Occupied by early western traders, Hoi An was one o…
Siem Reap Siem Reap is a cluster of villages with a French colonial centre, and the gateway to the Temples of Angkor. These majestic temples in…
A small market town that has been a gathering spot for many local hilltribes for nearly 200 years. Hmong and Dao people, among others, still come h…
Vietiane With a troubled recent history, Laos has only recently openned to the outsite world and is one of the most untouched countries in Asi…
Set on the banks of the Perfume River, Hue was the capital of Vietnam between 1802 and 1945 under the Nguyen Emperors, and later French colon…
The fourth-largest city in Vietnam, is one of the most important seaports in the central region, and the current booming Vietnamese economy has see…
Located 173 kilometres from Saigon, Can Tho is considered as the heart of Vietnam's Mekong Delta. The city, regarded as "Western cap…
Known as "Le Petit Paris" by the early builders and residents of this hillside resort town, Dalat is still a luxury retreat for city dwel…
Vang Vieng is a tourism-oriented town in Laos, located in Vientiane Province about four hours bus ride north of the capital. The town lies on the N…
Luang Prabang Luang Prabang is regarded by many as the most attactive cities (or town would be more accurate description) in Asia, if not the …
Setting in a green valley, Mai Chau is a wonderful collection of farms, villages and stilt houses surrounded by verdant rice paddies against a back…
Located at one of the many branches of the Mekong river and about Vinh Long is the gateway to river islands and some worthwhile sites, includ…
Extremely mountainous, Dien Bien is one of the newest provinces in Vietnam, having been split off from Lai Chau further to the north. The province …
Phong Nha - Ke Bang is a national park and UNESCO World Heritage Site which is noted for its cave and grotto systems as it is composed of 300 caves…
Phom Penh Cambodia’s capital city is awakening from a turbulent recent past to become a busy and fernetic Asian city of Southeast Asia. …
Situated 250 km west of Ho Chi Minh City, Chau Doc is a district and town in An Giang province, bordering Cambodia, in the Mekong Delta region of V…
The tunnels of Củ Chi are an immense network of connecting underground tunnels situated in the Củ Chi district of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vi…
Built on both sides of Highway 1 and the railroad connecting Hanoi with Ho Chi Minh City, Ninh Binh is a fairly uneventful place with only a few mi…
Sihanoukville is all about the ocean, located on the Gulf of Thailand. The pristine beaches, the sparkling clear water, the cooling sea breeze, the…
Set on the banks of the Perfume River, Hue was the capital of Vietnam between 1802 and 1945 under the Nguyen Emperors, and later French colonal rule. Since the early nineteenth century it has been regarded as Vietnam’s centre of learning which, with its tradition of Buddhism, gives the city a sophisticated air. Hue witnessed some of the most aggressive action of the American War, including the Tet offensive, but in the spite of this many monoments to its Impreial past remain, and UNESCO declared the city a World Herritage Site since 1993.
Hue was part of the Champa Kingdom until 1306, when territory north of Da Nang was exchanged for the hand of a Vietnamese Princess, under the terms of a peace treaty. In 1802, Emperor Gia Long of the Nguyen Dynasty moved the capital from Thang Long (Hanoi) to the renamed city of Hue to try & unify the country, however in 1885 the French seized power, making the emperors nominal rulers only. The Nguyen’s made Hue a famous centre of the arts, scholarship and Buddhist learning, but their extravagant building projects & luxurious lifestyle resulted in crippling taxes. Hue ceased to be the capital of Vietnam when Emperor Bao Dai abdicated in 1945; two years later a huge fire swept through the city & destroyed many of its wooden temples & palaces.
From the early 20th century, the city was embroiled in social & political unrest led by the anti-colonialists. In 1963, troops fired on 1000’s of Buddhists peacefully demonstrating against the persecution of the Buddhist majority by the southern Catholic regime of President Ngo Dinh Diem. Protests escalated into a series of self-immolations by monks & nuns, and the army moved against them & arrested the majority of the Buddhist clergy. The 1968 Tet Offensive ripped the city apart again when the revolutionaries captured & held the city for 25 days. They were armed with lists of names, and searched out government personnel & sympathizers of the southern regime. Later, nearly 3000 bodies were found in mass graves around the city.
The city received a boost when UNESCO listed Hue as a world heritage site in 1993.
Airport: There is no international airport in Hue. The Domestic Phu Bai Terminal south of the center is located 10miles (16km) from the capital city. You can be connected either at Noi Bai Airport Hanoi or Tan Son Nhat Airport Ho Chi Minh City. The journey should cost roughly $15U.S. including toll fee.
Clothing: Lightweight cotton and linen clothing is advised for much of year, although warmer clothing is sometimes needed during the winter between Octover to March. Rainwear is advisable in any season.
Electricity: Electricity: 220V, 50 Hz AC (some 110V, 50HZ AC). Two-pin plugs are in use, however sockets are different from those found in most countries and an adapter socket may be needed. Outlets for 110 volts for small appliances are found in most hotels.
Health: A yellow fever certificate is required from travellers over one year of age arriving within 6 days of leaving or transiting countries with infected areas. For the latest immunisation requirements please contact your GP.
Language: Vietnamese is a difficult language to learn. Based on tonal variations, it is difficult for a short term traveler to speak easily. It comes from the Chinese, although the two languages have diverged. Vietnamese has six tones, so a word can be said six ways, imparting six different meanings. There are also regional variations, so what is polite in Saigon may be just the opposite in Hanoi. In the 17th century, Alexander de Rhodes. Jesuit scholar and missionary, created the romanized script which was used only by the educated. In 1954, under Ho Chi Minh, the romanized script became the official written script for the Vietnamese language. Today, English and French arethe most common second languagesin Vietnam, so someone is sure to help you out. And, even though it is a difficult language, give it a try. your efforts will be appreciated!
Tipping:If you are happy with services provided by your local guides and drivers, a tip, though not compulsory, is appropriate. While it may not be customary to you, it is of great significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels, it inspires excellent service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across destinations. Here are our suggestions;
- Meals (restaurants): the average amount is $1
- Guides: We recommend $2-$5 per day for local guides (depending on group size),
- Drivers: You will have a range of drivers on your trip. Some will be with you for a short journey while others may be with you for few days. We would recommend a higher tip for those more involved with the group however a base of $1 to $2 per day would be appropriate (depending on group size).
- Bellboy: the average amount is $1
- Chambermaid: the average amount is $1 per day. For larger groups and adventure trips you may want to increase this. But please remember that it’s totally up to you, these are guidelines only
Visa Requirements: Almost all visitors to Vietnam need a visa to enter the country, although some qualified exemptions apply for citizens of those countries with bilateral reciprocal agreements with Vietnam. Depending upon the nationality and passport of the applicant, a tourist visa may be granted for either a fifteen (15) or thirty (30) day stay in Vietnam.Click here for more details…
Best Buys: The list of bargains is endless, but to whet your appetite, here are a few examples: papar painting, silk sheets, silk shirts, t- shirts, paitings so much more…….!
Bank: Vietcombank and ATM can be found at Hung Vuong St next to Saigon Morin Hotel. Currency Exchange - Le Loi St., near No.18. Huong Giang Hotel or Century Hotel.
Communication: General: GPO-Hoang Hoa Tham, email: Hung Vuong, “backpacker’s street”.
Places to see
The Citadel: Built in the 19th century during Emperor Gia Long’s reign, this is a small, self-contained city of about 5.2 sq km built in accordance with ancient tradition whereby an auspicious location was chosen to preserve the all-important harmony between the emperor and his subjects, heaven and earth, man and nature. The whole area is enclosed within 7 metres high, 20 metre thick brick and earth walls built with the help of French engineers, and encircled by a moat and canal. Within the outer wall lies the Imperial City and inside, the Forbidden City, the former living quarters of the imperial family. The citadel’s massive, 10 km long perimeter wall has survived intact, and has its most prominent feature, the flag tower which dominates the southern battlements. The tower is three brick terraces topped with a flagpole first erected in 1807, where the yellow starred Viet Cong flag flew briefly during the 1968 Tet Offensive. 10 gates pierce the citadel wall and if entering through the Ngan gate, there are the 9 sacred cannons, which were cast in the early 19th century of bronze. The cannons represent the four seasons and five ritual elements (earth, fire, metal, wood and water); originally they stood in front of Ngo Mon gate, symbolising the citadel’s guardian spirits.
The Imperial City - Three walled enclosures make up Hue’s Imperial City: Hoang Thanh (yellow Enclosure) and Tu Cam Thanh (Forbidden Purple City) are enclosed within the all encompassing Kinh Thanh (the exterior enclosure). Hoang Thanh (Yellow Enclosure) is the middle wall enclosing the imperial city and its palaces, temples and flower gardens. Most of what visitors see tody is found within the Hoang Thanh or Yellow Enclosure; other areas were destroyed during the Tet Offensive of 1968.
The Forbidden Purple City - The ten-hectare city, enclosed by a low wall, was reserved for residential palaces, living quarters of the state physician and nine ranks of royal concubines, plus kitchens and pleasure pavilions. Many of thee buildings were destroyed in the 1947 fire, leaving most of the Forbidden Purple City as open ground, a “mood piece”, haunted by fragments of wall and overgrown terraces.
Imperial Tombs: more than simple graves, Hue royal tombs are great artworks of architecture with decorations inspired by the Oriental spirit and were constructed on the banks of the perfume river several miles upstream from the citadel. Each tomb reflected in its architecture the monarch’s politics and personality. Tu Duc (1848-83) whose tomb is the most aesthetically unusual was renowned for his poetic and artistic temperament. The tomb of Khai Dinh (1916-25) contains numerous motifs drawn from western influences, at a time when the king was a mere figurehead in the French colony. With its stone mandarins, horses and life-size elephants, this is the most famous of al the tombs. Duc Duc’s tomb is the closest of all the royal tombs to the city of Hie. Gia Long’s tomb on the north bank of the perfume river has a majestic simplicity as it rests amongst a picturesque 2,875 ha of parkland and forest. Minh Mang’s (1820-41) tomb, 11km from Hue, was built in an elaborately Chinese style to reflect his fascination with Confucian administrative methods. The 3m high enclosures includes a grand court with stone staircases leading to a two-tiered terrace which in turn leads to the Square Pavilion and stone stele. The kings were not buried under the granite tablets erected to proclaim their titles and exploits. To prevent exhumation by usurping dynasties, the actual burial places were kept secret and remain unknown to this day.
Thien Mu Pagoda: set on the banks of the Perfume River is famous for its seven-story Phuoc Duyen tower. Emperor Thieu Tri built it in the 1840s, in which each of the seven tiers represents one of Buddha’s incarnations on arth. Two pavilions to each side respectively shelter a huge bell, cast in 1710, weighing over 200 kilos and said to be audible in the city, and a large stele erected in 1715 to record the history of Buddhism in Hue>
Hue Imperial Art Museum:
Located at 3 Le Truc, (7.30-11am and 2-5pm; VND 30,000 approx) it has an interesting display of former royal paraphernalia and is housed in the stunning Long An Palace built in 1845 inside the Imperial city and moved to its present location in 1909 to become the National University Library before Khai Dinh turned it into a dynastic museum in 1923.
Revolutionary Museum: Opposite the Art Museum on le Truc Street. (Mon-Sat 7-10.30am and 1.30-4.30pm VND 22,000 approx.) Has a display of archaeological and ethnographic exhibits in the western building and to the east is the “Museum of the Resistance Against US invaders (1954-75) depicting Hue’s historical past.
Ho Chi Minh Museum: Although born near Vinh, uncle Ho spent 10 years at school in Hue (1895-1901 and 1906-1909) where his father worked as a civil mandarin. The small museum (7 Le Loi, Mon-Sat 8-11am and 2-5pm) presents these years in the context of the anti-French struggle and then takes the story on to Independence.
Thuan An Beach: Although not as spectacular as Danang’s China Beach, Thuan An, 14km from hue by road is nice enough and a pleasant cycle ride. En route you pass through Duong No village, 8km outside Hue where Uncle ho once lived with his father.
Demilitarised Zone (DMZ): This refers to a zone five kilometres on either side of the Ben Hai River, which formed the line dividing North and South Vietnam at the 17th parallel following the Geneva agreement in 1954. It is an area that teems in contemporary history and historic sites which re predominantly clustered around the town of Dong Ha. A half-day tour along highway one is usually sufficient to cover the main sights.
Dong Ba Market: Located on Tran Hung Dao Street about 100m from Trang Tien Bridge, it is the biggest business centre in the region. All kinds of high quality goods and handicrafts made inside and outside the city can be found here, and it is best visited early in the morning.
By taxi: Like other Vietnamese cities, Hue is flooded with cyclos and motorbikes, as well as a few meter taxis. Taxi drivers are usually honest, but make sure they turn the meter on: trips start at 18,000 dong for the first 2km and tick upward at 12.000 dong/km. Some meters run incorrectly (showing up to 10 times the distance actually travelled), so ensure you have a rough idea of the distance to you destination. If the meter is running too quickly, at the destination pay an estimate of the fair price and insist on calling the police if the driver will not accept the estimated non-meter price. The driver will back down.
With cyclos and motorbikes, all of the usual disclaimers apply: negotiate a price ahead of time, and don't be afraid to walk away if they're asking too much.
Hire a motorbike and join the locals as they swarm across the bridges and along the main roads at a leisurely pace. They're available for around US$7/day from hotels and shops.
Cycling is also a good option, with plenty of bikes available for no more than US$1/day.
By cyclo: A cyclo is the local versions of the trishaw, with the passenger in front of the cyclist. Be prepared to haggle for reasonable prices as cyclo drivers tend to quote indiscriminately. It's a good idea to agree absolutely on your price before you go. Also make sure this is a return price, and not one-way. Of course, if you want to change your itinerary after you're already on the way, you should discuss how this might affect the agreed price with your cyclo driver right away. Otherwise, you may get a rude surprise when you arrive at your final destination, and the driver tries to charge you an exorbitant amount. Be aware that while most of the cyclo drivers in Hue are fair, and can be quite helpful, there are a few who are very unscrupulous. If you agree on the price as "100", make it very clear that you are agreeing on 100,000 Dong, and not 100 US dollars!
On foot: Hue is quite compact, so you can reach most of the hotels, restaurants, and the Citadel easily on foot.
Shop ya to drop!!!
The Dong Ba market is a huge covered market at the southeast corner of the citadel. Fruit, fish, vegetable vendors overflow into the surrounding spaces while in the downstairs hall you’ll find Hue’s contribution to the world of fashion, the poem conical hat. These look just like the normal conical hat but have a stencil, traditionally of a romantic poem, inserted between the palm fronds and only visible when held up to the light.
All along Le Loi Street, you'll find souvenir stalls that vary from the cute to the kitschy. You can find good deals on commemorative spoons and velvet Ho Chi Minhs here, but nothing too traditional or authentic. There are, however, a few good silversmiths and some little gems on sale in the glass cases of even the most kitschy tourist boutique.
A few tailors are in and among the souvenir shops. You might stop by Seductive (40 Le Loi St\), a small ready-to-wear-silk boutique. Riverside Le Loi, just across from the town's best hotels (Huong Giang and Century Riverside), is also a good place for affordable silk tailors. Try Viet Silk at (68 Le Loi), or just around the corner at (8 Pham Ngu Lau St.). Both stores are open daily from 7am to 10:3i0pm.
Bambou Company (21 Pham Ngu Lao St., next to La Carambole) produces unique T-shirts of local theme and design, all Western-size. Long Van Art Gallery (1 Pham Ngu Lao St or 15 Vo Thi Sau St) has good lacquer designs and antique (or faux antique) embroidered hangings at either of their locations.
Food and drinks
Ancient Hue (11/3 Pham Thi Lien St, Hue)
Opened at the time of writing, Ancient Hue states to be a boutique, leisure destination. Eight towering pillars, symbolizing the eight weapons meant to protect and guard the location, mark the entrance. Oversized plates and serving dishes are used in the restaurant; garnishes on dishes are teetering works of art. If you are a less-is-more kind of person, you will be in small company. Staff members offer mini tours of a traditional Hue house furnished with antique furniture and a clay house that will be home to an art gallery featuring local artists. The menu is based on the feasts of the Nguyen emperors' banquets. A chef, formerly of the Hilton Hanoi Opera, heads up the kitchen and offers creative dishes like chicken and banana blossom salad and grilled minced shrimps on sugar cane
La Carambole (19 Pham Ngu Lao St, Hue City)
Good music is the first thing you notice at La Carambole. The decor is cheerful: cool indirect lighting, red tablecloths, and playful mobiles hanging from the ceiling, all as welcoming as the kind waitstaff. The gregarious French proprietor, Christian, and his wife, Ha, will certainly make you feel at home, and the good "comfort items" on the menu, like spaghetti, burgers, pizzas, and various French-style meat-and-potatoes specials, will stick to your ribs. The set menus are a good deal (salad and beefsteak at $5 (£2.75), for example), and portions are ample. There's a game table, and you're sure to meet lots of other travelers.
Mandarin Café (24 Tran Cao Van St)
In a busy storefront a short walk from the riverside (near the Saigon Morin), Mandarin is always full of young backpackers, and for a reason: good, affordable Vietnamese fare, predominantly one-dish items like fried rice or noodles on top of a roster of comfort foods. Try this place for a casual meal and likely conversation with fellow travelers. Have a banana pancake. The owner, Mr. Cu (pronounced Coo), is a practiced photographer and his works -- classic images of rural Vietnam -- line the walls and are for sale as postcards or prints. For the amateur shutterbug, the images are inspiring, and the best part is that Mr. Cu is more than happy to share secrets and talk shop.
Phuoc Thanh Garden Restaurant (30 Pham Ngu Lao St, Hue City )
Among lots of budget stops, this large, new, open-front restaurant borrows its style from the mandarins and temple compounds outside of Hue, but it's thoroughly modern, tidy, and caters mostly to large groups. They ask your nationality when you arrive and deliver your country's flag to your table when you sit down. Phuoc Thanh is a good choice for hygienic versions of local specialties like bun bo Hue (local noodle soup), nem ran (fresh spring rolls), or banh khoi (pancakes). A long list of tasty stir-fries, as well as delicious hot pots, round out the menu.
Though a popular tour-bus stop, Tropical Garden has a good laid-back feel. The restaurant, with a sister location called Club Garden just down the road (08 Vo Thi Sau St), serves fine Vietnamese fare from a good English menu, and there is live music nightly. Even when it's packed here, there are enough intimate corners that you'll feel comfortable. The place specializes in "embarrassing entrees," the kind of flaming dishes and multitiered platters that would impress that eccentric uncle of yours. Service is a bit hit-or-miss, either fawning or forgetful.
Omar Khayyam's Indian Restaurant
Tandoori House (10 Nguyen Tri Phuong)
is a good-value Indian café serving decent vegetarian curries and Nan bread. If you're desperate for Indian food, this will do. Pricey compared to . many restaurants nearby. Lamb curry tasty but had too much tomato in it.. Nan good but garlic nan greasy White tablecloths but dismal atmosphere. The only decor was bright paint colours. Servers had good english.
Nightlife and entertainment
Hue, Vietnam, has only a limited amount of nightlife and entertainment to chose from. Indochina Pioneer will help you find the best nightlife and entertainment in Hue. Below we listed the best party nightlife, dancing and nightclubs, both for under 21 & 18 and over.
Why Not (21 Vo Thi Sau St)
Slightly arty café bar, with a decent selection of food and drink
DMZ Bar (60 Le Loi St)
opening hours: Daily 0900-0200
Hué’s first bar, with pool table, cold beer and spirits at affordable prices. Good place to meet people and pick up tourist information.
Ca Thi (64 Le Lo St)
A friendly place offering lots of titbits with drinks. Coloured lanterns, tree trunks to sit on inside for drinks, and a garden. Large drinks list including cocktails and teas, and a small menu of meat, noodles and rice.
Hue's weather is infamously bad: the Truong Son Mountains just to the south seem to bottle up all the moisture, so it's usually misty, drizzly or outright rainy. Things get even wetter than usual in the winter rainy season, especially from February to the end of March. To be safe, bring along an umbrella any time of year. Don't forget to bring a sweater and jacket in winter as it can get rather chilly, with temperatures falling to as low as 8 degrees at night. Alternatively, when the sun makes an appearance for a day or a week, it can reach 30 degrees.
It's usually quite dry during the summer months, when the temperature can reach the high 30's. Summer rains can be heavy but brief, and often arrive unexpectedly, whereas February rains can last for weeks. The best description for the weather in Hue would be "changeable".