The imperial city of Hue has for centuries played a significant role in Vietnam and even so during the Vietnam War. Where emperors lived and died. This was the seat of the Nguyen dynasty. Hue’s university has for centuries played an important role in Vietnam. Hue’s history stretches back all the way to the seventeenth century so history is always present for those visiting regardless whether it is the imperial intrigues of the eighteenth century or the wars of the twentieth century. Today the university still plays an important part in the city and it has become a major tourist destination. The tourist areas now offer walking streets during the weekends and a large selection of restaurants. For those more interested in local food one has to venture outside the tourist areas.
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During the Vietnam War, Hue made its mark in history during the Tet offensive 1968 when the city was taken over by PAVN forces with the help of VC. The US Marines found themselves confined to the small area around the MACV compound in the eastern part of the city south of the Perfume River next to the university. This also happens to be right by the tourist area of today. From the MACV compound the beleaguered Marines had to fight their way out as reinforcements were appraoaching from the Phu Bai airport south of town. Even though large parts of the city and the old citadel were destroyed during the heavy fighting, remains of the fighting is all around.
There are still bullet holes in some older buildings and walls on the south side of the river and on the north side of the river the citadel was more or less destroyed due to the fighting and airstrikes. In the north eastern corner of the citadel, the ARVN had a large compound which today is an army compound. The ARVN put up a fierce fight, standing their ground and eventually forcing the PAVN and VC fighters out of their part of the citadel. There was also an airstrip in the about the center of the Citadel, the site is easily found and one can walk down the airstrip which today is one of the streets in the city.
For the war history traveler it is well worth buying a ticket to the old imperial part of the citadel. Not only is it a historically interesting spot, but one will also get a good view of the level of destruction that was the consequences of the fighting.
Walking across the Truong Tien bridge towards the citadel is a must. This is one of the spots where the US Marines saw some heavy fighting as they were working their way across the water in to the citadel to continue drive back the enemy.
Further reading: Bunker Hill just outside of town.
How to get there
Hue is located about 100 kilometers north of Da Nang over The Hai Van Pass along the main road QL1. One can fly in to Phu Bai airport from all the major cities in the country or go by road from Da Nang and Dong Ha. We recommend those interested in exploring the DMZ to stay here instead of Dong Ha as there is a wide range of hotels and restaurants available and most of the tour operators have offices here.