Culture (and more eating) in Huế

After the buzz of city life in Hanoi, hiking with hill-tribes in Sapa and the coastal beauty of Ha Long Bay, stopping at Huế gave us a dose of culture.

The first day, we went to the Imperial enclosure to check out the citadel, the Forbidden Purple City and other historic buildings that survived American bombings.

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This statue depicts what may well be the campest guard ever…

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Thien Mu pagoda

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The second day we scrapped the idea of hiring bicycles in favour of a scooter after being reassured by another traveller how easy they were to drive. Mark was a natural and I felt totally safe being his passenger.

The scooter let us get out of town to check out some impressive tombs. The roads were long and uphill; bicycles would have been a real slog. We visited the Khan Dinh, Minh Mang and Tu Duc tombs.

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Food in Huế is excellent; the area is associated with the old royal court. Apparently at least one of the emperors was a fussy eater and helped to create a fine cuisine!

One of the most famous dishes is bún bò Huế, or noodles and beef in a spicy broth. Brilliant for waking you up and getting a sweat on!

This is one of several bowls we enjoyed while we were in Hue; other versions have more offally bits of meat in which gives a richer flavour to the broth but can be more “challenging” to eat.

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One of the best meals we’ve had in Vietnam so far was at Lien Hoa. It’s the kind of vegetarian restaurant where even the most avid carnivores wouldn’t want meat; everything was skilfully balanced and seasoned.

These guys are my new obsession: bánh bèo, or soft rice flour pancakes with crunchy toppings. I love the contrast between the textures.

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This salad’s Vietnamese name is “vấn vương thương nhớ” but the English translation made me chuckle: “separated twelve predestined affinity”. I think the meaning has to do with the fact that the components of the dish are presented in separate piles which you mix together with your chopsticks so the flavours mingle.

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Similarly, the diverse mix of experiences we have had throughout Vietnam so far have felt like a “predestined affinity”.

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