We had a couple of nights in Hue which is in central Vietnam on the Perfume River. Hue was the former capital of Vietnam and is home to the ancient Imperial City which was the former residence and offices of the 13 Emperors of the Nguyen Dynasty from 1802 to 1945. The royal tombs of the former emperors are all located within Hue province so there's loads of temples and historical sites to visit in the area. We had a tour of the Imperial City and Citadel and also visited the tomb of Emperor Tu Doc who was the 4th emperor of the Nguyen dynasty. Tu Doc had 104 wives but had no children to succeed him on the throne so things get a bit complicated after this but it was a really interesting period to hear about. The Imperial City was badly damaged during fighting with the French in 1947 and then again in 1968 during the North-South war so a lot of the city is just ruins but there a few buildings still intact and some major restoration work ongoing.
The hotel we were staying in, the Saigon Morin Hotel, previously the Grand Hotel du Hue is one of the oldest hotels in Hue, built by the French in 1901 and has a pretty interesting history. It has previously been used as a base for French and American troops and was at one point used as a university. The next day we had a full day DMZ tour, which was the demilitarised zone. The DMZ is a 10km wide strip of land that runs from East to West to the Laos border and was the border between North and South Vietnam. Despite what the name suggests this was the scene of some of the most ferocious fighting during the Vietnam / American war as the US bases were located along the DMZ to protect the border.
Our first stop was at the former US airbase at Khe Sanh which was about a 3 hour drive from Hue, high up in the hills about 20km from the Laos border. Most of the base was destroyed after the US troops withdrew from Vietnam so the base has been reconstructed as a tourist attraction. Our tour guide was really good and explained a lot about the history of the country before and after the war. Although the Vietnam war has been well documented over the years it was interesting to hear another side to the story from someone who had grown up in Vietnam during that time. We visited the Hien Luong Bridge that crosses the Ben Hai River which is the border between North and South. Probably the most interesting part of the tour was the Vinh Moc Tunnels which are up 23m deep and about 2km long and apparently housed an entire village on the North side of the border for about 2 1/2 years. It was pretty eerie and cramped inside the tunnels and hard to imagine living down there!
We never really seen much of Hue city but the area where we were staying was really nice right on on the banks of the perfume river with some night markets along the riverbank and boat trips along the river. After two nights in Hue we are now on a 4 hour drive south through the mountains to Hoi An.