French Colonial Vietnam

Said to be the intellectual, cultural, and spiritual heart of Vietnam, Hue is full of palaces, pagodas, tombs, temples, and a dash of French colonial flair. It was the country’s political capital from 1802-1945 under 13 emperors of Nguyen dynasty and their decadence is largely what makes the area so beautiful. Just 80 miles from Hoi An, the city is set along the Perfume River and anchored by a massive moated citadel. For our stay in Hue (pronounced huweigh), we were lucky enough to reside at La Résidence Hotel & Spa, the former Art Deco home of a French colonial governor and now a fabulous boutique hotel.  The inspiring space, luxurious amenities, and attentive staff, made us fall in love with this vibrant city even more.

There are few buildings and 122 rooms in the hotel,  with the finest suites in the meticulously renovated French governor’s home. All spaces in this building are so unique and thoughtfully decorated, just as a house would be. We walked up the spiral staircase to our Voyage en Chine Resident suite and our heart sung as we swung open the door. The massive 775 square-foot room with its canopy bed,  living room, wrap-around terrace, and breezy bathroom was incredible…and with rose petals and a bouquet on the bed, it was made for romance.

After we settled in, we went down to Le Perfum restaurant for a little French Vietnamese fusion. I opted for the country’s national dish: Pho.  It’s a simple noodle soup but is spiced differently from region to region and kitchen to kitchen…sometimes with cinnamon, other times with lime or hoisin. La Résidence’s take was bursting with flavor, using herbs from the hotel garden.  

The hotel arranged a wonderful itinerary for us, starting with a pedicab ride around the city, along the river banks and to the great markets and of course the famous Citadel.

In a visit to Hue the natural place to start is the early 19th-century Citadel. It is a UNESCO site with many facets, including the Forbidden Purple City. This is where the emperor would live his private life, being waited on by concubines and servants (eunuchs only as to not tamper with his ladies or lineage).

During our exploration of the citadel we stumbled upon a ceremony where this man was adorning the altar with offerings of roast pig, beer, flowers, and sweets.  Seeing him made us realize the royal complex isn’t just a museum but living breathing piece of history.

This fabulous day was in need of a toast so we headed back to the hotel for cocktails and nibbles at the very sexy Le Gouverneur Bar.  We ordered sparkling cosmos and blood orange vodka crushes, followed by a green mango and prawn salad…delish!
The next day we took the hotel bikes out for a ride along the Perfume River to the Nyguen tombs. Half the fun of seeing the tombs was the ride to get there. Once you get a bit out of the city, the landscape turns to jade-green rice paddies and traditional villages with the occasional overgrown ruin.

The most impressive was the tomb of Emperor Tu Duc, built from 1864-1867. Set on a lake with frangipani and pine trees, the series of ornate temples and tombs were surreal against the blue sky.

After seeing the forested Tomb of Minh Mang and the over-the-top tomb of Emperor Khai Dinh, we biked back to town and toward the all-important Thien Mu Pagoda. Built at the turn of the 15th-century, this slender beauty towers over the river and is the symbol of Hue. Adding to the scenery, a group from the Vietnamese tourism board was there posing in gorgeous traditional dress.

We got back from our 20-kilometer excursion and Le Spa was calling our name.  The menu had so many soothing options, including the traditional Vietnamese Cupping massage. This treatment involves setting a series of alcohol-swabbed glasses on fire, then placing them on your back, the change in pressure sucks in the skin and takes the toxins out in the process. When in Rome, right? We did it and it was really exciting and relaxing at the same time!

To cap off our perfect stay, the hotel arranged a private dinner by the pool.  The food, service, and ambiance couldn’t have been better.  We adored La Résidence and Hue, truly a place as colorful and vibrant as its name.

Much love from Hue,
Anne & Mike

Note: La Résidence invited us to be their guests; however, all opinions are our own.

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