Letters from Hue

So many of the international travelers I talk to about Hue want to know what in Hue should be on their bucket list, which is not at all a difficult question. There is the Imperial City, the tombs of the Nguyen Kings and Thien Mu pagoda. Those are, I would have to say, the Big 3 in Hue. Not as high on the bucket list but worthy nevertheless are the garden homes of old Hue, the Museum of Royal Fine Arts, our colonial French architectural heritage and all of Hue’s other pagodas. There’s your second tier, right there. Read More
In October of 1985, 24-year-old Nguyen Dinh Thiet mustered out of the Army after six years and sent his CV to two different places. The first was to a tax office in Lao Bao, a far-flung town on the frontier with Laos that lies within the borders of his home province. The other was to the government guesthouse at 5 Le Loi Street in Hue, where they needed more security. Read More
Eastern and Western writers try to help Western readers understand our Tet lunar new year holiday by describing the holiday as a combination of Christmas, New Year’s, the Fourth of July and everyone’s birthday all rolled into one. And they’re right. Read More
Fifty years ago next month, shortly after the Viet Cong stole up from the banks of the Huong River under the cover of darkness and took control of the building that anchors our hotel today, there was a soldier on duty in one of the hotel’s buildings. He wasn’t Viet Cong, but a North Vietnamese ally, and he was leaning out the window. It was an unfortunate decision. Read More
After thirty-two years working in this building, mostly as a waiter, Mr. Duong Dung (his first name, Dung, is pronounced Yoom), retired. He lasted three days. This was last April. He came into my office and removed his hat, and he said, “I really miss the hotel. In fact, I’m homesick for it, and I want to contribute. Can I come back to work a few hours every day?” Read More
Ask anyone who’s looked long and deep into the Vietnamese arts, and they’ll tell you that the highest achievement in Vietnamese art is in its architecture. This confuses some because next to the glories of the Eiffel Tower, the Colosseum and Fallingwater, it hardly seems that the buildings developed by Vietnam’s best and brightest hardly measure up. And they don’t. Read More
There are two factors really. The first is a matter of climate, soil, sea and even some bias, perhaps. The beef, poultry, seafood and produce in Hue are borne of conditions that make for really tasty dishes. For example, the squid caught off Hue’s shores commands double the price of squid caught elsewhere. I understand that every region might say the same thing about its food. But not every place can say the same thing about what may be a more persuasive reason for the singular appeal of Hue’s cuisine — the nobility. Read More
24 Hours in the Age-Old Imperial Capital of Vietnam Read More
When I was growing up in Hue, we weathered the winter under umbrellas and ponchos, indoors at games, and generally bundled up against the chill. That was then, and though I still live in the same city, the winter weather in Hue is the most unfamiliar thing about this place. In fact, if you blindfolded me to everything about this city but the current weather reports, I’d be hard-pressed to say it’s the same place. Read More
There isn’t a day that goes by when a guest doesn’t ask for my advice on what to do and where to go when they visit Hue. Answering this question is one of the favorite parts of my job, and I never tire of boosting the city, partly because I’m a big believer in the appeal of my hometown but moreover because I know guests will come back from a visit to any of these places feeling fulfilled, and usually with a story or to share, as well. So, if you visit Hue, you must visit... Read More