The Imperial City

The entire city of Hoi An was declared a UNESCO site, (there are only 7 in Vietnam) but Hue has a UNESCO area, too- The Imperial City. I spent hours walking around this enormous walled fortress on the banks of the Perfume River.  (One source said it has a circumference of 10km.)  It was built for the Nguyen dynasty emperors, with the work starting in 1804.

Surrounded by a moat and stone walls, it contains the emperor’s palace, and many temples and family buildings.  And, strangely, 2 elephants. The koi pond was the other “interactive” component of the site. I bought a little bag of fish food to throw in the water and enjoyed watching the resulting noisy frenzy.

Though it was heavily bombed by the US during the Vietnam war, there were some buildings that survived, and many others that have been restored. But they were hard at work on continuing to reconstruct the many crumbled buildings that remain there. And there were a few areas that resembled the old ruined castles I used to tramp through in England as a child…

… stairways leading to nowhere, doorways from the outside- to the outside, opening from roofless walled rooms onto grassy green courtyards.  I can’t imagine how grand it must have looked two hundred years ago, but the parts that remain today are beautiful.


I loved the dragons that line some of the stairways and appear to be flowing down them to greet… or maybe threaten you?

The symmetry and size of the buildings is impressive, as are the colors and detail that decorate the gates, roofs, and lintels.  Besides food, a peek at another country’s culture and history is my favorite part of traveling.  And what could be more fun than getting to walk through a place called “The Forbidden Purple City”?


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