Departing early from Hoi An, you head up the coast, past Danang, China Beach and the Marble Mountains without pausing. First stop is at the top of the Hai Van Pass for spectacular views to Lang Co and back over Central Vietnam. The aim is to get to Hue as early as possible – its at least a two and a half hour drive from Hoi An. Once in the ancient capital, you first head to the Citadel and ancient Imperial City. This is from where the Nguyen Dynasty ruled between 1802 and 1945. The pomp and ceremony of the dynastic rulers is evident, as are the ravishes from the American war.
After a tour of these ancient sites, take a cyclo ride through Hue’s backstreets. Dai Noi, the ‘Old City’, is where you find to Tinh Tam Lake where the Emperors used to come to relax. It is full of lotus flowers during the summer and surrounded by coffee shops where university students come to debate and study. Continue on to visit Thien Mu Pagoda, overlooking the Perfume River. Constructed in 1601 the 21-meter tall tower is the centrepiece of the pagoda and represents seven reincarnations of Buddha. In the grounds of the pagoda is the Austin car made famous when in 1963, a resident monk drove the vehicle to what was then Saigon to protest against the southern regime, the photo of his self-immortalisation was captured and was one of the most well known images of the war.
Lunch in a restaurant where you can try some of the renowned Hue cuisine.
In the afternoon you will visit the tomb of the former emperor Minh Mang, which is located in a tranquil setting of gardens and ponds. Journey on to Khai Dinh’s Tomb which is traditional Vietnamese in design, with European touches making it somewhat unique and distinct from the other tombs in Hue. You need to get an early start today, if you are the cover the distance and see all there is to see on one day! Invariably, you will be back to Hoi An late.