Sightseeing in Central Vietnam

By Jan Dodd

Major Sights in and around Hue

Of all Vietnamese cities, this is the one I enjoy most. It's an easygoing, peaceful place with lakes and canals, tree-lined boulevards and a certain refinement thanks to its imperial past. Hué also has great cuisine and wonderful restaurants - not to mention all its historical sights. Unfortunately, many sights will have been damaged in the 1999 floods, though to what degree is not yet certain.

Imperial City in Hué, Vietnam

Despite the ravages of war, weather and time, the Imperial City still packs a powerful punch. Much has been done to restore the palaces, which gleam once more under a coating of rich red lacquer and writhing dragons.

Mausoleum of Tu Duc in Hué, Vietnam

Of Hué's seven royal mausoleums, this is the finest. Rather than dealing with affairs of state, Tu Duc preferred to hide in his lyrical pleasure garden. You can reach this and other Imperial Mausoleums on a boat trip down the Perfume River.

Hué Folksongs on the Perfume River in Hué, Vietnam

There's no better way to spend a balmy Hué evening than drifting gently down the Perfume River to the sound of traditional folk songs.

Da Nang

Da Nang is one of Vietnam's fourth largest city. Now a major harbour it was once home to a huge American Air Force base in the Vietnam War. Many visitors don't take to Da Nang, but I find it a surprisingly relaxed, amiable city, with its French past still very much on show. Though it doesn't boast any breathtaking sights of its own, both Hoi An and My Son are within easy reach.

The Cham Museum in Da Nang, Vietnam

Da Nang's most important sight is this unique collection of Cham sculpture dating from the fourth to fifteenth centuries. It won't take more than an hour to explore and is a must if you're going to visit My Son (see below).

Provincial Museum in Da Nang

Best for its coverage of local ethnic minorities, including a beautifully melodic water harp made by Sedang people. The museum is undergoing very protracted renovation work, so not all rooms are guaranteed to be open.

Hoi An

Somehow this little town retains its charm despite the tourist hordes. Its most noteworthy monuments are the two-hundred year old homes of Chinese merchants and their colourful Assembly Hall. Add to that a tasty local cuisine, dozens of good restaurants, a riverside setting and some of the best tailors in the country.

Jan Dodd is the author of The Rough Guide to Vietnam, as well as guides to Japan and Tokyo, and a contributer to the guide on France. She writes for various newspapers and journals, including the Independent on Sunday and National Geographic Traveler Magazine.