You’ll be hard-pressed to find a traveller who loves every single place they’ve ever been to. The brutal truth is that some places just have to be chalked up to experience.
For me, Hue in central Vietnam was one of those places; you can file it under “d” for “depressing”. If I were to rank every town, city and village I visited in Vietnam in order of enjoyment, Hue would certainly feature at the bottom of the pile.
This is why Hue is so depressing…
1. Hue’s faded glory
Time hasn’t been kind to Hue. Once the capital of Vietnam for roughly 150 years, Hue fell on hard times during the Vietnam War (it’s location near the border between North and South Vietnam didn’t do it any favours) when large parts of the city were destroyed.
Now, Hue’s faded glory is plain to see. It’s like an old washed-up beauty queen whose best days are long gone, laid to waste by the ravages of time.
2. The Imperial City (of ghosts)
Nowhere is that faded glory more obvious than at Hue’s Imperial Citadel – the city’s top tourist attraction and the former imperial seat of government.
A sprawling complex of pavilions, temples, walls and ruins, this once magnificent imperial palace is like a ghost town today. Like much of Hue, the Imperial City is unloved and a little bit sad.
3. Shitty weather
If you look through my photographs from Hue you’ll start to notice a theme. I’m holding an umbrella in just about every single one of them.
That’s because the weather in central Vietnam is notoriously shit. When it wasn’t raining in Hue in February, it was cold and grey. I couldn’t wear enough layers, especially after gloriously hot and dry weather in Ho Chi Minh City, Mui Ne, Nha Trang and even Dalat, the city of eternal spring in Vietnam’s central highlands.
4. The Perfume River stinks
To be fair, Hue’s Perfume River doesn’t actually stink – but the boat trip I took certainly did.
My fiancé and I managed to haggle a pretty sweet deal for an hour-long boat trip on the city’s famous river, which I’m sure would have been pretty if the weather wasn’t so darn depressing. It wasn’t until we’d climbed aboard that we realised we were the only ones.
Our feelings of despair and gloominess were exacerbated by being the only two people (besides the lady driving the boat), sitting on two plastic chairs in an otherwise empty room.
5. Hoi An/Hanoi
Finally, like the awkward middle child, Hue marked the halfway point in our travels between Hoi An – equally rainy but no less marvellous because of it – and Hanoi in northern Vietnam, a city that has a lot to offer tourists.
To make matters worse, no matter how hard we tried, we couldn’t seem to get tickets on the sleeper train out of there. Was everyone else feeling as depressed as us and were trying to escape for happier climes? Probably. We had to settle for a sleeper bus to Hanoi, which didn’t cheer us up at all.
So that’s why Hue was just a little bit depressing. Honestly, I’m glad I got the opportunity to visit – but I wouldn’t recommend you go there during the winter rainy season, which is roughly from February until the end of March. I’d recommend you bring an umbrella if you do choose to visit during that time of year.
Check out these other handy Vietnam travel tips (learnt the hard way).