Hue, without a doubt has to be the most romantic and poetic city in Vietnam, attributed mainly to the atmospheric combination of the Perfume River and the ancient architectural grandeur of the Imperial Citadel, a reminder of a town once ruled by kings and queens.
Located at the northern bank of the Perfume River, the Imperial Citadel is protected by a high outer walled fortress and a surrounding moat with waters taken from the river. The citadel can be easily identified even if you are standing across the bridge on the other side of the river mainly because of the 33.4m height flag tower.
Upon entering one of the many gates of Imperial Citadel of Thang Long, it is unavoidable not to be excited on stepping into a piece of Vietnam past, a past prior to the war that somehow significantly and unfortunately sometimes defines this beautiful nation.
It is a vast complex of palaces and pagodas divided into three circle of ramparts- the exterior circle called Kinh Thanh Hue (Capital Citadel) mainly used for defense, the Hoang Thanh or the Royal Citadel which consists of temples and palaces used for ceremonies and the innermost circle, the Forbidden Citadel (Tu Cam Thanh), the one reserved for the Emperor and his family.
There is a huge potential to get lost inside the 520 hectares citadel particularly when you are exploring alone in the afternoon few hours before they close all the gates and asked all tourist to exit, just because you find much enjoyment entering every remaining accessible gates there is.
After all, there will come a point that you may want to ditch the piece of information in your hand with list of names of every palace and pagodas and instead, all you wanted to do is cover every inch of the place with no sense of direction.
Built in 1805 under the reign of Emperor Gia Long (Nguyen Phuc Anh) and completed in 1832, the Imperial Citadel is a testament to the once powerful Nguyen Dynasty, considered as the last Vietnamese monarchs. The Emperor reign to power was recognized by China, possibly explaining certain visible architectural influences and decor.
Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993, though there are still on-going restoration on remaining pagodas, over-all it is admirable to see that the Imperial Citadel is successfully preserved- both structures and ambiance.