Hue was the imperial capital of the Nguyen Dynasty that ruled Vietnam during the time of the French. ‘’Ruled’’ may be too strong a word because the French were the ultimate masters. However, it is an interesting city in Central Vietnam, close enough to Danang and its airport to be easily accessible for those enjoying a holiday in Vietnam. Good Vietnam tour operators often include Hue in their Vietnam travel packages. Hue is a UNESCO World Heritage site, offering plenty to see and do. If you decide to do some shopping in Hue, then this is the first place to visit:
• Dong Ba Market is an ancient market, as old as any around. It offers a range of goods including the fresh produce of the region, clothing and household goods. It is located on the north bank of the Perfume River near the Citadel and is a great place for a traditional breakfast; pho (noodle soup), banh khoai (stuffed omelette) and spring rolls.
There is another market, catering largely for locals; Tay Loc. Visit in the morning and be sure to haggle over the price. The range of goods varies from fresh produce to household goods, clothing and souvenirs. If you are hungry then try the steamed rice cakes (banh beo), spring rolls and noodle soup. It opens at 0600 and remains open until late.
You can shop anywhere in Vietnam and enjoy the experience. Even walking around a market is both fun and educational. When you are in Hue, one thing that you should look out for is really traditional Vietnamese, the Non la, or conical hat which is made out of palm leaves woven together. Over centuries it has protected people from both the heat of the sun and the rains. During festivals, it is even a fashion item, highly decorated and colourful, using the lucky colours of Vietnam such as pink and yellow. The hat makers of Hue are the real experts and they include traditional poems into their weaves. When the sun shines and the hat is held up to the light, the poems become visible.
There are some interesting shops worth a look if you have the time:
• Gia Huy Silk is a tailor’s shop. You can expect anything to be made to measure for you in just 24 hours. If you are not in Hue for that long then you can probably arrange delivery, and if you are remaining in Hue the shop will deliver to your hotel. Once the shop has your size on file, you can reorder in the future if your measurements don’t change
• Healing the Wounded Heart specialises in handicrafts and clothing from recycled material. The profit goes to help disabled artisans.
• New Space Art Foundation has folk paintings, lacquer-work and photographs. It regularly hosts dinners, exhibitions as well as communal cooking events.
There are fashionable boutiques, many near Trang Tien Bridge which will accept credit cards while there are also gift shops within the Pilgrimage Hotel.
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