Hue Festival - Vietnam's Largest Cultural Extravaganza.

Rod Page

Jan 7, 2010

Hue rose to prominence as the capital of the Nguyen Dynasty which dominated much of southern Vietnam from the 17th - 19th centuries. At the beginning of the 19th century when Emperor Gia Long established control over the whole of Vietnam, Hue became the national capital & remained so until 1945 when Emperor Bao Dai abdicated & a communist government was established at Hanoi.

The American War &, in particular, the Tet Offensive of 1968, saw the city suffer considerable damage. In the period following the war the city's historical features remained neglected, seen by the communist government as "relics from a feudal regime". With a more recent change in policy parts of the historic city have now been restored.

The Hue Festival stems from the Vietnam-France Gathering of 1992 & is now Vietnam's largest cultural event for art, theatre, music, dance; a rendez-vous for ancient cities & for world cultural heritage. Festival events - ranging from gastronomy to a children's fiesta, from street performances to local craftsmen - are staged throughout various most scenically situated points of interest within the charming city.

I would travel on this ocassion to Hue by train from Da Nang taking the journey around the headland at the foot of Hai Van Pass; a journey by train judged by many to be the best in Vietnam.


The train experience - a seat on the train cost 70,000vnd ($3.50) each way; the train from Da Nang started almost an hour late & took 3 hours to reach Hue; the return leg started almost on time & took 2 hours & 15 minutes. Its a wonderful journey through virgin forest, past beautiful deserted beaches, along a track purched just above the sea & the peninsula's rocky coastline. The line runs along the mountainside of Vung An Cu, the lagoon behing Lang Co & offers a most scenic appraisal of fishing life on the lagoon & traditional rice farming on the adjoining shoreline. So scenic is the run that I plan to do it by motorbike shortly & add it to the list of alternative ways to travel by road to Hue.

The ceremony is staged at the fabulous Ngo Mon Gate, the principal entry to the ancient Citadel. Some shots from the Opening Ceremony to give you a feel - a prominent ball of flame & the set-up for the first half hour of speaches:



The festivities get under way, continuing for an hour & a half into the night:











Various countries were invited & sent delegations to perform, including France, China, Australia, Russia & South Korea. Herewith a shot of the Russian delegation (it was difficult for the camera to catch the man in full flight) &, not surprisingly, the Australian delegation. In the case of the later the hilltribe playing gongs in the background are, in fact, from the M'nong tribe at Buon Don where the Elephant Race report I posted last week was taken........small world!



Let the fireworks begin:





A couple of close-ups of those on stage during the fireworks:



And all the time the flames burned at Cot Co:



The Hue Festival runs for 9 days & I'll be returning for the last 2 days.


Feb 16, 2007
Fantastic pix. Too bad we won't make it down there in time. In Cao Bang now resting after the Hwy 3, 207, 206 loop through the falls and back. 11 hours on the bikes to go 200 km beat us up pretty good. And riding over Ma Phuc pass in the dark last night is something I never wish to repeat again. I don't scare easily but that scared me. But what scenery and experience it was. Looking forward to more after I rest my old bones for a day :)

Rod Page

Jan 7, 2010
Fifty three (53) days since I was last in the saddle, Hai Van Pass called & she welcomed me with open arms - this truly is one of the wonder coastal roads of the world & she was at her very best. 2-up on the YBR - my wife somewhat tentative after my fall - we climbed & descended as if aboard a 'BM'.

Magnificent is the view over Lang Co; we decided to take the road to the mountainside of Vung An Cu, the lagoon that forms the backdrop to the sandy beaches of Lang Co (1). Its an excellent choice passing calmly by those who live their lives in stilted homes over the lagoon & grow oysters for a living:




Further west where ricefields are still ploughed uniquely by buffalo, where bird-life abounds, the fields extend back towards Bach Ma National Park, a former french hill-station & the wettest place in Vietnam. Bach Ma NP is home to almost 1500 species of fauna & over 130 mammals, three of which were only discovered in the 1990's; the national park extends from the coast right across to the border with Laos. Further north, around 15kms on the way to Hue, you'll find Suoi Voi & its crystal-clear springs, so inviting as temperatures start to mount.

The stunningly beautiful imperial city of Hue was our destination & we were returning for the closing of the Hue Festival. We'd taken our time - after 53 days there was no way we were rushing this trip - coming up along the coast & lunching at Thuan An:


We arrived to a setting sun, herewith the outlook that would great us from our bedroom verandah (2):


The Hue Festival Closing Ceremony would be held in Phu Van Lau Square between the Perfume River & the 'Flag Pole'. Preparations were well in hand for an 8pm start:


The ceremony opened spectacularly to the pulsating beat of drum & percussion; a brilliant performance as participants are taken from the bronze drums of 1,000BC Vietnam's founding Hung kings, through the war drums of the 18th century Tay Son Rebellion & culminating in the drums & percussion of modern day Vietnamese operatic culture:




This is THE night out for Hue locals as the following photo of those stationed alongside the temporary seating installed for paying guests & with NO chance of seeing any of the spectacle attests:


The ceremony that follows pays tribute to Vietnamese history & culture concluding with another impressive display of fireworks & the release of floating lanterns along the Perfume river. Some photos to do the talking:







A wonderful evening; an event only held every second year but highly recommended & one well worth attending.

The next morning we arose to find preparation for the "Tour de Hue" well advanced. What a thrill it is to see some big bikes in Vietnam!!!




Speaking of big bikes, however, let me take those contemplating riding extensively through Vietnam back to reality. Here's a bridge in Hue that we had to cross given areas closed by the police for festivities associated with the Festival............anything bigger than a 125cc: you're mad:


The weather has certainly warmed in Vietnam in recent days & walking to see various historical sites can already be a wettening experience. We would make our way home early determined to return after summer has passed. Riding back up the Hai Van Pass - I love the ride back towards Da Nang - a flat at one of the big hairpin turns 9km south of Lan Co:


Out of no-where a repair team arrived in minutes - a man to fix the tyre & 3 woman on motorbikes equipped to sell you your every need:


Another wonderful ride in this most beautiful of countries; a wonderful festival held only every second year but highly recommended & one well worth attending.

1. To reach the road along the western edge of Vung An Cu follow the road down towards Lang Co under the highway taking traffic across to the tunnel crossing through Hai Van Pass. As the 'lower' crossing over the lagoon comes into sight look for a turn-off to your left, to a road running parallel to the railway. Take this road & follow it to its conclusion at the foot of Hwy 1 at Phu Ga.

2. Thai Binh II Hotel. 2 Luong The Vinh St, Hue.

Rod Page

Jan 7, 2010
This is an event I know many readers would enjoy attending - the last Hue Festival in 2012 was attended by over 90,000 likewise minded foreign tourists! And with good reason as this is a quality event in a sensational setting surrounded by history at a level rarely found in other cities world-wide.

Hue is a beautiful city with so much to see & do; the festival is held only every second year.

The dates for this year: 12-20 April, 2014. Be there if you can; you will not be disappointed.

Rod Page

Jan 7, 2010
Just felt I should again bring this to the attention of all those looking to travel in Vietnam in April.

This is a 'top shelf' event, offering the chance to see the richness of Vietnamese culture, the most important sites relating to the 'American War', the chance to ride the brilliant Hai Van Pass & the opportunity to visit Danang & Hoi An.

Nothing better!