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4 Days in Hue, Vietnam - Part 2

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AsiaFoodHikingHueNational ParksSolo TravelTemples & ChurchesVietnam
Article author: michael
michael
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This is the 2nd part in my Vietnam & Thailand 2019 series.

You can view my Vietnam overview page, as well as my Thailand overview page with links for all the cities I stopped at.


Day 9

Day 9 was a day I was pretty excited about. I love visiting pagodas and old historic places, but I also like to get out into nature to do some hiking from time to time.

When I was searching for tours to do throughout Vietnam, the Hue Bach Ma hiking tour seemed pretty awesome, and the inclusion of a lagoon swim was a big selling point for me. The groups for the tour I booked are small, and in this case we were a group of 6, so it was a nice small group.

Bach Ma National Park hiking trip

I believe, although memory is failing me a bit right now, that the initial drive out to Bach Ma National Park was about an hour to an hour and a half. The initial drive took us close to the top of the mountain … and what a ride up it was! The road going up the mountain is the width of a one-way road, but it’s used to go up and down the mountain. It’s also very winding, so it’s a pretty intense ride. But despite how nerve racking it was, man, talk about gorgeous views!

Bach Ma National Park

The bus can’t go all the way to the top, so we had to walk the rest of the way. It was a pretty steep climb, but it was a nice warm up for the rest of the day.

Bach Ma National Park

There were a few info boards along the way giving info about various aspects of the forest. Here’s a nice little tidbit that I saw on our way up about earthworms getting up to 1.5 meters in length …

Bach Ma National Park

Yuk! 🥴

When we were getting close to the top, we had a bunch of steps to climb before we reached the summit. It wasn’t that hot out though, so no sweat! 😅

Bach Ma National Park

Bach Ma National Park

Once we reached the top, we had a really fantastic view of the surrounding area. Being so high up though, there was a lot of fog, so the sky and surrounding areas look quite grey in some of the pictures.

Bach Ma National Park

Bach Ma National Park

After we had a look around the summit for a bit, we headed into the little structure showing in one of my pics above to have some hot tea before we headed back down to where the bus had parked.

Once we got back to where the bus was, we actually continued walking a bit past, to some sort of building. That ended up being where we had our lunch.

We were each given a lunch box type of thing, each of which had some rice (of course!), delicious fried tofu in sauce, beef cubes in some sauce/marinade, and a few vegetables which I wouldn’t be able to name, along with some different fruits. It didn’t look like much at first, but it was actually really delicious! Seems I forgot to take pics though, so you’ll just have to imagine what it looked like! 😁

After lunch we got back in the bus, as the hike we had coming up was a bit further down the mountain. So we headed to the location of the start of the hike, and got hiking!

The forest was beautiful, but as we entered the forest I was being harassed by a bunch of wasps while trying to watch my steps because the ground was quite slippery! Thankfully the wasps finally took off as we got deeper into the forest.

Skill wise, you don’t need to be a seasoned hiker to do this tour, but you do need to be in decent shape. There were a lot of steep inclines and declines, the ground was very slippery in a lot of places, and we had to use rope to scale the sides of the mountain in some areas. So you need to be able to keep your balance and have the stamina to keep going.

Bach Ma National Park

Bach Ma National Park

In some areas, there were water rapids that we had to cross. In some spots the water was quite rough and fast, and the stone ground very slippery, so we had to cross with caution.

Bach Ma National Park

Bach Ma National Park

Eventually though, we arrived at what was maybe the half-way point? A really nice little lagoon where we stopped for a bit to take a break and have a swim.

Bach Ma National Park

It was really relaxing, and thankfully there weren’t any other tour groups around, so we (the small tour group I was with) had the place to ourselves!

That said, I don’t know how things normally go, and if there are generally multiple tour groups at the same time since there are a few different tour companies offering similar tours for Bach Ma national park. So your experience may vary, but hopefully if you take the tour you’ll have the same experience I did.

After the swim, we continued on towards the main waterfall. We had some tougher areas to get through, but our guide was familiar enough with the terrain to help us through the tougher spots.

Bach Ma National Park

Bach Ma National Park

Finally, after I can’t recall how long, maybe an hour or two of hiking, we arrived at the main waterfall. It was even foggier here than at the summit, but it was still an incredible sight to see!

We were at the top of the waterfall here though, so we didn’t dare get too close to the edge nor could I snap any pics of the water going over the edge.

Bach Ma National Park

Note: The sound of the water rushing past in the below video is loud! So you may want to turn your volume down a bit before playing it.

After resting for a bit at the top of the waterfall, snapping some pics, and taking in the view, we made our way back down the mountain and to our bus to head back into town.

Tour Verdict

In my Ninh Binh post, I noted that my Ninh Binh tour was one of the highlights of my time in Vietnam. Well this tour was definitely one of the other highlights!

The hike through the mountains was fun, adventurous, and challenging, and maybe a little different than the typical tours you might take while on vacation. It was a really nice change of pace.

So if you enjoy hiking and are up for a bit of an adventure, I think this tour (or any of the other similar ones with other tour operators) is a must do while in Hue!

Dinner at Madam Thu’s

After the incredible meal I had at Madam Thu’s on my first day in Hue, I couldn’t not go back again before leaving the city! So once I got back from the tour, I headed over to Madam Thu’s to have a great meal and unwind after the hike.

Price: 145,000 VND

I started with some Bun Bo Hue. The one here is different than the one I had at Quán Phở Ngọc Thu on Day 8, but it was still really good. I think I’d say the Bun Bo Hue at Quán Phở Ngọc Thu is perhaps more authentic, whereas this one is maybe Madam Thu’s own take on it.

Madam Thu's

After the soup, I had to order the stuffed rice pancake again. I loved it so much last time, I just couldn’t resist!

Madam Thu's

It was all absolutely delicious, and I can’t recommend this place enough. If you’re in Hue, you have to give Madam Thu’s a try!


Day 10

Day 10 was my final day in Hue, so I kept things light. My only plans for the day were to visit another temple complex, Huyen Tran Cultural Center, which was apparently relatively unknown to foreigners and therefor not very frequented.

Huyen Tran Cultural Center

I spent the morning relaxing, and then after lunch hailed a Grab bike and headed over to the temple complex. It was a bit of a ride, but I got to see more of the city along the way, so that was nice. Despite taking about 45 minutes to get there, the ride only cost me 35,000 VND!

When we arrived close to the temple, but still a bit of a walk away, the driver let me off and started trying to tell me he would wait for me for a fee, as I wouldn’t be able to get a driver back. I figured this was one of those scams I’d read about, and confidently told him I’d be fine and that I’d find another driver when I was done. He persisted, dropping his “waiting” fee, but I refused again politely, thinking I knew what I was doing. I’d come to regret that decision later.

So I thanked the driver, waved goodbye, and headed off towards the temple complex.

Huyen Tran Cultural Center

After a few minutes of walking, I found the entrance to the complex. Before entering, just past the initial pillars and before the main gate, there is a ticket booth to pay the entrance fee.

Entrance fee: 30,000 VND

The complex is located in Ngu Phong mountain, so you can see the mountain backdrop as you make your way through the complex. There’s also quite a few steps to climb up to get to the main temple, so be prepared for that if you decide to visit!

Huyen Tran Cultural Center

Huyen Tran was actually a Princess, the daughter of Emperor Tran Nhan Tong, so this temple is also known as the Huyen Tran Princess temple. The temple itself was constructed in 2006, so it’s not an old temple, and possibly why it’s not as well known as some of the others in Hue.

Huyen Tran Cultural Center

Once you enter through the main gate, you enter a courtyard flanked on both sides by koi ponds.

Huyen Tran Cultural Center

Huyen Tran Cultural Center

I believe you can purchase food for the fish, although I know some pagodas supply the food for free. Not sure what the case is here though, but the fish did look hungry as they followed me while I walked past.

Past the koi ponds and the courtyard, you come upon the Huyen Tran Princess temple.

Huyen Tran Cultural Center

Huyen Tran Cultural Center

Maybe it was the lack of people (there was no one else at the complex other than a few workers), but it really felt peaceful and calm here. The trees on either side of the complex probably helped with that too.

Continuing on past the Huyen Tran Princess temple, there is a path with many steps (close to 200 I believe) that leads to the Princess’ father’s temple, the Tran Nhan Tong temple.

Huyen Tran Cultural Center

The steps on either side are flanked by dragons, and really beautifully done. They may not be ancient, but the detail and craftsmanship in the dragons is amazing.

Huyen Tran Cultural Center

At the end of the steps, we come to the Tran Nhan Tong temple.

The outside of the temple is much more colourful and vibrant than typical temples I’ve seen, although certainly there are others just as colourful in Vietnam.

Huyen Tran Cultural Center

Again, the detail on the dragons flanking either side of the steps up to the temple is quite beautiful. These ones made with what appears to be broken ceramic tiles.

Huyen Tran Cultural Center

After looking around the Tran Nhan Tong temple, I headed back down the steps that lead up to the temple, where there are paths on either side.

Heading towards the right leads off to what I believe is the sleeping area for monks, and heading towards the left leads off to a fat buddha statue, and a path that leads up to the Peace bell.

I headed off to the left, gave a nod to fat buddha, and then started up the steps/path to the bell.

Huyen Tran Cultural Center

Huyen Tran Cultural Center

The path looked innocent enough at first, but it quickly turned into a long and steep climb up the mountain. I wasn’t at all expecting such a steep climb, and was wearing flip flops, so I had to be careful not to slip! It was also pretty dang hot so that didn’t help, but it is South East Asia after all, so I guess I can’t really complain!! 😂

Huyen Tran Cultural Center

Huyen Tran Cultural Center

When I finally made it up, between catching my breath and wiping the sweat off my face, I made it to the Peace bell, where a monk was ringing the bell.

Huyen Tran Cultural Center

Huyen Tran Cultural Center

I didn’t want to disturb him, but he actually ushered me over and motioned for me to ring the bell. He also offered to take a few pics while I did it, but I guess he didn’t know how to use my phone camera and so they didn’t turn out too well. 🤪
Regardless, it was super nice of him to give me the opportunity to ring the bell at an active temple, and I had fun doing it!

After that we chatted briefly (mostly in broken English) before I thanked him and headed back down the mountain.

The entire time I was at the complex, I saw one other foreigner pass me as I was leaving. Other than that I only encountered a few workers and monks, so this really is a very peaceful and quiet place to visit.

It was now time for me to make my way back to my hostel, and I was about to find out why the Grab driver that brought me here tried to persuade me to pay him to wait for me.

The sun was out in full force that day, and I had brought an umbrella with me as a fallback, plus probably about 4 or 5 litres of water. The temple complex has tons of trees, which kept the direct sun away while there, but I was still sweating like crazy and drinking a lot while I was walking around.

So as I made my way out of the complex, I pulled out the Grab app and requested a driver … but, the app told me there weren’t any drivers in the vicinity! Wait, what? This hadn’t happened to me before … was the driver actually being honest and not trying to scam me after all? I thought nah, must be a mistake … maybe bad GPS or data reception on my phone or something. No worries I thought, and I just walked out to where the driver had originally dropped me off … but still no drivers found in the app!

Ok, I was starting to panic a bit now. I was in the middle of nowhere, and while the walk back to the hostel was only about an hour and a half, I’d already been walking around the temple for several hours and was just about out of water.

Fields of nothing but graves

I kept walking in the direction of the hostel (per Google maps) while continuing to try to request drivers, but still no luck. At this point, despite trying to stay covered with my umbrella, the sun was still torching my skin, so I was concerned about how badly I was getting sunburned. Finally, after walking for another 45 minutes, and after 3 Grab drivers rejected me for being too far away, I was finally able to get a driver back to the hostel! W00t w00t! I was completely drenched from head to toe at this point, but I was so relieved to finally be on my way back to the hostel.

On the Road Again

I had a train ride to catch to Da Nang later in the day, so I packed my things, and then just chatted with the staff and some other travellers for a bit, and got directions to the train station before making my way there.

Hue train station


I ended up really enjoying my time in Hue, and I think it’s one of my favourite places in Vietnam. It’s a small city, but it has a lot of history, and it’s a great place to just relax and learn about some of Vietnam’s history, or just take it easy for a few days. I’d definitely recommend it to anyone visiting Vietnam!

Next up, join me for my 3 days in Da Nang!

Until next time,
michael 😀

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