The Perfume River flows through Hué, Vietnam and provides visitors to this ancient Vietnamese city a sweet tour of the surrounding countryside and a glimpse into Vietnamese history and culture.
Once the scene of horrific battles between GIs and NVA troops during the Tet offensive, more than forty years later it is difficult to comprehend that this serene river was the sight of such grisly confrontations.
It is not difficult to find one of these tours in the ancient city of Hué. Any hotel, guesthouse, travel agent, moto bike driver can secure a pass on one of the many boats that motor up and down the fragrant river. A young lady on a moto bike appeared in front of my hotel and mentioned for me to jump on. I declined as I was waiting for my ride to the Perfume River docks. The proprietors at the hotel informed me that the young lady was my ride.
I jumped on and was whisked away to the docks along the river. The young Vietnamese girl ended up being the daughter of the owner of our boat. She turned out to have many jobs on the boat including cook, chauffer, souvenir saleswoman, guide, and assistant mechanic.
The tour is a bargain at $3.00 and lunch is sometimes included and the ride lasts about a half day. However, there are many add ons that would be considered annoying apart from the fact that the original cost was so reasonable.
From 1802 until 1945 Hué was considered the capitol of Vietnam as the Nguyen Dynasty ruled the country. The Royal Tombs in this era were built outside the city located along the Perfume River 7 to 16 kilometers from Hué. The highlight of the tour is the multiple stops along the river to view the ancient royal tombs of the Nguyen Dynasty.
This is where the parade of additional costs begins to make their appearance. At each stop there is a separate entrance fee for each tomb. Several of the tombs are a kilometer or two away from the river. Willing moto-bike drivers are waiting at each stop to ferry tourists back and forth for a fee. Remember to not get too upset at all the additional costs for the tour as the cost of the boat tour is incredibly affordable.
The first stop is the Thien Mu Pagoda, which is a beautiful tower and there is no additional fee at this sight. Then the temples begin. The first temple is Tuc Doc and the moto-bike drivers are there in force. They ask for $2.00 back and forth to the tomb, which equals the cost of the tour. Bypass this fee and walk there yourself and save a few bucks as it will take less than ten minutes.
Tuc Doc and Minh Mang were worth the trip as both were very beautiful. We skipped the Khai Dinh tomb, and I regret this as one of the people on our boat compared the architecture to Gaudi.
The great aspect about the tour is there are about four tomb stops along the way and it is not required to visit each one. Each tomb costs another 2-4$, so depending on the budget one can check them all out or only one or two. If tombs are of no interest then just pay the $3.00 and have a scenic tour of the surrounding Vietnamese countryside.
The Perfume River tour is a sweet way to spend an afternoon outside of Hué.
Written and contributed by travelingted