Hue, Vietnam travel tips

We are indebted to Vietnamese God and for leading us to excellent restaurants after we discovered that Lonely Planet’s Hue restaurant recommendations served inedible food.

Read on for travel tips.

Where we ate:

  • Quan Ba Hoa, 7 Truong Dinh – A dinky little place doing it right. We got their specialty, which we think was bun hen rice noodles (or you could get rice, com hen) with clams (or were they mussels? or maybe mushrooms?), peanuts, some veggies, fried shallots, and a side of clam juice that you doused as you wanted. There was no menu and no one spoke English, but this tasty, spicy breakfast cost less than a dollar for the both of us: YEH
  • Breakfast of champions at Quan Ba Hoa, Hue, Vietnam
    Breakfast of champions at Quan Ba Hoa | Photo by Lauren Girardin
  • Not sure the name, Truong Dinh – Not far from Quan Ba Hoa, this isn’t really a restaurant so much as it is a bunch of low tables and stools and a couple of woman manning a makeshift kitchen. Again, no English menu or spoken, but we were served heaping platters of banh, banana leaf wrapped steamed surprises, one flecked with minced pork, one embedded with a shrimp and pork fat, and one sprinkled with fried pork skin and…oh I don’t know but they were good. We stuffed ourselves for less than $1.50 US: YEH
  • Shrimp and pork banh, Hue, Vietnam
    Shrimp and pork banh | Photo by Lauren Girardin
  • Newspace Arts Foundations, 3 Hung Vuong – We were pretty happy here. As Todd says “Some foo-foo versions, but good.” We may have been biased because it was raining (again) and this restaurant was close to our hotel: YEH
  • Co Do, 22 Ben Ngue – Usually when you see people always eating at a restaurant in Vietnam, you can take that as a sign that it’s good. This place was the exception to that theory. The meat tasted rotten. We left without finishing: NAH
  • Ngoc An and DMZ Bar, Phan Ngu Lao neighborhood – Though our Lonely Planet recommended both, both were some of the most horrible food we’ve had in months. At Ngoc An we left after a few attempts at swallowing what they served us. It was pouring rain, so we ran into DMZ to escape the wet, and even our desperation couldn’t make their pizza anything but cardboard: NAH and NAH
  • Lac Thien, 6 Dinh Tien Hoang – According to the large sign outside this dive restaurant, they have been recommended by all the guidebooks, including Lonely Planet, which seems to have dropped Lac Thien. Why is a mystery because the restaurant and it’s cheesy, friendly deaf owner was a gem. We ordered off their local Hue foods page and everything was fantastic: YEH!
  • Rice banh at Lac Thien, Hue, Vietnam
    Rice banh at Lac Thien | Photo by Lauren Girardin
  • Mandarin Cafe – Every year we host a “Leftovers Potluck” the Sunday after Thanksgiving, so we were craving turkey sandwiches loaded with cheese and bacon, we had to settle for chicken, but Mandarin was happy to make our special orders: YEH
  • Bun thit nuong shop, on road to Thien Mu Pagoda after the bridge – Look for the “bun thit nuong” sign in this basic food shop. They have a minuscule menu of bun thit nuong, grilled pork and pork ball noodle soup (an amazing bowl), and fresh rice noodle rolls: YEH
  • Bun thit nuong and Huda beer, Hue, Vietnam
    Bun thit nuong and Huda beer | Photo by Lauren Girardin
  • Bo De Vegetarian – Maybe “Bode.” We walked by a couple of times before thinking…”Yeah, we like vegetarian food, let’s go there.” The “seven wonders” salad was crunchy fun, the curry tofu was spicy and filling, and chewy jackfruit and mushroom salad was a standout: YEH

Where we stayed:

  • Hai Dang Hotel, 43 Hung Vuong – A completely forgettable hotel, who were unable to help us with anything. Probably not worth seeking out, but honestly, we can barely remember: MEH

What we saw:

  • Marble Mountain – The Sinh Cafe bus from Hoi An to Hue made a stop at this site, which was a nice bonus to the ride. We didn’t have a lot of time to explore, but the towering cave was worth a spelunk for its Buddhist imagery in unusual places. Bring a strong headlamp or flashlight, it’s dark and damp: YEH
  • Dragon bust, Marble Mountain, Vietnam
    Dragon bust, Marble Mountain | Photo by Lauren Girardin
  • Imperial Citadel – A large complex enclosing the Nguyen royal court buildings that survived bombardment by the French and Americans. If you went on a rare sunny day in Hue, it would probably be more impressive. The most odd sight was the giant chicken, I mean phoenix, left over from some art collaboration and abandoned, along with a dragon, on the Forbidden City grounds: MEH
  • Tomb of Tu Duc – A sprawling complex of decaying buildings, moldering mosaics, and moody landscape. Well worth the back road bike ride there: YEH
  • Tomb of Tu Duc, Hue, Vietnam
    Tomb of Tu Duc, Hue | Photo by Lauren Girardin
  • Thien Mu Pagoda – We took a leisurely bike ride over the Trang Tien Bridge and along the Perfume River to this pagoda complex. A pleasant building, view of the river, and the odd display of the car that monk Thich Quang Duc drove before immolating himself while protesting the war. The bun cha lunch we found on the way back (see above) was a nice bonus: YEH
  • Green Bamboo Art Gallery – We succumbed to consumerism and bought a small water color. The price was fair: YEH