Letters from Hue

The majority of people from outside Asia assume that rice is the staple diet in this part of the world; the subsistence of the people if you will. And they are correct for the most part. However, it’s worth pointing out that in Vietnam, herbs are as an essential component to any meal as the rice itself. Whether one is young or old, any local will have an intrinsic understanding about the particular uses and benefits of edible foliage in their diet. In fact, there is an old saying in Vietnamese that simply translates to: “we eat herbs when we are healthy; we drink them when we are sick”. Read More
“Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing - absolutely nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” – Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows The Perfume River – Hue’s central waterway – may have lost its perfume in more ways than one, but it cannot be denied that a humble journey by boat is by far one of the most rewarding and romantic journeys one can embark upon whilst visiting Vietnam’s ancient capital. While everyone is going upstream, to the tombs – yes the royal tombs, which are of course a must – I beseech you to consider a different course, downstream, where the waters flow cleaner, the people live day by day, and you can remember that in fact, you are, quite fabulously, in a vastly different world, where the placidity of river life is at the epicentre of a whole vibrant, living, real, culture – still. Read More
Hue is renowned for its culinary traditions – particularly the aptly named ‘Imperial Cuisine’ which epitomizes the fanciful tastes of emperor Tu Duc – a king who demanded that his food was as artistically presented as it was flavoursome. Legend has it that he had 50 chefs under his employ who would each create one dish per royal banquet. In a sense you could say he gave birth to the movement of ‘food art’ in Vietnam. One could also say he was a tad excessive. Read More
Many moons ago, I was invited by a colleague in Malaysia to try a ‘cupping’ massage. I politely declined when I saw the condition of her back – she’d had the recommended treatment just the day before – purple, bruise-like circles had made a rather violent pattern on her skin. When I came to Vietnam, I noticed that traditional masseurs applied the same technique, and so my reservations about experiencing cupping remained resolute – it didn’t seem like my cup of tea. That was until a recent visit to La Residence, when I decided to put my issues aside and try out the traditional massage; knowing that their expert masseuses would certainly not put my body under any serious duress. Read More
Personally I have no need for a hotel in Hue. I am married to a Hue woman and whilst we live in Saigon we have a house here. However ever since I worked in a hotel in the early eighties I have had a fascination for hotels that maintain the heritage of a country and even in the last few years I have contributed to Vietnamese magazines on this subject. Since first seeing advertisements for La Residence my curiosity was aroused and I put this one on my must visit list. This June I was lucky enough to be given a tour and given an overview which enables me to supply you with details new even to those who may have actually stayed at this first class hostelry. Read More
After travelling down the east coast of Vietnam from the forested borders of Phong Nha-Ke Bang national park – a stunningly beautiful, but lengthy drive down the undeveloped coastline – a trio of weary, bleary eyed (and I have to admit rather grubby) voyagers arrived at the steps of La Residence boutique hotel. Hot and flustered with the late March weather, the friendly, promptly acting staff greeted us in spectacular fashion. Bags were whipped up efficiently by the concierge and we were ushered into the plush lobby lounge for a refreshing iced lemongrass tea whilst confirming our check-in details. Read More
In May 2011, I decided to go back to Asia for the 7th occasion….and back to Vietnam for the 3rd time. Yes, I am traveling addict and South-East Asia is a part of the world that I especially appreciate… not only for the climate and amazing landscapes but also for the people! So during my first & second trip to Vietnam, I got to know some great people with whom I kept in touch! When I decided to go back, I chose to focus on the northern and central part of Vietnam and to spend only a night in Ho Chi Minh in order to shop a little and get my flight back to Switzerland… Read More
It was only an overnight stay, but it was a day and a night full of delightful surprises and wonderful memories! In 2009, my husband Wayne and I spent a wonderful two week holiday in the north of Vietnam. After a glorious three days sailing in a magnificent Indochina Junk on spectacular HaLong Bay, wereturned to Hanoi and caught the overnight train to Hue. Just after 9am on the 16th June, my 57th Birthday, two very weary and disheveled travellers arrived in Hue after a long and uncomfortable night on the train. Read More
Questions like this arise daily, turning a 15 minutes stroll into get a “ca phe sua da” and a lengthy explanation. Being one of the few visually impaired foreigners in Vietnam, I naturally attract a lot of attention; People ask me everything, from how I get about in Saigon to how to study languages well.My reading glasses, monocular and cane provide entertainment for children and adults alike. Five years ago, when I arrived in Vietnam as a naive but determined 23 years old, I wasn’t prepared for the effect my presence would have on the locals. I wanted to show the world what a sightless person was capable of and encourage and help other blind people to do the same, especially here in Vietnam Read More