With such rich architectural heritage, Hue is one of the more delicate flowers on Vietnam’s well-pounded tourist trail. During his trip to Hue in 1981, the former General Secretary of UNESCO regarded Hue as "a masterpiece of urban poetry". Back then the notion of tourism was just a pipedream. The country first had to pull itself back from economic oblivion.
In 1986 as part of the economic policy called doi moi, Vietnam opened its doors to international trade and subsequently tourism. Now the country is caught in a curious quandary – balancing growth and development with preservation. Unlike Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, tourists will not come to the former Imperial Capital to go shopping or dancing. This is still a quiet provincial city, but one that is making the most of its gifts.
Thanks to ongoing projects with UNESCO and other international groups Hue’s architectural heritage is now blossoming – tourists flock here throughout the year to see the citadel, An Dinh palace and the Nguyen kings’ tombs.
Hue’s natural beauty is another massive boon – one stroll along the leafy banks of the Huong river is enough to make any visitor fall in love with Hue. And there is wonderful local cuisine. Visitors should always sample specialties such as banh beo or banh khoai (Plus as a Buddhist-centric town there is an excellent vegetarian food scene).
It is also building its reputation as a venue for arts and culture. In recent years the Hue Festival has become central to Thua Thien- Hue province’s efforts to put the city on the map – not just as a ‘historic’ destination but as a culturally exciting one.
The seed that was planted by the inaugural festival in 2000 has grown steadily. Now after four more festivals, each one bigger than the last, the city is ready to celebrate its most vibrant and spectacular festival yet.
Hundreds of thousands of domestic and international visitors will descend on the city from June 5 to 13. The last festival in 2008 attracted 150,000 domestic and 30,000 international visitors from 75 nations and territories and organisers certainly hope to surpass those figures this time around.
A Royal Affair
As previously there will be a number of re-enactments of royal rituals such as the Nam Giao Offering Ritual, a solemn and sacred event. The Royal Palace by Night is a more colourful affair with food and wine served at a royal banquet and a spectacular lights show.
Another favourite is the Legend of Huong River which offers snapshots of the river’s history, legends and beauty. There will be historical showpieces too – such as a re-enactment of when Nguyen Phuc Lan Lord selected Kim Long (Hue’s former name) as the capital city. Also, worth catching is the re-enactment of Navy manoeuvres under the Nguyen Dynasty on the Huong river.
While the festival’s centrepieces are undoubtedly reflecting the feats, accomplishments and style of Vietnam’s old royal culture, the event is increasingly diverse with painting exhibitions, fashion shows, installations, photography displays, theatrical and musical shows, street performances, and a whole lot more besides.
There will be 40 art groups and artists from 31 nations spread across five continents participating. Some of Vietnam’s most prestigious theatre companies will also be coming to town. There will also be a number of competitions with kite flying contests, a traditional martial arts gathering, human chess matches and sampan racing.
Hue Festival 2010 will also do its bit to promote the environment. The Ao Dai festival is titled Natural Wishes and accordingly, all long dresses are made out of natural silk and dyed with pure organically made colours. Accessories and jewellery decorating the long dress are also made out of natural substances. Another message on environment will be made by an art installation named For a Green Planet which will be held on World Environment Day on June 6.
Besides the official performances and activities during the Hue Festival, there are various cultural performances and art exhibitions by local artists.
Nguyen Duy Hien has created around 3,000 oil, acrylic, laquer and mixed material paintings about Hue and its people. His paintings will be displayed along the Le Ngo Cat street running from Nam Giao Esplanade to Tu Duc Tomb. There will also be two 25-metre long blank canvases with brushes and colours for passers-by to try and add their own artistic touches to the exhibition.
Hue Festival 2010 Highlights
The Grand Opening Ceremony starts at 8pm on June 5 at Ngo Mon Square
A reenactment of a Navy manoeuvre under the Nguyen Dynasty takes place on the Huong River, in front of Kim Long communal house in Kim Long Ward in the evening of June 7.
The Ao Dai Grand Show takes place at 8pm in Ham Nghi Yard, Thuong Tu Gate.
The sacred Nam Giao Offering Ritual will take place in the evening of June 9 at Nam Giao Esplanade
A multimedia show called Voyage to Reclaim the Country’s Land begins at 8pm on June 10 on the Huong River, in front of the Flag Tower (Ky Dai)- Phu Van Lau.
The Perfume River’s Legends programme on the Huong River at 5pm on June 6 and 12.
A special show The Oriental Night will be held on June 5 (directly after the opening ceremony) and June 12 (from 7pm) in the Imperial City
The folk music and drama programme The Breath of Water will be held on June 6, 9 and 11 at Tinh Tam Lake from 7pm.
Royal Palace by Night – an evening of performances, exhibitions, dancing and dining – will be held from 9pm on June 5 (without royal banquet) and from 7.30pm on June 8 and June 11 (with royal banquets) in the Imperial City.
The Closing Ceremony will be held near Gia Hoi Bridge in the evening of June 13 from 8pm.
Source: Time out