Filming in Hue, Vietnam

About locations to film in Hue, you can read this post.

The content below will dedicated about some requirements and conditions when film in Hue, as well as some stories at each location which we’ve filmed.

If you want to film at some relics in Hue, such as Hue Citadel, royal tombs, Tiger Arena … then you need to have film permit from Hue Monuments Conservation Centre (in Vietnamese: Trung tâm Bảo tồn Di tích Cố đô Huế). The entrance ticket for those places is only for viewing them, not filming them. If you bring filming equipment into the places, you would be stopped at the entrance (if you don’t have film permit). If your equipment is small, such as if you just film by GoPro, then they may let you in without asking about film permit, but if the equipment is big, such as you need to put on a tripod, then you would definitely be stopped.

How to acquire film permit for the relics in Hue?

Your fixer need to help you to submit film permit application to Foreign Press Center (FPC) which details about where and when do you want to film, and if you want to film exterior only or also interior. FPC then would send an official letter to Hue Foreign Affairs Department and Hue Monuments Conservation Centre. Hue Foreign Affairs Department then would send an official letter to Hue’s People Committee to ask for permission, then after having permission from Hue’s People Committee, Hue Monuments Conservation Centre could issue the film crew a permit with: date and location of filming, the number of people can enter to film. And you only can enter a location once to film.

In the official letter to Hue Foreign Affairs Department, FPC always asks for filming free of charge, and it’s usually approved, if not, then you would need to pay 500 USD for film permit at the entrance.

The document below is a film permit to film at Hue relics managed by Hue Monuments Conservation Centre with purple texts are the brief translation

Hue film permit

Photo: Guards at Minh Mang tomb checking information in the film permit, and entering information into their notebook.

Filming in Hue Vietnam

Filming at Hue citadel

Opening time:

Summer: from 6.30 am to 5.30pm.

Winter: from 7am to 5pm

You enter by Meridian Gate (In Vietnamese: Ngọ Môn) and exit by Hien Nhon Gate

The construction of Hue Imperial city was started in 1804 by King Gia Long, and only finished in 1833 by King Minh Mang with 147 constructions.

According to Mr. Tran Dai Vinh – Researcher about Hue and a retired lecturer at Hue Education University, Phu Xuan (now Hue) was selected by King Gia Long as capital city because of two reasons:

+ At that time, Phu Xuan / Hue was at the middle of the country, which make it easier to manage the whole country

+ The ancestors of King Gia Long were born and lived at Phu Xuan.

When building the Imperial City, on average, there are 5000 – 6000 people worked on site everyday. However, to build the wall surrounded the Imperial city, which perimeter was closed to 10 km, height of 6.6m and thickness of 21m, much more people were needed. In average, each day there were at least 20,000 people worked on site to build the wall.

The Imperial city is the work of so many talented craftsmen from different provinces in Vietnam, and with materials and products from those provinces: wood, stone, ceramic …

Architecture and decorations of the Citadel:

Architecture of the Citadel is typical architecture of the Vietnam, which originated from the North of Vietnam. And it also follows Asian culture belief in feng shui.

+ The Citadel is covered by Huong River, which is considered to bring brightness and wealth. Around 3km away, there is Ngu Binh mountain which is the mean of protection. The pair of mountain-river is also a very good factor in feng shui.

+ five colors, five directions and five elements:

The East – Wood – Green

The West – Metal – White/Gold/Silver

The North – Water – Blue

The South – Fire – Red/Pink/Purple

The Center – Soil – Yellow/Orange/Brown

Interview Mr. Vinh about Hue citadel
Interview Mr. Vinh about Hue citadel

Huong river:

Huong river is usually translated into Perfume river, which isn’t a correct translation.

In Vietnamese, “hương” can be understood as a good smell (which isn’t necessary perfume) OR incense.

Huong river is a very important part of Hue. It plays role in defense, economic, history and culture of Hue. It helped to develop “ca Huế” – a typical artistic performance in Hue.

At the time of Nguyen dynasty, the trading activities on Huong river happened busily, but depend on which part of Huong river. Most trading boats came to two big markets upstream, in which there was Dong Ba market.

However, the bigger boats weren’t allowed to come further, and had to stop at the harbor (Bao Vinh) then smaller boats would transfer the goods from the harbor to the markets.

Filming Huong river in Hue
Filming Mr. Hoa looking at Huong river in Hue

The Palace of Supreme Harmony (Điện Thái Hoà)

Though it’s bigger than the typical pagoda, it has the same architecture: there are 2 houses with separate roofs with a trough in the middle to collect rain water. There is another roof on top of the two roofs.

The roof of the Palace has 3 layers of dragons look up to the top, with Phap lam drawings follow the structure: One poem, one drawing (nhất thi, nhất hoạ)

The poems state the spirit of the Dynasty at that time – The Nguyen Dynasty of how do they manage the country and treat the people.

This is the place used for biggest events of the countries, such as festivals, ceremonies (Lunar New Year, the king announce important decision …) which usually only happened 10 times per year, OR to meet the ambassadors from foreign countries.

Tiger Arena and Elephant Temple:

They are two relics just 500 meters away from each other and 5 kilometers away from Hue Citadel.

The two relics related to each other. Vietnam Filming Fixer will introduce about Elephant Temple first.

Elephant Temple:

 is built on a land of around 2000 square meters, located on East South of Tho Cuong hill. According to a legendary story, in a fight between the North (Ton Kin/Đàng Ngoài – led by Trinh Lord) and the South (Inner Land/Đàng Trong – led by Nguyen dynasty), a General of the Inner Land side had died. Painful because of the death of its owner, the elephant who the General rode had ran a very long distance (few hundred miles) from the battlefield back to Phu Xuan (now Hue). Stopped at the East of Tho Cuong hill, it bellowed loudly to express the painful emotion then died. Being touched by the loyalty of the elephant, people around had built a tomb for it.

After crowned, King Gia Long had built a temple next to the elephant’s tomb to worship the gods who protected the country, as well as the four most brave elephants in the battles of Nguyen dynasty.

Tiger Arena:

It was recorded that on 1892, at Da Vien island – an island in the middle of Huong river, King Ming Mang organized the fights till death between elephants and tigers.

However, there was one time, the King was almost attacked by a tiger. Then he realized it wasn’t safe to organize there, so he decided to build Tiger Arena at Truong Da village, Thuy Bieu ward nowadays.

There are two reasons he selected to build at this location:

+ It’s near the Elephant Temple

+ It’s near the side where Elephant were raised for defense purpose. At that time, there were around 60 elephants were raised here, and they were called elephant soldiers (tượng binh).

In the fight between the elephant and tiger, the elephant is wanted and helped to be win. Thus, the tiger was cut nails and weren’t fed. Tiger was only fed before the fight start so the digestion process would make it slower. So the elephant could win.

This sounds a really creepy thing to do. However, there were few reasons for it:

In Vietnamese/Asian culture, elephant represents (is believed) the good side, as elephant was a transportation for human as well as help human to fight in war. And tiger represents the evil side, as it usually attacked human and ate human, destroyed village. Thus, the wish of elephant to win is the wish of the good winning the evil.

And the fights beside the purpose of entertainment, also for the purpose of training the elephants for fighting in the war.

Filming Tiger Arena in Hue
Interviewing Mr. Nguyen Xuan Hoa about Tiger Arena in Hue
Filming Elephant temple Hue
Filming Elephant temple Hue

Royal gastronomy:

Whether it’s popular or more refined dishes, Hue’s gastronomy, very rich and diverse, is in the image of the history of this city: royal. But the cuisine of the royal court of Hue undoubtedly represents the quintessence of Vietnamese gastronomy.

Hue gastronomy is not just a culinary art, it is also a philosophy, that of aesthetics. The Hue people put all their know-how in each dish to make it both beautiful and tasty. Hue’s cuisine is prepared by women brought up according to the old principles: Work, Grace, Good Word and Good Conduct. It also comes from the abundance of good products found in the region. In addition, as the former capital, Hue was able to bring together all the dishes and ingredients of the country.

Several centuries ago, before chefs in the west started presenting their theatrically designed dishes, chefs in Hue’s imperial court were competing with the emperor’s concubines to tempt the royal palate – visually. The tastes of tropical fruit, vegetables and seafood and the subtle combinations of herbs in delectable sauces, were only a part of it. A royal dish had to be stunningly, extravagantly appealing to the eye, or it didn’t merit the first royal bite. Like food in Hue has progressed from meeting a basic survival need to becoming an art form. Sculpted vegetables into whimsical flowers and the four sacred animals: the turtle, phoenix, Kylin and the dragon.

Nowadays, royal gastronomy in Hue is still preserved by talented and dedicated chefs in Hue, such as Mrs. Hoang Thi Nhu Huy and Mrs. Ton Nu Thi Ha. Beside, it was also adjusted to current affairs, thus royal-style dishes appeared. They’re in no way as complicate and beautiful like the real ancient royal dishes, but it’s more affordable for tourist and any people could try to have a glimpse of what Hue royal gastronomy is.

Filming Hue royal gastronomy
Filming making royal-style dishes of Hue at Y Thao garden restaurant

The tombs of emperors

There are around 7 tombs of emperors are still existed nowadays and have been being preserved of 7 kings of Nguyen dynasty. The tomb is usually built by the king son for the king father. For example: Minh Mang tomb is built by King Thieu Tri for his father, King Minh Mang. But also sometime the king just built for himself. Most of the tombs occupied a big land. For example, Ming Mang tomb occupied nearly 15 hectares.

Minh Mang tomb:

This is the burial place as well as the place of worship dedicated to Emperor Minh Mang, the 2nd monarch of the Nguyen Dynasty, who reigned for a period of 21 years (1820 – 1841). In the time of his reigning, the country is in the best state in the time of Nguyen Dynasty.

The tomb was built from 1840 to 1843 on Mount Cam Ke (Mount Hieu), about 10 kilometers from the Citadel.

Located on an area of nearly 15 hectares, Minh Mang’s tomb, facing South, is surrounded with a 200 meter-long wall. The tomb contains about 40 constructions which are arranged on the main axis in the middle and along the both sides of Trung Minh lake.

The main construction of the ritual and burial areas are arranged on the main axis (Holy axis), including Dai Hong gate (main gate), Bai Dinh (the salutation court), The Stele House (with an inscription praising the Emperor’s merits), Sung An temple (the place where Emperor Minh Mang and his Queen are worshipped), Minh Lau pavilion (for emperor to enjoy fresh air), Buu Thanh and Huyen Cung (the place where the Emperor is laid to rest).

The minor constructions are symmetrically arranged through the Holy axis, including Truy Tu pavilion (for the Emperor to read books), Quan Lan building (for the Emperor and his royal concubines to rest), Tuan Loc garden (for keeping deers), Hu Hoai pavilion (for relaxing), Dieu Ngu pavilion (for fishing) and Nghenh Luong pavilion (for enjoying fresh air). The architectural ensemble of Minh Mang’s tomb gives a sense of symmetry and a look of solemnity, but it looks no less romantic. It is highly regarded as a masterpiece of Vietnamese royal architecture.

Filming royal tomb Hue
Filming glass painting and Phap Lam decorations at Minh Mang tomb in Hue

Want help to arrange similar filming/research/interviewing? => Contact khuyen@vietnamfilmingfixer.com