Hue agencies consider creating tours based on city's heavy rain

Touring in the rain: Foreign tourists enjoy walking along Hue's Trang Tien Bridge in light rain. Local authorities and travel agencies are thinking hard to design tours targeting Hue's rainy days. — VNA/VNS Photo Quoc Viet

Touring in the rain: Foreign tourists enjoy walking along Hue's Trang Tien Bridge in light rain. Local authorities and travel agencies are thinking hard to design tours targeting Hue's rainy days. — VNA/VNS Photo Quoc Viet

Royal treatment: Tourists visit one of Hue's royal palaces. — VNA/VNS Photo Huy Hung

Royal treatment: Tourists visit one of Hue's royal palaces. — VNA/VNS Photo Huy Hung

The song Remember Ha Noi's Autumn by late composer Trinh Cong Son has inspired Saigontourist to design a tour of the city's beautiful locations mentioned in the lyrics.

"Ha Noi in autumn with yellow-leafed Celtis sinensis, red-leafed tropical almonds . . . small lanes perfumed by milky pines, old houses with brown mossy roofs, West Lake with flocks of Eurasian coot flying to the sun . . .," the song says.

Nguyen Duc Thanh, 67, who has taken the tour says it is both romantic and has deep cultural meanings.

"It has not only satisfied tourists' desires to explore the capital, but also introduced in the most vivid and realistic way the city's tangible and intangible cultural spaces," Thanh says.

He wonders why Hue travel agencies do not design a tour in Hue's rainy season based on the theme Old Flame, after another song by the same musician about his first love.

"It rains hard and long over the old tower . . .," says the song.

Tourists may visit the famed musician's house by Phu Cam Bridge, where he used to watch the small road on the other side of the An Cuu River through a curtain of rain "over small tree leaves".

Columns of trees, narrow roads and ancient towers in the rain are all mentioned in Son's song, redolent of his feelings and memories of Hue. This will lure tourists to a Hue Old Flame tour as they were attracted to the Remember Ha Noi's Autumn tour, Thanh says.

While the rest of the country has two seasons – wet and dry – the central province of Thua Thien-Hue also has two seasons – heavy rainy and light rainy.

Hue's heavy rainy season starts in September with widespread flooding and lasts till December. Drizzling rains then continues till April, when the summer thunderstorms arrive.

The Hue area is at the junction of climates of the North and South. The average rainfall in the whole province is 2,700mm.

While locals may look on such continuous rain as a disadvantage to the area's economic development, artists regard the rain as heaven's gift.

"Hue's rain is a way of playing guitar by the heaven, a combination of fragile and abnormal clashes," writes author Nguyen Xuan Hoang, "Rains can be as quiet as whispers over the leaves, as far as an old tale and as uproarious as laughter. Hue's rain is as mysterious as a human."

Writer Hoang Phu Ngoc Tuong says to see Hue in a vaporous blanket of rain is to comprehend the innermost feelings of the people.

Painter Vo Xuan Huy, a teacher at the Hue Fine Arts College, admits that the blur and no clear borders in his paintings are the unconscious influence of Hue's rain.

Huy says it might be the same with music, with deep melodies inspired by the sorrowful sound of continuous rain.

Researcher Nguyen Thu Hanh, who chairs the Scientific Union for Developing Sustainable Tourism, has recently proposed that Hue's rain be turned into a unique tourism product.

"Rain curbs outdoor activities while at the same time nurturing indoor entertainment," Hanh says. "Tourists have more time to get closer to one another, to meditate, enjoy music, poetry and drink tea or coffee."

Union members have put forward some ideas for tourism products that can be exploited during the rainy season.

These include visiting suitable destinations, tours along the Huong River with stops to view the scenery like Vong Canh Hill, Ngu Phung Tower (at Ngo Mon Gate), the peak of Ngu Binh Mountain and high-rise hotels along the Huong River.

They have proposed a system of hotels and cafes, with decor to suit the environment, offering suitable atmospheres and spaces for watching the rain and enjoying its profound pleasures.

Indoor activities could include the likes of poetry readings, musical performances, exhibitions and cooking or painting classes while pagodas and gardens could meet the demand for meditation.

The wet season is a good time to enjoy Hue's complicated cuisine and increase the sale of the likes of umbrellas, traditional bamboo conical hats and raincoats, they say.

The director of Vietnamtourism's branch in Hue, Nguyen Thi Kim Binh, says tours designed with rain themes are more suitable to small groups of tourists.

"Taking care of tourists in the rain requires proper organisation," she says. "My branch receives big groups. Not many foreign tourists have a specific urge to drink coffee in the rain."

Tran Tien Dat, from the Sales Department of Hue Travel, admits the proposal has merits. The company has been in operation for 20 years but has no specific tour designed for the wet season.

"From now on we may take advantage of the rain, to keep tourists longer rather than letting them go to other destinations when it rains," he says.

Ngo Hoa, deputy chairman of Thua Thien-Hue People's Committee, agrees that tourism might be the economic sector to take advantage of the rain.

He tells of his own experience of the serious flood in 2007, when he saw tourists at Hue's Century Hotel swimming in the pool watching the rain on the river bank.

"They told me it was interesting to see fierce streams running in the Huong River," he recalls.

"The wet season is also a high tourism season in Hue, when luxury hotels are fully booked, mostly by westerners and Hue's temperature of 150C is still warm enough. Many told me they liked the rain."

Hoa says he will ask the local culture department to consider the proposal, and will consult tourism enterprises to help authorities further exploit tourism in the rainy season.

"Of course, the State should be responsible for completing infrastructure while local authorities and enterprises will design the product."


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