A visit to Hue would not be complete without a boat excursion on the gentle Huong (Perfume) River, exploring life beside its banks amidst the romance of the ancient royal capital city.

Dissecting the city centre, the Perfume River is around 30km in length and owes its name to its path through aromatic forests.

Since earlier this year, Perfume River Emotion company has offered tourists a chance to spend two days on the river and experience the city's more off the beaten track destinations, eco-tourism and local daily life.
The river, with its shimmering blue limpid colour, is like a pearl in the sun. Dotted with rowing boats, the citadel, gardens, pagodas, towers and temples, the poetic landscape has long mesmerised travellers.

Our charming overnight junk cruises were inspired by the daily lives of fishermen plying the river, said Hoang Trong Hai, director of the Perfume River Emotion Company.

"How to conserve the magnificence of the river as well as promote its beauty to the world is our most important mission," he added.

Tourists first visit then embark from the Thien Mu (Heavenly Lady) Pagoda, often the subject of folk songs and regarded as the unofficial symbol of the former imperial capital.

Along the route, tourists can stop off at fishing villages and Sinh Village well known for its ceremonial folk paintings. During its annual traditional festival, visitors to the village can also participate in a wrestling competition.

Thuy Bieu Village, 6.5km from the city centre, nestling in “thanh tra” (a kind of small grapefruit) gardens, is an additional must-see destination.

Seen on the map, Thuy Bieu Village, surrounded by the Perfume River, resembles the water gourd from which the area derived its name.

Tourists are additionally offered a chance to take part in thanh tra farm activities and sample the fruit, walk or cycle through green rice fields and visit families employed in producing incense.

After lunch, served in old wooden houses, guests may relax by steeping their feet in medicinal waters or enjoy massages delivered by blind people.

The virtues of the sweet-and-sour thanh tra, used as ingredient in many Hue specialities, will be on show via a special evening cooking class onboard.

Floating slowly down the Perfume, tourists will be lulled by the folk songs of boatwomen before waking to a magnificent sunrise.

"Moments onboard a boat cruising the Perfume River are truly unforgettable," said Viviane Castelli from Cannes, France.

"We especially enjoyed the slow descent of waves, the bike rides through villages and rice fields. The food was exceptional and well worth reproducing back home," she said.

"The boat was very well equipped. In short, it was an enchanting journey."./.