The Huong River, or Perfume River, runs through the city of Hue, dividing it between the old-world charm of the Imperial City and Thien Mu Pagoda on the one side and a more modern setting on the other. Bridging these two sides is the iconic Truong Tien Bridge.
A bit of history
A rattan bridge was initially built during the reign of King Le Thanh Tong who ruled between 1460 and 1497. Over the years, it was upgraded with wood. However, the bridge that we now know is a little over 100 years.
It was built in 1899 by the French who ruled over Indochina from Hue. Consisting of a set of six spiral steel girders, each of them being 67m long, it was then known as Thanh Thai Bridge.
What’s in a name
Since then, it has survived and been witness to the tumultuous history of Hue, including a natural calamity and its destruction during the two wars that the Vietnamese fought, and many name changes.
The first major damage that was caused to the bridge happened in 1904, when a typhoon ripped through Hue. The French had it completely restored by 1937, complete with lanes for bicycles and pedestrians. They also promptly renamed it after Clemenceau, former prime minister of France during the first World War.
Then, in 1946, as the tide slowly started to turn against the French, the Viet Minh destroyed a section of the bridge. The explosion was so powerful that the bridge was elevated, before quickly collapsing. It was also the beginning of the rapid collapse of the French and their hold over the region.
When the Republic of Vietnam was established in 1955, among the many things that they did was to once again rename the bridge. This time, they called it Nguyen Hoang, after the founder of the Nguyen dynasty.
Sadly, that wasn’t the end of the bridge’s problem. With hostilities between the US forces and the Viet Congs on the rise, the bridge was once again the focus, suffering significant damages during the battle of Hue on the 16th of February 1968.
In 1975, with the liberation of Hue from the US forces and South Vietnamese army, it was again renamed to Trang Tien, or Truong Tien. Sadly, it was left in a state of disrepair until 1991. It was, ironically, the French who finally restored the bridge to its former glory. Restoration work continued right up to 1995. Hopefully, the name will stick for decades to come.
Chances are that you will be staying on the side of the river that is closer to the main city. The only way to get to the Imperial City and beyond is to cross the Huong River. Weather permitting, walking across this bridge is the best way to get a sense of river and city that were once the centre of Vietnamese power.