Built in 1830 during the reign of Minh Mang of the Nguyen Dynasty, the Ho Quyen (Tiger Arena) in Hue, Vietnam is something like a miniature version of the Colosseum in Rome. Its purpose was to host fights between elephants and tigers for the entertainment of the royal court. As the elephant was the symbol of the royalty, the fights were rigged against the tigers — their fangs and claws were cut beforehand so that the elephants always came out victorious.
These duels are now a distant memory, with Ho Quyen a seldom-visited site on the Hue tourist trail. We went to five out of the seven known royal tombs in Hue (yes, we went full-on tomb), and after a while they began to look the same — a temple here, a stele there….you get the drift. The well-preserved Ho Quyen, with its architecture that looks like something out of Europe, was a welcome sight on our last day in Hue. It is also right smack in the middle of a residential area, and the incongruity of it added to the novelty.
How to get there
The best way to get to Ho Quyen is by motorbike, as it isn’t a usual stop on most package tours — the lane leading to the arena is too narrow for a tour bus. One can easily rent a motorbike anywhere for a few bucks a day. Looking for it was part of the fun, as it isn’t marked on Google Maps, which was how we got to the other sights in Hue. Its circular structure is quite visible, though, on satellite view.
From the city center, head west on Bui Thi Xuan. Near the market, keep your eyes peeled on your left side for the small sign pictured above. Once you turn left here, you’ll be in the arena in no time. The gate to the arena is usually locked, but you can ask the guard to open it for you.