Tucked away off the beaten track, two former royal residences offer tourists a very different vision of the region. One is in the central Vietnamese city of Hue where, after taking control in 1885, the French built a European-style municipality to the south of the Perfume River, which bisects the city. To the north stands the Citadel, also known as the Imperial City. Built in the early 19th century, it was inspired by the Forbidden City in Beijing. Within the Citadel was the Forbidden Purple City, where kings of the 143-year Nguyen dynasty lived behind a fortification. Many of the 150 royal structures burned down in 1947. But the most imposing - the Belvedere of Five Phoenixes, where state ceremonies were held - Mieu Temple and the Palace of Supreme Harmony survived. They are set amid leafy and flowering gardens and can be explored on foot along grand boulevards and shady paths. It was declared a Unesco World Heritage site in 1992. When foreign tourists think of Thai beach resorts, Pattaya, Phuket, Koh Samui and Krabi generally come to mind. For Thais, though, Hua Hin, first discovered by Thai royalty in the early 20th century, is the country's pre-eminent beach resort and has been attracting Bangkok's leisured classes since a railway linking the two cities opened in 1922. Two stations - one for commoners and one for royals - were built a short distance apart. The Eastern and Orient Express continues to stop there on its way from Bangkok to Singapore. It all started in 1910 when the king's brother had a palace built one block from the beach in the northern part of town. Fourteen years later, King Rama VI had a palace built amid landscaped gardens on the beach. A mixture of Victorian architecture adapted for the tropics - everything is open air - and traditional Thai architecture, the palace is a sprawling complex of teak and marble buildings connected by elevated corridors. There were private living quarters for the royal family, a throne room and a theatre. The entire complex has been restored and is carefully maintained. The Imperial City is a major tourist attraction in Hue, Vietnam's former capital, and still the centre of much intellectual activity.