A Day Of Cycling To The Ancient Tombs Of Emperor Khai Dinh, Emperor Dong Khanh And Emperor Tu Duc, Hue, Vietnam

A Day Of Cycling To The Ancient Tombs Of Emperor Khai Dinh, Emperor Dong Khanh And Emperor Tu Duc, Hue, Vietnam

There are a few ways to see the many imperial tombs and temple pagodas outside of the old city of Hue.
Many sign up for day tours, which take you to see the sights by a tour bus, or they hire a private car with a guide.
These options are both inexpensive and a good choice for those looking for a less active way to explore the sights.

We chose to cycle.
Initially, it seemed like a crazy idea.
After all, we could barely manage to cross the busy intersections, how could we manage the huge amount of scooters, rickshas, cars and cyclists, who often go in opposite directions…

But it turned out to be the best decision for us.
We had so much fun in the three days that we cycled around the sights of Hue.
It gave us plenty of opportunities to stop in hidden tea houses, visit rural villages and observe their fishing methods and ways of life, visit pretty gardens and dine in out of the way places in the countryside.

Yes, it was very hot, and the rusty bikes that we hired at our hotel had almost no brakes, and we did have to climb some hills, but it rekindled my love of cycling.
I really do love cycling.
Not just for exercise, but for actually going long distances and sightseeing on a bike.

Of course I love walking more, but there is really no other way to cover long distances like these on foot, in a day.

Out of the city, we cycled to the tomb of Khải Định, the twelfth Emperor of the Nguyễn dynasty of Vietnam.
It is built by mixing ancient Vietnamese architecture with Western design.
The tomb was constructed between 1920-
1931 by skillful workers and famous artisans from all over the country.

I saw photos of this mausoleum online while I was planning this trip at home, and it was this amazing inner tomb with its ceilings covered in dragon paintings and mosaics of dragons made from broken ceramic on the walls, that made me want to visit Hue.

Like all the imperial tombs of the kings, the tomb has two rows of statues of the court’s mandarins, along with two horses and two elephants, all facing each other.

The royal females do not have these mandarin statues, and their tombs are often decorated with birds, flying chickens and flowers, instead of with dragons.

We stopped for a drink of coconut coffee at one of the stalls by the tomb, and I had a scary moment when I realized that I had forgotten my camera on a table by the toilets.
I ran back and there it was waiting for me, despite the crowds and buses of tourists coming in and out.

The main building of this tomb consists of five rooms.
The main room is where the statue of emperor Khai Dinh is set.

This statue was cast in France in 1922, and the grave of the emperor is under this statue.

The location of the tomb on the slopes of the Chau Chu mountain was chosen very carefully, because it offers a natural feng-shui of favorable elements.

There is a small hill at the front, which offers a natural protective screen, two mountains on either side, the “blue dragon” on the left and the “white tiger” on the right.
A small rivulet flowing from the left to the right at the root of Chau Chu mountain is seen as the “ming-tang” element of the tomb.

The open area in front of a home is often referred to as the ‘Ming Tang’ or ‘Bright Hall’.
This is where the energies and intangible forces gather, and having a body of water in front of a house in the form of a creek, a river, an ocean, a waterfall, a lake, a pond or even a swimming pool, is considered good Fengshui.

With its unique style of architecture and beautiful landscape, the Khai Dinh tomb was declared a World Cultural Heritage site in 1993 by UNESCO.

The cycling on the rural outskirts of town was easy, as traffic was light and the roads were wide.
There were lots of other imperial tombs to visit in the area, but we had to be picky because time was of the essence.
At this time of the year, sunset is early and by 5:15 in the evening, it is very dark and our bicycles had no lights.

From there we cycled to the smaller mausoleum of emperor Dong Khanh.
This Mausoleum is situated in a quiet forest, with a smaller palace and temple setting.
He ruled for only three years.
The mandarins, horses and elephants were up the hill at the back of the palace.

Next we cycled to the amazing palace converted into a mausoleum, of Emperor Tu Duc.
King Tu Duc (1829-1883) reigned for over 35 years from 1848.
He was the longest ruler of the Nguyen Dynasty.

This tomb was completed in 1867 and it is the most popular, imposing and impressive of the royal mausoleums.

Tu Duc was only 153cm tall and suffered from smallpox.
He lived a life of imperial luxury and carnal excess, with 104 wives and countless concubines, although he had no offspring.
On the grounds of his mausoleum, we saw the tomb of his adopted son who died at the age of thirteen.

During their lives, these emperors were not always kind to the people they ruled.
But today their mausoleums and palaces are world heritage sites with sprawling gardens and impressive palaces, harmonic temples, and places of respite from the urban cluster and crowded streets.

From there, we cycled through a street of shops making incense.
Incense Street is not just where you can see how they make the incense, but women stop to get their picture taken amidst the colorful display of incense sticks.

There are a dozen more tombs to visit, but it was getting late, so we cycled back to town.
We had a great dinner and retired for the night.

From Hue with love,

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