I went to the farthest first, which was the tomb of Minh Mang. On my way there, an old man on a motorbike said hello and we started conversing while we were both driving in the highway. Eventually, he invited me to have tea at his house, half a kilometer from the tomb of Minh Mang. We reached his house that had a small grapefruit garden in the front yard. We had tea and I was introduced to one of his daughters. He has five kids, which he is all proud of (what else?). I also showed him pictures of my family and talked a bit about life back home.
From his house he offered to take me to the Minh Mang mausoleum on his motorbike; I left my bicycle in his yard. We followed a scenic route along the river to reach the tomb.
Minh Mang's tomb is supposedly one of the most exquisite among the tombs in Hue. It is composed of a number of gates, towers, and pagodas, which have been mostly well preserved. One of the pagodas was in the process of restoration. On both sides of the mausoleum are two large lakes surrounded by pine trees. I spent about an hour walking around the complex whilst avoiding the hordes of tourists and their noisy guides.
Hopping back on the motorbike, the old man brought me to the nearby tomb of Khai Dinh that sits on a hill. The rich details of the site is not very apparent because the whole place is made of black stone or some similar material. But believe, me the complex is quite stunning. It's a steep climb up the grand steps that lead to a courtyard where a number of statues of guards, horses, and elephants flank the entrance. Climbing another flight of stairs lead to the main tomb of the emperor. The building (and the complex as a whole) is an exquisite mix of oriental and western styles.
We went back to the old man's house where I met his two other daughters. Under the grapefruit trees, we talked about their lives in the university and I sold Bangkok to them. In no time a bowl of vegetarian noodle soup landed on the table. It was a really nice treat. And of course, being welcomed to the house of a very nice family is a rare experience for tourists, which I truly cherish.
At about noon, I rode back to Hue, all 16 kilometers of the dusty highway, under the midday sun. Exhausted, I crashed in the hotel. After taking a short nap, I rode another 8 kilometers to see the Thien Mu pagoda that sits on the bank of the Perfume River.
My day ended with watching the sunset at one of the riverside coffee stalls.
Tomorrow morning, I take a 3-hour bus ride to Hoi An, the last destination of my trip. Hoi An is well known for its tailors who can finish a suit for you in 24 hours at cheap prices. I'm still thinking if I should get one.