The majestic resting place of the former emperor of the Nguyen Dynasty is nestled among the forests of Hue.

Walled entrance to the tomb.
The Honor Courtyard with rows of mandarin, elephant and horse statues.

Hue is known for its many tombs located throughout the countryside, so we knew straightaway that visiting all of them during our short stay was out of the question. So we decided to see the more famous of the bunch and took a 40-minute taxi ride to visit the tomb of Minh Mang. The tree lined walkways and stone courtyards meandered along a still green lake reflecting the trees line beyond.

A courtyard with a view of the scenic mountains.
The inner courtyard with a view of the scenic mountains in the distance.

According to the ticket information: “Minh Mang Tomb (also called Hieu Tomb) was built from 1840-43. Originally, the tomb consisted of 40 architectural sites symmetrically arranged along a 700 meter axis. Among the tombs of the Nguyen emperors, its known for its solemnity and precision in layout. Together with the Hue monument complex, it was included on the list of world heritage sites by UNESCO.”

Another temple before the tomb gates.
Another temple before the tomb gates.

The rather somber character of the area evokes a sense of tranquility as you walk through well-kept temple. While not as sprawling as the Imperial City, the same faded elegance can be found among the stone steps and lush vegetation surrounding the area. The grounds are also home to various livestock such as chickens that we found bathing by the lake and cows grazing lazily by the entrance of the tomb.

The sealed tomb entrance of Mang Minh.
The sealed tomb entrance of Minh Mang.

Reaching the sealed entrance to the tomb itself was like a scene straight out of the Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Visitors climb 33 Thanh stone steps to reach the sepulchre of the Emperor. The gate to the stone entrance of the tomb is opened only once a year on the anniversary of the Emperor’s death.

A picturesque view of The Giving Tree.
A picturesque view of The Giving Tree.

A visit to the tombs of Hue are a must and a nice getaway into the countryside if only for a few hours. We sat along the New Moon Lake and I found looking out into its calm waters had a sort of hypnotizing effect. Our stay in Hue, while only a short three days, was an appreciative look back into the cultural heritage and history of Vietnam.