Entering a Forbidden City
After a week in Ho Chi Minh City, it was time to hit the road on a motorbike and explore other parts of Vietnam. I set off on a one and a half week journey, taking a one-hour flight north to Hue (pronounced Hoo-way), located on the banks of the Perfume River in central Vietnam. It is the home of the last ruling dynasty in Vietnam, the Nguyen Dynasty, who ruled southern Vietnam from the 16th to 19th centuries and remained the seat of the Imperial Palace until 1945 when Emperor Bao Dai abdicated and a communist government was established, with its capital in Hanoi. Fun fact: Nguyen is the most common last name in Vietnam; when the last dynasty turned over to the Nguyen Dynasty, citizens changed their last name to the new dynasty to avoid retribution.
My friend, Kathrin, and I toured the old citadel, a large, walled area, which housed the Imperial Palace and a Forbidden City (a citadel within a citadel within a citadel). Only the royal family, concubines, and eunuchs were allowed to enter the Forbidden City – punishable by death if broken. During the Vietnam War (known as the American War in Vietnam), the city suffered considerable damage when the American military bombed over a hundred historic buildings held by the North Vietnamese, the Communist forces the U.S. was fighting against.
The citadel is now a UNESCO world heritage site and visitors can explore the remaining buildings on the grounds. The building took 203 years to complete, and is ringed by a moat. It is the best-preserved remnant of a vast citadel outside of Beijing’s Forbidden City.
Meditation on a Motorbike
After touring the citadel in the morning, we stopped for a lovely lunch before hitting the road on our motorbikes.
Initially, we were going to take the train from Hue to Danang, a beach side resort town outside of Hoi An in northern Vietnam. Unfortunately, the train only left early in the morning or late at night. We ended up renting bikes from Motorvina, which offered point to point trips and free luggage transportation between the two cities. I don’t have a motorcyle license and have only ridden a scooter a hand full of times, but they are easy to pick up if you know how to ride a bicycle. Cost of a two day rental? $20 USD per person!
The most exciting part of the trip was traveling over the the Hai Van Pass, which translates to ‘ocean cloud pass’ in Vietnamese – a 21 km long mountain pass that traverses the Annamite Range and juts into the South China Sea. The road was well paved and took us by rice fields, lakes, and the ocean. We encountered rice farmers walking their water buffalos, goats, and cows. The entire ride was absolutely breathtaking and my favorite experience on Remote Year, by far!
Kathrin and I stopped by a roadside stand with breathtaking views for coffee and a snack on the way down the mountain. The scariest part of the drive was navigating through heavy city traffic in Danang. We made it to Hoi An just after dark, when we checked into our Airbnb. Next up, I’ll share my incredible experience in Hoi An!
5 Steps to Meditation on a Motorbike
- Be aware of your surroundings at all times – make good use of your horn, mirrors, and blinkers
- Find a constant, steady pace that allows you to take in your surroundings
- Enjoy the feel of the breeze on your skin and hair
- Take in and appreciate this very moment
Do you have any amazing motorbike experiences you can share?