Route by motorbike along tombs – Hue, Vietnam
The best way to explore the mausoleums is by motorbike on your own. You’ll be able to spend the time that you want in each tomb and choose which ones you’ll visit. The tours only go to the two or three more famous and important Imperial Tombs. They leave the more peculiar and magic tombs behind. These aren’t well preserved (because some emperors weren’t so loved) but this characteristic makes the tombs unique. Also, it’s fascinating to see the differences between both the well preserved and not. And why don’t you go by bike? The route doesn’t have a lot of accumulated gradient, and it’s possible to go by bike (if the temperature is nice) but you’ll spend too much time, and you’ll not be able to visit all the places.
I’m going to provide you with a GPX file with the route that I did so you won’t get lost. You can use the mobile on offline mode, without a data connection. Also, you need information about timetables, prices and more details and advice so that you organise your little trip entirely.
You don’t worry about the traffic; when you go out of the city there are hardly any vehicles. Besides, Hue isn’t so chaotic as cities as Hanoi or Saigon. You can drive comfortably.
What you need
It’s essential to have the International Driving License (IDP) to travel by motorbike in Vietnam. The license isn’t valid for everybody. You’ll be able to know if you can drive a motorcycle having the IDP reading this section Tips to Plan your Trip to Vietnam – Renting a Motorbike.
Let’s talk about money
Renting a motorbike costs between 5 and 10$. Filling the tank costs around 40.000 dong; it’s enough to do the route. On the other hand, the entrance fee to visit the more famous Imperial Tombs is 100.000 dong. Others tombs are free or their prices are less than 50.000 dong. There is a combination ticket to visit the Citadel and 2 or 3 tombs. This ticket is only available at the Citadel and you can use it during two days.
All these prices are from April 2017, but you can check the current fare on the official site: Hue Monuments Conservation Centre. There are several of those tombs for which we didn’t pay. There isn’t anybody there, nor ticket office to buy them (Gia Long Tomb y Dong Khanh Tomb).
If you follow my GPX route you’ll see the next tombs. They are in the same order that we visited. We started with the closest to the centre of Hue, continued to visit the farthest, after we came back through another road to see another two and, finally, we went to the Thien Mu Pagoda.
1. Tu Duc Tomb
In Vietnamese: Lăng Tự Đức. One of the essentials, it is possible to visit it with the combination ticket. A curious detail: the emperor wasn’t buried here but in other location. Nobody knows the place because the servants who buried him were beheaded.
2. Dong Khanh Tomb
It’s close to the previous one. For us the entrance fee was free. We don’t know why but we couldn’t see the temple, only the tomb. You can leave the motorbike in front of the temple and then you follow the way on the left side.
3. Ming Mang Tomb
It’s also included in the combination ticket. It’s possible to get the ticket for less money, you can know how if you read My experience at the end of the post Tips if you visit Hue.
4. Gia Long Tomb
It’s the most faraway mausoleum and the worst preserved. Its location is beautiful, a place surrounded by vegetation and very peaceful. This emperor was the most unpopular. The entrance fee is free, there is nobody there either any ticket office. The only inconvenience was a spontaneous tollbooth at the end of a bridge (more details in Tips if you visit Hue). Maybe you can avoid the toll if you go through another way. I’ve indicated a point in the GPX called: Alternative to go to Gia Long?.It looks a good alternative to going there after the visit to the previous mausoleum.
5. Khai Dinh Tomb
Indispensable, the visit is mandatory! It’s included in the combination ticket. It’s located on a hill and is very different to the others.
6. Thieu Tri Tomb
This tomb isn’t surrounded by a wall, is the most austere because the emperor wanted it this way.
7. Thien Mu Pagoda
This pagoda can be found close to the centre of Hue. It has beautiful views of the river. In this enclosure, you’ll see the car which Thích Quảng Đức utilised to arrive at the place of its immolation. Here you can read more about who he was, what happened and why he did that.
There is more information about history, structure and composition of mausoleums on this website: Hue Imperial Tombs – Vietnamitas en Madrid.
Check the official site to know the timetable. You keep in mind that they start to close the temples before the closing time. Therefore, you should take advantage of your time. We couldn’t visit one area of the Citadel because of that.
Route extras: there is a curious place which is becoming touristic. It’s an abandoned aquatic park. We didn’t have time to visit it, so the way isn’t in the GPX but I’ve marked it: Aquatic Park – Hồ Thuỷ Tiên. If you want to see how it is, there are many photos on Google Images. Another important point on the map is a restaurant: Biet Phu Thao Nhi – Tripadvisor. It’s thought for tourists, so it’s more expensive than others but the food is good and the place is nice. We didn’t find any restaurants like this on the way; we only saw kiosks where they sold water, chips, ice cream, etc.
Route by motorbike Hue – Map and GPX file ready to download
On the next map, you can observe the complete route along the mausoleums and all places I’ve mentioned. The route starts and finishes at our hotel. You take a look at the map to know where is each place. You see different colours and icons but on your phone app these characteristics are unavailable. In your phone, routes only have one colour and one icon.
Click here to download the GPX file (unzip the zip to get the file).
How do you use the GPX on your mobile phone?
First, you need an offline map app which allows the GPX format. I use OsmAnd. The app hasn’t maps so you should download the map of Vietnam following its options. Next, you import/open the file with the app (you can send it by email and when you open it, the app will appear). You should check that you can see the route with your device. Now, you’re ready to use the phone as GPS with no Internet! If you have some questions about OsmAnd, you can consult the help on the web page or you can send me a comment. Also, if you use another offline map app which doesn’t allow GPX format I can get the file in KMZ/KML.
– If the weather forecast says that it’s likely to rain, you bring a rain cover! A few drops are enough to be soaked when you go by motorbike (based on my experience).
– Parking the motorcycle. In the most remote and less visited mausoleums, you can leave the motorbike in front of the main gate, there isn’t anybody to tell you where you can park. Also, these places look safe. In the other sites, you should park in a shop next to the mausoleum. This is usual in Vietnam to avoid robberies: you park in the shop and you pay for that. We did it two times and instead of paying for the parking, we bought water bottles. In fact, there is a special motorbike parking at the Pagoda, they give you a ticket and, when you come back for your motorcycle, you need to return it (so they know that you have paid).
– On the motorbike: you should honk the horn when you overtake a car or if people are walking on the road, it’s used to warn.
– You can read more tips on Tips if you visit Hue.
Any contribution or question is welcome, please write a comment!