20km of riding a motorbike without knowing the way wasn’t the hardest part of our trip. What bothered me after the trip and ingrained it into my mind was a child’s begging, and that I refused her.
Earlier that morning, we were so sure that the tombs of the Emperors couldn’t be anywhere out of Hue City. We were completely wrong. After about 20 minutes heated both by our excitement and the sunshine, we started to turn into a road embraced by mountains. The road got steeper and steeper; we could see the lakes surrounded by rice paddies sinking lower and lower on either side of the road. To make it more interesting, there weren’t a single vehicle. No one. There we were, two girls on a motorbike, and absolutely did not know the way.
“Where the hell are we? Any chance we got lost?” – Hien asked me.
“It would be awesome getting lost somewhere this beautiful anyway!” – I wasn’t just trying to console my companion. The mesmerizing painting of mountain and the sky in front of us really calmed me down. So we kept on going, following our intuition. Intuition had never helped me win any lottery before, but this time it led me straight to destination: Khai Dinh tomb.
I was struck dumb by the luxury of the tomb. Tomb, literally, is where the corpse lies. The Emperors of Nguyen Dynasty strongly believed that they would have an after-life, so traditionally the crown prince would build a tomb for his deceased father to rest forever in peace. In Khai Dinh Tomb where we were visiting, it was a giant palace with two lines of stone soldiers and royal officials outside, guarding his sleep. Walking further into the tomb, the rooms were full of sun light from giant windows, making it nothing like somewhere the dead reigns.
As we bid farewell to Khai Dinh’s Tomb and were walking out to the parking, a poor local woman who dressed in a white-turned-grey shirt and an old pair of pants were calling us from her tiny water hole. We did not want water, so we said “Sorry” and kept on walking. She just did not let us go. She called her daughter, and as we were just several steps away from her cabin, her little daughter caught us and begged “Lady, would you give my some money for my study and books?” We were shocked hearing that. The little girl repeated again and again. “Go home with Mom, sweetie” we said and walked faster. As we turned at the end of the road, I looked back and caught the girl’s eyes. They looked all vacant and sad.