Travelers driving to the ancient city of Hue in Vietnam will mount the scenic Hai Van Pass, a 496 meter (1,627 foot) climb that stretches 21 kilometers (13 miles) to crest above what appears as a sea of clouds.
This central Vietnam city along the Perfume River served as the base of power during the Nguyen Dynasty from 1802 until 1945 when Emperor Bao Dai was forced to abdicate to Ho Chi Minh’s revolutionary forces. During imperial times, mortals entered Hue’s royal compound known as the Purple Forbidden City though one of two side entrances of the Ngo Mon, or Moon Gate, as the central arch was reserved solely for the king. Inside the sprawling compound at Thai Hoa Palace, dragons swirl around clouds to symbolize the harmonious relationship between the Nguyen emperor and his subjects.
Three kilometers (two miles) away, the 7-story high octagonal Phuoc Duyen Tower at Thiên Mu Pagoda rises symbolizes Buddhism bridging the gap between earthy existence and heavenly perfection. Surrounding Hue, visitors will find several royal tombs including that of King Minh Mang, completed in near the west bank of the Perfume River, a popular spot for its lotus ponds and tropical gardens.
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