We heard about the Hai Van Pass whilst in Hoi An- a legendary road between Hoi An and Hue made famous by an episode of Top gear where the crew heads to Vietnam to motorbike through the country. Jeremy Clarkson described this 130km stretch between the two cities as “a deserted ribbon of perfection – one of the best coast roads in the world”. Naturally we had to do it so we hired some bikes in Hoi An and set off (our bags being sent ahead to Hue). Our first stop was marble mountain, which was an impressive feat, with several large statues and temple buildings located within in caves of the mountain. It was a hot day and it took all of 5 minutes before we were soaked in sweat. It had proven to be
We got back on the bikes and continued to head north through Da Nang, where towering high skyscrapers meet the white sandy beaches, with only a thin strip of four lane road for the thousands of bikes cars and buses to navigate in between.
One of the highlights of the whole pass was going over the bridge on the north side of Da Nang, the views of both city and bay were incredible as we crossed the bridge. Next came the pass itself, which travels up into the hills. It weaves back and forth through a series of hairpin bends, steep inclines and impressive forest and ocean scenery until you reach its summit.
Dodging in and out of the path of buses and trucks tackling the pass on the way down we reached an beach town, famous for its fresh seafood restaurants- wasted unfortunately on us- we just had the noodles, hold the fish. A few hours later on the road we hit Hue city, a little sunburnt, tired, but on a high from an amazing day!
In Hue, we spent two days hanging out in the city, which used to be the old capital of imperial Vietnam.
This part of the country is littered with temples, citadels, pagodas, and tombs. Unfortunately, due to the bombing during the war a lot of these are no longer standing.
We had kept our bikes from the day before which made for a fun day getting around the busy streets and empty country roads. We made for one of the larger remaining temples, where the Vietnamese Emperor Minh Mang (1820-1841) is resting. He has a rather large tomb, but I suppose this is necessary when you have 142 children, 43 wives, and what sounds like a big personality.
The other attraction of note in Hue was the beach. We were told it was a great place to swim and in 30 degree heat we couldn’t pass up the chance to cool off. Man, it was weird. It was what you might picture when you think of a beach in North Korea. A kind of average beach on an overcast day, very few people there, and loud jazz music playing tinnily on big speakers all along the sand line. It was a beach with a weird vibe. A really weird vibe. We didn’t swim that day.
We took a 5 hour bus (with the world’s smallest amount of leg room) to Phong Nha. There was a lightening storm during the ride providing interesting watching whilst listening to podcasts.
Phong Nha is an incredible spot. The surrounding area is filled with steep hills made from limestone, hundreds of cave systems and spectacular underground rivers. Consequently this sleepy little town now has the reputation of being the adventure capital of Vietnam! The vistas! Oh the vistas! This would mean more motorbiking for sure (sorry mum).
Ever struggling to fully embrace the poor backpacker lifestyle we splashed out on a one day caving experience ( we paid 1.8 million each! Not sure if we mentioned this but we are millionaires in Vietnam). The day of caving was amazing:
– we got wet (swimming through caves- it was BYO quick drying long pants and unfortunately had only brought his chinos overseas- he was waddling like a duck towards the end those pants were not fast drying)
-we got dirty!
-and we got very paranoid looking out for snakes, leeches, and poison ivy!
Stay tuned for our next and final leg of our Vietnam trip were we travel by sleeper bus, more buses, boats, and to mums horror- more bikes around Northern Vietnam…