The sound of the wind roaring in my ear. The feeling of my hair whipping back and forth on my face, right cheek, left cheek, right cheek, left cheek. The stretch of my skin pulling backwards as I was moving forwards. The smell of burnt rubber and gas as our motorbike accelerated through Vietnam. As we made our way out of Hôi An we left behind streets full of motorbikes, food vendors, and run down buildings. We darted through traffic and as we did the scenery changed from a busy city to a quiet, untouched countryside. Green fields, rice paddies, women and men hard at work to make a living. Just me, the driver, and green fields as far at the eye could see. Moving north out of the city of lanterns, and into the quiet countryside that displays the true sense of life in Vietnam. A drive that will forever shape the way I think of Vietnam, and quite possibly the first thing that will come to mind when I hear “Vietnam”.
Departing Hôi An
A gentle knock on my hotel room at 0806, “Ms. Kylee… did you book a tour for today? Your tour guide is here.” I jumped out of bed, threw my stuff in my bag, and ran downstairs. I had lost track of time and wasn’t yet ready to leave the charming city of lanterns, I felt as though I hadn’t said a proper goodbye!
Music (his American name), a Vietnamese local met me in the lobby. He was a tour guide provided by Hôi An Motorbike Adventure and together we would be journeying 80 miles from Hôi An to Hue via the Hai Vân Pass. I placed my luggage in the back of the Jeep that would be transporting it to my hotel in Hue, jumped on the back of Music’s motorbike… and we were off!
From Hôi An to Da Nang
Winding through the countryside roads, our first stop brought us into Da Nang where we slowed to a stop in front of Marble Mountain. Although now illegal, Marble Mountain used to be a place where people would collect marble from the mountainside to make statues. Now days the mountain serves as a Buddhist Temple. The teachings of Buddhism scattered throughout the cave. For those who are good, you will live a great life, have kids, and be born again. For those who are bad, you will be sent to the cave and murdered over and over again; as told my Music.
After spending some time exploring the caves in Marble Mountain, we hopped back on the motorbike and zoomed through Da Nang. Music pointing out important structures throughout the city; a dragon bridge that sprays water from its mouth on the weekends. A park displaying famous sites from around the world. A replica of the Statue of Liberty, Eiffel Tower, Great Wall of China, and more. As we crossed over the “Golden Gate Bridge” (the Vietnam version), butterflies filled my stomach. I could see what was to come next… the infamous Hai Vân Pass.
From Da Nang to the Hai Vân Pass
The Hai Vân Pass is a 13-mile stretch of road that winds through the Annamite Mountain Range. It is continuously in the news for being one of the most beautiful coastal drives in the world, and there’s no doubt why. Ascending the mountain range, you leave behind the South China Sea with its waves crashing onto the white sand beach. Below you, lush, green forest. And in front of you, daunting grey clouds. As you continue to climb upwards of 3,845 feet, the sun is replaced with eery, grey clouds. You go from having the warmth of the sun on your skin, to needing a sweater, the dramatic change in scenery only solidifying why this drive is so insanely beautiful. With multiple viewpoints along the way, there are endless opportunities to rest and take in the views.
Descending the Hai Vân Pass into Hue
Before I knew it, we had started our decent down the mountain range, the ocean coming back into view, and the sun warming me once again. As we came to the bottom of the pass we were met by a pristine, Lang Co Beach. We stopped at Be Lai for lunch on the beach, and ate incredibly fresh seafood with our toes in the white sand, listening to the waves wash upon shore. A definite local restaurant, with minimal tourists in site. Fresh shrimp, crab, and fish swimming in containers nearby. While a trip to the bathroom allows you to see how it is that your meal is prepared. Right on the cement out back.
We continued to weave our way through the countryside, more evidence of the uniqueness of Vietnam. More Vietnamese hard at work, bent over the rice paddies as the sun gleamed down upon them. We whipped through town after town. Crossed bridge after bridge. And before we arrived to the city of Hue, Music took me on a detour.
We pulled up to a plot of land, full of ornate and colorful buildings. What I thought were mini temples, I gleefully got my camera out and began to venture through. When Music caught up to me he informed me that they were not in fact mini temples, but instead gravestones. We were in a “rich” Vietnamese village where what your gravestone looks like says a lot about how much money you have. The gravestones start at $50,000.
Arrival into Hue City
Seven hours later, sweat dripping down my face, my body covered in dirt, and one hell of an adventure later, we had arrived into Hue after trekking from Hôi An. I said my goodbyes and dragged myself into the hotel, my luggage already waiting. A day and an experience that I will never forget.
Please note, that while the Hâi Van Pass is absolutely breathtaking… it is known to be one of the most dangerous mountain roads in Vietnam. If you plan on going be safe and hire a tour guide if you aren’t experienced on a motorbike. I had more fun riding along and being able to take in the views and take pictures, than I would have had I been driving myself.