As a bit of a Top Gear fan, it seemed only fitting to take some inspiration for our trip from the special Vietnam episode, where the boys undertook a fairly epic journey from south to north of Vietnam.
Part of the episode sees the bike hating Jeremy Clarkson have an epiphany whilst travelling from Hoi An to Hue… and on the Hai Van pass… so did I.
As we were travelling from north to south, our path took a slightly different route. Whilst in Hue, we saw numerous companies offering “Top Gear Trips”, where they would transport your luggage down to Hoi An, and you would undertake the journey by bike. As someone who had spent approximately 4 minutes learning how to start a scooter, make it move two meters and stop, I was understandably apprehensive about committing myself. Not wanting to miss out on the fun entirely, further research found that the most impressive part of the route, the Hai Van Pass, could be completed on a day trip from Hoi An.
As we had already discovered in South East Asia, hiring a scooter is significantly simpler than in Europe, and our hotel pointed us to a very pleasant (and rather eccentric) lady who ran a small cigarette and beverage stall just outside; who spent less than 5 minutes finding us two scooters (one small one for myself, naturally) and even managed to locate an extra large helmet, so Dave was able to avoid the same giggles at his expense he had to endure on our last motorbike ride in Cat Ba!
One of the greatest aspects of travel is how far you see yourself pushed from your comfort zone. Stage one of this journey, was certainly no exception. We first needed to reach the beginning of the Hai Van Pass in Da Nang, on what should have been a fairly simple straight road for the majority of the distance. After negotiating heavy traffic to reach a petrol station, surviving a torrential downpour, and fending off the woman desperate to sell me something whilst I was concentrating ridiculously hard on the above two predicaments, I felt like the difficult Hai Van road would be a piece of cake.
Fortunately luck was on our side, and by the time we reached the start of the climb, the sun was shining brightly, and the traffic had all dispersed (there is an underground tunnel through to Hue which is much quicker, and the preferred route for those purely heading from place to place). Then all of a sudden… wow. With the mountains ahead, and the stunning coast down below, the views became more and more impressive with every turn.
Before we knew it, we had reached the top of the pass, and parked up to take in the amazing views. Seeing the buses parked up, you can’t help but think that all of those people missed something pretty special by not taking the drive themselves.
You may also notice a couple chose this lovely spot for their wedding photos!
The road down to the other side of the mountain towards Hue had certainly seen better days, but was still negotiable with some serious concentration. As most people take the drive from this direction, it’s delightful passing all of the drivers excited to reach the top with exciting waves and smiles!
Vietnam really is a stunning country, and seeing this area by bike was a fantastic experience, and definitely one I would love to do again one day!
With kindest regards,