Hai Van Pass, you’re alright

Cycling from Hué to Hôi An 


Tuesday 9th February

Miles: 44

 Map: Hue to the Hai Van Pass 

A pretty standard day with some not-bad views.

 Mountains south of Hue, Vietnam 

We had to pass through a couple of tunnels that didn’t allow bikes, but informed us of this just before the tunnel and offered no alternative. Not very helpful! The tunnels were well-lit, short and police-free, so we were fine. 

 Mountains south of Hue, Vietnam  
Mountains south of Hue, Vietnam 

The most remarkable thing that happened today was that as I was taking a photo while cycling, a kid who looked about ten passed us on his bicycle and made a swipe for my camera. He missed, and I had my camera strapped to my wrist anyway, but still, I’ll remember that for next time! 

The owners of the family-run hotel today were very keen on Eric. As we were shown to our room, the mother said Eric was “handsome”. As we walked through the lobby later on the entire family agreed that Eric looked “very strong”. 

Eric gets compliments while I am preyed upon by small children. 


Wednesday 10th February

Miles: 43

 Map: Hai Van Pass to Hoi An 
Today we would be crossing the physical barrier that marks north Vietnam from south Vietnam: the Hai Van Pass. 

Approaching the mountain. 

 The Hai Van Pass (north side)  
The Hai Van Pass (north side) 

Views of the coast on the way up.  Views from the Hai Van Pass (north side)  

Views from the Hai Van Pass (north side) 

Most of the traffic uses a three mile tunnel rather than driving over the top, which means that the road is mainly full of tourists on scooters. (Eric wanted to go through the tunnel. I said no.)

 Views from the Hai Van Pass (north side) 

It was a nice climb, long but not hard. We rose up from sea level to 496 metres. The gradient was at a pretty constant 8% (we can live with that) and the incline went on for 6 miles. 

Hairpins.
Views from the Hai Van Pass (north side) 

A man on a scooter herds his goats along the road.  Views from the Hai Van Pass (north side) 

Nearly there… Views from the Hai Van Pass (north side) 

At the top we had an ice cream, and a dog looked patiently into my eyes until I gave in and fed him some of my cone. 

Cute dog wants my ie cream cone 

The Hai Van pass has historically been an important place for military campaigns as it is a natural land barrier. There is a fort at the top which was built by the French, and occupied by the US and South Vietnamese armies during the Vietnam War. 

 Forts on top of the Hai Van Pass 

There were lots of tourists. A few were westerners, but most were Vietnamese on their New Year’s holiday.

 Forts on top of the Hai Van Pass 

We bid goodbye to North Vietnam and headed on down. The view of the bay and the silvery-blue South China Sea was spectacular.

 Views from the Hai Van Pass (south side) 

When sunshine, downhills and great views combine, cycle touring is simply perfect (and let’s not forget the fourth ingredient: ice cream). 

 Views from the Hai Van Pass (south side)  
Views from the Hai Van Pass (south side) 

Eric still maintained that the tunnel through the mountain might have been just as good. I think he was joking. 

 Views from the Hai Van Pass (south side) 

As the ground levelled out we found ourselves in a different place to the cold, grey Vietnam we had known last week. Instead it was all sunshine, heat, coconuts and palm trees. I think the mountain range really does block off warmer southern air from travelling north. 

Sunshine! And a lot of scooters.  Cycling highway 1, Vietnam 

We tried a new noodle dish for lunch. It’s got rice noodles, meat broth, peanuts, tomato purée, boiled egg and pork, and is called “Mi Quang” (meaning dish from the Quang province). It was delicious. Vietnamese food is so good! 

 Mi Quang, Vietnamese noodles 

After lunch we continued along the flat, and made our way to our next stop-off, Hôi An, which is very pretty and full of these lanterns.  

It was good to swap the grey monotony of highway 1 in the rain for a beautiful coastal landscape today. The Hai Van Pass gets our firm stamp of approval. 

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