Cycling from Hué to Hôi An
Tuesday 9th February
A pretty standard day with some not-bad views.
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.
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
Approaching the mountain.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
There were lots of tourists. A few were westerners, but most were Vietnamese on their New Year’s holiday.
We bid goodbye to North Vietnam and headed on down. The view of the bay and the silvery-blue South China Sea was spectacular.
When sunshine, downhills and great views combine, cycle touring is simply perfect (and let’s not forget the fourth ingredient: ice cream).
Eric still maintained that the tunnel through the mountain might have been just as good. I think he was joking.
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.
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!
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.