It was time to tackle the famed hai van pass . The highest pass on the main north south route to Vietnam. We had a hearty breakfast of the local noodles mi quang and set off to ride through Đà Nẵng. I like the city. It’s big enough to still feel like a city but not crazy like Saigon or Hanoi, the beach is awesome, the air is clean and fresh and there is some wonderful countrieside just a few minutes away. A possible future location???.
We followed the beach around at the northern end of the town and then as we reached the rocky headland at the end of the bay the road began to climb. Fortunately most of the heavy traffic buses cars and lorries take the tunnel that opened in 2000 so the road was considerably quieter than elsewhere on highway 1. There was a steady stream of motorbikes as they are prohibited from taking the tunnel it and the occasional tourist bus . There were also a lot of fuel tankers out again they cannot take the tunnel and somewhat perversely hosts of learner drivers. You would have thought that the twisty turney steep road would be the last place you would want to learn how to drive. I guess if you can drive there then you can drive pretty much anywhere.
The climb was long but not particularly steep at least not as steep as we had experienced previously and although it was pretty it certainly didn’t match Deo Ca in terms of picturesqueness. The first section of the ride overlooks a beautiful crescent shaped beach with a perfect smudge of golden sands. It looks idyllic from afar although is no doubt covered in trash when you get up close. We stopped regularly for breathers and halfway up for a coffee break. Soon we were nearing the summit then just 500 metres shy I realise that when I changed my Go Pro battery I hadn’t put the battery in the case and instead left it sitting on top of my panniers. It wasn’t there anymore so must have fallen off as I was riding . Cursing myself I turn back and descended a few hundred metres to see if I can find it. I glimpse it lying on the road but something else had found it first. Most likely the wheels of an oil truck because it was considerably flatter than when I last saw it. What an idiot. Go Pro accessories are overpriced as it is and ridiculously overpriced in Vietnam oh well lesson learnt. Put everything away as soon as you finish with them . Although my father has been trying to teach me that lesson for more than 40 years and it still hasn’t sunk in.
The top as is often the case was rather disappointing. Full of tourist coaches and stalls with the kind of crap you find these place all over the world. There were a couple of American war era pill boxes upon which a couple were having their wedding pictures taken and a brick gate built by some king or other. And the view wasn’t even as good as the ones we’d experienced lower down . We didn’t hang around, just took a few photos and began the descent. Which was wonderful until I got stuck behind a petrol tanker half way down and my brakes got a good workout trying to slow myself down and my lungs got a good workout from the black fumes he was belching out.
It was another 70km to Hue which we could have made easily but we weren’t in a hurry and the golden sands of Lang Co looked very appealing. We weren’t disappointed. We found a little guest house and then took a tiny little path through the sand dunes onto the beach. It was beautiful. It was practically deserted and as there was only one access road hardly any trash. There were a few newly constructed resorts, but they were well spaced out and blended pretty well into the surroundings, although in one place the units looked like nuclear bunkers. Massive concrete boxes cast into the dunes with no ascetic considerations at all. On the whole it was lovely and in total contrast to the dusty little town strung out along the 4 lane highway. Next day we took the scenic route to Hue down some tiny little country roads which proved to be another wonderful days cycling. First we followed a tiny road through the trees as it skirted a mountain, then we crossed a broad inlet from the sea with the far off mountains reflected on its glassy surface. Finally we passed through the city of the dead. It seems like Hue is the place to be buried because there were literally thousands of graves beside the road. Many of them huge, highly decorated ornate looking tombs often far more impressive than the nearby houses. Eventually the houses of the living got more numerous as we rolled into Hue in the late afternoon.