Travel by motorcycle ~ over the mountainous Hai Van Pass from Hoi An to Hue, Viet Nam

After almost a week back in Hoi An, relaxing at the Sleepy Gecko hostel, we decide on our next move. We are ready to have a new adventure.

 Our journey will take us in a Northernly direction towards the Imperial city of Hue with a stop on the way at the Bach Ma National park, before heading towards the largest caves in the world!
A popular way to get around this region of Central Viet Nam is by using motorbike drivers who will take you on the back of their bike, for example, for the four hour ride from Hoi An to Hue. However, we are going to be riding our rented bikes… Adam on his and Ben and I on ours. So we upgrade our two local ($4 a day) scooters to more robust models suited better for longer distances.
The ride, if one goes directly takes four hours. We have no plans to go directly, nor to rush the journey, quite the contrary… 

And so at 8a.m we are off!
First there is an easy hour drive along the coast to Da Nang. Not much traffic, flat road, pretty simple stuff. Once in Da Nang we have to find the highway one which is the mountain overpass…rather than the quicker but less scenic tunnel which goes through the mountain. It takes us the good part of an hour to find our way through the busy hectic streets of Da Nang. We stop numerous times for directions each time to be told in hesitant English that Hue is ” Very far. Very far.”
Finally we are out of the city and gaining height fairly quickly. The scenery gets greener and we start to have dramatic views over beaches and the ocean. For this section of the drive we mostly have the road to ourselves and it’s glorious!

I love being on the back of the bike, with the sun and the wind and the feeling of being in the landscape.  I like doing  yoga stretches at the back of the bike and even taking an occasional shirvasana. The benefit of not having to focus on the road or driving!

At the top of the Van Pass, we start the descent down and are now sharing the road with some tanker trucks. that in combination with lots of turns around corners gives me (P) a few tense moments. The guys manage to navigate the traffic just fine. 
We stop in a village for Nu’oc Mia (raw sugar cane juice) with lemon.  Nu’oc mia never tasted so good as it does after being on the motor bike for three hours under the hot sun.
Just before the tun off for Bach Ma national park we have a delicious lunch on the side of the road of Ban Xeo (Vietnamese pancakes) Hue style, plus a Hue specialty of  circular rice noodles with crunchy bits…Ban Beoh….

Watching the creation of Banh Xeo.
The drive towards and in the national park has a beautiful backdrop against the smoky blue mountains, lake, groups of water buffalo playing in the water, trees and numerous visually interesting cemeteries. 

We are taking a detour to perhaps hike  and swim at the Bach Ma national park waterfalls.  We discover that the waterfalls are an hour away by foot, and given that we want to reach Hue before dark, we decide on a more accesible river swim instead. A well earned cool off and soak in the fresh water before continuing the journey. 

The river in Bach Ma National Park 

The last hour before entering the city of Hue is the least pleasant part of the trip as we find ourselves challenged by lots of trucks and traffic when we are at our most tired. Essential to stay focused and alert, but it starts to get challenging after being on a bike for so long. 

All in all  about eight hours … lots of stops to talk to people, say hello to water buffalos, visit a temple on the way. On arrival in Hue, we easily find  a pleasant little hotel with clean beds, hot water for $5 a person. We are pretty exhausted and go to sleep ready to explore the imperial city when we wake up. 

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