Riding along the coastal ribbon of Hai Van Pass

Rate this Adventure  - Out-and-Back Trail

Added by Anton Lucanus

Seeing Vietnam off the beaten path, especially with your significant other, is a worthwhile trip!

When my partner and I first began travelling and working as digital nomads, we found ourselves having to navigate unfamiliar territory – both literally and figuratively. Everything from using a VPN overseas for the first time, to renting out our first scooter in Southeast Asia, was a lesson to be uncovered. But my favourite part so far? Today. Without a doubt, today. After having hired our scooter for the next six weeks here in Vietnam, my partner knew that I wanted to see the country’s infamous coastal pass as soon as possible. After working all this week, today we finally did it.

Hai Van Pass has been on my bucket list for years. I first heard about the pass when I watched a Top Gear special with my family that aired back in 2008. Ever since, it has been something we all wanted to do. I never thought I would be the first one in my family to see it, but it is something I hope we can all come back here someday and do together. The pass is a 21-kilometre-long road that winds between the Annamese mountains, framing the edge between land and the South China Sea a lot of the way there. Because we are living in Da Nang while we are here in Vietnam, we started the journey along the pass from this end and over to Hue and then back again.

Hai Van Pass used to be the area where the Vietnamese Army would ambush convoys, using the jungle-covered high ground above the winding strip of tarmac as their camouflage. This area is known as one of Vietnam’s many backdrops for old war stories, definitely. But today, riding around the winding green mountains with a full view of the South China Sea, it is easy to just experience it for what it is today. All along the pass, there are little cafes made from bamboo bars that hang over the sides of the mountain road’s cliffs, and we saw goats and dogs all over the mountains.

Hai Van Pass is an amazing place to go somewhere different. Before we came here, we were told that the only way to see Vietnam is by scooter or motorbike. I have to say, after experiencing the pass on a scooter, I would not have done it any other way. Even though you can still take cars along the winding ribbon of road, we did not see a single car. Since a tunnel has opened underneath the mountain in 2005, the pass is not used nearly as often anymore. As we wound around and around the countless twists and turns, I could not help but think of how scared I would be if there were cars, trucks, and buses on the pass when we were. The roads are so narrow, and have such sharp turns, that I would not feel nearly as safe as I did on the back of our scooter today.

Hai Van Pass was everything I wanted it to be, and then some. A stunning dark ribbon of tarmac that winds along the emerald green coastal mountains, the views of the South China Sea and up into the foliage are something that I know I will never forget. This was a bucket list tick that I think everyone should try to see at least once in their lifetime. I know I am definitely going to go back.

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