Good morning, Vietnam! You know you’re in Vietnam when the chickens are crowing outside your window. For locals, this is music to our ears except on the mornings when the night before bleeds into the day ahead. Totally awake? Adventure awaits!
Vietnam is a fabulous country that sings harmonies of the wild jungle and the people that venture through it. This country is a destination that you must visit at least once in your life if you seek adventure. One of the most desired places to stay in Vietnam for both foreigners and locals alike is Da Nang. There are many natural wonders and sights to see, like Hoi An old town, My Son Sanctuary, Hai Van pass, and the city of Da Nang itself. Today, I’m taking you on one hell of an adventure, to Hai Van pass.
Hai Van pass, the pass of cloud and sea, used to be the most challenging route in all of Vietnam. With twisting roads, heavy fog, and the occasional downpour, this pass is often dangerous during dawn and dusk. It witnessed the most traffic fatalities in the country before 2005, including several train crashes and at least one aircraft accident. Since the construction of Hai Van tunnel in 2005, traffic flow and safety in the pass have significantly improved. Nowadays, Hai Van pass is famous for its scenic beauty. “A deserted ribbon of perfection – one of the best coastal roads in the world” – stated by Jeremy Clarkson from the Top Gear show.
The adventure begins at 7:15 in the morning upon the arrival of your Onetrip guides. Once you get to know your guides over breakfast, the trip begins. They will first take you for a short stroll along the white sand beaches to enjoy the fresh sea breeze before embarking toward Hai Van pass.
A Lovely Morning in Da Nang
Da Nang is the third largest city in Vietnam, and the most important industrial, technological, financial, educational, and tourist hub of the central region and the western highlands. Furthermore, Da Nang has the most developed physical infrastructures in the country, encouraging economic investments and tourism activities. People are honest and hospitable, forming 50% of the working population. Moreover, the authority is investor-friendly. Their support is effective and reliable, working toward long-term partnerships with an efficient and transparent decision-making process.
This city is located on a World Heritage route along the coastline of Vietnam. It is close to four UNESCO Heritage Sites: My Son Sanctuary, Hoi An ancient town, Imperial city of Hue, and Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park with the world’s largest natural caves. There are countless attractions and traditional festivals in the city. Surrounded by the natural beauty of the ocean, mountains, and rivers, Da Nang has been greatly successful with its world-class real estate. It is quickly becoming the most liveable city in Vietnam.
After you first meet your Onetrip buddies, they will take you to enjoy a light treat, either a banh mi or mi Quang (Quang region’s noodle), and you’ll take part in a little ice-breaker to get to know one another. Hop on the back of a motorbike, the riders will take you along the seashore route to cherish the sea breeze, the salty aroma, and the chanting of early vendors.
On the way, you will notice a giant Buddha on Son Tra peninsula. This lady Buddha has a story but it is not mine to tell, I will save it for your guides. You will also pass the Tien Sa Seaport, one of the most active ports of Vietnam, which serves as a gateway to the Pacific Ocean for three inland countries – Laos, Thailand, and Myanmar.
A master’s effort to preserve the fish sauce making tradition
Passing the Thuan Phuoc Bridge, the longest suspension bridge of Vietnam crossing the Han River, the first stop is 20 minutes away. Nam O fish sauce village sits right at the foot of Hai Van pass. In Vietnam, fish sauce is one of the most important condiments in cuisine, reflecting a thousand-year tradition of fishing culture. Unlike other branded fish sauces on the market, Nam O fish sauce is a truly traditional hidden gem. Handcrafted from hand-picked, freshly-caught black anchovies and locally processed sea salt, this fish sauce is truly unique, a flavor for a well-deserving palate. Rich, dignified and fragrant, this delicacy will leave a smooth, sweet aftertaste.
Think of it like Scotch whiskey. You can sip, but it packs a punch at first. For Scotch, one dash of water or even just a drop is enough to open up the flavor. The same can be said about fish sauce, just a little dash in your food is game-changing. Many people may not know that fish sauce is sensitive to temperature fluctuations. Never put it in boiling water, the proteins and other delicate flavors will be cooked away, leaving behind a bitter and salty taste. The best way to enjoy fish sauce is by adding a dash directly to your dish after removing it from the heat. Try it with western dishes, you will be stunned at the transformation! Believe me, I’m a cook-turned-bartender.
Furthermore, the masters will educate you about fish sauce preparation, from material processing, mashing, fermenting, and aging in a wooden cask. You can even partake in a small tasting session. To end the tour, your guides will take you to visit a killer whale shrine. In Vietnamese fisherman beliefs, the killer whale is the guardian of the East Sea, protecting them from deadly creatures and disasters, also bringing them more fish.
Conquering the Hai Van pass
Hai Van pass is a 21-kilometer coastal serpentine road that connects Da Nang and Hue province, providing riders with challenges and higher rewards. You will conquer one of the most spectacular routes in the world, with expansive views of the vast mountains and the endless ocean, Da Nang city in the faraway mist.
There are two main stops that will allow you to capture the view so you can save memories of your precious time in Vietnam. At a local coffee shop near Old Turtle rock, enjoy sugarcane juice or coffee as you rest your body.
Continue to the top of the pass, and you will see a six-meter high, red brick gate which was built hundreds of years ago. This is the Hai Van Gate, which marks the border of Da Nang and Hue province, but it was once the border of the Vietnamese and the Champa Kingdoms. You can also climb up the old war bunkers that remain from the first Indochina war, to oversee the other side of the pass and look back the way you traveled.
The ride continues as you embark down the pass toward the beach. This is the place where mountains, coastlines, big modern engineering projects, traditional fishing scenes, and the soundtrack of motorized sampan boat blend together to form the most picturesque image of Vietnam.
Washing off the road dust under a waterfall
Once you reach the end of Hai Van pass, there’s still a one-and-a-half-hour ride to reach the imperial city of Hue. Yet, your final destination of this adventure is a local waterfall in Lang Co town, but prior to that, take a stroll along the coast of the Lang Co bay, where you can find a rural Vietnamese fishing village – sprawling fishing nets, and fishing boats with shark paintings on the side.
Upon your arrival at the waterfall, first, wash off the dust and sweat in a fresh stream. Once you can’t stave off the hunger, dive into a surf-and-turf buffet made from local livestock. Grab a beer, a mic, and sing your hearts out with our makeshift karaoke stage.
This is your time to enjoy Vietnam in its best form as the day turns to golden light. Once you are content, your guides will take you back over the pass.
Racing with the sun till dusk
Hai Van pass is at its finest when the sun dips behind the mountains. The scenery changes drastically. Mist rises to the top of Hai Van pass, and flocks of goats wander along the twisting road. This is my favorite time of day when even the locals slow down around the curves to sneak a glance over their shoulders. However, if you are too weary to travel the same road, take a transit minibus through the Hai Van tunnel. The tunnel is only 7 kilometers in length, compared to the 21 kilometers of the pass. You will return at around 5 PM, so there is still plenty of time for evening activities!
I hope you are excited about this special adventure with Onetrip, to see the most spectacular sceneries of Vietnam! Please check out our website, Onetrip.vn, if you have any questions or are ready to go on this journey with us. More information is available on the website, and you can also read what our previous guests have to say on our TripAdvisor page.