In my research for our travel to Vietnam, Hai Van Pass was highly recommended for its scenic drive. I don’t really enjoy long drives but I thought it was only fair that we drive somewhere scenic for my photographer husband to do his stuff.
There were many great recommendation online as to how you do Han Van Pass. One suggestion is to travel by how the locals do, on motorbike, with the hair flapping in the wind as you take in the view. Most tourists ride pillion but that sounded dangerous to us. After all, we would be putting our lives in the hands of strangers riding through a curving and winding mountain road. But what was more of a concern was that we were told how smelly most of the helmets were. Another suggestion was to take a train ride into Lang Co Bay and then hiring a cab back to Hoi An through this route instead of the highway. We didn’t fancy that just in case we couldn’t find a ride back.
In the end, we took the easy way out – booked a car to Hai Van Pass, had lunch at the end of the pass in a little fishing village at Lang Co and then back to town via the highway.
This extracted online gives the reason why Hai Van Pass is popular. ‘Hai Van is the highest pass in Vietnam (500m above sea level). Hai Van means “Sea Clouds”, since the peak of the mountain is in the clouds while its foot is close to the sea. There are views to both the North and the South. The pass forms an obvious boundary between North and South Vietnam, and if proof were needed, you need look no further than the fortifications built by the French and then later used by the South Vietnamese and the Americans.’
While the drive was pleasant, there was nothing particularly scenic that warranted a stop for photos. Also, there wasn’t any safe area to stop our car for photos, as compared to a motorbike. We stopped only when we arrived at the Pass, where many tourist’s stands with toilets, drinks and souvenirs competed for business.
We walked up to the Fort, and was rewarded by a clear view of the bay. However, within minutes, the Fort was engulfed in clouds and the view disappeared.
A group of local university students were busy having a picnic, oblivious of the obscured view. I guess they had the whole day there but we didn’t. We were just glad we had the small window of opportunity for some clear photos and we then made our way down to Lang Co, amazed at how the scenery which was clear this morning was now misty.
Lang Co is a quiet fishing village boasting of fresh seafood. We told our driver to pick a good one and we were happy with his choice – the restaurant was crowded with locals having lunch. The restaurant was built on stilt out in the sea and we had to walk on wooden bridge into the restaurant. Inside, we were shown an array of live seafood with prices clearly printed and told to pick.
After a sumptuous lunch, we took a walk along the esplanade. Some fishermen were selling their fresh catch, women were wading in the sea picking shell fish, a sight that was both refreshingly attractive for these urbanites.
Then, it’s back to Hoi An, using the highway tunnel that took 45 minutes instead of the 2.5 hours drive we took to arrive.