The Best Road in Vietnam – The Hai Van Pass
The 21 km mountain pass that cuts through the Annamite Mountain range, is widely considered the best road in Vietnam. Whether you are in a car or on a motorbike, you’ll experience curves that make your heart beat faster as you drive past beautiful scenes, including the South China Sea from 1500 feet up.
I took a private car from Hue to Hoi An with my mom. Normally, I would have taken a cheaper option, but Mom’s a baller, so we had a big private van to ourselves. The price is actually pretty reasonable — $45 US or 1,010,000 VND. It included a stop at Lang Co beach, China beach, and the Marble Mountains.
The Cheapest Way to Experience the Hai Van Pass
If you are coming from Hue:
Hue Tourist Vietnam -- 120 Le Loi St, Hue (Tel: 0543816263)
Departs at 9:00AM, Arrives at 2:00PM stopping at Cau Hai lagoon, Lang Co Beach, Hai Van Pass, Da Nang, and the Marble mountains.
If that one doesn’t work out for you, try Tan Nhat Travel for $11.
If you are coming from Hoi An:
I have been struggling to find a bus that will do the trip. I’m sure it is possible though. The best thing to do would be to go to the various tourist offices and ask around. It seems that all of the tours that go from Hue to Hoi An and back, will only do the pass on the way to Hoi An because it’s “too dangerous” to take it from Hoi An to Hue.
If you are brave and an experienced rider, you can rent a motorbike in Hoi An and drop it off in Hue. The ride will probably take 5 hours plus stops. You can ask these guys for information. The cost will vary, but it will probably be around $25 for a small semi-automatic bike and up to $50 for a larger motorcycle.
The drive out of Hue towards Hai Van pass starts to get beautiful about 20 minutes out of the city, when you hit lakes and hills. When you enter Lang Co, specifically the peninsula, you’ll be blown away by the surroundings — the ocean on one side and a giant lake on the other.
Lang Co beach is one of Vietnam’s most beautiful beaches. There aren’t many tourists that make it there, so it’s quiet and clean. The waves can be a bit rough — watch for the flags that tell you how safe it is. Red means don’t swim. There are a some places to stay if you want to stick around for a few days. Most of them are expensive resorts, but Lang Co Beach Resort is about $35/night. It’s probably your best option. If you do stay for a night, walk the beach all the way to the south end where you’ll find a great curved stretch of sand that’s surrounded by eye pleasing things.
We only stayed on the beach for about 30 minutes. Just enough time to get our feet wet and have an ice coffee. Then, it was back in the van to take on the best road in Vietnam. At one time, the pass was a dangerous place — it still kind of is. Accidents happened far to often, including a train crash that killed 11 and injured 100s. In 2005, the Hai Van tunnel (the longest tunnel in Vietnam) was opened. This cut about an hour from the drive and took the large trucks off of the pass road. The only trucks that are allowed on Hai Van pass now, are ones carrying live animals. Another source of accidents on the pass, is the foggy conditions that are often experienced in the morning. ‘Hai van’ actually means ‘ocean cloud’ in Vietnamese. If you can avoid the pass in the early hours of the day, you’ll get a better view and a safer drive.I didn’t feel scared on the drive at all. Peruvian dirt roads through the Andes are much more frightening. But I did feel inspired as we twisted and turned to the highest peak of the pass. At the top, we were let out at a set of fortification ruins. They were built by the French and used in the Vietnam War. Today, they are climbed on and photographed by tourists, but the area is a great spot to get a view of the Hai Van pass, Lang Co beach, and the city of Da Nang.
After a half hour of exploring, we headed down the mountain to Da Nang. We stopped briefly at China Beach, but only to snap a photo as there wasn’t much to do there without the proper beach gear. China Beach or My Khe beach was the vacation spot for the soldiers who fought in the Vietnam War. There was even a show based on the area.
Our next stop was Marble Mountain, a collection of five marble and limestone mountains. There are many shops scattered around the bottom of the mountain that sell marble products. We were dropped off at one where we browsed for 10 minutes before going up one of the mountains via glass elevator. There are lots of corners to explore on the mountain, but it involves a lot of stairs and by that time it was very hot out. We explored for about 20 minutes and then headed back down to our ride and headed into Hoi An.
Have you driven the Hai Van Pass? Do you think it’s the best road in Vietnam? Let us know in the comments.