“I just feel like everyone tries to do something different, but you always wind up doing the same damn thing” Leonardo di Caprio, The Beach
Many decades have come and gone, but the remnants of civil war are still present in Vietnam. From the Chu Chi Tunnels to Long Tan Nui Dat Battlefield, these are dotted from north to south and illustrate a very haunting past in this enchanting pocket of South East Asia. At the same time, these fascinating destinations are also tourist attractions, for historical significance is one to which visitors are often attracted.
Rising the Hai Van Pass
With this in mind, the Hai Van Pass may be a rather short route, but the scenic location and ancient past of the region offer an incredible insight into a very real Vietnam. Winding through the mountains, the path is known as a dividing border between tropical and subtropical Vietnam but also as a point of political interest during the infamous war times. After all, the Hai Van Pass provided a great vantage point from which to spot the approaching enemy.
That being said, there is no real need to understand this past to appreciate the beauty of Hai Van Pass. Linking popular destinations such as Da Nang, Hue and Hoi An; this ancient pass is one of the most scenic routes in all of Southeast Asia. In fact, Top Gear, the infamous television show showcased this driving route almost ten years ago which resulted in a huge influx of excited travelers. Either way, this bumpy road may not have been the best maintained, but the sheer beauty of the region was enough to merit a place on any travel itinerary for Vietnam.
Renting a Motorcycle in Vietnam
Furthermore, riding a motorcycle in Vietnam is without the red tape you often find when traveling, for a driving license and upfront payment are the only real requirements. Naturally, you should have full insurance on a trip like this but otherwise, there is little to organize, and the cost is usually less than VDN 150,000 ($6) per day. As for logistics, there are gas stations before and after the pass while snacks or water is all you might need in between the many restaurants along the way.
As already mentioned, the Hai Van Pass is located close to many major cities, so access is always straightforward while the lack of traffic ensures a much quieter experience than most roads in Vietnam. Similarly, the local people are far less accustomed to visitors so the travel experience can feel much more authentic to most parts of Southeast Asia.
Authenticity on the Hai Van Pass
In many ways, this is what truly captured my imagination in Vietnam, the opportunity to ride free in such a primitive pocket of Southeast Asia. After all, there was little tourist infrastructure or Western influence which is often a downside to most popular travel destinations. From Da Nang to Hue, there were many lookouts and points of interest, but the Hai Van Pass felt a million miles from civilization and much closer to the Vietnam I had wanted to see.
It made me think back to my favorite movie, the Beach, and remember that while everybody tries to do something different when they travel, the Hai Van Pass is certainly not in that damn category.