We had already purchased bus tickets to take us the 5 hours from Hue to Hoi An, but thanks to Alex and Hannah (who we seem to be following !) planting the seed in our head, we decided to rent a motorbike for the day and do the drive ourselves. One of the more scenic drives along what’s known as the Mandarin Road, it’s one of the best roads for those who might be new to motorbiking. Our hotel set us up with Motorvina, a company located in several cities in Vietnam. They take care of transporting your luggage to the predetermined city where you’ll return the motorbike so you can ride without worrying about balancing on the bike with your pack. It set us back all of $25 for the trip, which was far beyond worth it.
We ventured out of Hue shortly after 9am-just in time for rush hour traffic. Getting out of the city proved a bit daunting as round abouts with no right of way often do. However, once we were out of the city, we cruised right on along. We blew across the Troui River and past Cau Hai Lagoon, which sounds prettier than it looked. We contemplated veering off the beaten path to venture down a branch of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, which anyone with limited knowledge of the American War knows this was a 12,000 mile elusive web of primitive roadways and jungle paths that helped the Viet Cong of the North infiltrate the South. Heavily bombed by the U.S during the war (to a tune of 1.7 million tons of explosives) the current HCM trail was rebuilt in 2000. Unfortunately planning lacked the time for us to make this journey this go around, but will certainly be on the docket for our return visit.
After driving about 1 hr 30 minutes, we reached Suối Voi, also known as Elephant Springs. Set at the base of Ba Na mountains, the air was considerably cooler, the clouds covered a once sunny sky and this rain began to fall. Before reaching the springs, as we drove through the jungle, we stumbled upon a beautiful, ornate golden temple which we stopped to admire and wander around for a bit. Not wanting to miss a thing, we parked our bike, scrambled up the steep sided ravine and plunged into the icy waters of the springs, taking some time to slide down a series of cascades that dumped us into swimming pools at the bottom. Not one to miss out on an opportunity, locals have set up makeshift bars and loungers along the rocks above the springs. Good negotiation skills, or speaking the language will get you a set for 20,000 dong( about 1 usd) but we did hear others being asked for 5x that amount. The sun was starting to peek its way out and we decided it was time to hop on the bike and make our way to Lang Co beach. With a plethora of restaurants with piers extending well over the water, we remembered being here several years earlier when we rode our motorbikes from Hoi An to Lang Co. Remembering how completely westernized and touristy these spots tend to be, we ventured to the main road and grabbed a sit down for some banh xeo and nem loi before making the decision to skip the beach and continue southward to Danang. As we headed up to Hai Van pass, making our way up into the headlands, we paused to admire the beauty of Lang Co beach and the surrounding mountains. From this vantage point, you can admire the splendor of what is said to be one of Vietnam’s most spectacular beache. We stopped again once we reached the top of Hai Van Pass, also known as the Pass of the Clouds by the Sea. We didn’t linger long since we had already been here in years past and the views , though spectacular, had not changed. We also remembered how treacherous rush hour traffic in Danang would be, and we wanted to avoid at all costs.
Had we not taken this trip before, we might also have stopped at Xuan Thieu Nam O Beach, where the first U.S troops came ashore in March 1965. Yes, I have become quite interested in the American War while traveling, so forgive all the war references, although I do feel it’s a very important part of their history, and ours alike. A stop at Marble Mountain or a visit to China Beach completes the Mandarin Road. We of course, continued on for another hour or so to reach Hoi An, a favorite city of ours, where we’ll be spending the next four days, getting back and the motorbike, and seeing more of the countryside. Mike is quite taken by his new fascination by motorbikes and is under the impression he’ll be getting one once we return stateside. Silly rabbit!
If you couldn’t already guess what’s next: we’re spending a few days in Hoi An, enjoying the full moon festival! Stay tuned!