A Beginner’s guide to Vietnam’s Hai Van Pass

by | Jan 6, 2017 | Vietnam | 8 comments

Okay, here we are again, our Thailand 90 day visas are expiring and it’s time to do our third “visa run” to renew our visas. Once again we were at the crossroads of where to go next. The first time we had to do a visa run it was to Malaysia, which you can read all about that trip here and our second visa run was to Singapore. This time we decided that we wanted to check out Vietnam and I had actually just watched my favorite snapchat account “Travel Facts” and Joy Elizabeth was this weeks’ host and she quickly reminded me that Vietnam was indeed a destination on my list.

Teryn and I searched online, found some cheap plane tickets and away we went!

I’ll leave what we did and where we went in Vietnam for another post, but for now this post starts in the middle of our Vietnam trip. Sitting in our small family owned hotel in Hue, Vietnam that was appropriately named the “Charming Hotel” * Protip* we always used Agoda to book most of our stays in Southeast Asia and Charming Hotel came in well under $6 a night. We stayed in Hue for a few days mainly because we weren’t really in a hurry or on any time schedule, so we contemplated a few things that we wanted to do for this part of the trip. I reminded Teryn that I heard about an amazing mountain drive through central Vietnam called the “Hai Van Pass”. I believe it was my lovely blogger friends NOMADasaurus that first told me about the grand motorbike adventures they had in Vietnam.

Hai Van Pass Vietnam

Waiting for the train to pass by.

 The pass is named one of the most beautiful ocean roads in the world!

Hai Van Pass Vietnam

Here we go!

Teryn, of course, hesitated a little bit as she still doesn’t want anything to do with motorbikes, but after some convincing, we agreed that we would go rent a motorbike and give this Hai Van Pass a shot. The Hai Van Pass or otherwise known as The Pass of Ocean Mist is an 18 mile (30km) stretch of road that is up in the mountains of central Vietnam goes from Hue to Hoi An, although the real mountain road part doesn’t really start until you get to Da Nang. If you decide to just do the pass it’s more like a 5mile ( 9km) ride, but with all of the hairpin curves, you’ll want to take your time to stop to see the sights.

Selfie time.

After a bit of working the google machine and looking at other blogs, we came to find Motorvina. Motorvina offers a wide range of motorbikes to rent and best of all you can rent the motorbike one way. The ride from Hue to Hoi An is around 5 hours, but of course, this depends on your level of riding and whether or not if you stop at the all of the side adventures and other stops along the way. There are temples, limestone caves and cliffs, and even a hot springs that are all attractions that you can build into your Hai Van Pass excursion.

Rent a motorbike with Motorvina and have your bags transferred to your hotel or homestay for free! This place is located just a few blocks away from the Charming Hotel.

Motorvina1

The road is known for being dangerous due to the weather being very foggy from the mist that comes off from the South China Sea creating very poor visibility. We were very fortunate as it stayed pretty dry for us with only slightly foggy areas. The pass connected the two war-torn cities of Hue and Da Nang during the “Vietnam war” ( or the “American war” as known to the Vietnamese ) during the war the pass was nicknamed  “the street without joy”. In 2005 the Vietnamese built a tunnel as an alternate route to travel through the mountains, cutting transport time in half and is currently the longest tunnel in Southeast Asia. Only motorbikes and the occasional fuel and agriculture trucks are allowed on the pass,  thus making the pass a nice scenic mountainous drive.

Hai Van Pass Vietnam

Hai Van Pass Vietnam

Hai Van Pass Vietnam

Hai Van Pass Vietnam

Hai Van Pass Vietnam

Hai Van Pass Vietnam

Google maps will tell you 3 hours, but like I’ve said in past blogs, you can’t trust google maps outside of the U.S.

You can easily tell that this pass was a natural border between North and South Vietnam and at the top of the pass you’ll find a few remaining fortifications that were originally built by the French during the early wars and then used again by the Americans.

Hai Van Pass Vietnam

Fortifications built during the French war

The best way to do this drive is to start in Hue between 8am to 9am and then end up in Hoi An in the late afternoon/evening. Just like everywhere in Southeast Asia, it’s very easy to get lost, so please calculate proper timing into your travel plans. We used a combination of the map brochure from motorvina and google maps and we also used common sense of following other backpackers, since it there was an extremely highly chance they were also heading towards the pass.

One part that I will say that we did get briefly turned around was when we came to where the tunnel started. ( Note- We traveled in the direction from Hue to Hoi An.) If you get to the tunnel, then you missed your turn. You’ll notice the road to look a lot newer and that is your indication that you should have stayed to the right on the older road. That was the only part of the trip that threw us for a loop.

If you have never driven a motorbike before, I do not suggest trying to learn in Vietnam as the traffic can be very chaotic when compared to western standards of driving.

The map below shows the route Hoi An – Danang – Hai Van Pass – Thuan An Peninsular – Hue

Once you get out Hue and into the rural parts of Vietnam, you will begin to see the true beauty of this land. We didn’t stop too much at the other attractions, but we thoroughly enjoyed this day trip through one of the most beautiful oceanside mountain roads and highly recommend that you plan your next trip to Vietnam, We would love to hear all about your adventure.

Have you ever taken a motorbike ride through a mountain top road? Let know in the comments below.

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Global Giraffe is a travel blog that is focused on keeping it real. This isn't a fluffy rainbow magical travel blog, here you'll find real life situations, tips, and advice for the everyday person that wants to know more about places they've never been to. After leaving Denver, Colorado, we decided to try to take on the world, one odd job at a time. For more updates follow Global Giraffe on FacebookTwitter and Instagram

8 Comments

  1. Katy

    What a ride! I did the trip on a bus when I was there and that was hairy enough for me! Loved Vietnam and its beautiful scenery and I enjoyed your practical tips. Thanks for joining us on #FarawayFiles

    Reply
    • Dan

      We didn’t even think about doing the pass via bus, but I think it was mostly because I wanted to be able to stop and grab some shots along the way. Thank you for stopping by, I look forward to connecting with everyone on #FarawayFiles

      Reply
  2. Clare (Suitcases and Sandcastles)

    I love the idea of taking a motorbike road along this route but I’m not sure I’d be brave enough in reality. Coastal roads are just made for motorbikes, I think – the road from San Francisco to LA, the Amalfi Coast in Italy…Great to meet you on #FarawayFiles

    Reply
    • Dan

      Yeah it can just be so much more fun on a motorbike versus going by a car or tour bus. The wind in your face as you come around every hairpin turn, just everything about being in the open air just makes it all so surreal. That being said, there is an incredible amount of danger that you can face if you’re not paying attention. I look forward to connecting with everyone on #FarawayFiles

      Reply
  3. Garrett

    whoah this blog is excellent i love reading your articles. Keep up the great work! You know, lots of people are hunting around for this information, you could help them greatly.

    Reply
    • Dan

      Thank you! I’m going to be posting a lot more very soon, so be sure to check back. We aim to inspire and get information out there that can help.

      Reply
  4. Erin Gustafson

    My son would LOVE to do this. And it brings back memories of my husband and I renting scooters on the island of Santorini when we were backpacking in our 20’s. It was super fun and such a visceral way to see a place. So happy to have you along for #FarawayFiles – can’t wait to see where you take us this week. Cheers from chilly Copenhagen, Erin

    Reply
    • Dan

      We can’t wait to go check out Santorini! I personally would love to grab a bike and just go for a drive there. Thank you so much! I look forward to connecting with everyone more. Cheers!

      Reply

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