A 13-mile section of Vietnam‘s National Route 1A between Da Nang and Hue, the Hai Van Pass might be short in distance, but it’s long on views. Rising up and down the Truong Son range, and with a name that translates to “Ocean Cloud” Pass, the road travels through an area freighted with historical and meteorological significance—it once formed the border between the ancient Dai Viet and Champa kingdoms, and still divides the weather patterns of south and north Vietnam. The pass was often crowded with traffic for years, but a tunnel that opened nearby in 2005 drew away many of the cars and trucks, making it relatively tranquil these days. Expect coastal vistas that will leave you speechless.
Take the High Road to Hoi An
I love any opportunity to take the slow path. After all – the fun is in the journey – not necessarily the place. Our Vietnam travel itinerary called for overland transportation from Hue to Da Nang (and ultimately Hoi An) – I was pretty excited when our guide, Ngoc, told us that we had two options – a high road and a low road – and we would be taking the high road crossing Hải Vân Pass. This notoriously dangerous pass in Vietnam is 13 miles long and winds through the Annamite Range that juts into the South China Sea along National Road 1A. The 1,600 foot elevation isn’t the danger, the weather is actually what makes the pass dangerous. The Vietnamese name Đèo Hải Vân means “ocean cloud pass” as the area traditionally gets a lot of ocean mist and fog making the visibility on the pass poor. However a ‘lower route’ was created in 2005, the Hải Vân Tunnel—the longest tunnel in Southeast Asia—offers an alternative road across the pass, reducing travel times by at least an hour. Tunnel With No View VS. Twisting, Curving Mountain Road Is there really even a question on what you’d rather do?
Motorbiking Through the Hai Van Pass
A must do for a traveler coming through Central Vietnam- a winding mountain pass that looks out over the Da Nang and Lang Co bays, cut through the Bach Ma National Park, with views of the city and fishing villages below. Rent a motorbike in Da Nang, Hoi An, or Hue, and follow the roads north or south, bypassing the Hai Van tunnel and climbing into the mountains. A truly memorable cruise.