Sunday, 29 December 2013

Hai Van Pass Video

18/11/13 - Lang Co to Hoi An

Had breakfast in a completely empty huge dining room which was build to hold hundreds of guests, but this morning it was only us two. There was no massive buffet breakfast (which we were secretly looking forward to), but eggs on toast and a decent cup of coffee. It'll do and hopefully give us enough energy to pedal up "a deserted ribbon of perfection—one of the best coast roads in the world." as the Hai Van pass was famously described by Clarkson in the Top Gear Vietnam special.

It was a bit grey and overcast when we left, but we were hoping to still be able to enjoy some good views from the top. After about 5km we reached the bottom of Hai Van pass and the start of the 500m climb which seemed like child's play after the 1000m climbs we did in the North. Unfortunately the clouds didn't clear. The views were nice, but would have been better in bright sunshine.

The pass is quite an attraction in the area with people coming from near tourist towns like Danang and Hoi An. We were passed by many mini vans and big tourist buses full of Westerners. We didn't see any other cyclist though. That is until we got to the top. There was buses full of cyclists with a support vehicle which drove the bikes up the hill for them. Now they were all nicely lined up ready for them to roll down the hill. Good fun for some I guess, bizarre for others. I would rather struggle up myself and then really feel like I have earned the downhill.

The top was a strange place. Very different from other mountain tops we have climbed recently. It was not only heaving with other tourists but also full of food and tat stalls and Vietnamese ladies trying to drag you into their stall and sell you coffee or whatever. We only stayed for a view minutes.

There was one good thing (apart from the downhill afterwards) about reaching the top of Hai Van though: the weather changed magically and it turned from grey and cloudy into quite a pleasant afternoon and we did get some good views.

We still had about 50km left along the coast road when we got to the bottom. We passed through Danang which was a big modern looking city with a big yellow bridge nicely styled like a dragons tail.

We arrived in Hoi An and saw the aftermaths of the recent flooding. The streets were still full of muddy water and local firemen were trying their best to hose off the worst. Our hotel up until recently had water up to the reception waist high and their pool which was oddly placed in the lobby was unusable and mud water had to be pumped out. There were mattresses, from ground floor rooms presumably, drying in the sun outside the hotel. We were glad we had a room in the first floor.

It was still early and we decided to to wander around town. We went to a restaurant called Balle Well (a suggestion from Lonely Planet). They only served one dish - barbequed pork on skewers, omelette, a variety of lettuce and veg all rolled up in rice paper and dipped in some special secret sauce. Hard to describe, but it was awesome! Probably the best food we have had in Vietnam.

Route Link

At the beginning

buses full of tourists

Almost at the top

Lady, you wanna buy from me???Shopping!

Some like it like this...

Johanna at the traffic lights
Yellow bridge in Danag
Not all roads look like this in Hoi An
Spot the dog!
Drying mattresses

The fire engines are big over here
Japanese Covered Bridge in Hoi An
Bale Well stands for best food ever
Girls selling lanterns

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

17/11/13 - Hue to Lang Co Beach

We had waited long enough for the rain to stop, and decided to head off today whatever the forecast said. We were headed for Hoi An, over the next two days, but first we had to stop somewhere in between so we chose a place called Lang Co Beach which had a few big resort type places and booked one for £18 which was a bit steep but had a pool so we hoped we could use it. Also we needed to stop just before the famous Hoi Van Pass (as seen on Top Gear) and do that the next day.

Annoyingly I realised when we were leaving the that I left a strap for my pannier in the first room we had in the hotel but it had not been returned or found by the cleaning staff. We can only think that the next guests in the room fancied it for themselves and not that the staff lost it but even still they were a bit shirty when I asked if I could double check. That put me off that hotel, the girls were friendly little smartarses, and the 'extra' service they get so well reviewed for came across too sickly sweet for me, they were just annoying. Still an OK place to stay though, probably appreciated more by females used to a bit of special treatment. Too many kisses, smiley faces and cute but lame art around everywhere. I fixed my bag using our travel washing line. It looks crap.

The cycle was a great adventure. The weather was better, only the occasional shower and cool temps - perfect. Also we came across many things we had not read about or expected to see which makes a great ride. First of all we had to cross flooded concrete bridges between the rice fields and the river all day. Some were deeper than the bottom of the panniers and you couldnt see the bottom or the sides. Some had fish swimming past! We got totally soaked feet but it was fun.

Other unexpected scenery was the 50km long tombed graveyard we seemed to be stuck in. It went on and on, stopping only sporadically as a town appeared, or a river or a denser bit of forest. No idea why they chose this place. Maybe as the ground is so sandy it's easy to dig the graves? No doubt there is some stronger religious compulsion. Most of the tombs are slightly raised so only the space between them had been flooded. It was a very strange landscape that looked like a sea of tiny islands in a huge lake, each occupied by a temple or medieval Asian town even.

We battled through more fords all day and eventually found ourselves on a long and desterted beach road, much like the one we followed in Portugal for so long. Right between the dunes and the sea. We almost went the wrong way once but a local told us that the road we were following was not completed yet, even though it was on the map, so that guy saved us half an hour of trouble.

The hotel was OK, again massive and well kept but completely empty. The girls on the desk told us that it is normally busy but this was just the low season, but I think these resort places are just not attracting any guests these days. The pool was also OK, but we didn't fancy it as the weather was not great and we were starving after having no lunch stop. We had a look at the beach which was as rough as expected (it is storm season in Central Vietnam after all) and was covered in washed up plastic packaging, bottles and wrappers - sadly also as expected. Any beach in Vietnam that is clean has been cleaned manually. Its annoying to hear backpackers blaming it on 'Tourists' (what are they themselves then?). The Vietnamese love plastic packaging, and love dropping it behind them in the street even more. Sad.

We went out for dinner to find a place in the street as the hotel would have been dire as it was empty. We found one place but ti had no WiFi, then tried across the road and found a place that had loads of seafood on the menu and the lady spoke great English and was very friendly (and most importantly it was nice and cheap!). We ordered some prawns and some crab. The lady shot off on her motorbike coming back with some fresh catch about 5 mins later. It was good food.

After dinner her brothers, the older of which owned the restaurant and the house next door came over with some lychee's and had a chat. He was quite a sad guy having served in the Vietnam war on the South Vietnam side (Viet Cong). He told us about how hard it was for them and the horrible conditions. It is the first time we have had someone opening up to us like that. The sister looked on a little disapprovingly as he told us all this.

Route Link

Surfing the waves

Wet feet?

Flooded never-ending graveyard

Why do they do this? Even in the graveyard.

Saw lots of these houses

I guessed they were for mushrooms, I was right!

Fishing technique using dropped net and some bait in middle

Some tombs very large for whole family

Luminous booze looked deadly, everywhere along the roadside turned out to be oil

Fish were jumping here





Here's one I dressed earlier