Are you a Top Gear fan? Then you probably heard Jeremy Clarkson describe Hai Van Pass as “one of the best coast roads in the world”.
And if you are a history buff, maybe you know this region was the ancient border between two kingdoms – Dai Viet and Champa. Sadly, many battles have been fought on these lands, and you can see the scars everywhere.
Hai Van Pass is not really a big secret and it receives it’s fair share of visitors. However, most people only visit by bus, which is a shame. While using a bus is very convenient, you will miss the many things that makes this region unique. In my opinion, the best way to explore this 21 kilometer coast road is with a motorbike.
And that’s what we will talk about next.
Hai Van Pass By Motorbike
Hai Van pass hugs the mighty Annamites, a large mountain range in central Vietnam. The pass has functioned both as an ancient border between north and south and as a boundary between two distinct climate zones. Hence, during the winter months the weather on the north side of the pass might be wet and cold, while on the south side it might be warm and dry. In addition, it provides shelter to Da Nang from the strong winds coming from the northwest.
First and foremost, the pass is famous for its scenic beauty, and that’s probably what you are here for. For instance, the TV show Top Gear featured Hai Van Pass in their Vietnam special episode. In that episode the host Jeremy Clarkson called Hai Van pass “a deserted ribbon of perfection – one of the best coast roads in the world”.
Planning Your trip
In my opinion, Hai Van pass should be experienced by motorbike. With a motorbike you will be closer to nature, will be able to experience the different climate zones and can stop off anywhere you like.
In Da Nang there are plenty of places where you can rent a motorbike for 100k to 200k VND per day. Some places may want your passport as deposit, which is normal. If you are not comfortable leaving your passport you can try to negotiate.
To get to Hai Van pass from Da Nang, first take the coastal road Nguyen Tat Thanh until it ends. Then continue on Nguyan Luong Bang road until you reach the pass. Next the uphill climb starts.
Finally I recommend that you keep the following checklist in mind before you start your Hai Van pass trip:
- Fill up plenty of gasoline before hitting the pass. There aren’t many places to buy gasoline there.
- If you are visiting the pass during the wet season, you need to bring a rain coat and warm clothes.
- Check the breaks and tires. We missed a piece of metal that was stuck in one of the tires, and we got a flat tire halfway up the pass.
After the Hai Van tunnel opened in 2005, the traffic on the pass has been greatly reduced. Today you only encounter tour buses and some heavy trucks, which are not allowed to use the tunnel. This makes Hai Van pass ideal for exploring by motorbike.
In Vietnamese Hai Van means “ocean cloud”, which is a good description of what you will encounter. You will be spoiled with picturesque mountains wrapped in clouds and striking coastline views. Hence a great camera is required!
In addition, the pass is littered with remnants from the many wars that has plagued this region. Among other things you will see bunkers built by the French, the American and the Vietnamese armies. Today they no longer have any strategic value, but will be great props for your Instagram photos!
Finally, don’t miss the many smaller family run bars and restaurants on the way up. Many of them offers both cheap beverages and great views.
Where To Stay
There are not many places to stay on the pass itself, but there are plenty of options in Hue and Da Nang. For Da Nang, I recommend Titan Hotel, a 3 star hotel located close to both the beach and the city center. Titan Hotel is also where I stayed during my last trip to Da Nang.
In Hue I recommend Hue Serene Palace Hotel, a 3 star hotel that’s centrally located, clean and spacious. It has a good restaurant, smoke free rooms and located down a quiet alley.
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PS: If you are looking for other things to do in Da Nang Vietnam, check out my Da Nang article.
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