Friday, April 1, 2016

Ocean Cloud Pass

Yesterday we changed locations from Hue to Hoi An. Everything we read, recommended taking a car for the beautiful seaside ride over the geographical divide of Vietnam, with vista’s second only to California’s 1 Hwy along the coast.

Our driver for the day was Vu, an excellent English speaking driver and guide. Vu is 28 years old and a IT graduate from the University in Ho Chi Min. He can make twice the amount of money driving tourists back and forth between Hue and Hoi An than with a company job in Tech.

 It is about a 3-hour drive, door to door, with the bulk of the drive spent creeping around the switchback road upwards toward the Pass.
Soon after leaving Hue, there were vast farmlands stretching out in all directions. In the distance, a line of mountains appears, which mark the geographic divide between North and South Vietnam. These mountains are now a National Park, Bach Ma. To our right, we followed the flat Tam Giang lagoon, marked with fish hatcheries staked out with bamboo sticks, boats and large nets draped over the water. Further on, to our left was the famous Lang Co Beach.

Turning off the main road onto the old road (VN1-there are 2 main Hwys in Vietnam – VN1 and Ho Chi Min Trail) we started our ascent to Hai Van Pass or the Ocean Cloud Pass. It’s an old rickety road. Vu tells us the trip from Hue to Hoi An used to take 5-8 hours, because of all the trucks and industrial traffic. If there was a wreck, forget about it! Gorgeous views of secluded beaches abounded. Along the road were a plethora of goats, walking along the concrete guard rails. Vu explained that the goats and cows (yes, later we passed the cows) belonged to the Vietnamese Army. He didn’t know why, just that they did and they stayed on the mountain.
The summit was the typical tourist scene. There is an abandoned military bunker there (thanks America!) to explore. On the top on a small round bunker, stood a bridge and groom, as if they were the topper for a cake. We exited the car and heard the familiar whine of a drone. The drone was taking marriage videos of the happy. Weddings are a big business and a big deal here. Every day we see 2-3 taking place. Even Vu was impressed with the drone. “Must be rich!”

At the foot of the pass, is Da Nang and the famous China Beach from the war era. We stop for Pho and treat Vu to lunch. In the back of the very clean, local restaurant, is a poster with Sadam Hussain. Wha? Vu translates that the poster is a joke, it says, “I will come for your Pho!” A play on the soup nazi from Seinfeld I suppose.
Further south still, we reach the outskirts of Hoi An. The cleanest Vietnamese city we have seen, thus far. The beach along Da Nang was very clean also, but who knows what the city was like. Hoi An is a very old trading city slightly inland from the beach on the canals of the Thu Bon River. Famous for it’s laterns, tonight we explore!

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