I can’t quite believe it’s been 2 and a half months since I arrived in Vietnam. It feels like longer because a lot seems to have happened in that short space of time.
We’ve travelled down from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City where we are are currently living and working, so there are plenty of things I have still to write about my time here. Here’s one of the highlights!
After visiting Ha Long Bay we took a very uncomfortable sleeper bus down to Hue (I still can’t get over how much better India’s sleeper buses are compared to Vietnam’s). We were focusing primarily on doing a motorbike tour from there down to Hoi An via the Hai Van Pass.
The tour we chose was another recommendation from a friend we met on the road and we can’t thank him enough because it was truly one of the best things we’ve done this entire trip. Ok things didn’t run as smoothly as they were supposed to – Adam managed to get through 3 bikes, but really that just added to the adventure!
The company recommended by our friend was Le Family Riders, and a quick look at their reviews tells you they are one of the best to go with. We booked very last minute and were expecting a group of us on the tour but to our surprise, Adam and I were the only ones so we got a private tour at no extra cost!
Adam chose an automatic scooter and I, fearing any type of motorcycle since crashing one head first into a muddy ditch in India 6 years ago, went on the back of our guide, Ken’s. Having lived in Ho Chi Minh City for a bit now I have warmed to them. Lack of public transport means you don’t really have a choice!
~ Leaving Hue
Hue to Hoi An
Ken met us as our hostel in Hue at 9am and geared us all up for the road, elbow pads and all. His mum and sister took our backpacks down separately as they (or mine at least) were a little too big to fit on the back of the bikes.
We left Hue passing through quaint residential areas with open rice paddy fields as people’s back gardens. We didn’t manage to get very far along the main road leaving Hue when Adam’s first bike failed (and so began the curse with bikes ever since!). As everyone has a bike in Vietnam there are luckily mechanics lining the roadside. We pulled over at one and they tried to work their magic but unfortunately couldn’t do much to get this one running properly.
~ Giving their best shot a fixing the bike
Our first scheduled stop was Elephant Springs; a gorgeous natural spring with refreshing crystal clear waters and waterfalls to splash about under. Adam was asked to make do with the bike that wouldn’t accelerate properly until we reached one of Ken’s mates there. It was pretty hilarious watching as he tried to keep up with us.
~ Elephant Springs
Ken’s mate took the bike from us and we made our way up to the springs. We had to stick around a bit longer than planned here to wait for Ken’s dad to come and meet us with a new bike. We weren’t complaining.
~ On top of the elephant rock
This also meant we didn’t have time to stop for a seafood lunch at a fishing village. Not being a seafood eater, this suited me fine and Adam was happy to stick around here longer. We got to chat and have a traditional Vietnamese meal with Ken and his dad at the springs instead.
~ Our guide, Ken, and his dad
After the much needed cool down at the springs, we eventually got back onto the bikes. Adam now supplied with his new one, we headed for the spectacular Hai Van Pass, a 21km stretch of road over a mountain on National Road 1A. It means ‘ocean cloud pass’ in Vietnamase and has been made even more famous by “top gear top gear” as Ken kept excitedly repeating.
We stopped at the top to check out the crazy view.
~ A couple I assume were newly weds, not just on a photoshoot!
From here it was a speedy journey down the other side of the pass towards Da Nang, central Vietnam’s largest city. I can only speak for the experience being a passenger on the back but Adam tells me this was the most exhilarating part of the drive.
It was coming into Da Nang that Adam noticed another problem with the second bike. The acceleration was behaving erratically, which wasn’t ideal coming into a busy city! Because Le Family Riders do tours going in the opposite direction from Hoi An to Hue, Ken’s cousin was able to meet us with a THIRD bike. All we had to do was spend a little extra time at the weird and wonderful Marble Mountain.
~ The deserted steps
This place is a cluster of limestone and marble hills with caves, tunnel, temples and pagodas. Due to the bike incidents we were running behind schedule so we just missed catching the lift up the mountain. It closed at 5pm and we must have arrived at 5.03pm, so a hike up about 100 steps it was. Arriving at the top in a sweaty mess I have to say it was worth it and we probably needed the exercise anyway!
After exploring the pagodas and caves, it was only a short ride to gorgeous Hoi An where we ended the tour and were reunited with our bags outside our hostel.
The tour cost 58$ each and included drinks, lunch, bike costs, helmet, guide, entrance fees and bag transfer. At first it felt like a bit of a splurge for us being on a budget but just 10 minutes into the tour we knew it was money well spent. We felt 100% safe the whole time and were able to see things we might not have been able to, or might not have even known about if we had done it ourselves. An all round amazing experience.
~ The view from Marble Mountain in Da Nang