Vietnam is full of hidden gems and stunning landscapes, but one of the places I was most excited to see was Hai Van Pass. I first heard about this place when I was watching Top Gear with my family once, and it has been on my bucket list ever since. This unbelievable place is a 21km stretch of road that winds along the Vietnamese coastline. I always hoped that when I got to see this place in person, I would be riding along the coastline myself.
As it turns out, riding scooters just is not my strong suit (to be fair, I was very much in my own head and freaked myself out…but still). Instead of riding the road myself, I doubled on the back of the scooter my partner and I hired for our time in Vietnam. We rode the pass from Da Nang to Hue, a quiet district that abuts the South China Sea to the east and the pass to the south. The whole ride took us around three or four hours because we stopped at a few little spots like a cafe that juts out of the cliff off the pass, and some other little spots to get some GoPro footage.
I could spend literally hours writing about this phenomenal spot in Vietnam, but I will try to keep it as short and sweet as possible and save the best for you to discover for yourself. To start with, the pass looks amazing on television but any footage you have seen does not even begin to compare to actually seeing it for yourself. You have to see it for yourself sometime. You will not regret it; in fact, you are likely to never forget it.
If you get motion sickness, then you should either take motion sickness pills or just sit this one out. I am serious. When I say this is the windiest road I have ever been on, I mean it. For emphasis, the panorama below this section is not altered, and most of the twists and turns on the pass really are that tight. If I had to deal with motion sickness, I would have honestly bitten the bullet and taken the motion sickness pills because this place is straight-up magic and I would have hated to miss out on seeing it.
In fact, I love it so much I want to go back with my partner (again) and my parents and little brother. My dad has always wanted to go as well, and I would love to experience Hai Van Pass on a super clear day with everyone that I love. Speaking of a super clear day…when my partner and I went it was, for the most part, a clear day. It was a little overcast at points, with spitting rain for short bursts, but it was still incredible. Despite rain and clouds casting shadows over the pass at tiny sections of the pass, the views were so clear and lovely to witness.
Hai Van Pass encapsulates lush green mountains of emerald and lime green, views of a coastline that is so blue and picturesque it seems impossible, a bright blue sky, and a road that winds through the mountains at angles so crazy it feels like you are on a roller coaster of epic proportions. The road weaves through the mountains, rewarding you with the most beautiful views over the South China Sea. What I love about Hai Van Pass is that they really haven’t cut through the mountains at all, damaging the natural wonder of the place, but instead have forged their path around the mountains, twisting and turning with them naturally, embracing and emphasizing the natural beauty of the area instead of carving through it.
As I mentioned, the whole ride took us took practically a whole afternoon because we stopped along the way at multiple points, something that I highly recommend doing. Along several parts of the pass, the little cafes that stand along among the landscape off the side of the pass have cows and mountain goats near them that seem to wander freely (hopefully). You can talk to the locals as you eat, or wander around and get photos of the viewpoints as you go. The locals are honestly some of the kindest, most welcoming people I have ever met in my life.
About halfway to Hue, there is a section that speeds through the only part of the pass that remotely resembles a small town. There are old ruins and some little shops, where little puppies roam around and the vendors have drinks, snacks, and homemade souvenirs for you to buy if you want to. This is a fantastic vantage point for photos, as you can take a photo from above the next incline of the pass that captures the emerald mountainside, the winding road, and the perfect blue ocean in the distance.
If you are a lover of natural wonder, great trails to ride or drive, or just fantastic places in general, then Hai Van Pass must be on your bucket list. It will leave you in awe, it will leave you smiling from ear to ear, and it will inspire you. You will never forget the sweeping magic of the pass.