The Long And Winding Road

This morning we reluctantly headed out of Hoi An in the direction of Hue. It’s only around a three or four hour drive, which is nothing compared to our usual journeys, but we tend to travel large distances at night so can’t really appreciate the route itself. First stop was the ‘Marble mountains’: five marble and limestone hills, named after the five elements, near Da Nang city. Each mountain has cave entrances concealing numerous Buddhist and Hindu grottoes and tunnels winding through the marble.

At Thuy Son (representing water) you can climb up an obscene number of steps to visit some of these magical caves. Furthermore one of them leads you out through a minute tunnel up a treacherous, slippery ‘path’ right to the very peak of the mountain. Definitely not for anyone impractically dressed; the marble stones that you have to clamber over on your hands and knees are pretty much as difficult to grip onto as an elusive eel having a fit.

View from the top of Thuy Son.

Carrying on along National Road 1A from Da Nang, you reach Hải Vân Pass (translates as ‘ocean cloud’). It’s an incredibly twisty 21km long mountain highway that traverses one of the highest peaks in Vietnam, providing you with beautiful panoramic views at the summit. It’s like the Vietnamese equivalent of South African Chapman’s Peak or Californian Highway 1. The pass was of enormous importance in Vietnamese history as it lies on the ‘16th parallel’ previously dividing the Chinese and British controlled zones during the second world war and then later separating the communist north from the south. We were rather distracted from the historical value, however, by an incredibly cute, fluffy puppy!

At the peak there’s a miniature little village where locals have gathered to sell crafts and refreshments to passing motorists. I rather liked this scene of the family of chickens running into one of the houses.

Sandra with the irresistible little pup.

Sandra with the irresistible little pup.

You can see off one side of the peak an incredibly long, open stretch of white beach. It’s pretty much the first place you see on coming down from the mountain. This is ‘Lang Co’ – entirely deserted except for an assorted collection of traditional fishing boats. The perfect place for a dip in the warm South China Sea.

Imagine how beautiful the train journey would be! Either that or incredibly perilous…

There was an array of incredibly odd things washed up on the tide line including box, puffer fish and this little guy (can’t identify him – perhaps some sort of juvenile snapper?). I also found numerous chillies, lemon grass and limes which I found quite amusing – the trademarks of South East Asian cuisine washed up with the tide.

Lang Co beach

I’m now settled into Hue for the moment – more on this little city tomorrow!

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