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