Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Danang 峴港 Đà Nẵng

Railway track along Danang coast
Danang 峴港 - a whole strip of coast being developed into a super-size resort for rich foreigners, including the most famous visitors, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in Nam Hai resort. The walk up Marble Mountain wasn't easy and some of the caves were worth seeing. But the most memorable was the car journey along the Hai Van Pass, whose natural beauty rival some of the other coastlines we mentioned before, Big Sur in California and New Zealand.

Danang was not even on their itinerary as it was famous for its beaches and resorts. In their Vietnam travel plan, it just said Hue to Hoi An. The journey could be covered by a number of ways: -

Open Tour Bus - Perhaps the cheapest form of transport between cities. The word "Open" doesn't refer to the architecture of the buses, which are normal tour buses, instead it refers to the nature of the ticket allowing passengers to get on and off at stops they so desired. After they heard the experience of an Australian mother and daughter on one of these buses, they would advise against taking such buses.

Internal flights - Despite being efficient and good value, internal flights between Hue and Danang should not be chosen. When you add journeys to and from both airports and waiting time for check-in and luggages, it becomes a bad trade.

Trains - They were planning to take the train. This particular stretch of railway tracks is supposedly the prettiest stretch of the Reunification Express. It is a day train and reasonably short ride.

Motorbikes - For US$45, you can enjoy the breathtaking natural scenery along the well-paved road from Hue to Danang. You can stop at any spot along the way, take a deep breath and enjoy the view, then jump back on and carry on your journey. The only catch is you need to carry your luggages on your back. No matter how light you travel, it would be a tall order carrying the load for more than 3 hours. Also the motorbike will only carry one passenger. You can do the maths for more people traveling.

Private Car Tour - For US$70, they were picked up from their hotel with luggages loaded into the trunk. The car drove from Hue to Danang through the Hai Van Pass, made a few scheduled and unscheduled stops. Then they continue the journey in the same car to the hotel in Hoi An. Great, especially when you could see the outside temperature topping 40C, while you sat in total comfort of an  air-con car. No need to worry about lugging your backpacks. This has obvious advantages over taking the train. You can stop at scenic spots along the way. You don't need to carry your luggages on and off the carriages and then taking the taxis to and from the train stations. You don't need to follow a strict timetable. But if you read Tripadvisor, the de-facto online forum for Vietnamese travel, you don't see this mode of transport high on the list. Instead you see countless glowing references on traveling by motorbikes, especially Easyrider!!

So you must be thinking, what so special with the car journey from Hue to Danang that they keep raving about. It is the Hai Van Pass, pure and simple. You can read all about it in the wikipedia link attached. Suffice to say, the journey through this mountain pass was perhaps the most memorable 90 minute stretch of the whole Vietnam trip. Taking a private car is highly recommended. Check out some of the photos they took en route.

Hai Van Pass - not quite deserted but almost perfection alright

Panoramic view of Lang Co Beach from Hai Van Pass

At the end of Hai Van Pass near Danang

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