Day 54:  Monday 27 February: Hue to just north of Da Nang:  112km and 650m of climbing

Any cycling day where the main 500m climb starts after 85km is suggestive of bad planning – but that was how the cookie crumbled for us today.  The alternative would have been a 12km tunnel (where bikes were prohibited) and that was not a pleasant prospect.  And it was raining for most of the day – our first day of rain in the entire trip.  At least that meant that the raingear was used properly for the first time, and so Bernie did not feel she had carried it for nothing.

We breakfasted at the hotel (good omlettes but dodgy coffee) and so felt full when we left about 8am.  The rain was a misty drizzle rather than full on pelting down, but enough to make the roads wet and slippery.  The road was flat, took us out via suburbs and was mostly tarmac – even if it lost it in places. We then went along a long peninsular for about 40km, to the South East of Hue.  There is a substantial lagoon called Dam Cau Hai, which extends for 70km and is the largest lagoon system in South East Asia.    It is 22,000 hectares (54,000 acres in old money) but only has a depth of between 1m and 3m (and only a maximum depth of 11m at it mouth).  

The peninsular runs between the sea and the lagoon, so we had the sea on our left and the lagoon on our right for 40km – but the area is sufficiently built up that we could not see either for most of the time.  

Wet and slippery roads

From the outskirts of Hue and long the peninsula there were very large numbers of tombs by the roadside. Many were very elaborate in the style of the Imperial palace we saw yesterday (although on a much smaller scale). I could not find any explanation for these or why there were so many.

At the southern end of the lagoon the hills came down to meet the water with the road winding along by the water.   Although still misty and raining it was very picturesque.

Then we were back on our “friend” the QL1 and even had a 400m tunnel to navigate.  We ignored a sign which said no bikes because (a) we had good lights, (b) there was no alternative route and (c) there was no one around to enforce the “no bikes” rule.  In true Blue Peter style we should say that, for anyone doing this at home, that is not an example we encourage you to follow.  It was only a short tunnel but the noise from trucks was deafening.

After only a few km we turned off the QL1 and were back on very quiet roads. We passed a series of derelict and half completed buildings on our left – i.e between the road and the sea.  This area must have been designated for high quality tourism development and had wide roads, but it has not worked out.  We passed a deserted and derelict “Movenpick” Resort which had clearly been developed in the last few years and abandoned – possibly a victim of the pandemic.  I later googled this and came across a website that is still trying to sell the units as part of a thriving resort – it was described as one of the most beautiful bays in the world, and had photos giving the impression holiday makers were there now.  Someone (probably a group of investors) will have invested millions into the project and lost everything.  

The town of Lang Co seemed to be doing better but by now the rain was coming down in stair-rods and even the large group of Chinese being decanted from their bus to the seafront hotel must have had second thoughts as to whether they were making the right holiday choices.

At the foot of the climb

We plodded on and started the climb the 500m ascent over 10km to the Hai Van Pass at about 2.15pm,one of the most well known cycle climbs in Vietnam.  My sister, Kate, later sent me a photo of her doing this climb in the summer and saying how hot it was.  Our pictures are of swirling clouds and rain soaked jungle.  But it was a lovely climb – the surface was pretty good, the traffic low and the gradient of between 5% and 10% all the way meant we gained height quickly without it being too steep.  There were some magnificent views down to sea, but it was tough doing this so late in the day.

We reckon to climb about 250m per hour, and it was about 4.15pm when we got to the top.  There were a series of cafes and gift shops at the top and the women who ran them got all excited when we turned up because surely we needed a break, and so would given them some custom.  However, this part of Vietnam is very far East and, because there is a common time zone across South East Asia, the sun sets here very early.  It is dark by 6pm and so we put on extra layers and began the glorious descent.  My sister later messaged to encourage us to look out for the massive Buddha during the descent.  Neither of us saw that but we did enjoy swinging the trikes at speed around the corners (not too much speed) and learning into the curve to keep the 3 wheels stable.  2 hours up but 20 minutes was all it took to descend 500m down to the coast.  Probably our best descent ever on the trikes – good surface, not too steep and great views.

Our view from near the top
What the climb looks like in summer!

We noted that it was dry on this side of the mountain – indeed this part of the coast is supposed to be the dividing line between the part of Vietnam that has 4 seasons and the part that has just 2 – a wet and dry season.  Nothing is that fixed but we could feel a difference in the weather.

Then a last few km to a hotel arriviiiiing about 4.30 after what felt like a long day. It had a manager who spoke excellent English, and we got a room for 200,000 dong for the night – about £7.  We followed the locals to an outdoor (but covered) cafe for a lovely supper of egg fried rice and stir fried seafood with noodles, and then collapsed.  

This was the longest distance we have covered so far this trip, and it felt like it, but it was the mega climb up to the Hai Van Pass at the end of the day that will live long in the memory.

4 thoughts on “Day 54:  Monday 27 February: Hue to just north of Da Nang:  112km and 650m of climbing

  1. I am having fun traveling with you. I didn’t know there was bad dodgy coffee in Vietnam. We had great coffee on our visit. My daughter lived and worked in Hanoi for a year and raved about the coffee. I guess she always had street coffee and didn’t frequent hotel coffee. Maybe that is the difference. Love love your experiences. Thanks.

  2. Phew! Made me feel tired just reading about it! Well done yet again. Two tough cookies! Hope the weather improves tomorrow and fewer uphills. Good luck!

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