Overview of Hai Van Pass: Where Beauty and Majesty Converge
Nestled within the heart of Vietnam, Hai Van Pass stands as an awe-inspiring landscape along the north-south national highway. Resembling a magnificent dragon, it stretches across Highway 1, serving as the border between Thua Thien-Hue Province and Danang City. As the highest pass in Vietnam, reaching an elevation of 500 meters above sea level, this rugged pass marks the culmination of the Truong Son Range, extending its formidable presence from the mountainous terrain to the sparkling sea. The pass derives its poetic name “Hai Van,” meaning “Sea Clouds,” from the mist that envelops its peak while the foot of the mountain lies in proximity to the vast sea. In the past, Hai Van Pass was referred to as the Thuan Hoa and Quang Nam frontier.
Unveiling the History of Hai Van Pass: Tales of Ancient Boundaries
Dating back to the early 14th century, Hai Van Pass witnessed the exchange of engagement gifts between Che Man, a king from Cham Pa, and Princess Huyen Tran, daughter of King Tran Nhan Tong. These symbolic gifts consisted of the mountainous administrative units of O and Ri. Ever since, Hai Van Pass has served as the physical boundary separating Dai Viet and Cham Pa. Today, atop the pass, remnants of an ancient grand gate still stand, representing one of the border crossings between these two kingdoms. During the Vietnamese-American War, Hai Van Pass garnered the infamous nickname “Street Without Joy,” as it connected the war-ravaged cities of Hue and Danang.
Journey through Hai Van Pass: A Tale of Amazement, Fear, and Isolation
1. Amazement and Fear
Venturing through Hai Van Pass elicits two contrasting emotions: amazement and fear. The ascent through the pass is accompanied by breathtaking views as you traverse the clouds. However, the treacherous bends of the road can instill a sense of fear. After navigating numerous hairpin curves for nearly an hour, you will reach the crest of Hai Van Pass.
From this vantage point, weather permitting, you will be treated to panoramic views of both the North and the South. The pass serves as a clear demarcation between North and South Vietnam, evidenced by the fortifications constructed by the French, subsequently utilized by the South Vietnamese and the Americans. A stop at this juncture is a must, but be prepared to contend with a tenacious band of souvenir and snack sellers, who are perhaps the most assertive encountered throughout the entire journey.
2. Challenging Your Skills
Characterized by sudden curves and blind corners, Hai Van Pass assumes the persona of an alluring yet formidable maiden, challenging the skills of drivers. This pass is hailed as the largest frontier post in Vietnam, immortalized with the inscription “De Nhat Hung Quan” (the most colossal frontier post) on an incense burner at Thai Temple.
Journeying through this region, one encounters a landscape teeming with perilous obstacles, serving as the final spur of the Truong Son Range before cascading into the sea. Atop the pass, remnants of an old fortified gateway stand tall. The gate facing Thua Thien-Hue Province bears the inscription “Hai Van Quan,” while the gateway overlooking Quang Nam Province proclaims itself as “the most grandiose gateway in the world.” Time, war, and neglect have taken their toll on Hai Van Quan, leaving it in a state of near ruin. These ancient remnants serve as tangible testaments to the past, cloaked in green moss and evoking a flood of emotions amidst the surrounding expanse of plants and trees.
3. Sense of Isolation
The most captivating aspect of the journey lies in the sense of isolation that envelops you as you venture further along the pass. There is a peculiar allure in the desolate conditions, an unbroken asphalt road weaving through a forested mass. Below, the vibrant green of the trees contrasts with the crashing waves of the cerulean sea. This encapsulates the beauty of Hai Van Pass. While many extol the charm of the bustling Bao Loc mountain pass, where villages and people dot the landscape, Hai Van’s appeal lies in its connection to nature and its sparse population.
Along the mountain peak, a vast chasm stretches, adorned with a tapestry of light and dark green hues provided by the trees. Above, whimsical clouds dance across the sky. This tranquil setting serves as an ideal spot to savor a cup of coffee, while gazing upon the heavenly spectacle of Hai Van Pass and witnessing the graceful dance of the wind-swayed trees.
4. To the Peak
Hai Van Pass is renowned for its treacherous roads, punctuated by cautionary signs lining the sides. Upon reaching the summit, visitors are met with a surprising sight: a bustling hub of activity and modernity. Foreign visitors buzz around, engrossed in souvenir shopping. Those who fail to reach the peak would find it difficult to believe that such a lively and bustling scene exists, as foreign tourists ascend the rough staircase of the ancient vestige of Hai Van Quan to capture the perfect photo.
From Hai Van Pass, visitors are rewarded with sweeping vistas of Danang, the Tien Sa seaport, Son Tra Peninsula, Cu Lao Cham Island, and expansive sandy beaches. This journey satisfies the desire to conquer lofty peaks while awakening a deep appreciation for the glorious history of the Vietnamese people.
Choosing the Best Way to Traverse Hai Van Pass
For experienced motorbike riders, this journey promises an unparalleled adventure. However, it is crucial to exercise caution and ensure safety while navigating the sudden turns of the pass. Remember to ride with a group of friends for added security.
Alternatively, for those who prefer a different mode of transportation, a Jeep Tour presents a fantastic option. Traveling by jeep with friends offers a cost-effective alternative to renting a motorbike while allowing you to effortlessly enjoy the breathtaking views and capture photos. A Jeep Tour guarantees relaxation, laughter, and an opportunity to immerse oneself in the scenery along the way.
Spanning 21 kilometers across the Hai Van mountain pass, this may appear to be a challenging expedition, but the rewards and memories forged along the journey are undoubtedly worth it.