Realizing that I have so much time to explore Central Vietnam with my lack thereof planning, I had many options of where to go next after Hue. The next logical location would be Hoi An and then Da Nang where I would fly out, but that leaves copious time to explore both cities. Viable day trips from Hue would be to back track up North to Phong Nha National Park which houses many of the world’s largest caves. Fearing that the cave excursions would be overly touristy, I was hesitant to migrate back up and then down south again. Another option would be to do a day trek south of Hue at Bach Ma National Park. A friend had suggested against it since there is no shade for the trek so I’d be baked in the sun. Fearful of heat and allergic to the sun, the idea of having my skin suffering under the scorching sun sounded treacherous.
Last minute, I decided to hire a guide to drive me from Hue to Hoi An via motorbike. The next day’s weather was too beautiful to waste in a cave and too sunny to trek without shade. Many travelers have mentioned about the Hai Van pass between Hue and Da Nang that is a must-see. Many people opt for the train option between the two locations instead of the bus (a cheaper option) so you can enjoy the beautiful views of the Hai Van pass. The even more scenic option is to hire an easy rider, a popular solution to travel via a motorbiker as a passenger, and have the guide drive up to the top of the Hai Van pass. Without much thought or shopping around, I committed to a day journey through Motorvina, which I had just heard about briefly from my hostelmate.
A bit nervous the next morning since I wasn’t sure what I signed up for, haha. All the anxiety disappeared after my friend guide came to pick me up. We went to the office to drop off my luggage, which is simultaneously being transported in bulk with other luggages via van. My guide has over 10 years of experience driving these roads and taking people on tours. He actually admitted that he’s bored of seeing these sites every day. I cannot believe he has to make his return trip the same evening back to Hue and repeat the next day for the new tour. He rarely takes any days off and only gets a fraction of the tour price as his pay.
My favorite part of the motorbike journey was the beginning part. I really enjoyed the countryside drive through. With the blue sky and shining sun, the scenery of the countryside was tranquil and serene; I knew I made the right decision to do this tour on this day since the weather forecast indicated rain for the following days. You see the farmers in the field with the water buffaloes and some working at the rice paddies. The water was calm and beautiful reflections of the farmers mirrored in the water along with the blue sky. It was peaceful; I didn’t want to ruin the moment with an abrupt stop of me trying to capture the a photo so we just drove on.
We drove by the fishing village and many ancestral tombs. They’re really grand, much more fancy in comparison to Chinese tombs. The first leg was all about the countryside, lagoons, and fishing village. I was so excited to see what else was installed, but that was as exciting as it gets. The rest were straight up tourist attractions.
Our first stop was to Elephant Springs. I have heard about it through other travelers and I was looking forward to it as online also mentioned that this as a good spot to visit. They also said that it may be closing down for other development to take place here. It was disappointing when I arrived; it seems like it’s just an area where people hangout in huts and take a dip in the water. It’s pretty touristy. You see backpackers jumping in the water and locals secured in life jackets. I took some photos here and there and that is about it. I went to use the “toilet” here which is just a stall with this mud structure that you should release in and the soil will absorb the urine. I wonder what happens if someone has to poop.
We stopped at a local joint that other easy riders would stop to have lunch with their tourist. There were not too many options at the restaurant so I had the classic bun bo hue. I kind of wish to try something different when I am with a local, but this was what he recommended. The bun bo hue was good so no complaints. After lunch we headed towards the Hai Van pass drive. This was the really hyped up pass between Hue and Da Nang people talked about. I was convinced to hire a guide to go to the top via motorbike because it was said to be so stunning. Overall, the Hai Van pass was a short drive. The coastline was nice, but nothing too spectacular and is definitely not a must-see. Maybe I am spoiled by New Zealand’s stunning coastline? At the stopping point on the top was an old fort that was also the stopping point for tour buses. It is a very touristy area with souvenir shops and hoards of local tourists. I am glad to have seen this on a nice day or else I’d assume the weather had ruined the beauty once again, but no, this time the scenery really isn’t that impressive.
Passing through Da Nang, I also had the guide bring me to Marble Mountain since it was along the way to Hoi An. I am glad I have made a pit stop here, because I would have been so disappointed to have booked a separate tour for it otherwise. Marble Mountain is even more touristy with tour buses filled with Chinese and Korean tourists. Looking up at the heaps of stairs in the blazing heat, I opted for the cave in the mountain instead since I was afraid I would be disappointed by the time I reach the top of the steps. I’m not sure if I fully understood the concept of the cave. There were neon lights with Buddhist statues around the cave. The lights really threw me off. It looked like some overly commercialized Buddhist place of worship. Also, I was heavily hustled at the marble souvenir shop that the guide dropped me off at for free parking. The visit fell short and I am glad I checked it out now and will not be paying for another visit.
Atlas, we arrived at the Motorvina office in Hoi An. One of their other staff was nice enough to transport my luggage and myself to my homestay. The motorbike tour was fun, but it was very exhausting towards the end. I guess I can’t complain since I wasn’t doing the driving, but I think I fell asleep for a few seconds when we were nearing Hoi An. I felt myself jerk a little bit so I assumed I have snoozled away for a bit – oops. It was hard not to because the wind was strong and blowing at my face. I kept my eyes closed and was tired from the ride of over 6 hours from Hue. Overall, I enjoyed the tour and the company of the guide, but some of the attractions were not the most impressive since they are highly touristic destinations.