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Published: February 18th 2008
Hải Vân pass
I am standing at the summit of Hải Vân pass (altitude 1,500m). In the background, you can see Highway No. 1 along the pass.
The first image in this blog is a photo of me when standing at the summit of Hải Vân Pass (altitude 1,500m) in central Vietnam. This pass is located between Huế and Đà Nẵng, and to get there we have to climb up and down by car through many hair-pin curves.
Hải Vân means "Ocean Clouds" in English, which is most apt since the peak of the mountain reaches toward the clouds, while its foot extends to the East Sea. In my opinion, the drive along this pass is the most scenic in Vietnam. We could view both mountains and sea, as well as both directions North and South in Vietnam.
Some years ago, the Hải Vân pass was the only road connecting northern and southern Vietnam, until a day when a strong land collapse happened on the pass. It was caused by a typhoon that hit the central Vietnam. The whole transport system in the region was suspended for a day or two. As a result, a temporary bridge was installed on the pass. At that time it was really difficult for the heavy trucks to travel on the route. Seeing how important an alternative route was, the
Old French fort
Old French fort at the summit of Hải Vân pass.
Vietnamese Government decided to build the Hồ Chí Minh highway (using State budget) and the Hải Vân pass tunnel (using Japanese ODA loan). After a few years of construction, the Hải Vân pass tunnel was open for traffic and it saved a lot of time for traveling between Huế and Đà Nẵng. Built 1,172m above sea level, the 12km tunnel is one of the 30 largest and most modern tunnels in the world. Now it takes only 10 minutes to travel from north to south of Hải Vân pass, using this tunnel.
There are 3 ways to travel between Huế and Đà Nẵng. First, by tourist bus or by local bus. This is the cheapest and fastest means of transport, however these buses go through the newly built tunnel to save time. You will miss the chance to enjoy a great view of the Hải Vân pass, because you cannot get into the summit of the pass.
The second way is you go by train. Many times people asked me "Which is the best train ride in Vietnam". My answer is "The section between Huế and Đà Nẵng through Hải Vân pass." You will enjoy the amazing scenery,
Highway No. 1
The highway goes along the pass.
however the train also cannot reach the summit of the pass. When entering the pass area, the train travels at low speed up the gradients, with an assisting locomotive at the rear, and goes through some dark tunnels (short tunnels).
The last option is to hire a car. After the new tunnel was open for buses and trucks, the highway No. 1 which passes through Hải Vân pass became the route that mainly serves for the tourists. It costs about US$50 if you rent a car from Huế to Hội An through the pass. Not only a great view of the mountains and sea you will enjoy when climbing up and down the pass, but you will also be more flexible, as you can stop anywhere on the road for photos. At the summit of the pass, there is an old fort built by the French.
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