Driving from Hoi An to Hue via Hai Van Pass
To get from Hoi An to Hue we had initially wanted to take the train, but then decided renting a motorbike was in the end cheaper, easier and gave us a much better opportunity to actually see something on the way. It is also a bit more risky, because technically it’s illegal to drive a motorbike without a vietnamese drivers license. The Vietnamese don’t care though and rent you one anyways and I guess make a good amount of money with it, because we saw loads of other tourists on scooters.
The day before we had signed up for the bike at Motorvina and when the taxi dropped us off at the Hoi An Office we were immediately shown the 135ccm scooter we had booked. Read our review of Motorvina and why we chose them at the end of the article.
By now I had decided that I am only young once, no risk no fun, so after I told Tim once again to drive extra carefully we finally took off. And in the end I think it must have been one of the best decisions we took and probably was one of our best days in Vietnam. The weather was absolutely perfect - and we had a whole day to drive and explore the country.
The staff at Motorvina gave us a map that showed the best route (road out of town and along the beach, where there is less traffic) and the sights we could stop at on our way. We started getting out of town and in the direction of Da Nang, our first stop on the way being the “Marble Mountains”. We couldn't see an official parking space so we ended up parking in front of one of the stores selling marble statues and such, already knowing that they would try to pressure us into buying something, even though they of course told us that parking was free.
The Marble Mountains are a few connected hills that have caves with temples inside. We also hiked up to the top of one of the hills, where we had a great view of the surrounding area. But I think I never in my life dripped sweat like I did walking around the Marble Mountains. Both Tim and I were literally soaked in sweat, it was just so hot up there.
It felt good getting back on the scooter afterwards, because at least while driving the wind cooled us down a little bit.
The road took us through the outskirts of Da Nang, where we stopped to buy some water and take a few pictures, and then continued on in the direction of Hai Van Pass.
The road continue right along the beach for several miles until it started rising into the hills, up to the pass. And there we had all the scenic views we read about. We should have stopped more often to take more pictures, but in the end it just was so good to just drive and enjoy the landscape passing by.
There was only very little traffic on the road to Hai Van Pass. Most of it were other Motorvina Tourists, and every once in a while we’d see a tourist bus. But all in all, the road was easy to drive. We do recommend taking the stronger scooters though, because we saw some people riding slower ones and that looked a lot less fun.
When we got to Hai Van Pass, we didn't really stop there. There wasn’t all that much to see, and many many people there. So we decided to skip that. Down the other side we came to the slightly less fun part where we had to get onto Highway 1. Here there was a lot more traffic, but it was still okay to drive. But the trucks passing us were sometimes a bit scary - especially when honking and almost blowing our ears out.
Our next stop was “Elephant Springs”. While it was nice it also turned out to be another tourist trap (who would’ve guessed) - we paid the entrance fee for the springs, paid for parking our scooter, and once we got to the actual bathing area, they charged us again - just for a spot to sit. That was annoying, especially since the area wasn’t very well maintained and a whole lot of trash in the dams that formed the swimming areas.
After about an hour of swimming and resting at the springs we got back on the road. The rest of the bike ride itself wasn’t too exciting, it went mainly along Highway 1 until we got into Hue.
There we dropped of our scooter at the Motorvina office and they gave us our bags. Then they offered to take us to our hotel for free, which was also really nice. In the evening we walked around town for a bit and had some dinner as we had completely forgotten to eat anything at all during our day on the road.
We had decided to go with Motorvina for the one way rental, as we had read a few blog posts and reviews that sounded like they had fair prices and good service. So we went along with it and booked a 135ccm scooter for 640000 VND (approximately 23,5€) - that included helmets, of course, and the transportation of our big travel backpacks to Hue, so we wouldn’t have to bring those ourselves. That way Tim and I could use one bike, because I didn't really want to drive in Vietnam traffic.
The bike was in good working order and we didn't have any trouble with it at all. What I didn’t like all that much where the helmets. While all the helmets were at least ¾ Helmets (which they hadn’t been for the bike we had rented the day before), some of them were really beat up, and all of them were huge! I guess we came a little late for the good ones. Tim got one that still looked pretty new, but mine looked like it had already been dropped quite a few times, and it was way too big for me - but they only had one size. I always have a hard time with that because somehow my head is really really small, but I would have expected to have at some options.
Additionally to the helmets we could also have rented more safety gear, from gloves to knee and elbow pads or even safety harnesses. Since we didn't I don't know what shape those things would have been in.
The staff at Motorvina was super-friendly and spoke english very well. Before we left they gave us a map showing the route to take, some advice on traffic, what sights we could stop at on the way, where gas stations were located and how much gas we should get at each gas station to reach our next destination comfortably. We ended up needing less, but it was good to at least have an idea of how much we'd need.
When arriving in Hue everything was very uncomplicated once again. The staff was friendly there too. Our bags had a tag with the license plate of our rental scooter, so they dug them out of the pile of bags upon our arrival. Then they offered to take us to our hotel, which was also really nice and also an "on-top" service that we hadn't booked or paid for.
If we ever do the same thing, we'd go with Motorvina again, the overall service were very good.