After a cool morning and a rainy and windy ride, the last 20 km leading to Phong Bha-Ke Bang National Park in a now dry weather, were a welcome change to the wet and busy main roads, which I took to avoid riding in the rain all day.
My gear is not exactly “touring quality” but a flimsy rain poncho flying in the wind! Well, it kept me reasonably dry at places at least(?!) This is likely to be the coolest day this week at the region.
I am staying at Phong Nha Coco House, which is a cozy homestay by the river Song Con. So much nicer than the hotel complex yesterday!
Phong Bha-Ke Bang National Park is an Unesco world heritage site and a popular destination for the western backpackers. While towns along the main roads are dirty and busy, this is again a very tranquil and also a very clean place.
Karst mountains are typical for Vietnam and they rise from otherwise flat sea or rice fields and have a lot of caves for tourists, carved by water!
Back on the Road – West or South?
I had planned to stay at Coco Home for at least two nights but as this is a homestay and the family was having a day off tomorrow, I had to change plans. The weather was also turning cooler with rain and it was likely to continue such for the next days.
The rain had already wreaked havoc in the mid-western parts of the country and I decided to take a road that leaves my options open – either to go to the western regions or to continue further south and eventually, to the beach for some R&R.
After a few hours riding in the rain, my poncho-cape had done all it could and it was clear that I needed some dryer and warmer climate – So, south it is!
Somewhere before Hue, I met some fellow Harley riders on the road, lifting my spirits. Hanoi Chapter was riding to Ho Chi Minh and back. Looking from my 150cc Winner, their bikes looked just magnificent, even majestic.
It turned out a long day in the rain and eventually reaching Hue, the rain stopped. Hue was again something different. An old town, former capital 1802 to 1945. It looked to me that the city was surrounded by walls as rode in the city through big gates. A large citadel with a moat and walls was in the center of Hue.
I now took a very small road towards Da Nang on the islands furthest in the sea.
Hai Van Pas
Eventually I got to one of the awaited highlights, Hai Van Pas of Top Gear fame. A great ride with mountain and ocean views leading to Da Nang, where I decided to stay overnight.
It had already been a long and exhausting day and my bike’s oil change was due. Conveniently, Da Nang also had the official Honda service.
Da Nang turned out to be good fun and after a day on just coffee, I had the perhaps fattiest soup I have ever had. With beer, it brought a smile on my face!
I was at the Honda service at 7am and out 7.15. Oil change, general check-ups and tightening the chain did not take long – very efficient!
APEC conference is about to start now and police convoys are everywhere. Still it was easy enough to cruise in the sunshine for the 30 km to my new hotel, another homestay, The Sand Dune, just two minutes from the beach. Now, I will stay put for a few days, get a good massage and relax all the aches away.
Time for some Tourist Action on a day (mainly) off the bike. Marble Mountain is near Da Nang and one of the assigned tourist attractions in the area. The hill has some Buddha statues, Thai Padoga and temples and statues. And many very active vendors of marble souvenirs.
Good exercise to climb up to Heaven’s gate i.e. top of the mountain for good views of the area.
Hoi An Old Town
Hoi An old town is spectacular and another UNESCO World Heritage Site. It has survived bombings during the war and has some distinct Japanese, Chinese, French influences. Besides a busy town, it is like a living museum with walking districts and a regional entry ticket.
No riding today due to the tropical storm locally and typhoon Damrey to the south. But my worries are small, there a people in real danger just a little more south from here. I am at the An Bang Beach area of Hoi An, some 30km south of Da Nang. The storm has been bounding all night and the rain remains heavy all morning. beaches are cleared of any loose items and people are bracing themselves for the storm, although in this area we do get off lightly compared to some distance south.
Video footage From local news, click here