Hai Van Pass to Ho Chi Minh City: Exploring Vietnam Again

In January 2023, I found myself irresistibly drawn back to Vietnam, eagerly anticipating yet another unforgettable cycling adventure. Touching down in the lively city of Da Nang, I brought my bicycle along on a Vietjet flight from India. In November 2022, my initial plan for a cycling journey from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City was cut short due to torrential rains and the expiration of my month-long visa, leading me to conclude the ride in Ha Tinh. This post chronicles the exhilarating journey I undertook, pedaling from Danang to the vibrant Ho Chi Minh City.

Along this captivating route, I indulged in unforgettable detours to the ancient imperial city of Huế, triumphantly conquering the iconic Hai Van Pass, exploring the enchanting town of Hoi An, as well as the popular coastal destination of Nha Trang, and Dalat nestled in the Central Highlands. Prepare to be enthralled as I share my experiences and photographs captured while cycling past charming fishing villages, bustling towns, and lush rice fields, all while connecting with the authentic essence of Vietnamese life.


#1: January 30 – Danang – crossing the bridges

On my first day, after setting up my cycle, I set out to ride across all four bridges spanning the majestic Han River in Danang. The Tan Phuc Bridge, at 1850 meters long, holds the title of the longest suspension bridge in Vietnam. The Han River Bridge is a cable-stayed swing bridge that, at night, swings on its axis to allow shipping traffic to pass along the river. In contrast, the Tan Thi Le Bridge stands as a testament to modernity, replacing the six decades old bridge constructed during the era of French Indochina.

However, the most famous bridge is the Dragon Bridge, spanning 666 meters with six lanes for vehicular traffic. It is an iconic landmark of Danang. Every Saturday and Sunday at 9 pm, the Dragon Bridge comes to life, breathing fire and water in a spectacular display.

Distance 21.80 km
Elev Gain 89 m
Time 1:46:58
Stay: Happy Day Hotel, Danang
Route: https://www.strava.com/activities/8475117317


#2: January 31 – Danang to Hue via Hai Van Pass

Cycling the Hai Van Pass was on my bucket list, especially since I had previously traversed it by motorcycle during my visit to Vietnam in 2020. The pass gained attention from travelers and motorcycle enthusiasts worldwide after being featured on the British motoring show “Top Gear” aired in 2008.

“Hai Van,” meaning Ocean Cloud Pass, is situated on the border of Thua Thien-Hue Province and Da Nang City. It traverses the Annamite Range, dividing northern and southern Vietnam. Historically, it served as a boundary between the Champa and Dai Viet kingdoms, and later between French and Nguyen Dynasty territories. The pass offers breathtaking vistas of the South China Sea, coastal plains, and lush green mountains.

Starting from my hotel in Da Nang and heading towards the historical city of Hue, the first section along the sea was flat for 25 km. The next 10 km involved cycling up the pass with a steep elevation gain of 500 meters and a grade exceeding 10%. Once at the peak, it was downhill for the next 10 km, followed by a relatively flat stretch for the remaining 60 km until I reached Hue.

Distance 116.18 km
Elev Gain 734 m
Time 8:27:02
Stay: Golden Star Hotel, Hue
Route: https://www.strava.com/activities/8481694391


#3: February 3 – Danang to Hoian

After completing the exhilarating ride over the Hai Van Pass to Hue, I returned to Danang by bus. After taking a day to rest, I set off for the Ancient Town of Hoi An. With pleasant weather, I crossed the iconic Dragon Bridge, which was conveniently close to the hotel. The 36-kilometer journey was over nice, flat, and smooth roads. Along the way, I encountered many factories renowned for crafting marble statues, situated near the famous Marble Mountain. In Hoi An, I was delighted to discover specially marked cycle track running parallel to the road, enhancing the cycling experience. I ended the ride at the iconic Japanese Covered Bridge.

Distance 36.17 km
Elev Gain 55 m
Time 2h 43m
Stay: Happy Day Hotel, Danang and Hai Yen Hotel, Hoi An
Route: https://www.strava.com/activities/8496789364


#4: February 6 – Hoian

Today, I set out on a cycling journey through the Ancient Town of Hoi An. As I pedaled along the narrow, cobbled streets, I found myself deeply immersed in the rich history and vibrant atmosphere of this UNESCO World Heritage site. The town’s charming architecture, characterized by colonial buildings painted mostly in yellow hues, ornate temples, and ancient pagodas, created a picturesque backdrop for my ride. Meandering through the bustling market and quaint alleyways, I had the pleasure of encountering local artisans skillfully crafting traditional lanterns and silk garments. Along the tranquil Thu Bon River, flanked by centuries-old merchant houses, I enjoyed a serene respite as I cycled along its banks, soaking in the timeless beauty of Hoi An.

Distance 13.47 km
Elev Gain 13 m
Time 2h 49m
Stay: Hai Yen Hotel, Hoi An
Route: https://www.strava.com/activities/8513605791


#5: February 9 – Hoian to Núi Thành

After spending a couple of days immersing myself in the charm of Hoi An, where I explored the Marble Mountains, embarked on a serene coracle boat ride, and witnessed the mesmerizing AO Show, a must-see for visitors, I set my sights on heading south once again.
Click here to read what to do and see in Hoi An

Venturing off the main AH1, I found myself traversing through the enchanting Mural village of Tam Thanh. This village has gained international acclaim for its stunning transformation from a typical fishing village into an open-air art gallery. Local and international artists collaborated to adorn the walls of humble homes with vibrant murals depicting scenes of daily life, folklore, and marine biodiversity.
Click to view more photos of the wall murals and the painted coracle boats

Continuing my journey, each pedal forward revealed breathtaking vistas of the coastline, punctuated by the presence of prawn farms dotting the landscape. Along the roadside, I encountered locals engaging in the time-honored practice of drying fish, preserving their catch for later consumption.

Before reaching Nui Thanh, my route required me to traverse two ferry rides, adding a touch of adventure to the ride.

Distance 83.07 km
Elev Gain 366 m
Time 7h 45m
Stay: Hai Yen Hotel, Hoi An and Sky Hotel, Nui Thanh
Route: https://www.strava.com/activities/8531630475


#6: February 10 – Núi Thành to Quang Ngai

Cycling from Núi Thành to Quang Ngai led me through picturesque countryside, where verdant rice paddies stretched as far as the eye could see and traditional villages nestled amidst lush greenery.

Unfortunately, I regretted missing one notable attraction along the route: the My Lai Massacre Memorial. On March 16, 1968, American soldiers descended upon the hamlet of My Lai, ostensibly on a search-and-destroy mission targeting Viet Cong insurgents. However, what ensued was a brutal massacre of unarmed civilians, including women, children, and the elderly. Shockingly, estimates suggest that between 347 and 504 villagers were ruthlessly killed in cold blood. The atrocity shocked the world when details emerged, sparking outrage and condemnation. Today, the My Lai Massacre Memorial stands as a somber testament to this dark chapter of the Vietnam War, serving as a poignant reminder of the imperative for peace.

Distance 46.22 km
Elev Gain 165 m
Time 4h 0m
Stay: Sky Hotel, Núi Thành and King Hotel, Quang Ngai
Route: https://www.strava.com/activities/8535975406


#7: February 11 – Quang Ngai to Đức Phổ

As I pedaled along Vietnam’s central coast, the journey unfolded like a vibrant tapestry. The coast, my constant companion, offered dazzling vistas of turquoise waters lapping at golden sands, with fishing boats bobbing gently on the horizon. Beneath a cerulean sky, lush rice paddies and peanut fields unfurled, painting the landscape with vibrant hues. Quaint villages dotted the scenery, their colorful houses beckoning with friendly smiles and warm hospitality, while the aroma of incense wafted from ancient temples, whispering tales of Vietnam’s rich history.

Distance 85.48 km
Elev Gain 491 m
Time 7h 17m
Stay: King Hotel, Quang Ngai and Sa Huyuh Beach Resort, Đức Phổ
Route: https://www.strava.com/activities/8542455964


#8: February 12 – Đức Phổ to Phù Mỹ

Today’s ride to Phù Mỹ posed a formidable challenge as I conquered two steep mountains with gradients exceeding 12%. However, amidst the physical exertion, I discovered a source of joy in witnessing the mountains undergoing a massive reforestation program, with new trees being planted to rejuvenate the landscape. Along the route, I encountered local artisans diligently weaving mats from sedge stems and jute thread on their handlooms, showcasing the timeless craft of mat weaving that has been passed down through generations. Along the route I came across specially constructed buildings emitting nonstop automated chirping sounds that serve as birdhouses. These houses serve as nesting grounds for swallows, whose nests, made from their saliva, are highly valued delicacies in China and Japan, fetching prices equivalent to their weight in gold.

Distance 49.54 km
Elev Gain 611 m
Time 5h 20m
Stay: Sa Huyuh Beach Resort, Đức Phổ and Kim Thanh Hotel, Phù Mỹ
Route: https://www.strava.com/activities/8548317025


#9: February 13 – Phù Mỹ to Qui Nhơn

The ride to Qui Nhơn primarily traversed the newly constructed highway. Along the way, I had the pleasure of crossing paths with Guillaume De Mester, a French cyclist and the first fellow cyclist I encountered on this trip. He was embarking on a northward journey toward Nanoi. As we exchanged greetings amidst the scenic backdrop of Vietnam’s countryside, it underscored the allure of the spirit of adventure and camaraderie that accompanies solo travel.

Distance 105.35 km
Distance 76.35 km
Elev Gain 676 m
Time 7h 9m
Stay: Kim Thanh Hotel, Phù Mỹ and Pearl Beach Hotel, Qui Nhon
Route: https://www.strava.com/activities/8553591300


#10: February 15 – Qui Nhon to Tuy Hòa

I rested an extra day in Quy Nhon, and the following day, a couple of kilometers after I left the hotel, it started raining. The rain lasted about 30 minutes before the sun emerged for the rest of the journey. The total distance to Tuy Hoa was approximately 105 kilometers, traversing mostly flat terrain with some rolling hills along the way. The ride afforded me picturesque views of the South China Sea as I followed the coastal route.

In Phu Yen, famously known as the land of ‘yellow flowers on green grass,’ I took a detour off the AH1 to ride over the Ong Cop bridge, the longest wooden bridge in Vietnam. Stretching nearly a kilometer in length, this impressive structure is crafted from casuarina and eucalyptus trees. It spans the Phu Ngan River, linking the villages in the northern region of An Ninh Tay commune. Since its inauguration in early 1999, the bridge has been under the management of the villagers and is exclusively for motorcycle and pedestrian use.

Exploring the village further, I visited the Mang Lang Stone Church, a venerable heritage site boasting over 120 years of history. Also known as Nha Tho Da Mang Lang in Vietnamese, it was built by French missionaries and completed in 1892, making it one of the oldest churches in Vietnam. It has since stood as a testament to the enduring legacy of Catholicism in the region. The exterior boasts intricate stone carvings and decorative motifs, while the interior exudes grandeur with its lofty ceilings, arched windows, and ornate altars.

Elev Gain 792 m
Time 8h 10m
Stay: Pearl Beach Hotel, Qui Nhon and La Casa Hotel, Tuy Hòa
Route: https://www.strava.com/activities/8564859755


#11: February 17 – Tuy Hòa to Ninh Hoa

Leaving the comfort of the hotel, I found myself caught in a game of hide and seek with the weather, with the rains persisting for nearly half of my journey. Just a few kilometers beyond Tuy Hòa, I stumbled upon a mesmerizing sight — a vibrant array of wall murals adorning a retaining wall, standing guard against the encroaching sea.

Continuing along the coastal route, I witnessed bustling activity in the villages nestled along the shoreline, their charm enhanced by the presence of lobster farms dotting the landscape as far as the eye could see.

The journey posed its challenges, with a couple of steep mountains to conquer along the way. However, once I overcame the arduous section, the landscape unfolded into a picturesque vista of flat terrain, adorned with lush green rice fields stretching as far as the horizon.

During the ride, I had the pleasure of crossing paths with two Vietnamese cyclists bound for Hanoi.

Distance 102.86 km
Elev Gain 645 m
Time 8h 23m
Stay: La Casa Hotel, Tuy Hòa and Kim Hoang Dat Hotel, Ninh Hoa
Route: https://www.strava.com/activities/8575943744


#12: February 18 – Ninh Hoa to Nha Tarang

Leaving the hotel, I went to see the nearby monument commemorating the pivotal events of July 16, 1930, known as the Nghe-Tinh Soviet Uprising. This uprising marked a crucial moment in Vietnam’s struggle for independence from French colonial rule and labor exploitation. In Nghe An and Ha Tinh provinces, workers and peasants rebelled, establishing soviets (local governing bodies) to challenge French authority. The uprising swiftly gained momentum, uniting thousands in support of the cause. The monument serves as a poignant reminder of the sacrifices made by those who fought for freedom during the uprising, symbolizing resistance against oppression and reflecting the enduring spirit of the Vietnamese people in their quest for self-determination.

During my journey to Nha Trang along the coastal villages, I encountered numerous oyster farms.

Distance 50.21 km
Elev Gain 198 m
Time 4h 21m
Stay: Kim Hoang Dat Hotel, Ninh Hoa and The Summer Hotel, Nha Tarang
Route: https://www.strava.com/activities/8579995249


#13: February 21 – Nha Tarang to Dalat by bus

After spending a couple of days exploring Nha Trang and its famous attractions, including:

The Po Nagar Cham Towers: These ancient Hindu temples, dating from the 8th to 12th centuries, stand proudly over the city, dedicated to the goddess Po Nagar.

Nha Trang Cathedral: A stunning example of French Gothic architecture, featuring striking white stone walls, stained glass windows, and a majestic bell tower. Construction began in 1928 and concluded in 1933.

Long Son Pagoda: This significant Buddhist site boasts a massive white Buddha statue atop a hill, known as the “White Buddha,” visible from various parts of the city.

The Alexandre Yersin Museum: Paying tribute to Dr. Yersin, a Swiss-French bacteriologist renowned for discovering the plague bacterium. Housed in his former residence, the museum showcases his pioneering contributions to microbiology and public health in Vietnam.

Deciding to head to Dalat, I opted for the bus over cycling due to the distance of nearly 150 kilometers and a steep elevation of nearly 3000 meters, especially with rain forecasted.

Distance 150.07 km
Elev Gain 2,818 m
Time 3h 0m
Stay: The Summer Hotel, Nha Tarang and My Hung Hotel, Dalat



#14: February 23 – Dalat to Bảo Lộc

I spent a few days in Dalat, known as the “City of Eternal Spring,” exploring its myriad attractions before journeying onwards to Ho Chi Minh City. After cycling approximately 120 kilometers, I decided to take a break and stay at Bảo Lộc.

Distance 118.40 km
Elev Gain 885 m
Time 9h 1m
Stay: My Hung Hotel, Dalat and Tâm Châu Luxury Hotel, Bảo Lộc
Route: https://www.strava.com/activities/8609236401


#15: February 24 – Ho Chi Ming City

With Ho Chi Minh City still approximately 200 kilometers away and only a couple of days left before my visa expired, I opted to board a bus. The drop-off point was about 20 kilometers outside the city, from where I cycled to a hotel near the bustling walking street.

Distance 16.76 km
Elev Gain 38 m
Time 1h 23m
Stay: Tâm Châu Luxury Hotel, Bảo Lộc and SaiGon Europe Hotel, Ho Chi Minh City
Route: https://www.strava.com/activities/8613611081


#16: February 25 – Packing Up at Mr Biker Saigon

After an exhilarating month of cycling adventures, it was time to pack up. The team at Mr. Biker Saigon were incredibly helpful in assisting me with packing the bicycle for my flight back home.

Distance 4.67 km
Elev Gain 9 m
Time 25m 27s
Route: https://www.strava.com/activities/8617409173


I hope this article will help you in your planning endeavors. Get ready to embark on an exhilarating journey. Wishing you safe and enjoyable cycling adventures ahead!

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