Way to Go
The only part of our journey to Vietnam that we hadn’t booked was the journey between Hue and Danang. Our initial intention was to take a train along the coast but there seemed to be some confusion on the web with regards to times and costs so we popped into a local tour operator. The cost for the train was around 50,000 dong with a similar price for the booking fee. She offered an alternative method, an air-conditioned minibus with an escort who would take us to a few scenic areas on the way. Would pick us up at our hotel in Hue and let us off at our Hotel in Danang. After a little negotiation, we agreed on a price of 200,000 VND, less than £6.80, for a trip of over 100Km and no taxi required at either end.
After a full breakfast, we checked out and were picked up by the bus. We were the last to be picked up and with my arm in a sling, we received a warm welcome from our fellow travellers, two of which had been picked up at our hotel ten minutes before us. We made our way to our seats and were handed complimentary bottles of water. The tour guide gave us some information on the route, Vietnamese culture and his own lifestyle, all of which was very interesting. The country has rapidly changed from an agrarian economy to an industrial one and many of the old ways, customs and norms, particularly the role of women, where also changing, in my opinion for the better.
It wasn’t long until we were off the main highways and driving along beautiful country roads, through the rice fields, and arriving at Thuy Thanh with its famous bridge and local market. I knew that we had made the correct choice and unpacked my camera from its case.
We were informed that this is one of only two such bridges in Vietnam, the other being Hoi An’s famed Japanese Bridge. The Thuy Thanh bridge is arguably more distinct, in that, as well as the Japanese features it also has Chinese ones as well. The wooden pedestrian bridge over a small canal has a squared timber arch speckled with ancient ceramics. The calligraphy inscription is in both ancient Vietnamese and Chinese script.
It is believed that the bridge was constructed in the mid 18th century, during the time of Emperor Le Hien Tong. Tran Thi Dao, the wife of one of the emperor’s high ranking courtiers grew up in the area and believed that the village, which straddles the canal, needed a bridge to link the two sides. She arranged for the building of the ornately decorated covered bridge. In recognition of this gift to the nation, the emperor exempted the village from Imperial taxes.
When I was crossing the bridge an old man sat shading from the sunshine. I asked him if it was ok to take his photo and, thankfully he said yes. I’ll admit to photoshopping this one as the brightness coming in behind him blew out the photograph but I think it’s turned out ok.
Likewise, when we made our way through the market I asked the locals if it was alright to take photographs of them going about their daily business, some said no but enough said yes for me to capture a flavour of the market, if not its smells.
Lang Co Beach
After Thu Thanh we continued on our journey and our escort continued to tell us about Vietnamese culture and his own life. Our next stop was Lang Co Beach, it was both serene and surreal with its stunning white sand gently sloping down to the shallow blue waters under the sunshine but with no one there to enjoy it apart from us.
Hai Van Pass
Sadly our stay there was brief and we were soon back on the bus and heading along the ‘best road in Vietnam’. We drove uphill to the Truong Son mountain range along a snake of a road, 25 kilometres long and climbing 500m, the Hai Van, or Sea Clouds, Pass is the highest Pass in Vietnam. We stopped at the peak where a path leads up to the ruins of wartime gun towers, initially built by the French the vantage point was used by the South Vietnamese and US armies during the Vietnam War.
It was strange to be reminded that a twenty year war had taken place here which only ended in 1975 as we enjoyed our coffee and ice cream at a roadside cafe, sitting below clear blue skies, surrounded by verdant mountains and gazing down at the beautiful South China Sea spotting Tien Sa Port, Son Tra Peninsula and, our final destination for the day, Da Nang City.