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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Hai Van Pass, Da Nang

“So, Hai Van Pass, anyone?” Hubby suggested, as per planned itinerary.

“Jom!” None of us declined.

As usual, Dan Arif was the same person who led the way, since he had a quick glance on google map back in the hotel, the night before. The road here in Da Nang seemed less users, in good condition, and easy to use. Thus, riding in Da Nang wasn’t a big challenge to us compared to other big cities in Vietnam, like Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi.

Before we pursued the journey, we stopped at the same place to refuel. The auntie gave the impression that she had won lottery when 4 bikes asked for full tank. She gladly joined Pak Ein and his wife (took off her con hat, hand-combed her hair) and posed for a picture.
We then passed by My Khe beach and headed straight to the longest suspension bridge in Vietnam, named Thuan Phuoc Bridge. Along the bay, there were lots of fishing boats that were inline, together with few traditional used and unused coracles. The scenery was breathtaking, more or less, like what we have back in our fishing village in Perak or Penang.
While passing the bridge, Dan Arif did strike a peace-sign. That showed how leisure we were in enduring the journey, crossing the 1.8km length of suspension bridge. The excitement got higher and I can see that we were so thrill to reach Hai Van.
It is said that Hai Van is one of the most scenic hillside roads in Vietnam, winding roads of a paved mountains, a peaceful and quiet place to discover. It is indeed, an impressive landscape, that awe-ed us when we locked our feet at one of the corner.
“Hai Van…Sea Clouds…” that’s what I read my tour cookbook. Means, the peak is in the clouds while the foot is close to the sea.
We thought of stopping by to have a quick lunch at one of the corner, but the smell of cow dung had killed the initial intention. So we continued riding and riding, guess what, group of cows were sitting right in the middle of the road, just before one corner!
We finally stopped at another open area, complete with water pipe (broken pipe I guess) almost appropriate place to have our meal. Who knows that suddenly, a lorry of pinkies passed by, which later left behind a super stinky odor right on our nose! Fresh meat on delivery, babes! Hooo! Busuk gile! There goes our second try. No lunch for that day.
Riding again, and again.

Not furlong, we decided to stop to have a group pose and crazy jumps.
Well, I normally like to lay flat on the road (like what I did in NZ) but this time, no ah-ah, pinkies pee all the way down to Hue!
While jumping dozen’s of time, hubby told me that he saw one train tunnel, in between mountains. This might be one of the vital mode of transports during the Vietnam war back in the 70s. It is estimated that Hai Van mountain itself, held seven tunnels along the 3km stretch. Wow! Whether it is still being used or abandoned, honestly, I can’t tell.
The journey continued. On Allah’s will, we didn’t face the danger of bended roads, uphill, where we reached the most top, where we could view both south and north of Vietnam. How do we know this? The fortifications of French were seen, right before the huge Da Nang map.
Here, we enjoyed the whole vista of Da Nang, the Tien Sa Seaport, Son Tra Peninsula, Cu Lao Cham island, and long sandy beaches of Lang Cho, that we initially thought of Hue. Misty and foggy, we stood right on the highest peak, 500 meters above sea level. While hubby and Dan Arif explored the French forts, the rest of us sat next to the signage, and later posed with the one and only road sign of Hai Van.
Opposite those forts, there were local vendors having their business, selling local foods, handicrafts, and souvenirs. Few tourists were also found, sipping coffee while enjoying the mountain view. Breaking the silence, a couple of Caucasians rode with locals, on German old classic bikes, that produced loud echo in the area.
We later decided to ride down the hill, before sunset. Looking at the road condition, with no road lights, we better made a move before we lost our good vision. Our tummies were playing hardcore song, asking for late lunch or perhaps, dinner. A very, very good dinner.
Leaving Hai Van with emotions of the past, this path can be considered as the most impressive route, with the presence of green trees and blue sea, herein the beauty of Hai Van.
"Sakit bontot ka Pak Ein??" Hahahaha!

Note : Click link for Sekupang version (Pass of the Ocean Clouds).

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Marble Mountain, Da Nang

“Wait, I think we might need another motorbike for Aqram.” Said Dan Ariff.

We got Aqram a bike and re-fueled for all our bikes at the shop opposite our hotel. Pak Ein quickly advised Arqam to follow our tempo, scared that he might lose in Danang’s busy traffic. As usual, we enjoyed the ride and smiled to each other whenever we overtook others.

Our next destination was Marble Mountain, the one that we saw on the way from Hoi An to Danang, yesterday. It is called Non Nuoc or Ngu Hanh Son, popularly known as Five Elements Mountains. It is named after ancient philosophy that are metal, wood, water, fire and earth.
Thanks to yesterday (where we saw the signage) that actually ease our journey in finding the entrance. The road wasn’t that good that we had to carefully ride onto, about few hundred meters inside. We then stopped at one souvenir shop and parked under the covered parking spot (VND5000 each), more likely someone’s house or carving store.

“Hmm…bracelet!” Pak Ein’s wife started to get crazy, looking at those jade and marble-made bracelets.

“Makcik, no…no…” I grabbed her hand and walked towards the ticket booth.

We stopped for a while to discuss, whether to go up by lift or climb on foot. Dan Arif looked at Arqam and quickly surrendered. So did the rest of us. Well, what’s wrong taking the elevator, right? We don’t have this in Malaysia…hahaha hmmm… *panicked*
“How many?” The ticket officer asked me with slight Viet slang.

“6 please.” We paid VND30,000 each, VND15,000 for entrance fee and another VND15,000 for one way lift. Pfft!

On the right hand side, we saw steps heading to the peak. We walked to the lift door, where someone welcomed us into the not-so-clean-see-thru lift. The lift stopped nowhere except the top platform of Thuy Son mountain (highest peak and the only accessible among the five mountains) near Xa Loi tower.

The tower is 5-tier tower that has two marble dragons sitting at both sides. Pak Ein and I started to play fun with them while Dan Arif captured us on camera. Hubby? Played Nat Geo’s photographer, maybe.
After a while, we continued walking between the two caves, where visitors can stop to enjoy coconut drink. Aqram, Pak Ein and his wife looked for a place to sit, while waiting for Dan Arif, who finally decided to follow us into the cave.
The Van Thong cave entrance was really small and slippery. Despite the shallowness and darkness, I still saw few locals in heels and skirts! Hahaha! Inside the cave, there was one little Buddha in yellow wrap, sitting in the middle of the pathway. We passed by and walked straight up, climbed those super steep steps into another opening. Dan Arif and I started to play Tom Jones and Lara Croft, climb-posing the cave wall, with minimal lights from above.
Satisfied with the exploration, we climbed down and walked out from the cave. Dan Arif, Hubby and I decided to prolong the exploration to the other site where they kept the sitting Buddha that facing the sea.
Next to this place, there was the highest viewpoint called Vong Giang Dai. With full forced, Dan Arif, Hubby and I climbed the watchtower.
“Oh my Goddddd! This place looks like Ipoh laaaaaaaaaaaa!” I shouted and hubby agreed.
The marble mountains, scattered low-rise buildings, green hill tops, under the hot sun, it did remind us of Ipoh. The scenery was breathtaking so we grabbed the chance to snap more pictures up there, before we turned back to the other three members.

With flowing sweats that wet our clothes, we again, took an elevator down the hill, with VND15,000 each. Weh, cannot tahan laaaaaaaa…156 steps kottttt…

Note : Click link for Sekupang version (Mountains of Five Elements).

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

My Khe Beach, Kuanyin Buddha, Song Han Bridge, Da Nang

The journey from Hoi An to Danang took about 40 minutes with suburbs view that offered rows of marble hills on the left, and long beaches on the right. We were then surprised with one huge and high cylinder glass structure attached to one of the hill that we suspected as the famous Marble Mountain.
“Ok, that’s new…even we don’t have it back in our country huh…?” I was completely astonished.

In a minute, “Eh, does the driver knows how to get to our hotel or not?”

We saw him looking for directions and signboards, trying his best to locate Loseby Street, where Pearl Sea Hotel is located. We actually showed him the map and literally directed him to the right road. Thanks to hubby and Dan Arif who quickly spotted the 7-storey buildings from far, where other hotels were also located at this district.

This affordable hotel is just few minutes away from My Khe Beach and 7 minutes drive from Danang International Airport. Complete with normal facilities, it also offers bike rental and tour desk.

After smooth check-in, we told the reception to provide us 3 motorbikes with auto transmission, for a cheaper price. After quick negotiation, we rented each bike for 160,000VND=RM16 per day. We then proceeded to the room to refresh ourselves before the real exploration started.
Beforehand, I requested for a higher floor rooms, for hubby wanted to have a better view of the beaches. Luck was on our side where our rooms (Pak Ein and us) were located at the roof top, where we had a special access to the roof area where they have 360 degree aerial view of its surrounding.
An hour later, we went down and tested the 3 bikes. All seemed nice and ok, so we went for fuel-up at one shop, located just right in front of the hotel. Easy huh! Dan Arif later put on his Go-Pro tiny camera, to record our amazing journey.
Of all 3 bikes, Pak Ein got the fastest bike! Ours were cute but the fuel meter seemed didn’t stay at the correct level. So we just refer to the other two bikes. Dan Arif led the road to the beach where we questioned ourselves on where to park the bikes. There were “no parking” signs along the main road and there were no parking lots available either.

Suddenly we saw few bikes parked on the pedestrian and we thought of doing that as well. But worried of getting tickets, we decided to find a legal parking area. Then there was one local guy who was waving to us, directing us to enter his compound. Glad that it was a legal parking where we paid for 5000VND for each bike. Cheap!
We crossed the main road and walked towards the beach. Though the beach wasn’t that crystal clear neither blue in color, I can say that it was beautiful. Looking at the strong current and big wave, with yellow and red flags and beach patrol, it resembled Surfer’s Paradise at Gold Coast. The only thing that differed was the boat! This round boat is called coracles and it is made by bamboo, with some sort of waterproofing material. So cute, I even can’t help myself to pose with it!
“Let’s send a message to #TravelholicAwesome!” Both, Dan Arif and I suggested and agreed!
And so I wrote this! :D
Did you guys get our message??? Bot bulat tu tolong hantar. (Hik!)

We left the clean and well-kept beach and rode to the west of Son Tra Peninsula, where Kuanyin statue, Buddha’s goddess of mercy stands tall on the tip. This statue can be clearly seen from all area, since it is tall and isolated. 
It was nearly dark but we still rode towards the location of the statue. I remembered we stopped twice to enjoy the coastal view, which was superb and spectacular, IF it was still sunny. More traditional coracles found along the beach, some were left unused. During the joyride, I once, recorded a local young lady on the bike, with sheer white “ao dai” who later waved at me, after noticing her being recorded. Sweet!
The road lights were already turned on, means it was already dark. We decided to call off the visit to Kuanyin, turned back, and rode down the road, heading to the town. Town was actually quite far from our hotel where we had to cross one big colorful bridge called, Song Han Bridge.
This bridge is fully equipped with colorful neon that changed numerous times all night long. The colors had really mesmerized us, thus, we stopped by the Han River to capture those wonderful moment. We ended the night by going to Big C, to buy packs of instant noodles, bread and tuna, for tomorrow.
 
Note : Click link for Sekupang version (East Meets West by Han River).

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