After being bogged down in Phong Nha for what felt like forever, Marco, Callum, and I decided to weather the storm. I don’t know if you missed it on the news, but at the time, the tail end of the worst typhoon in 16 years was still between us an Hue city. But, are we not men?
We decided the best course of action was to just pilot our motorcycles directly into it. And we did. The weather got worse and worse as we approached Hue. At first it was light feathery rain. Then, out of nowhere, it was an unrelenting downpour of baby fists. The rain drops were big and they were everywhere. Then we hit the flooded areas as we pulled into the city.
We got the bikes to the backpacker hostel, and settled down for a beer…or 6.
My buddy Daniel was in Hue, but he was in another hostel. Far enough away to prevent me from braving the torrential rain again. I promised him I would see him again up north over facebook messenger. He was leaving that evening on a bus Hanoi anyway, so there wasn’t that much time to catch up
At first glance, the backpacker hostel was great. They had a nice downstairs area with plenty of seating, and a bar with a solid drink menu… and free beer and breakfast (which, we have learned at this point, is offered at a load of hostels across Vietnam).
The room was another story. It was dingy, tightly packed, no AC, and the fan screamed like it was some sort of dying adolescent animal.
In the midst of my third beer, a van pulled up right in front of me. The chair in which I was sitting face the street. DANIEL’S HEAD POPS OUT THE WINDOW. “Whats up, bruv”.
He ditched his $20 bus ticket and stayed with us for a few more nights. Drunken debauchery ensued. Next thing I know, there are 5 of us heading to a bar down the street, and every last one of us is in a romper or a dress. And we were not fucking shy about it. I was the only one not wearing underwear and I made sure everyone I crossed knew it.
Drinking songs, shots, rescuing a damaged American flag (another story for another time), a pissed off Frenchman, and games of pool. This hangover was real.
I was also given the honor of spending the birthday of my beloved Corps in a city deeply entrenched in Marine Corps History. Semper Fi. Ooh Rah. Yut yut. Kill. Blood makes the grass grow, Marines make the blood flow. House to house, street to street, all that moto jazz… but I digress.
We switched hostels the day Daniel left for Hanoi. WELL WORTH IT! The new place was called New Life Homestay. This is the place where you need to stay in Hue city. Nicest rooms, the bathroom had a damn bath tub (that I used, duh), and free breakfast. Plus the guy that ran the place was nicer than your grandma, and could help you find anything you needed in the city.
I heavily considered not writing this next part due to self-incrimination, but this is probably the kind of shit you came here to read. I would like to apologize to Susan and my Aunt Earline ahead of time. I know what I did was wrong, but lets hope the guys that wronged my friend will think twice before performing the same stunt on another unsuspecting traveler.
On our way to an abandoned water park in Hue, Marco needed to have his back rim straightened out, I needed a new headlight, and Callum got ANOTHER flat. This time it was a puncture. A helpful stranger took us to a place where Marco could have his rim repaired, and on the way there is when Callum got his flat. A second seemingly helpful guy decided to show Callum to a different tired repair shop.
After Marco and I were squared away on our repairs for a very reasonable and fair price, Callum pulled up. The shop changed his tire, chain, and oil. But they were not fair or reasonable. What they charged him was an outrageous price. In the position he was in, he was forced to pay. I’m going to leave the price out of the story, but he was ripped off badly.
He showed us to the place where he was ripped off. We pulled up and positioned our motorcycles for a quick get away. We were either getting his money, getting something we needed, or getting ugly. I was prepared for all of these situations, but I probably should have let my company know. Oops.
As we walked up, Callum brought it to our attention that the guy that overcharged him by 500% wasn’t there anymore. That’s when I realized that we weren’t going to get his money back. Now its time to get something we needed.
While Marco did some talking, which he really has a gift for (Seriously. This man is blessed), I strolled right into the mechanic shop, and well, I started shopping. After seeing guys work on my bike across the country, I knew that it would be a lot cheaper if I had the right tools. I started grabbing a few wrenches and other various items that would help out in changing my out, tightening my chain, etc… Marco immediately took notice. When my hands were full, he said “Got all the tools we need, Gabe”. I replied with a “Yup. Lets roll”, and we proceeded to big league these guys right in their faces. They stood and stared at us in awe.
They knew exactly what we were doing, and they knew exactly why we were doing it. They had probably assumed that Callum was alone and wouldn’t be back for a fix. I paid Callum for the tools, and now I can perform my own maintenance without a labor fee. We rode off like three Hell’s Angels. We were officially a motorcycle gang.
We didn’t make it to the waterpark until the next day on our way to Da Nang. It’s a cool place to check out in Hue. Not much to do, but its pretty. I recommend it if you ever find yourself in the area. A good spot for photos and even better for a drone.
Finally, after two and a half weeks of riding our sweet hogs through the countryside and down the coastline of Vietnam, we had made it. It was night, so there wasn’t much to see, but we could tell that there was something different in the air here. The tail end of the journey to Da Nang was wild. We took what is known as the Hai Van pass, but the locals call it “the foggy road”, and we learned why.
My new headlamp was out, so I couldn’t see much, but having a headlight wouldn’t have helped anyway. This was the thickest fog I have ever seen. Marco had to ride just to the left of my tail so I could sort of use his headlight, but we could really only make out the road markings no less than 10 feet in front of us. It was a slow steady ride, but it gave us an idea for the morning.
Our first hostel was called Lucky Bee. It was on the outskirts in the northern area of the city. Very quiet and away from the bustling action near the center. And of course, we had beer. I would recommend this hostel to anyone that’s older but still doing the hostel life in their travels. The staff is very nice, and they have a corgi! Her name is Honey, and she’s the sweetest. The only downside is that our blankets felt a tad damp, but I think they just hadn’t been properly dried, because they definitely smelled clean.
We woke up at 4:30 AM to take a trip back up the Hai Van pass, and oh my lucky stars was it worth it. One of the most beautiful sights I have EVER seen was that sunrise. So, go ahead and add that to your bucket list right now. I’ll wait.
There was a restaurant that had a lookout point along the side of the mountain. We stopped and had a beer (yes a beer at 6 am) that I will remember for the rest of my life. Coffee just didn’t seem right in the moment. Some events in life are more appropriately celebrated with a beer than any other beverage. It was glorious.
The colors of the sunrise pinging off of the water only to be deflected onto the lush green vegetation were hypnotic. My mind emptied for a short time. There was nothing else around. Just something awe inspiring at which to look, and a delicious drink to compliment.
After we collected ourselves, finished breakfast, and played with kittens, we were back off. We had to find the top.
The views never got old, and the air grew more and more crisp. The occasional breeze would make contact at just the right times while we cranked our bikes around what felt like a Formula ! inspired road that had no business being on this mountain, other that for racing. Even the curbs were checkered white and red. Am I in heaven? (no seriously. If you know me closely, and know how I look at the world, this is a serious question)
We doubled back to the hostel, and were greeted with bright blues and whites that weren’t present during the sunrise on the way down the Hai Van pass. It was truly another place all together, Definitely a site to behold.
After switching hostels, we landed on the other side of Da Nang. The beach has nice sand, clean water, and sometimes the waves curl perfectly. The only downside is the lazy lifeguards. They’re so lazy they don’t let anyone in the water. They don’t want to take the slightest chance in having to pull someone out. You’re only allowed in at the calmest times of the day. Heartbreaking.
In the distance, you can see a gigantic white statue on top of one of the mountain bases with the mountain right behind it. This is known as the Lady Buddha. It’s the tallest Buddha statue in Vietnam. She stands at over 232 feet tall. We had to visit. But not after a night of partying with some German friends we had made in a previous city. Fynn and Vivian. They’re a great couple. If you’re reading this, safe travels my friends. We love you.
You don’t really understand how large the Lady Buddha is until she is right in front of you. Nature has a way of doing things on a large scale, but every now and then, mankind flashes its hand. Lady Buddha deserves a standing ovation.
The grounds surrounding her has ornate temples and a beautiful Pagoda that stands out from a distance, but not quite like the Lady herself. I sent up the drone and got some cinematic shots for those wondering. The video is Imbeded at the bottom.
When we left, we took a mountain road around the backside of the 236 foot glorious girl, and it made the day, as if it weren’t already perfect. The challenge of getting the bikes up the steep inclines was a bit of a rush. A small rush, but a rush none the less. We were trying to find the launch point of some paragliders we saw dancing in the sky, but we never did. Undaunted, we continued through the trees along the incline in front of us. The view was so mesmerizing that I managed to drive off of the road at one point. I couldn’t have been more lucky. There wasn’t a drop-off at that spot.
After a little trouble with the my bike carrying Callum and I up such a steep incline, and another traveler’s scooter’s engine flooding, we found what we didn’t know we were looking for. A lookout point at one of the peaks. We had an endless ocean on 2 sides, mountains to the other, and we could see the entire city of Da Nang below us. But I wanted a certain type of picture, and there were too many tourists joining us for me to fulfill my wish.
When we left, we found the perfect spot. Not far down the road, there was a clearing to the left. I resembled a gravel parking lot, and Da Nang was there to feast our eyes upon. Three of use got naked next to our motorcycles and showed our asses to the camera while giving Da Nang the business end. Lol. (I think this is the first time I’ve type “lol” on my blog)
The ride home was smooth. Downhill the entire time. I put my bike into neutral and never even started the engine…. UNTIL WE SAW THE MONKEYS!
We were on “Monkey Mountain” and I finally found my monkeys. These monkeys aren’t used to people (which is for the best) and they kept their distance. But I finally saw a monkey in the wild. Bucket list checked.
So far the best bowl of pho I’ve had since I got to Vietnam is in Da Nang. The pho in the south. It is closer to the recipes we are used to in the US.
Now we’re waiting for the rains to calm down so we can make our way to Hoi An.
Oh yeah, and I’m under budget for the month. By $400. That means I will have made $400 by the end of this month just by being here. And, that includes a plane ticket. To where? Thailand. For Christmas. I’m spending Christmas in Thailand with friends I have made along my way around Vietnam. Like I said, is this heaven?