There is a fantastic railway route you can take between Da Nang & Hue. Rail enthusiasts claim it to be one of the prettiest sceneries available via train tracks around the world.
I first did this route in 2008 from Hue to Da Nang and enjoyed it however it’s not so straightforward as you would think. Getting a seat window on the right side of the train is a task and finding clean windows to view the scenery is another one. Forget about taking pictures through them.
So this time round we had a good look into it.
Hoi An is approximately a 35 min drive from Da Nang where the train station and airport are located. Most tourists will go via Da Nang to get to Hoi An (unless you arrive by overnight bus or car/motorbike, etc.)
We did a little research and found the following costs for the trip. The car from Hoi An to Da Nang is around 300,000 VND (14 USD). The train tickets from Da Nang to Hue were approximate $10 USD each, and booking agents could not guarantee us window seats on the same side as the view or our seats all booked together. So for $45 USD (for three of us) we could get lucky or could have a pretty ordinary trip.
When in Vietnam booking agents will all promise the world but may not always deliver. The advice from Mr GreenApple Hotel was on point. Happy customers mean lots of fantastic Trip Advisor Reviews.
By hiring a private car, we would pay $60 USD from Hoi An to Hue and be able to stop and see some sights along the way.
Money well spent. The two-hour trip turned into five, and our guide was English speaking, educating us along the way on the areas we passed through, stopping where and when we wanted.
First stop would be Marble Mountains.
According to ancient folklore, a dragon came out of the water at Non-Nuoc Beach and laid an egg. After 1000 days and nights the egg hatch and out stepped a beautiful girl. The fragments of the shell remained on the beach and eventually grew into the five mystical mountains.
The mountains hold a few secrets including bullet holes from when troops would spy on US soldiers relaxing on the beach below. But in 2016 there is a host of Buddhist sanctuaries and places of worship plus pagodas where many flock for their spiritual time.
Today the main highlight is to climb and view the stunning view from the very top. Even though I am terrified of heights, not letting go of the mountain once, I still managed to get a pic and be mesmerised by the spectacular view.
Of course, we had to do the climb the hard way and went through a unique circular cave featuring a chimney that led us to the summit. Holding onto rings and ropes, I did momentarily forget my fear of heights forcing me to the top as its impossible to turn around. I am so glad I continued up. It was totally worth it.
If you are like me and are frightened of heights, or if you think you cannot climb through the cave, ask the local vendors there where the stairs are to go up to the top (we later found them coming down). Thank me later 😉
After leaving the Marble Mountains, we stopped briefly at “China Beach” where the US army would drop in their troops who were in need of R & R. Today it’s a very public beach with a lovely walkway to enjoy the scenic view without stepping onto any sand.
The Hai Van Pass is 19 kilometres that connect Da Nang to Hue province, plus one of the prettiest roads you can drive with spectacular coastal views.
As we wound upwards toward the top, we stopped along the way for a few pics and a local coconut.
Once at the top, we got to stop and explore where American soldiers bunkered down during an attack.
And its a very popular spot for locals to come and have portraits done here. Today it was a wedding couple. Loved the photographer. He sure had some moves
Travelling over the mountain where it once was one of the most dangerous roads to travel on in Vietnam with only one lane and trucks, bus’s, cars and motorcycles all travelling at speeds around its curves and sadly the mountain took many lives. With small temples/shrines dotted all over the mountain road, built by family members they represent the memory of a loved one who passed in that spot and the grief the family suffered at their loss. Now with the tunnel and new highway, it’s much safer now.
Once over the mountain, we stopped at a local beach restaurant specialising in fresh seafood. With crabs rushing past to the water, we knew it was fresh.
Once in Hue we were delivered to our little hotel called – Grace Hotel Hue