Time: Around 5 hours
Route rating: 6/10
Today was the day that we said goodbye to the coast and went off piste. Up until this point we had been following the 3 week itinerary mapped out in Lonely Planet’s excellent Vietnam travel guide, but today we wanted to explore something different. The most direct route from Nha Trang to Hoi An is to stay on Highway 1 and drive straight mostly following the coast all the way to Hoi An. This route can be done in two days using Qui Nhon as an overnight stop, and is worth doing for those attempting the trip with limited time. We on the other hand had an abundance of time so thought that we would add on an extra 200km to our already ridiculously long journey by zig zagging back inland back into the south-west Highlands. Once in the Highlands we would be able to pick up the fabled Ho Chi Minh highway which would take us north to Hoi An.
We attempted to plan where we would stop by looking at booking.com and hostelworld but neither had any accommodation in the areas where we were going, so today would also be our first day winging it without a final destination.
We started north in the morning and stopped at Ganh Da Dia (point A on the map) a set of rocks labelled Vietnam’s giant’s causeway. Katherine and I had markedly different feelings towards this sight. I haven’t been to the Giants causeway in Ireland and thus found the rocks amazing. Katherine has been and dubbed the Vietnamese version a poor man’s Giants causeway…
Once past the fake causeway we continued north and drove through a town which I remember vividly as being the town that contained the worst drivers in Vietnam (this is some statement I know). There were factories on either side of the town, meaning that it was inundated with lorries. The bikes in this town seemed to have been trained to wet themselves and bolt across the lanes at the first sight of a big bad lorry, and I lost count at the amount of times I was cut up by a nervous bike frantically drifting across the lanes.
Once we left highway 1 and entered the Highlands the roads grew more quiet and enjoyable. We wound around the twisting corners of the An Khe Pass before arriving into the tiny town where we stopped for the night.
This was our first night without prebooked accommodation but finding a room even in a one horse town in the middle of nowhere proved no problem. The Vietnamese for motel is Nha Nghi so if you see this sign you know that you can have a cheap bed for the night. We pulled into a deserted Nha Nghi and again my limited Vietnamese skills were required. I said ‘mot phone, hai nguoi’ (one room, two people) to the curious looking hotel receptionist. He gave me a thumbs up and replied ‘hokay ba tram’ (300). Asking to see the room was beyond my Vietnamese so I pointed at my eyes to try to convey I wanted to see the room first. The man smiled and nodded and took me up to inspect the room which was completely standard and acceptable for the night.
The only things to do here are eat at one of the few pho stalls and grab a drink at a café. After a few days spent in the tourist hotspots it was refreshing being away from the crowds and being the only westerners in a quiet Vietnamese town. We felt like the biggest attraction in the town that evening as we had a crowd of curious locals surrounding us saying hello as we ate our evening’s pho Bo!!
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