Motor biking the Hai Van Pass


Posted on : 28-09-2009 | By : Vietnam720 | In : Da Nang

Vietnam720: The Hai Van Pass, located on the border of Da Nang, is a 2 mile long mountain pass on National Road 1A in Vietnam. Thomas from 9000 Hours in Saigon shares his experience on motor biking the Hai Van Pass Vietnam.

Hai Van Pass Vietnam 01

Hai Van Pass Vietnam 01

Thomas: At this point, I don’t exactly have a plan. I am winging it.

Having passed over a horde of substandard Honda Dreams, Citis and Wave Alphas — motorbikes that would almost certainly leave me stranded on the Hai Van Pass if they didn’t break down sooner — there is now parked in front of me a gleaming new Yamaha Sirius. But the owner wants my passport.

I can’t explain to him that this is impossible, that I will need my passport to check into a hotel in Da Nang in a few hours time. That I plan to drive his bike 4 hours southeast of Hue, over the Hai Van Pass, into Da Nang , then to Hoi An and back would no doubt be a deal breaker.

So instead I tell him I cannot give him my passport. It is at my hotel. He asks for the hotel’s number. I tell him I need to switch hotels; mine is very bad. I tell him he can have my New York State driver’s license. He looks on the verge of giving me a yes. I tell him I’ll pay him up front for the three days’ rental.


I stop at my hotel, pick up my backpack, get back on the Sirius and just like that I’ve salvaged my trip from the brink of disaster. Just like that, I am headed out of town, bound for the Hai Van Pass.

The road out of Hue is almost exceedingly well marked, if a bit labyrinthine. Every few hundred meters, there’s another sign. This way. That way. Left. Right. Up. Down. Back the other way. It’s a cartoonish route, but it proves dependable and soon I’m on the open road heading west, driving past coastal paddies.

But then the rain starts up. The proceeding hours are a blur. I stop to reposition my rain jacket; multiple configurations lead to the same conclusion: it’s going to be a wet ride. About an hour into the drive, my hands are frozen solid. I stop at two large markets to find gloves. No luck. All I get are inquisitive stares and giggles.

Hai Van Pass Vietnam 02

Hai Van Pass Vietnam 02

And then it happens. I’m just outside of the Hai Van Pass. The rain has reduced to a drizzle. The first ascent alone, steep and banking towards the ocean, assures me that the Hai Van Pass will dwarf the two smaller passes I’ve already driven. The experience, I begin to realize, will make all that’s come before worth it.

Thanks to a recently completed tunnel for truck traffic, the Hai Van Pass is nothing short of a motorcyclist’s dream come true. Lanes that likely made for tense trips by bus or truck provide latitude for motorbikes to bank and weave with relative safety. Around every corner, you imagine the summit must benear, but the road continues to climb, the South China Sea below growing more distant, the jungle foliage on the mountainside more verdant.

And then I reach the top. With the mist and cloud cover, the view is non-existent. No worries. I’m eager to get back on the bike. The drive down the mountain proves just as much fun — you’ve got to keep your hand on the break just to keep yourself in check. And not long into the descent, the rain abates altogether. The sun comes out. I take of the stifling raincoat, and continue down the mountain, the sun and wind drying my sodden clothes.

Next stop Danang.



Sounds great, i want to do it. I will be in VN in about 2 months and i plan on doing the Pass, now after reading that it is a must for all. I just hope i get a good bike, as i’m a bit bigger than the average VN’s. Great read makes me want to do it.


Weight will not be an issue with the bikes. The locals ride around with the WHOLE family on 1 bike all the time :-)

Get your bike froma good source and u should be good to go :-)


On the bike ridding side of things. Do you need a license? If so, where from? Are there any general rules i should know about? I have been to Saigon before so i know how crazy it is. As far as i can see the only rule is don’t run into anyone.


General comment- great site, good reviews, helpful information, one of the best around. Keep up the good work. Especially good on the scamers articles. This is the sort of information travellers should know.


Thank you Tails for your kind comments :-)

Appreciate it.


In actual fact, u’ll need a Vietnamese riding license to ride a bike. Even an international one does not apply here.

The thing to look out for is more of a rider’s body language than the signals.

Michael Awad

You are my number source for all things Vietnamese


Thank you Michael. This is VERY encouraging. Appreciate it! :-)