This section from Lang Co to Da Nang is the fourteenth instalment of my bicycle ride from Yunnan to Cambodia – if all goes according to plan. Titled “Slap the Belgian!”, it is simultaneously published on Crazyguyonabike.com, where you’ll find a map with the itinerary and many other bicycle diaries by me and others. I hope you’ll enjoy.

We’d had a moderately good sleep – as good as you can sleep when you have a window facing Vietnam’s busiest highway. A peek behind the curtain reveals a world no less dull and grey than yesterday’s but it’s dry. Dry means we have to get out and seize our chance of besting what is probably the biggest challenge of the entire ride: the 10 km climb up the Hai Van pass.

The Hai Van pass looming ahead
The Hai Van pass looming ahead

I’ve climbed the Hai Van before. With its 500m ascent and 10 km slope at an average grade of 7%, it’s actually much overhyped. Northern Vietnam and Yunnan both boast climbs that are up to five times longer and with much steeper grades. Yet, if it’s your first big climb as it was for Tu, it is a bit daunting indeed. The amazing views of the bays and lagoons below offer little solace when your every muscle and tendon are strained to the limit.

We rode our first few kilometres to the actual town of Lang Co, smelled the omnipresent eucalyptus oil on sale everywhere along the road, and had a local speciality called Banh Loc. It’s made of something that looks most like a blend between animal jelly and sticky rice cake with some sauce and shrimp inside, wrapped together in bamboo leaves for easier packaging. It’s actually quite delicious. (more…)