On the Road Again

“I like it here, and I’m never leaving.”

Shane and Roberta heard that phrase often on the rally. Almost as often as “I know exactly where we are!” and “What could go wrong?” I meant it in London and Edinburgh and Istanbul. But I really meant it about Hoi An.

Hoi An is an instantly likeable city. Colonial architecture, good croissants, warm beaches, diving on the reef, and an expat bar with great beer and interesting Swiss girls.

So, packing the bike after eight nights of laziness was bittersweet. Bitter, since leaving paradise sucks. Sweet, because Deano, a dive instructor who leads Minsk tours when the diving gets bad, outlined one hell of a route north.

The ride began with a loop of Monkey Mountain. This peninsula featured many kilometers of newly paved curvy coastal road that was completely deserted. On the backside, the beautiful pavement gave way to a small concrete track, four or five feet wide, snaking up and down the mountain at ten percent grades.

This loop was almost immediately followed with Hoi Van (or something like that) pass, which is the coastal road that Clarkson praised so highly on Top Gear. Like the Transfaragasan in Romania, it did not disappoint. The road up the pass was good enough, but then it crested a hill, giving way to tight hairpin turns and views of the white sand beach, hundreds of meters below, that jutted out at an improbable angle.

Finally, the twisties gave way to narrow straighten that looped around lakes and through rice paddies. By evening, I arrived in Hue, the stop for the night, and immediately got hopelessly lost in the ancient walled city.

Matters were not helped when I used the map on my tablet to try and get directions. I had searched for the street name, but accidentally pulled up a map of Saigon instead of Hue. Many confused shopkeepers pointed me in opposite directions.

As darkness started falling, I oriented myself and started looking for a hotel.

“Are you looking for a hotel? Follow me.”

Normally I wouldn’t listen to a request like this. But it came from a couple in heavy touring gear on a large motorcycle.

Always trust couples on tour bikes.

He drove off, weaving at a fast pace through the streets of Hue. It was all I could do to keep pace. We quickly reached a hotel that looked alright.

The couple was a young Vietnamese couple. The man, in excellent English, explained they were engaged and were driving from Saigon to Hanoi to take wedding photos. He was also a web developer (small world).

We compared routes. It appeared we would both take the Ho Chi Minh highway north. However, he was taking the coastal one, while I opted for the one that looked insanely twisty on Google maps. Pity. A riding buddy would have been good, even though my Win stood little chance of pacing his CBR.

The next morning, we parted ways. Little did I know that the road ahead held excitement and adventure similar to the Mongol rally.