Hue City has long allured travelers with its poetic Huong River, juicy street food, proud imperial city and untouched Lang Co Beach. Yet without Lap An Lagoon, a trip there is incomplete.
My friend and I traveled to Da Nang City in late June, and included Lap An Lagoon on our check list of things to do. We didn’t expect it would be such a highlight of the trip.
We rented a motorbike and drove north from Da Nang. The route leading to the lagoon is easy to find and the road is not crowded.
The route running through the Hai Van Tunnel is only about 30km. Yet I would recommend driving along the Hai Van Pass, which makes the route about 10km longer,
We left the hotel at 7am, having breakfasted on mi Quang (a signature noodle dish of Quang Nam Province), filling up on petrol before hitting the road.
From central Da Nang City we drove along Nguyen Tat Thanh Street, which took us along the seemingly endless beach and blue waters beyond, dotted with tiny boats.
Leaving the road and making a few turns brought us to Hai Van Pass (loosely translated it means pass “of the Ocean Mist”), with its breathtaking scenery. The route, which runs for about 20 kilometres, bends along the densely forested Bach Ma Mountain, showing glimpses of Lang Co Beach. The green of the trees, the blue of the sea and the lightly clouded sky is a welcome respite from the concrete jungle of the city.
With the availability of a tunnel running through the mountain, completed in 2005, most of the transport now uses the tunnel, leaving Hai Van Pass to mostly motorbike and occasional truck traffic.
Hai Van Pass, a passage of major strategic importance in Viet Nam’s history, represented a major barrier to any land army that attempted to move between the northern and central regions of the country. Nowadays, it’s a perfect motorbike ride, with the road climbing to the peak at 500 metres.
Travelling by motorbike does not only open up horizons, it provides a sense of freedom compared with a car or bus window. Everything looks surreal. The horizon, which sepearates the sky from the beach, seems to be diminishing. The sky seems to melt into the blue of the water.
My friend, a daring traveler who has driven through many passes in the northern mountainous areas of Viet Nam, says this is a different experience for her. “In northern mountainous areas, I am overwhelmed by the grandeur, the roughness of the mountain landscape. Here I can also feel the smooth, delicate, soft blend of mountain and beach,” she said.
After existing Hai Van Pass, we turned onto a local road and headed for the quiet, peaceful lagoon.
A road separates the lagoon from the local houses. On one side is the familiar, characteristic sight of rural life – old, modest houses surrounded by dense plants and fruit trees. On the other side is the untouched, landscape of mountain and water twinkling under the bright sun.
Lap An Lagoon, located near Phu Gia Bridge of Lang Co Town, is 800ha large and one of the most scenic brackish water lagoons of Hue City to its north.
The water is clear affording a view of a variety of creatures, including fish, sea cucumber and oysters.
My friend and I sat for a while under the trees, contemplating the sight, and when we drove further, we realised it is just the beginning of this majestic journey.
We happened to find a sand dune stretching from the bank of the lagoon almost to its middle. Though excited by the discovery of this “road”, we were unsure whether it was safe to walk on. A local tour guide, speaking in a heavy Hue dialect, assured us and even offered to take a photo of the two of us before we moved on.
In his heavy dialect, charming to the ear of a northerner like myself, the tour guide spoke proudly of his hometown’s attraction. He said the lagoon was not only a tourist attraction, but a place where households grow oyster.
Every afternoon, when the tide ebbs leaving behind little snails in beautiful shapes and various size, locals go there to collect oyster and sea cucumber.
The lagoon is the most romantic when sunset falls, he said. That was sad news for us since we had to be back in Da Nang in the afternoon.
When we arrived at the lagoon, it was almost empty. The tour guide, along with his two French tourists, were the first visitors we met. We walked for a while on the sand dune road, seeing a few more tourists posing for photos with the lagoon and spectacular Bach Ma Mountain range an ideal backdrop.
We then drove around the lagoon before travelling to nearby Lang Co beach, enjoying some seafood, and winding up a perfect trip that far exceeded our expectations.