Lang Co – Hoi An (90km, 55mi). A full day of cycling, scenery and site visits. Most of the day we follow secondary roads so we aren't on Highway 1.
Points of interest: Hai Van Pass (500m climb over 10km), Danang, Cham Museum, Cao Dai Temple, China Beach, Marble Mountain, silk tailors
|Immediately south of Lang Co, the old highway crosses the railroad tracks and starts to climb Hai Van Pass. A tunnel through the mountain was opened in 2006, which diverted most of the buses and trucks, which greatly improve the experience for bicyclists on this section and goats.|
|Ascending Hai Van Pass, you climb 500m in a little over 10 km. It is a pretty consistent grade of five percent more or less. Generally the beauty is enough to keep you motivated and keep you going. That doesn't mean that you don't feel like stopping at one of the roadside shrines and asking for a little extra help.|
|The summit of Hai Van Pass is a little intense with aggressive curio merchants. Just when you would like to get out of the saddle and soak up a little peace and tranquility you are accosted and motivated to prematurely get back on your bike. Before you go, if you take a moment to turn around, you will see that the pass has been the selected site of some pretty heavy fortification -- a little glimmer of its other past. It seems that every political-military era of Vietnamese history has added fortifications to the hills that frame the pass.|
|Descending Hai Van Pass is another beautify ride that doesn't last long enough because the tendency is to go too fast. You drop 500m in a little over 10 km. For those needing spiritual boost, there are more convenient shrines along the way.|
|Just south of the pass is Danang. The most iconic symbol in town is a forty-foot high tranquil Buddha on the grounds of a temple. Ironically, most of our conversation through town was about the non-tranquility of the traffic. We decided that a sequel to the movie "Taxi" should be set and filmed here, but with a few changes. In "Taxi II: Danang" Queen Latifa is the detective trying to solve the case and she is jumping on and off Danang motorbike taxis and trying to get through Danang's chaotic traffic. She will need Buddha's help to come out alive.|
|Probably the most interesting attraction in Danang is the Museum of Champa Sculpture. It displays an intensive and diverse collection of 300 Champa sculpture dating from the 7th to the 15th centuries. It is a challenge to keep all of the sites and information separated and organized in your head. The museum was established at the end of the 19th century by the Ecole Francaise d'Extreme Orient.|
|Danang mostly has a big town, rather than big city feel to it, except for the length of time it takes to get across is. Few parts of town are more than a few stories high and a lot of the streets are lined with store fronts, with their goods spilling out on to the sidewalks. And, at least one street is totally a market.|
|The Danang riverside has been made into a graceful promenade. It has a very non-urban, relaxing ambiance for a leisurely stroll, day or night.|
|This is My Khe, made famous by the U.S. TV show "China Beach". It is still relatively empty, but the shoreline is being developed with tourism infrastructure so presumably someone is hope that they will be on there way soon.|
|Adjacent to My Khe is Marble Mountain. Actually there are several mountains in the area made of marble. Even with that the supply of marble is limited and the mountains were in risk of disappearing so marble quarrying has ceased.|
|But even without quarrying the business of Marble Mountain is still marble. The main street is lined with stores selling marble statues of all descriptions (from religious to erotic) and all sizes. In the surrounding village a peek into the side yard and work shed with show carvers hard at work, chiseling away, creating their art.|
|A couple other attractions in the area include: On top of one of the marble mountains is a pagoda (left) and in the mountain are large caves where a variety of art have been carved into the walls (right).|
|Hoi An was a major 17th, 18th & 19th C port and trading center for southeast Asia. It was also the first Chinese settlement in Vietnam. Over time Song Thu Bon (the Thu Bon River) became silted up and operations moved to Danang and other ports, and Hoi An became a backwater.|
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