By Hồng Minh
If you are a sea lover, driving along the central coast of Việt Nam must definitely play a prominent part of your road trip plans.
We sacrificed the beaches of Sihanoukville in Cambodia for that very reason.
After crossing back into Việt Nam at the Bavet-Mộc Bài Border Gate it was time to hit the open road heading to the coastal city of Vũng Tàu through HCM City.
Blue seas and shining sun, here we come.
There are many ways to get back to Hà Nội, but the routes that most drivers take are National Highway 1 or the coastal road.
NH1 is a fairly uneventful journey but the better choice if time isn’t on your side. Thankfully we were not clock watching so like many travellers before us, we took the coastal route. And boy, we were glad we did.
Province after province to see, all as beautiful as the last. There really is no place like home.
And as a whopping 80 per cent of our journey was made with the ocean just a stone’s throw away, there were plenty of opportunities for us to stop off and take a dip.
PICTURE PERFECT: Taking a trip along the coast of central Việt Nam brings back many spectacular views. — VNS Photo Hồng Minh
The coastal road from Vũng Tàu to Phan Thiết is about 250km long with many beautiful sections such as the coastal road of Long Hải - Bình Châu, Kê Gà - Phan Thiết or the Mũi Né - Phan Rí. The road is beautiful and a breeze of a drive.
SHIP AHOY: To visit Kê Gà Lighthouse, visitors must take a boat ride.
From Vũng Tàu through Cửa Lấp Bridge to Long Hải, through Nước Ngọt pass is the start of the coastal road that runs until Quy Nhơn City. You will pass Kê Gà Lighthouse, one of the seven tallest lighthouses in Việt Nam. The route will also take you through beautiful places of Bà Rịa-VũngTàu and Bình Thuận provinces such as Hồ Tràm, Hồ Cốc, Mũi Né, Hòn Rơm and famous sand dunes.
PEACEFUL: Yet another photo opportunity between Phan Thiết and Nha Trang.
Next on the road is the journey from Cà Ná Beach to Cam Ranh Bay, 120km to be precise, of which every single metre gives you something new. Sheer beauty.
HEY EWE: A herd of sheep on the road from Bình Thuận Province to Ninh Thuận Province.
Sometimes, you will drive between the mountain and the sea, sometimes the road stretched endlessly along the coast for as far as the eye could see. It would take you a lot of time to stop taking pictures and enjoy the beautiful scenery of each beach.
The next section would run take us Nha Trang City which is very popular for tourists. Only about 70km long from Cam Ranh City, the route will entertain you with yet more beautiful views of the busiest coastal city in Việt Nam.
SUN, SAND AND SEA: People relax at the beach in Nha Trang City.
Maybe at this point is when I realised that the memory on my phone was just not enough to capture each and every view.
EAST IS EAST: A visitor takes a photo from Đại Lãnh Lighthouse in Điện Cape, which is considered the easternmost point of Việt Nam.
Next, we visited Đại Lãnh Beach, took a ride through Cả mountain pass to Vũng Rô Bay and, of course, took a right turn on Highway 29 to visit Đại Lãnh Lighthouse at Điện Cape, which is considered the easternmost point of Việt Nam.
From Đại Lãnh Beach at the end of Khánh Hòa Province, we visited Tuy Hòa City in Phú Yên Province and Quy Nhơn City in Bình Định Province famous for Bãi Xép Beach, Đá Đĩa Reef, Ô Loan Lagoon, Tam Giang Dam and Mằng Lăng Church.
SAY CHEESE: Visitors take photos at Đá Đĩa Reef in Phú Yên Province.
From Quy Nhơn City, we passed through Nhơn Lý to see the famous Kỳ Co and Eo Gió beaches. Reaching Tam Quan Beach and we came to the end of the 190 km long coastal road. From this point northwards, coastal roads will be smaller, more deserted and therefore a little more tricky to travel, so instead, we bite the bullet and took the National Highway to Đà Nẵng City.
This is a great central location for those of you travelling by car as there are so many places within easy reach, such as Hội An Old Town, Bà Nà Hills, Sơn Trà Peninsula and Ngũ Hành Sơn (Marble) Mountains.
From Đà Nẵng to Thừa Thiên-Huế, we took the Hải Vân Pass instead of taking the tunnel. This road stretches for nearly 21km, at an altitude of about 500m above sea level.
STRONG WAVES: A view of the sea at Eo Gió Beach in Bình Định Province.
When you reach the top of the pass, you will have a panoramic view of Lăng Cô Bay, Đà Nẵng City, Tiên Sa Port and Sơn Trà Peninsula. Simply spectacular!
From Huế City, we took a straight ride to Quảng Bình Province to enjoy the sea and of course the amazing seafood, as well as visiting Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng, Thiên Đường caves before heading home in Hà Nội.
Taking the coastal route, we once again had the pleasure of enjoying the beaches on the way. We also visited famous bays, offering spectacular sunrises and sunsets.
SHADY: The Red Sand Dunes in Mũi Né in Bình Thuận Province.
Bình Thuận Province and Ninh Thuận Province, offer immense sand dunes to get lost in plus many activities within.
Don't miss the beautiful sand dunes because you will have a lot of unforgettable experience and plenty of beautiful photos if you take the time to explore.
Although climbing the sand dunes may be a little exhausting, believe me, when you reach the top it is well worth the effort.
ENDLESS: A White Sand Dune in Bình Thuận Province.
But be warned, if you are expecting to make this journey and stay trim, forget it! The seafood spots on the way will certainly add a few centimetres to your waistline.
Finally home to Hà Nội. Our journey is complete. So much to see, so much to do. Three countries checked off our list, and memories to last a lifetime.
Three cheers for the road trip! — VNS
The route from border gate between Việt Nam and Cambodia to the coast and back to Hà Nội.