Sandy Beaches Near Hue
The coastline south of Hue has miles upon miles of sandy beaches, most still unspoilt and raw. Barely any tourists ever venture there for a day on the beach of swimming and sun bathing. Despite the slightly inland location of Vedana Lagoon resort we wanted to hit the sand again after our visit to Chan May beach the day before. This time we wanted to have the independence of being able to choose our route and time frame on our own and so took the hotel provided bikes out for a tour. We knew it would be a fairly tough bike ride to the closest beach, in this case the serene Vinh Hien Beach, is 20km one way from the resort meaning a 40km round trip. Setting off with plenty of water in our backpack and all the essentials for a few hours on the beach, we cycled along the quiet track that hugs the lagoon curving first south and then east towards the sea.
Quiet Fishing Village
Da Bac fishing village was fairly quiet at that time of day and we only saw a few children out in the lagoon. The local women seemed to go about their daily chores, cleaning, preparing food and hanging the washing out to dry on the fences, an ever-present sight in Vietnam. The fishing boats lay abandoned in the lagoons and the nets were laid out to dry in the already hot summer sun.
The first few kilometres of our bike ride were easy, a steady breeze somewhat cooling and the excitement of our excursion still new. Once we had left the village behind we passed a small cemetery hidden in the hills and a large number of areas cordoned off in the lagoon for shrimp farming. Pumps were running pouring water from one pond to the next to aerate it for the prawns. There were some stilt houses on the shores and we caught a glimpse of the teapots in the bare rooms. None of the inhabitants appeared to be around. A farmer was busy with his water buffalos in the marshy fields and we stopped to watch the animals roam for a while.
Up the Hill
At some point we reached a hill, which was too steep for us to cycle and we had to get off to push the bikes, we knew from the map this would be the hardest part of the ride. The odd car or moped overtook us and some of the drivers even waved at us, but thankfully the lakeside road is not a major route so traffic was light. Jerome was getting exasperated at times, he was getting hot, but we made sure to stop every now and then to have a drink. When we finally reached the top of the hill he was the first one to jump back onto his bike and ride down as fast as he possibly could, all worries forgotten in the speed of descent, and the previous mood disappeared immediately whisked away by the wind in his hair.
Approaching the coast the landscape changed into a lush forest, which provided us somewhat with shade and protection from the glaring sun. The settlements along the road were more spread out and the houses had small vegetable gardens and chickens freely run through the grounds. A funny looking vehicle drove towards us and it turned out to be a group of monks. The van was adorned with golden dragons on a bright vermillion background. The monks cheerfully waved at us as they passed.
Across the Bridge
Soon after we arrived at the bridge that crosses the tidal lagoon’s mouth into the sea. To get across we had to cycle against the wind and it was somewhat harder than anticipated. We did stop to take in the views of the calm lagoon and the waves meeting the river half way over.
Thuong An Village
On reaching the far end of the bridge we noticed a shipyard. The smell of fresh cedar wood in the air we watched the workers on the wooden vessels go about their work. The ships were surprisingly large in size, not just one of the small fishing boats we had seen along the lagoon’s shores – these were boats built to go out to sea and brave the waves. Taking the street that runs along the lagoon’s exit river towards the beach we rode through Thuong Phu An village, where some of the locals enjoyed their lunch in one of the street eateries.
Vinh Hien Beach
After leaving the village behind we stumbled upon a graveyard that lined the back of the coastline following another track until we finally arrived at a sandy path that led us to of Vinh Hien Beach. The beach was deserted, no one else was in the water or on the sand, but then we noticed a beach bar to our left. Hungry and thirst from cycling for the last few hours we sat down on the plastic chairs.
Bot Loc Cakes for Lunch
A woman was lazily swinging in a hammock and a small group of local men greeted us with a loud xin chao. There was no bar or any staff around until we realised there was another house set back towards the road and a woman walked over heavy bucket in hand. She came towards us and offered us a cool coke. The woman in the hammock got up too and it was only then that we noticed she had a cool bag in her hand. We assumed that she was trying to sell us cold drinks as well but instead she took out something that was wrapped in banana leaves. Not knowing what it might be we took one portion for now and opened the lovingly wrapped obviously home made hot package. Inside were flat, translucent dumplings with pink shrimps shining through the rubbery texture. I later found out that these cakes were called Bot Loc cakes and were a speciality from the region. They tasted slightly peppery but delicious. Jerome was not so keen on eating them and only tried a small bite, which left more for me!
Strong Rice Wine!
The group of men started to chat to us with a very limited English and gave Chris a small cup of strong rice wine. It is these moments that we treasure on our trips abroad, sharing some moments with locals, despite having a huge language barrier. They probably thought it was odd for a family to turn up on their bikes so far away from the closest hotel or resort. None the less they were very welcoming and smiley.
Our Own Private Beach
After our brief lunch, supplemented with the contents of our pack, and a second cold drink, it was time to hit the beach and go for a swim. We moved along out of reach of the beach bar to the stretch nearer the graveyard. The sea was shallow and warm and Jerome loved jumping the waves. It is hard to fathom that you can find a beautiful empty beach close to a large village and have it completely to yourself. I have to admit we enjoyed being on our own there, it felt like we had our own private beach. Strolling along the sandy shore we collected some shells and discovered all kind of weird stranded goods. It really is a pity what some people throw into the sea. Many of the most beautiful beaches in Vietnam are sadly covered in scraps of modern life wind and wave blown across the sands.
Graves and Mausoleums
We took a slightly different route back to the village rounding the edge of the hill behind the beach bar and were surprised to find that there were more graves dotted throughout the landscape. In fact there must have been thousands of brightly painted and opulent graves and mausoleums in the area. Upon some research I discovered that most of the dead buried in these lavish graves were the final resting places of overseas expat Vietnamese. We had indeed wondered how the locals could afford graves that were sometimes larger than the huts they lived in.
The Beautiful Scenery
Passing back through village the ship builders were still hammering and sawing and the chickens were still running around the gardens. On our return crossing the bridge and even climbing the big hill was not as strenuous as on the way out as it was now both cooler and the wind was behind us. Circling the rest of the lake back on our bikes was rather uneventful apart from obviously taking in the beautiful scenery and landscapes.
Fish on the Road!
However, just before reaching the small fishing village near the hotel we stumbled onto pieces of fish lying on the road. Someone must have meticulously laid them onto the empty street to dry. They were placed in neat rows and the white skin shimmered in the low afternoon sun. Shortly after this we found fishing nets covering the road, we guessed the purpose must have been to dry and repair them. It was definitely a strange sight and we could only hope that no car was planning to drive along the road until the nets and the fish were both dried and packed away!
Back at the Vedana Lagoon we cycled straight to the poolside and ordered a well deserved cocktail while watching the sun turn the sky a miraculous pink and purple. The boys showered off and dived into the cooling water while I watched the sun set, before we all enjoyed our last dinner in the restaurant.
Moving on to Hoi An
In some ways we would have wished to stay longer in this peaceful setting on Cai Lau Lagoon but we were also excited to move on to Hoi An and see if the rumours about its charm and allure were true…
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