Last updated: 09:00 PM ET, Wed April 20 2016

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  • Shannon Wolf | April 20, 2016 9:00 PM ET

    Hai Van Pass by Motorcycle: Pushing Boundaries in a Cinematic Landscape

    Hai Van Pass by Motorcycle: Pushing Boundaries in a Cinematic Landscape

    PHOTO: Driving through winding roads, down empty roads has become one of my most cherished moments.

    The minute I arrived in Saigon and saw the chaotic driving firsthand — scooters, cars, trucks and bicycles whizzing and weaving in all directions around each other — I told myself I was never driving a motorcycle in Vietnam as I screamed and laughed nervously just running through crosswalks, praying no one would hit me and feeling like I was in a real life version of “Frogger.”

    Well, this is clearly a case of “never say never,” because a few weeks later, I was eating those words. After hearing from countless backpackers how the Hai Van Pass was not to be missed, taking any other transportation besides a motorcycle was decidedly not an option.

    At 9 a.m., I picked up my Yamaha from Motorvina in Hoi An, dropping off my bag, which they would drive to my final destination.

    I strapped on my helmet and off I sped along with four other friends on one of the most scenic trails through the mountains, driving up to the highest point (1,600 feet) before the descent on the final stretch to arrive in the historical city of Hue.

    READ MORE: Vietnam To Give Yearlong Tourist Visas To All Americans

    The sun was hot and there was not a cloud in the sky as we drove our first stretch through the city of Danang, already smiling ear to ear. We drove flawlessly through traffic and made a pit stop, pulling over briefly to take in China Beach — one of Vietnam’s most picturesque stretches of sand, accompanied by a backdrop of mountain ranges in the distance.

    PHOTO: The guys and I stopping to take in the scenery at China Beach.

    We soon continued onwards, driving full speed ahead on the suspension bridge over the Han River and I felt as if I was dreaming, thinking, “someone pinch me — this can’t be real.” And then I felt a pinch, literally.  I thought it was a bug that had hit me. A sharp pain then occurred again and again. I had to pull over and inspect what had happened. When I looked down my tank-top, I then screamed, flailed and practically pulled off my shirt because of a wasp that had somehow found its way in there and stung me three times before falling onto the pavement, plummeting along with my pride.

    After my composure was back and the guys stopped shaking their heads at my unfortunate luck, we headed onwards through Highway 1 and began the ascent up the famous Hai Van Pass.

    Literally, I wanted to stop every other second due to the captivating coastline. You had the East Sea to the right and enchanting greenery to your left. You became entranced and utterly speechless at just how spectacular this country’s landscape is.

    As we ascended higher through the mountains, a cool mist that chilled the air engulfed the sun and an intense, dense fog hovered just above us as we curved around mountain roads to the top of the pass — the scene was remarkably cinematic. We stopped to bundle up, shocked at how the weather changed so drastically. It’s no wonder to us why the Vietnamese called this place “Hai Van Pass.” The name translates to “Ocean Cloud Pass.”

    From the top of the pass, we descend further through intensive curved roads, combating for space against buses as our adrenaline further kicked in. We drove through stretches of valleys, rice fields and lagoons, passing through the village of Lang Co Town and onwards as we wiped off the rain from our now-dripping faces. It was wet, it was grey and it didn’t even matter — it was spectacular!

    By the time we had reached Hue, we were soaked head to toe, swerving through rush-hour traffic as bad as Saigon and I could do nothing but laugh about driving through the one thing I said I could never do; loving every single second of it.

    PHOTO: Driving along the Hai Van Pass will leave you in awe like it did us!

    I felt alive, I felt free, and driving a motorcycle across the Hai Van Pass was far beyond anything I thought it could be!

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    Not only was the drive inspiring but it also showed me on another level of how you can truly push your boundaries, getting outside of your comfort zone saying proudly “there is no can’t, only won’t!”

    Since then, I have driven through multiple cities, countrysides and even the chaos that is Hanoi and it has opened so many more opportunities to explore beyond the typical tourist trail!

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Shannon Wolf Tales From the Leap

Shannon Wolf Shannon Wolf is a freelance photographer and writer, traveling across the globe with an open itinerary and no intent of stopping. Originally from Toronto, Canada, she left behind a fast paced life to truly live and not just exist in an attempt to inspire others to follow their bliss. At age 26, Shannon has visited 20+ countries on four continents around the world. She has travelled overland by chicken-bus and tuk-tuks, hitchhiked by fruit trucks and through islands on horse and buggy. She has slept in the jungles of Nicaragua, on benches in London, secluded hidden beaches and she’s only getting started.
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