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On the trans-Vietnam highway from the north to the south of Vietnam, Hai Van is always an impressive place name. Records show that Hai Van Pass is one of the highest passes in Vietnam, which is full of craggy peaks, and also a part of the Truong Son mountain range that juts out over the sea. In the Phu Bien Tap Luc (Miscellaneous Chronicles of the Pacified Frontier), Le Quy Don remarked, “Hai Van, with the coastine on its foot, and clouds on the peak, is the border of Thuan Hoa and Quang Nam”. With more than 20 kilometers in length, Hai Van Pass runs through the mountains, which is really a harmonious point between the sea and clouds – waves at the foot and clouds on the crest.
According to the Dai Nam Thuc Luc Chinh Bien (Preliminary Compilation of the Chronicle of Greater Vietnam), Hai Van bordergate was built in the seventh year of King Minh Mang’s reign (Binh Tuat – 1826). The title “Thien Ha de nhat hung quan” (the most grandiose gateway in the world) is the inscription of King Le Thanh Tong when he stopped on the top of the pass during his campaign of attacking the Kingdom of Champa 600 years ago.
The Thien Nam Du Ha Tap (record of Government Institutes of the South of Heaven) recorded that on the way marching south to attack the Kingdom of Champa, King Le Thanh Tong stationed at the Hai Van border gate; during a sleepless night, when standing contemplating the scene, he composed a poem in which there were two verses, as follows: Tam canh dạ tĩnh Đồng Long Nguyệt/ Ngũ cổ phong thanh Lộ Hạc thuyền. (Provisional translation: The moon rose over – Dong Long waters at quiet midnight/ Then came the echo of the drum from foreign merchant ships in the early morning).
Right on top of the pass, the ancient traces still remain. The side of the gate facing north to Thua Thien – Hue province is inscribed with the three words “Hai Van Quan” (Hai Van Gateway). The other side, looking down to Quang Nam province is engraved “Thien ha de nhat hung quan” (The most grandiose gateway in the world). More than six centuries ago, this area belonged to two mountainous administrative units of O and Ri, the territory of the Champa Kingdom; later, the Cham King Che Man offered them as engagement gifts to Princess Huyen Tran, daughter of King Tran Nhan Tong. The old story is only a memory, old vestiges covered with green moss, among vast spaces of plants and trees, tourists are filled with the emotions of the past.
Just hearing the name of Hai Van Pass, one can visualize the world of winds and clouds. The winds are like horses galloping, the clouds are like pouring down from the sky. People coming here feel like being lost in a strange world full of smog. Cao Ba Quat, a great poet, who only “Bow down to apricot blossom” in his whole life (as expressed in one of his poems) had to be amazed at the scene through his verses: “Nhất bích ngưng vi giới, Trùng vân nhiễu tác thành” (Blue sky and water is like the landmark, thick clouds is like the rampart).
Till now, Hai Van Pass is well-known for its most picturesqueness, grandiosity but most perilous obstacles on the North-South journey. The old border gate, through times of restoration, still remains on top of the pass and it recognized as a national historical relic. It was once considered as a natural rampart protecting Hue citadel in the past. In addition, it has been considered as a screen to delimit the climate between the two areas of Hue and Quang Nam, and also an attractive destination for visitors today.
In ancient records, the Hai Van Pass is well-known for its perilous obstacles on the North-South highway. However, from the French colonial period until now, the road through the pass has been more convenient thanks to modern communication system and means of motorized vehicles. From June 2005, the time of the inauguration of Hai Van Tunnel, and it was officially put into operation, the traffic through Hai Van Mountain has become safer and more convenient. Traffic through the Hai Van Pass is now sparse; and the “Most grandiose gateway” has been invested and developed to be a tourist attraction. The building of rest stops on the peak creates favourable conditions for tourists to rest and relax while sightseeing the pass.
Over time and with human hands, what endowed by nature will become humanitarian values. Coming to Hai Van is to come to the point of junction between two areas, to satisfy the peak-conquering feelings, to mix ourselves into echo of heroic songs of ancient Vietnamese who marched South to expand the territory, and to fret with the profound past of the Central region which suffered a lot of losses during the course of founding and protecting the nation.

Useful tips:

+ Be at the pass summit at sunrise or sunset so as to capture scenic beauty and enjoy the best atmosphere of the day ever.

+ Along with friends to climb up to Hai Van Gate, sipping a cup of coffee bought at the pass summit is also a new interesting experience.

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