Vietnam beauty and the beach
Beauty and the beach, Lang Co is a quiet but breathtaking beach that so far has avoided the tourist boom, but for how long can this beach stay off the beaten track?
I’m probably not the only traveller who on the road to Danang from Hue has whizzed past a pristine, beautiful beach without even knowing it. For years Lang Co has been Vietnam’s most conspicuous secret. I first spotted this stretch of white sand going over the Hai Van Pass.
I remember thinking I would find out where this beach was and check it out on my next trip. Lang Co is only 40 kilometres from Danang – not that much further than the highly popular Cua Dai beach. Three years ago, however, it took forty minutes just to conquer Hai Van pass in a large tourist bus.
The climb over Hai Van, which means pass of the ocean clouds, was notoriously treacherous. Break downs and accidents were common. Now the drive to Lang Co from Danang takes less than an hour, thanks to the opening of Hai Van Tunnel, the longest road tunnel in Southeast Asia.
Accidents have occurred in the tunnel but it is much safer than driving over the pass with heavy trucks, buses and cars driving on a steep, winding road. By taking the tunnel road you will miss that magical feeling as you move through the cloud at the top of the pass as well as overlooking the cobalt sea below.
However you will get to Lang Co quicker and there you can dive into the very same cobalt sea while soaking up the spectacular views of the swaying pine trees and majestic mountains that lie inland. The beach, which seemingly runs endlessly, (a local claims it’s over 10km long), is also uncommonly empty. There are no hawkers, no postcard sellers or large groups of tourists. This is a hassle free paradise.
At midday in the restaurant at Lang Co Beach Resort you might find group of tourists stopping for lunch, who are either on their way to the former Imperial City of Hue or Hoi An. With the waiters occupied I decide to have lunch later on and stroll along the beach. Though it isn’t long before I find a hammock and decide there’s no need to be too ambitious when I have everything I need.
Happily I loll under the shadow of the palm trees and enjoy the sound and the smell of the sea breeze. It’s no exaggeration to say this is a heavenly experience for an urban dweller. Just yesterday I was breathing in toxic fumes while stuck in a traffic jam. Nearly 100 years ago, Emperor Khai Dinh was inspired by the beauty of Lang Co. He composed a poem to describe the area on a stone, which is preserved in a rarely visited mall village nearby.
However, Lang Co might not be a hidden charm for long. Local authorities hope that it will become a member of The Most Beautiful Bays of the World Club. Currently there are just a few resorts and a small number of guest houses. The largest is Lang Co Beach Resort with 70 spacious and private villas built in traditional Hue style. Right next door is Thanh Tam, a small resort which is currently expanding.
In the distance bulldozers are levelling ground for the construction of luxury resorts. The Singapore-based Banyan Tree group is said to be building a $1 billion resort in the area, featuring more than 1,200 rooms and a golf course. For the time being it’s just you and Mother Nature. All around Lang Co you can discover canyons, mountain springs and lagoons nestled in a tropical forest. One local I meet tells me I can go night fishing with local fishermen.
The thought of fishing reminds me it’s lunchtime. Seafood is foremost on my mind. Off the coast of Lang Co I’m told you can find lobster, crabs, squid and clams. Yet, there are no seafood restaurants on the beach. I walk towards Thanh Tam Resort but I’d rather enjoy seafood away from a resort. My friends have already consulted our driver who assures us he knows just the spot.
We drive back towards Danang and just before the entry into Hai Van tunnel, there’s a line of seafood restaurants on the banks of a lagoon. We choose Be Den, a rustic looking spot with a stunning panoramic view of the lagoon and majestic mountains above. A nice setting though the service at first is worryingly incompetent. Judging by the crowd the restaurant is well known to tour operators, truck drivers and expats living in the locale. At lunchtime the flustered staff can hardly cope.
Our first waitress answers ‘yes’ as if she heard our order clearly but then she disappears without a trace and our dish never materialises. When we complain to another waitress about the service, she quickly turns the tables and barks at us: “You should have ordered all your dishes at once.
We can not serve you plate by plate. We have a lot of customers to serve!” The seafood however is fresh and delicious. We order steamed squid, grilled clams, grilled shrimp, crab in tamarind sauce and plenty of Saigon beer to quench our thirst. Soon everyone is completely stuffed. Well, not everyone. For dessert one of my travelling companions orders another plate of steamed squid. “Hey, it’s really delicious and sweet,” he says in his defence.
(Source: Timeout, URL:http://english.vietnamnet.vn/travel/2008/05/783576/)