Story: Kiem Anh
Photos: Kiem Anh, Xuan Dai, Song Viet, Amachau, Ngo Huy Hoa

Self-driving holidays are increasingly trendy, with fans using private vehicles to cross multiple regions or countries. Nowadays, it is no longer strange to see convoys of vehicles in remote places. Participants enjoy discovering new horizons in their beloved cars, watching the changing scenery through the windshield, meeting the locals to learn about their culture, and immersing themselves in the local lifestyle.

White sand dunes in Hai Ninh, Quang Ninh (Quang Binh)

Twisting roads through the Central Highlands

Our convoy drove along stunning roads in the Central Highlands, an inviting destination with majestic scenery and a rich cultural heritage. The backbone Highway 14 connects the Central Highlands provinces with the North-Central and Southeast regions. Highway 14 crosses the most varied terrain in Vietnam. Driving beneath  a huge blue sky and white clouds, past yellow wild sunflowers shining in the sun, I lost all track of time.

“You are so beautiful, Pleiku, my heart is going to break …” The song playing from my car’s speakers added to the beautiful moments as I sped past long miles of my homeland’s beautiful scenery: Lak Lake, Don village (Dak Lak), Pleiku Sea Lake (Gia Lai), Kon Tum wooden church (Kon Tum) etc. My travel-companions’ exclamations of praise rang from my walkie-talkie.

The writer (left) on wild sunflower season in Da Lat (Lam Dong)

We drove tirelessly on the straight and steep road to Ho village (Dak Lak), and wove along tracks between the coffee fields, through a sea of seasonal white blooms, their fragrance filling the air. After taking a short break to inhale the fresh air scented with the mountains and forests, we continued to conquer the challenging landscapes of winding Chuoi Pass (Lam Dong); wander through the special-use forest of Nam Kar (Dak Lak); watch the first morning light hit Ta Dung Lake (Dak Nong); and play by a stream bordered with wild golden sunflowers – the iconic flower of the majestic Central Highlands

When our trip came to an end, a strange feeling of regret and disappointment overtook us. We will definitely return to the Central Highlands many more times.

Taking the coast road

On this journey, we decided to take the coast road so as to enjoy the salty wind and marvel at the beautiful landscapes of our S-shaped country, which boasts 3,000km of coastline running along the East Sea.

From Hue, my group followed Highway 1A before turning left onto Highway 49B. It led us onto a small but clean and beautiful road near the shore. Passing through Thuan An fishing village, rows of boats lay waiting to set sail. Baskets of fish and dried squid, toned and tanned men, and hardworking women patching fishing nets caught my eye. Nature has blessed Central Vietnam with a long and rich coastline, but to make ends meet here, the local fishermen must trade their blood, sweat and tears, and risk great losses.

Southern Ngang Pass (Quang Binh)

We went southward from Cam Ranh (Khanh Hoa) and turned left on provincial road 702. Our convoy rolled down the coastal road of Vinh Hy Bay (Ninh Thuan), reputedly the most beautiful coastal road in Vietnam. The sight of giant rock formations, steep cliffs, Nui Chua National Park, the distant blue sea, and endless white sand beaches left me awestruck.

Phan Rang – Thap Cham, the city of “scorching sun and blasting wind” is another memorable destination in Ninh Thuan. Here, we were charmed by fields of dry grass, Mui Dinh Lighthouse, flocks of sheep, exquisite vineyards lying under the sun, and wind turbines standing proudly against the blue sky.

There are many journeys still to come. As we travelled through our beloved Vietnam, each place left a mark on the heart of each driver in our convoy. For many people, including my family, driving for many days, even months, over thousands of miles is  an indescribable experience.

We sometimes joked that only those “whose blood is mixed with gasoline” could comprehend the joy of driving such long distances. There were jaw-dropping moments when stunning scenes emerged behind a canyon’s curve, or we witnessed a spectacular sunset.

Southern Ngang Pass (Quang Binh)

Taking long journeys together helps strengthen the bonds between family members or groups of friends, providing us with valuable life experiences and lessons, and helping us to appreciate what we have. One morning, we will wake up in a new land, put our hands on the steering wheel, say hello to the road before us, and drive our beloved car. This is the joy of driving in a convoy. When we travel this way, the excitement starts long before the trip even begins and does not end when the journey is over. Try it and discover a new way to travel.