If you skip central Vietnam, you miss out on some of the country’s most iconic sights, its best beaches and a more relaxed pace.
Determined to neither exceed nor ease from the posted 70-km-per-hour speed limit along Vietnam’s National Route 1A, my driver, Dai, pulsed the gas pedal with his foot as we traveled north on the two-lane highway to the imperial city of Hue.
The road climbed gently from the outskirts of Da Nang toward mountains that serve as a kind of waistband for the lanky country that stretches more than 1,000 miles north to south but is barely 35 miles east to west at its midsection.
At one time, the Truong Son Mountains were a natural bulwark dividing Vietnam. The two halves were brought together under French rule in the mid-19th century, then split into rival states in 1954. You probably know what happened next.
In 2005, the four-mile-long Hai Van Tunnel was opened, cutting through the mountains, a celebrated engineering feat for a country that was just beginning to sow its economic oats.