A boundary between two countries is always a strange place with its own rules. And there is usually a huge building on top of it. The reason is simple – to scare. Which works in my case. And it worked when we tried to cross the border between Laos and Vietnam on 4th January. It was cloudy, foggy and cold day. No wonder, we were in mountains 740m asl. I was nervous and waiting. But luckily, everything went great and after couple of minutes we left the checkpoint with stamps in our passports. Ahead there was 40km of downhill down to the elevation only 10m asl. The Vietnamese chapter could begin!
I didn’t know why but I thought Vietnam would be more prosperous country then Laos. At least at a glance. But after couple of meters it was clear – roads are in the same conditions with potholes and mud as in the previous country. But nothing that our bikes coudn’t manage.
Also I thought it would be warm and sunny again when we got lower. Not really. It was cold and drizzling when we arrived in Pho Chao, the first bigger city on our way. Together with fatigue and hunger it would be only a small step to get angry. Fortunately, we knew it so we managed to quickly find an ATM, buy a simcard, find a restaurant and carry on to the closest acommodation. And the world was a nice place again.
The acommodation was a good choice. The manager spoke English so he drove us to a restaurant and help us to order a dinner. In return he organized an English lesson the next evening. But we were teachers and we were supposed to teach a group of Vietnamese children in age 6-11. Ok, why not? Eventually it was fun and kids were happy too.
A plan for next days was simple – bike the Ho Chi Minh Highway. A road connecting Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (not to be confused with the Ho Chi Minh Trail, most of which is in Laos). It was not a real highway. The two-lane road went through small villages and cities and traffic wasn’t too crazy compared the Highway 1. We shared the road with buffalos, small tractors, motorbikers and with some trucks too. Everyone tooted like mad and sometimes we weren’t too far to yell something not very nice but overall it was a great ride.
The weather was getting better and better as well as a landscape. After 3 days we got closer to the Phong Nha national park. We biked through the landscape of endless limestone mountains, the sun was shining but I got goosebumps. This is it. This is what I was dreaming about. An amazing scenery, smiling people, everything was perfect. Even if we had to quit now, I would be happy.
But it wasn’t the end. We got an acommodation in Phong Nha village and wanted to explore the park and caves. The weather got change again and the temperature droped from 30°C to poor 10°C. Fortunately it didn’t affect the beauty of this amazing part of the world. We spent a day biking through the park and we got back to the acommodation wet and cold. In such conditions we weren’t very keen to continue in hilly terrain so we changed the plan and the next day headed to the east coast, where the weather forecast seemed to be better.
Well, the weather wasn’t great nor on the coast. But at least it was flat and we got a tailwind. There wasn’t too much to see but we really enjoyed a visit of Vinh Moc Tunnels. It is a complex of tunnels which were built to protect people from the intense bombing during the war in Vietnam. There was everything what they needed – an operation room, meeting room or kindergarden. We felt very sad when we walked through those tight underground spaces but we also were amazed of human toil and desire to survive.
We arrived in Hue, the first bigger tourist destination on 14th January. We took a day off and we had a reason to celebrate – it had been three months since we left our second home in Wanaka. We have learnt many things. For example how to be happy even it is not easy sometimes and our lives are a little bit different now:
- food is the basis, no doubt. We know we have to eat before we get hungry. And we are not going anywhere without a proper breakfast.
- no rush. Definitely not in Asia. We stop every 2 hours or so, even we are not too tired. We usually bike between 30 and 80km per day and have a day off once a week at least.
- talking. About everything. What we thinking about, what we are dreaming about. Thanks that even the most boring road seems to be interesting.
I am really looking forward to next months. To the good and the bad days which will teach us something new again.