Hectic Vietnam

Vinh Travel Blog

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After heading north for a couple of hundred km we turned right, towards the mountains and Vietnam. With this came our first propper up hill in months which meant 99.7 km in one day, almost all uphill: Laos has beautifull karst mountains with black rocks sticking straight out of the ground, maybee several 100 meters above us. As we climbed it became greener with lots of bamboo bushes, old monsoon forest, banana palms and flowery shrubs. With the pleated straw huts, buffalos and women in tribal dresses it looked so incredibly chinese. The ancient China of my imagination, the China was was painted on my grandmothers ancient vases and the room separators. Inspite of a vicious headwind we keept good spirits and arrived in beautifull lak sao around six o'clock, just as the sun was setting and the winds got biting cold. There was a huge market with people, looking much more Tibetan than laotian, selling us hot snacks and drinks freshly prepared over coal fires and for the night we stayed in a excellent hotel with comfy chairs and big duvets. The first duvets in south east Asia!

The next morning we knew our luxury would be over as soon as we left and took our time over porridge, reading and writing. But eventually we moved on into a headwindy storm, slowly making our way further up a gentle, long slope. It was beautifull and we took breaks every 10 km. However the last 5 km it started drizzeling and the road became steeper. Clouds descended around us and eventually we were completely absorbed by the gray and rainy invisibility of the mountain peaks. All we could see was the road climbing round the next corner into more clouds.

Only when we were right infront of it, we saw the Lao border building - a big dark gateway with way to many rooms and corridors for its purpose, stretching over the road. Due to a powercut the few staff that occupied this dark giant worked in dusky gray or by candles. In nomansland the ground and the sky became one and as our road disintegrated to a muddy track we nearly missed the equally huge Vietnamese border building all together. The police were corrupt an we had to pay 1 dollar each. Wet and exceptionally cold we gave in after only small protests; We wanted to reach tay son 30 km further on and didn't have the spirit to stand our ground.

After the Vietnames border the mountains dropped into sheer cliffs. The road snaked steep down for about 20 km. To our left we could hear a powerfull waterfall and from the right heavy drops from vegetation hanging high above us mixed with the steady freezing rain. We could see only about 10 meters in each direction but sensed the sheer cliffs and steep drops around us. Daren had socks on his hands and a binliner as a raincoat. I had my fingerless gloves pulled right over my knuckles and my raincoat was soaked. Every so often we would have to stop to do start jumps, to run and to hop in order to wake our tingeling limbs back to life.

Eventualy the clouds gave way to an entirely different world: Wide rivers emerged from the cloud-forest covered cliffs behind us, pushing their way towards the south China sea. Villages began to spring up here and there; Old wodden houses next to new but naturally overgrown, chaotic, green, orange and pink brick houses. And all was decorated with fairy lights- possibly due to tet celebrations or possibly just because the vietnamese seem to love everything loud and bright; Especially in this backwater part of Vietnam. They would shout hellos into our faces, standing only inches away from us. Teenage boys would show off just shouting anything they could think off and nearly crash their screetching motorbikes and Karaoke and tellys seemed to blare from every house...

So inspite of being beautifull this part was loud and the main highway from Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi was even louder. As we bit our lips through the bad traffic and chaos of the road Darens backwheel became even more usefull and broke again. This time, instead of hunting high and low for a wheel we got on the bus to Hanoi.

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photo by: sweettangerine