Hotel Nomad bike family
Early in the morning I started from the Travel Lodge in Thakek. For the first 80 kilometers, the road passed many clearcuts. Only occasionally followed sections in between, in which the jungle was still preserved. It is unbelievable what the Chinese allow themselves with their ruthless forest clearance. It is particularly bad that the areas are burned down after the clearcutting. As a former forest warden and arborist, such pictures just make me angry.
At night, I set up my tent next to such an area and enjoyed the delicious pesto spaghetti. My mother had brought these, including Swiss grated cheese! The fire was still burning and you could hear the crackle falling asleep. In the middle of the night a violent thunderstorm broke. My tent was completely under water and sleep was out of the question. So I crawled out of the sleeping bag in the morning exhausted. Already on the first climb, I really started to sweat. Tiredness, tropical heat and climbs over 10% are not exactly a good combination. However, the landscape lacked the effort and in the evening I found the ideal campground in a quarry.
This time the storm came a little earlier. As a result, the outside temperature cooled significantly and I was able to compensate for my lack of sleep again. The last 40 kilometers to the border in Câu Treo were surprisingly flat. The Laotian border guards were extremely friendly and I was able to exchange my remaining kips in Vietnamese dongs (20,000 dongs = 1 US dollar). But the dear Vietnamese annoyed me when they demanded 20,000 dong for the stamp.
Then followed a nearly 40-kilometer descent through the mountains to Pho Châu. There I reached the Ho Chi Minh Highway, which meanwhile runs from Saigon to Hanoi. The Ho Chi Minh Trail was a logistical network of roads and traffic routes that ran from North Vietnam to South Vietnam, passing through neighboring countries Laos and Cambodia. Already in the Indochinakrieg the path was used. The path also served as logistical support to the North during the Vietnam War for the South-fighting National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam.
The path was named after North Vietnamese President Hồ Chí Minh. However, the name was used only in the West, in Vietnam, the path was called ường Trường Sơn, named after the mountain range Truong Son in central Vietnam. In order to detect the routes of the Ho Chi Minh Trail in air operations, the corresponding regions were sprayed with Agent Orange to defoliate the vegetation from the air. The damage is still clearly visible today.
It takes over half a century for the vegetation to recover to some extent from the herbicide use. Also this night followed another thunderstorm. The wet things dry in the hot temperatures fortunately in the sun quite fast. In the beginning I had a hard time finding bread. In Laos you do not need to worry about this.
Here in Vietnam you can also feel the influence of China on a culinary level. The next three days led through beautiful landscapes. I especially liked the many green rice fields. In between you can see corn and banana plantations. Agriculture seems to be very important here. The Vietnamese peasants are true artists in creating the fields. These are dynamically integrated into the landscape and linked together in a sophisticated water channel system.
I saw a lot of bizarre scenes on and off the street. Motorized vehicles are usually seen only in the form of trucks or scooters. This is very much transported by bike or ox cart. I like such pictures.
I spent my birthday like a real velonomade in the saddle. Actually, I wanted to treat myself to this evening a little earlier. At the age of 28 you can afford something like that. However, Vietnam is not always easy to find a quiet spot for the night, so it was quite late this time as well. At this point I would like to thank Allen for the many congratulations!
Vietnam is not a big fan of social networks. Just like in China, Facebook or Youtube only limited access. Long live communism!
Last night before Hanoi, I had a little argument with the police. I pitched my tent on the roadside after unsuccessfully looking for a suitable spot for nearly 2 hours. Only after I had set up my tent, prepared a dinner and was already in the sleeping bag, it suddenly shook at 20:00 clock at my tent. A policeman just opened my tent and shined inside. When I asked him angrily in English for the reason of his arrogant behavior, he began to speak Vietnamese. I did not understand a single word and soon realized that together we can not come to a green branch. Although I already understood that he wanted to chase me away from here because of his sign language, at this time of day I had no desire for such games. So I just closed the tent in front of his nose and went to sleep again.
About two hours later, the whole scenario was repeated again with another policeman. Also this could not speak English and so I closed the tent after a while and tried to sleep. He tried for about half an hour to find a solution by mobile phone, but then gave up unnerved.
With a slight lack of sleep, I drove the last 50 kilometers to Hanoi. Already in Xuân Mai traffic increased significantly. Nevertheless, I was still before noon at the city entrance.
There was a happy reunion with the Nomadbikefamily fr.nomadbikefamily.org. Francesco, Diego and Mariano, three Argentine cyclists, were also quartered there. They also want to cycle to China and so we drove to the Chinese Embassy the next day. The visa process was very different here, as in Vientiane. Nobody wanted to know anything about hotel and flight reservations. Only the passport and the Vietnam Visa we had to copy and fill out the 6-page form.
The next morning we were able to pick up the receipt to deposit and the next day my 30 days visa. More was not possible. It would be enough for me to travel to Beijing. In between, I was able to replace my demolished cassette. Already the third on my trip. I'm probably just too stupid for derailleurs. The three Argentinians also found a delicious noodle soup restaurant and offered delicious matte tea. Also, the defective lens could be renewed in a Canon specialty store. Wonderful!
The next day, the Argentinas invited us to watch their spectacle. The people had great fun at their performance. It was late at night when we got home.
The next day, I met with Gordon. Last time we met in Istanbul a year ago. There was a lot to tell. Gordon had suffered irreparable damage to his bicycle in India from an accident in India and has since traveled as a backpacker through Asia. Good luck Gordon for the rest of your journey. It was great to see you again!
Also my front tire definitely gave up the ghost. So I was able to mount my folding pommel, which I have been carrying with me since the beginning of the journey.
On Sunday, Laure and Pierre arrived at the Hotel Nomadbikefamily. Your Warmshower Contact seems to be really popular. The two started their recumbents from France in March 2010 and then arrived in Hanoi via South America, New Zealand, Australia and Southeast Asia. From here it goes via China, Central Asia back to Europe. Bon Voyage Laure et Pierre! The three Argentinians visited us again and we were spoiled with delicious gnocchi. Muchas gracias y adiós Francesco, Mariano e Diego!
On May 2, Sandra and Patrick first took us to the Soup Restaurant. There Laura and Benoît joined us with their recumbents. They traveled from Switzerland through Europe, Turkey and Iran, took a cargo ship to Malaysia there and now want to travel on to Hong Kong. Then it should go back home. The two expect soon to be offspring. Härzliche Congratulations et au revoir dans la Suisse! Sandra and Patrick took us to the villages around Hanoi. The heat made us all a little bothered. We were rewarded with a visit to a beautiful pagoda.
In the evening, the refreshing shower helped us to eliminate the heat build-up. For me, it was impressive to see the other side of this booming capital.
Some things have become broken again. So my pants and the silk sleeping bag had to be sewn, the broken heels on the front wheel bag had to be repaired and the zipper on the Hilleberg tent had to be replaced. On Saturday, Manu celebrated his 7th birthday at the Americans Club with a big treasure hunt Sandra had organized for the kids. I was allowed to contribute as a clown.
We ate so much cake that I almost felt sick at the end. After these 12 great days in Hanoi we continue to China. Merci beaucoup Sandra, Patrick, Ella, Leeroy and Manu pour tous. Au revoir à la Suisse.