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After another breakfast at the backpacker's hangout across the street, we pack up our bikes and head out of town. Our plan is to continue bicycling North on the Ho Chi Minh Highway. After crossing the river at the edge of town, we find ourselves back on the Ho Chi Minh Highway, on which we will continue cycling north toward Hanoi. The view is beautiful: rugged carst mountains are flanking the highway and around each turn the scene becomes

Visiting Phong Nha Cave

Before settling down in our guesthouse, we decided to check on a few tours to the Phong Nha National Park and its famous caves. Apparently it is not necessary to actually book a tour ahead of time, as long as we know what we want to see and return before 8:00 am. So we snap a couple of pictures of the information chart by the kiosk, grab a bite to eat at a local hang out, which seems to be popular with western backpackers, and go to sleep at the guesthouse.

Cycling the Ho Chi Minh Trail Part One: Partying with the Police

From Dong Ho it is only a short skip and a hop to reach the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Or at least one of the many former Ho Chi Minh Trails that has been converted into one of the most pleasant roads in South East Asia to cycle on. This one is going to lead us to the Phong Nha National Park. For the next few days we will be bicycle touring where over 40 000 North Vietnamese Soldiers and farmers worked under the harshest conditions in a dense, tropical jungle. During the war it was their job to keep thousands of miles of supply roads and fake supply roads clear so weapons, supplies, and troops could be brought to Southern Vietnam. The soldiers were not allowed to return home unless they either A). won the war, or B). their bodies made it home and were buried. This philosophy made the Northern Vietnamese Army very resourceful in
It is still early, when we hurry up and get a bite to eat before we hustle over to see Mr. Tinh. After a short briefing we are ready to roll. Mr Tinh and his driver sit in the front, the three of us in the back seat. Today we are going on an excursion to visit the former DMZ and the Vinh Moc Tunnels.
“DMZ,” which means demilitarized zone, is a military term that refers to a combat-free area between two enemies. The boundary between North Vietnam (officially the Democratic Republic of Viet Nam) and South Vietnam (officially the State and later the Republic of Vietnam) was established as the Ben Hai River. The river ran approximately east-west, approximately on the 17th parallel. The DMZ extended five kilometers on each side of the river. (http://www.u-s-history.com)
Before cycling from Hue to Đông Hà, we spend an extra down day in Hue. Besides wandering around the newer part of town, where most of the tourists stay in their hotels and hostels, we stroll along the river and we treat ourselves to a double and triple serving of kem cay (soft serve-ice-cream) and pizza...sometimes it is just nice to get to eat something familiar and with less than 10 cents per ice cream it is easy to go a little bit overboard!
Today we are going to visit the Imperial City of Hue. It is said that the Imperial City of Hue is the best-preserved remnant of a vast citadel and royal quarters that once existed on the site. Apparently in 1802 ,Nguyễn Phúc Ánh took control of Vietnam and declared himself as Emperor Gia Long. Like any other emperor he was in great need of a citadel, so the Imperial City was founded. We were told that the Imperial City of Hue is about 2.5 km by 2.5 km wide, it is surrounded by a moat and within it lies the Purple Forbidden City which is separated by an additional set of walls and moat within the citadel.
It is going to be a long bicycle ride to Hue. The start from the guesthouse along the beach area to where the peninsula meets the mainland is very quiet and has very little traffic. As we cross one of the bridges leading back to the main land we watch fisherman bobbing up and down with the rhythm of the waves as they are fixing a buoy. We also spot a few boats that are tied up near the river's edge, waiting to go out for the catch of the day. It seems that blue is "the" color for boats. Not sure why -- maybe for camouflage -- but so far most of the fishing

We definitely lucked out by staying at the little guesthouse by the beach. The ocean view from our window is fantastic and instead of listening to the customary concert of honking scooters and buses we can hear the ocean's waves crashing on shore and children...

It is impossible to get any sleep on the overnight train. So it goes without saying, that we are pretty beat and tired when we arrive in Da Nang  early in the morning. After picking up our bikes at the cargo hold, we strap all of our belongings back onto our steely steeds while it is starting to rain. As we are leaving the trainstation parking lot a cab driver asks us where we are headed to. Since we actually have no clue on how big the town actually is or where we could find somewhere to stay the night, we welcome his advice of where to find a back packer hostel somewhat close by. We quickly pedal through the rain to find it.
It's our third trip to the Nha Trang train station. The first time was two days ago to enquire about a train schedule to Da Nang. Supposedly, it is only possible to take the bikes on the night train to Da Nang, which is fine by us. Unfortunately, all the berths are already booked up for an entire month in advance, so we have to take the pull seats, which is fine, too-- we've slept in worse places before.