We started off this week heading inland to experience some of the Ho Chi Minh trail. We left behind the busy QL 1 and the frequent costal fishing villages, trading them for beautiful green weirdly shaped hills and long stretches of deserted rolling roads.
We got some more good climbs in, the roads here have been a good gradient and usually in tip top condition. And the views across the hills was always stunning.
The lack of villages, restaurants, cafes, motels and shops was annoying at first, we had been spoilt for choice on the coastal roads, but wasn’t really ever a problem. And the dogs seemed to have a real problem with Jim, so we had quite a lot of chases. But we also met some super cute puppies.
We discovered our new go-to dinner dish, com rang (mixed fried rice) when we drank rice liquor with some Vietnamese men in a cafe in Tam Ky, and spent many evenings fruitlessly walking around towns trying to find somewhere open to buy dinner.
The Ho Chi Minh trail was really awesome, a well needed break from the flat coastal roads, and a chance to see the less touristy parts of Vietnam. After a few days we did some map consulting, counted up how many days we had left in Vietnam, and decided we had enough time to take a tip from a cycle tourist we met in Almaty and visit Cat Ba Island. So we left the quiet and scenic green hills, and headed straight back to the coast.
Northern Vietnam seems to be much more built up, so the last few days have felt like we have just cycled through town after town on big busy roads. However there are loads more bakeries here (hurrah for Jade!) and beer hoi, a local, daily brewed beer, is everywhere (hurrah for Jim!).
But it’s been worth it because today we reached the coast line, crossed what is apparently formerly the longest sea bridge in Asia, and took the ferry to arrive on Cat Ba Island. And it is stunning. Most of the island is a national park, and it’s hilly and green, with rocky coastlines, mangrove fields and beautiful beaches. Despite being quite touristy, we have settled into our hostel and have some fab off the bike plans for tomorrow.
Jim’s words – Hungry, Dogs, River, Achy, Sesame, Flat and Bridge.