22.12.2010 - 08.12.2010 30 °C
Day 12 – Dong Ha – Vinh – 280km
I woke up feeling just as bad as the night before but there was no chance I was going to stay in Dong Ha, the plan was to get a guide around the DMZ but due to me feeling like shit I just wanted to find a nice hotel somewhere and wrap up. We stopped at a bridge that I cant remember the name of for the life of me but apparently its famous?!
This is where me and Magnus went our separate ways – he was heading on the train back down to HCMC and I was heading on to Hanoi. It was on my own from here on. The plan was to stop at Dong Hoi and just find a nice hotel to curl up in until I felt better. But once I got riding I started to feel better and managed to rack up 280km and found myself in Vinh – nothing of to much interest here but it was a good stop off with only 290km left to Hanoi.
Day 13 – Vinh - Hanoi
I was flying the next day, Bonita was running really well and I stuck to about 70kmh for the remaining ride which was all well until I got pulled over by the police for speeding – they were so happy when I pulled my helmet off to reveal a tourist – they must have seen dollar signs in their eyes. They tried to get 500,000vnd out of me but after about half an hour of negotiating with them threatening to take the bike off me we agreed on 200,000vnd (about 6 pounds). So I slowed down abit after that as it seemed that the police were out in force. I arrived in Hanoi covered in mud and dust from the ride but in one piece and booked into Hanoi backpackers for the night. After a couple of days recovering in Hanoi which I have to say isn’t that interesting I decided to try and get back on the road again. So I planned a route and set of on the way to Son La. I made it about half way and had to stop in a hotel – I was covered in mud head to toe, soaked right through and freezing. Whilst I was warming up in the hotel I decided that I wasn’t prepared enough to do this ride with the weather – I had no warm clothes and no waterproofs. I decided to head back to Hanoi the next day and ended up spending a few days there.
It was pretty cool, I met at English guy called Joe and Daniella a girl from Macadonia – so we just hung out. Now Hanoi backpacker have a famous tour of Halong Bay which everyone does but it was $129 – which is pretty much a booze cruise. I would liked to have done it but I couldn’t justify spending that much on the tour. So the three of us set out to do it our own way a lot cheaper. So we got the bus to Cat Ba an island in Halong bay the next day – it took about 4 and a half hours, well I say the three of us – Joe got so drunk the night before he couldn’t get out of bed and ended up meeting us the next day.. Cat Ba itself isn’t anything that special but the tours are a lot cheaper. The first day we hired a motorbike and went around the island – first to the national park which was did a 3km trek and then to Hospital cave. The cave was pretty impressive – in the way the locals moved the hospital into this cave that had three stories. A guide showed us around inside and explained what everything used to be.
That day we managed to arrange a trip – I was very proud of us – we managed to charter our own Chinese Junk for only $50 each – this included food, all tickets, permits, Kayaking and an overnight stay on the boat. We met two guys from England who joined us on the boat so we had it to ourselves between the five of us.
We set off that morning and oh my god. It takes this a lot to impress me these days after travelling for a while but it was outstanding. I cant describe the views. We sailed around visiting beaches and caves stopped for lunch and went Kayaking through caves and lagoons. The food was awesome and I had finally learnt to use chopsticks so only a little of my food ended up on the floor.
The night was pretty cool, we brought a few drinks so it was a pretty good night, the captain of the boat ended up getting so drunk he was in bed by 7:30. The next day was even better then the first – we had the best weather I had seen so far in Vietnam. We took the canoes out again and went through a cave that was 200metres long and came out I into a lagoon. This truly is paradise. After the cave we headed to a beach when something happened that dampened my mood somewhat. I only went and dropped my camera in the water when we got out to the go on the beach. I could not believe it! That makes number 7 for my trip so far – I have the worst luck ever with cameras – it wasn’t a cheap one either.
We visited Monkey Island where the excitement continued… Paul one of the guys was climbing up a pretty difficult trail, slipped and dislocated his shoulder. It was a bit of a shame for him as he was in a lot of pain – the boat dropped him off at a hospital and dropped us back to Cat Ba.
We headed off the next morning and ended back up in Hanoi – and headed straight off to Sapa in the north that evening on the night train – being as we didn’t book the train the only ticket we could get was on the hard sleeper – and my god it was hard! I didn’t get any sleep and we arrived in Sapa around 5am. Me and Daniela wanted to go on a tour so we booked straight on a tour round the mountains and stayed in a homestay with a local family. We got told the trek was about 30km but I think they lied a bit – the first day we walked around 10km through the rice terraces – the local village people follow you trying to sell you stuff which can get a little annoying but you get used to it. Now I don’t know how we did it but we had perfect weather – the few days before it had been raining and was so misty that you couldn’t see ten meters in front of you and there we were with clear views all over the valley.
We got to the homestay and they were a really friendly family who were feeding us homemade rice wine… I cant remember how many shots we had but it was a lot! The next morning we headed up further into the hills. I can definitely recommend Sapa – it is a bit touristy and very cold but it was a highlight of Vietnam. It just dawned on me that it is getting close to Christmas – the night after the trek we started drinking mulled wine – it’s the first time its actually felt like Christmas. The next day we headed to Bac Ha which is about 3 hours away to the local market – It was pretty crazy – the food stalls were serving food that I couldn’t even guess what it could be – they had a cattle market and lots of souvenirs. We then got dropped to the main town to get our sleeper bus. So back to Hanoi – me Joe and Daniela were our separate ways the next day so we decided to go to a snake restaurant that night to say fair well.
It turned out to be a pretty messy night. We arrived at the snake village - there was about 12 of us. It was a bit touristy as they give you the snakes to handle and play with for a while before you enter the restaurant.. a little bit sadistic i thought. But they are farmed for eating so its no different then a pig of cow I suppose.
We sat down at the restaurant and was given the choice if we wanted to kill a snake - there was five between our group - I at first turned it down - and here were other volunteers. Now it is quite traditional so if you kill the snake you have to be the one to eat the heart. A few people went first and then Joe decided that he didnt want to do it anymore - so they asked for another volunteer - no one else wanted to so I stepped up. Everyone else had the snake held for them by the staff but they just handed me the head of the snake. So I have gutted a fish so it cant be that different....
Well it was - you do it when the snake is alive - not the most humane way I have to admit - I made a three inch slit in the belly of the snake with a knife and had to reach in find the heart pull it out and eat it whilst it was still beating. It was over pretty quickly and the heart didnt taste that bad i suppose.
Next was the drink - the first shot was vodka with snake bile - the second vodka with snake blood. They didnt taste to bad actually - then the food stated coming - it tasted a bit like chicken but tougher - there was fried snake skin, snake spring rolls, snake ribs - you get the picture... all through dinner we were drinking rice wine with snake bile - it didnt taste amazing but it was free drink. It was pretty messy by the end - quite a few people were ill, we got back to the hostel and found Mark locked out of the dorm in his underwear having been sick in his bed! nice.... It was a really good night, a good end to Vietnam.
Its been an awesome time in Vietnam – the bike trip was an awesome experience.
Until next time…