On the road again…see ya Dong Hoi!

Dong Hoi, Vietnam to Tan Ky, Vietnam to Son Tay, Vietnam
October 8-9, 2013

I’m not going to say it’s about time…but it was about damn time. If you have been following our posts you’d know that Michael Douglas and myself have not always been on the

See ya Dong Hoi

See ya Dong Hoi

greatest of terms – but as of late he has been the eggs to my baguette. No problems. No hiccups. Just pure cruising. Which is why it was about damn time for Katie’s bike to hiccup. And in my kind of fashion. She had begun to strap her bag on for our extended day on the road when the hotel manager came out and pointed to her flat tire. BAM! BAZINGA! OOOOH! OOOH It was sweet! I mean, I’m sorry baby…really, honest and sincere. Ok is she gone? Yes? Well damn I take it all back! WOOHAA! Michael Douglas high-fived me while Katie unstrapped her pack and left to get her tire patched. All in all it was a dollar and a twenty minute set back, but it was sweet. A beautiful day to start a long haul on the road.

KT Edit: Yep, I finally knew what it felt like to wake up to a flat tire. I was annoyed. I didn’t wan to deal with it. Ohhhhh bike problems, curse you!

Since we fell in love with the ease and simplicity of the Ho Chi Minh Highway over the chaos and bedlam of the AH1 – we hopped at the chance to get right back on Uncle Ho and ride his ass all the way north. For the first hour it was all the beauty we expected from retracing our tire marks from lore…and the seven hours that followed were possibly even more majestic.

SAMSUNG CSC

The whole trip long I’ve battled the battery game with my camera and every time I reach the epic most unbelievable view – the ol’ camera says sorry folks this one is for your eyes only. Either way, I saw, lived, rode & experienced the pure enchantment that is the HCM Highway. All the roaring climbs and gliding descents, the hairpin turns, forests so lush andSAMSUNG CSC never-ending that they all eventually blend into one immense emerald ocean. Passing villages that consist of only two neighbours and towns that rest their heads along fulcrum of a mountain. And millions of everything between here and your ideas of civilization. And as you ride past these slow, other worldly towns you wonder how anyone ever settled here and said this is where I am going to live…and actually did it. It’s unbelievable beauty. I just couldn’t imagine the obstacles of creating a world in the middle of nowhere. It’s surreal. Perfect. Calm. It’s everything I have been searching for. The entire day was filled with wonderment. All 350 kilometers of it.

SAMSUNG CSC

We ended up in the stop over town of Tan Ky after checking out a couple creepy hotels SAMSUNG CSCwith child drawings on the walls, cobwebs so large I thought the room had already been occupied, and stucco replaced with wallpaper. We apologized and found another. We ate dinner for the sake of it. It had been 9 ½ hours since we had last eaten and I think I ate the freshest chicken in town. Behind me the next batter up was being beheaded as we ate. He didn’t sound too pleased.

The next morning we woke up and could only find a coffee joint. Neither of us were really hungry so after taking out some money from the bank, we hit the road. Yesterday we hadn’t hit a single stop sign in or along our eight hour drive and today seemed like it was going to follow suit. Our destination was an unknown town called Son Tay. It was 50km from downtown Hanoi and 300km from Sapa, a mountain town that we heard had an SAMSUNG CSCamazing stretch of highway leading up to its mouth. The ride was, well less. It was still beautiful. And the day was great. But we had began to emerge from the untouched landscape. You could begin to tell we were heading for the nations capital. The ride was nice though. No traffic and the two red lights we approached turned green before we got to them. And then it happened. Our first red light. That mother scratcher. Over 500km without being forced to stop and bam it hits you. Well after that 17 second hiccup we got back on the road and eventually made it to Son Tay found a hotel and hung out in a café chatting with family and writing postcards until it was time to settle.

We also changed our flight. We decided to head to the island of Cat Ba over Sapa. A plan that would save us two days of travel and a smoother plan of execution out of Vietnam before our visas expired. So after being landlocked for the past week it was back to the beach.

SAMSUNG CSC

Pho-king Delicious

We arrived in Ho Chi Minh City on July 23rd, figured out a taxi to take us to where we were staying – an apartment in the Manor 2 with Louis’ friend from Korea (Pam)’s boyfriend Haider, snuck in around midnight, and crashed in the spare bedroom. Setting out on the first day of our adventure after a relatively long and unbroken sleep, we had no idea where to go or what to see first. We were Vietnam virgins in the purest sense, with not even a map as a guide. We left the Manor 2 in which we thought was District 7, with the sole purpose of exploration. We quickly got lost, but can one REALLY be lost if one has no specific destination, and one is never really “found” to begin with?

Our first order of business was breakfast. It was after 11AM, past Vietnamese breakfast time, but that wouldn’t stop us. The airplane and airport food of the past two days had left a lot to be desired. We kept seeing little plastic tables and little plastic stools set up all over the sidewalks with people of all ages stooped and slurping. Alright…so how does this work?? Should we just sit down and see what happens? Not speaking the language…this really was our only option.

So that’s what we did! We sat at a metal table on the sidewalk, lined on both sides with tiny plastic stools and covered in containers holding chopsticks, spoons, toilet-paper-cum-napkins, diced limes, various spices, and a number of things we couldn’t put a name to. A middle-aged woman smiled at us sweetly and got to putting together two bowls for us. How did she know what we wanted?? She didn’t. Didn’t we have some sort of menu or choice? We didn’t.
Travel Vietam Pho KT

This sweet lady brought over two bowls of Pho. Just like the pho restaurants at home, there was a plate full of fresh herbs in the middle to mix in with our noodle soup. One “herb” looked quite strange, and when I asked Louis about it he stated very matter-of-factly, “It’s not octopus”. With a shrug, I threw it all in my bowl, squirted lime like the lady was insisting, and slurped away, no more questions asked. And…it was great! Very much like the pho we have at home, but much better…assumingly because everything was the freshest of fresh, and maybe because we were starving. And also because we really couldn’t be sure what was involved in the making of the pho.

We dove head first into the food culture and were not disappointed. At a whopping 50,000VND (about $2.50CAD) for 2 meals, we’d say we got a great bang for our buck. At Pho Dau Bo in Hamilton, which is my favourite pho place back home, the same setup and meal for two people would have cost $14. All this, plus a little Vietnamese boy and his mother offered lively entertainment, wanting to take pictures and laugh with us. The boys mother informed us that the “not octopus” part was, indeed, dried squid. Whoops! Whodathunk the girl who gags at the thought of eating an olive would be munching squid on her first day in Vietnam? The one thing I couldn’t bring myself to eat, although Louis did give it a go, was something femur bone-looking, with the texture of tofu. I’m still unsure what it was, but my money is on something sausage related.

Travel Vietnam Lou