Ninh Binh - Hanoi - Cao Bang - Meo Vac - Ha Giang - Bac Ha - Lao Cai
Vietnam greets us with heavy rain for 10 days and floodings. The road leading to the centre of Hanoi is flooded too and we have to push the bicycles through hipdeep water. Once a 4-wheel driven jeep dashes through the water, and I cannot withstand the pressure of the waves and get a nice bath. Nicole and Beat - travelling from Laos to Vietnam to visit us - get stuck because of a landslide and have to sleep 2 nights in the bus. The long lasting rainfall torpedo our planned tour through Vietnam. So we end up enjoying bustling and hustling Hanoi and cruise together through the scenic Halong Bay, which is dotted with 3000 limestone outcrops.
Back in Hanoi, we get the chance to wander around town, to chat and visit together with the very nice Vietnamese student Hoa (a friend of Heinz), the Historical Museum.
Leaving Hanoi northbound, the first day is a bad one. We watch how a women on her heavily with wood loaded bicycle gets catapulted in a ditch. Then a drive-by thieve on the motorbike tries to snatch my neckless. And as if this would not be enough for the day, we passed a collision between a truck and a motorbike, no nead to say the mororbike driver did not survive. Cycling on the highways is stressfull, because honking at everybody is considered an element of save driving, so the noise is unbearable. But this seems to e necessary as a warning of approach.
On small roads, which we choose whenever pssible - it is quiet and great for cycling. Its a lot of fun to pedal through beautiful landscapes, valleys with rice terraces, over passes leading through jungle or at higher altitude pine forest, passing the superb wooden houses on stilts. Unfortunately our stove refuses its work, and therefore we have to go back to the mainroad where we are able to find foodstalls. The climate turned chilly - in the morning when we start, it's around 10 degrees C - and we really miss our cooker.
In the northeast near the chinese border, we find the most spectacular area we have ever seen. And on these roads is practically no traffic. Now and then a motorbike - and 2 crazy cyclists. Cars cannot make their way, because of the 3 river crossings; one small hanging bridge and in one place we have to set across by bamboo raft.
The locals really laugh heartily at us, not believing, that we want, sweat soaked and without motor, go pedalling or pushing the heavy bike up the hills. The views are fantastic, dreamlike the landscapes with its limestone peaks and pinnacles, rivers and cascades, the roads cut into the side of cliffs and snaking its way along the mountainsides - and everywhere the impressing rice terraces on the steep slopes. The Montagnard women wear their traditional robe with colourful emroideries. And its also women who do the hard work: on the field, roadworks and carrying the heavy firewood. Men rather deal with drinking Xeo (ricewine), and then get on the motorbike and drive off.
After many kilometers uphill (to 1400 m) and downhill (200 m), a lot of pushing on gravel roads with big edged stones (which slit the front tire of my bike), the stunning views on mythical landscapes, the colourful markets, the friendly and happily laughing people, the tast of the strong and sweet coffee, the daily Phoe (noodlesoup), is a great experience that will stay with us forever.