gooooood morning Vietnam!

Vietnam | Hanoi to Saigon | day 277

I stepped into a real life Where’s Waldo book when I arrived in Hanoi: bright signs, odd shops, people collaged on top of one another, and an insane amount of scooters everywhere. The practice of drinking tea had returned and thus stoop culture was reinstated…Who doesn’t love stoop sitting? Generally large cities are all the same, standard and globalized, but old town Hanoi was swarming with character. A day could easily be spent street side on a plastic stool, sipping our new found love, caphe trung (egg coffee) just watching the beautiful madness ensue.


Vietnamese economics have been on the rise and we immediately noticed the increase in industry, agriculture, and population coming from Laos. How to know you’re in Vietnam: a Vietnamese flag will hang approximately every ten feet through out the entire country. Vietnamese are far from the shy and bashful Lao, and everyone from children to the elderly gave us big waves or peace signs while shouting "Hey-lo!" People were excited to see us and kids eggar to practice their english. And we were more than happy to be back to our old habit of greeting everyone we passed. Soon we were appearing in selfies all down the coast. Vietnam felt warm and not just because it was 100 degrees outside. 

Sitting on the border of Laos and Vietnam we had a choice: ride 500 miles through the wet northern hill tribe region of Vietnam, or take a bus to Hanoi and ride the coast to Ho Chi Minh, we chose the latter. After months of steep hills of SE Asia, meticulously planning every little road and resupply point, the paved ride down the coast full of culture and delicious food sounded appealing. For the next couple months we are going to give traditional bike touring a try and ride some pavement. It was flat, the food was good, and we had a chance to se a great majority of the country: Hanoi, Ninh Binh, Dong Hoi, Da Nang, Hue, Hoi An, Nha Trang, and Ho Chi Minh. 



"It was flat, the food was good, and we had a chance to se a great majority of the country."

Traffic in Vietnam is notoriously psychotic. The most demented road of them all is highway 1, a nerve-racking hellish road that runs the length of the country. We tried our darndest to keep off that dirty highway. Our diversions were rewarded with some pretty great coastal rides, simple scooter pathways leading between rice fields, and even a surprise visit through a mural village. The coast provided both tiny fishing villages that still looked shocked to see us and big cities with luxury skyscraper hotels, that also still got a kick out of us riding our bikes as we walk into their extravagant entryways dirty and dripping with mud. 



The first week of riding was wet, we just couldn’t get away from the rain.  Alternating from 100% humidity, drizzle, and downpour, a haze lingered keeping us moist and smelling of sweaty mold. Rice fields, corn, and many other crops lined our path from town to town with conical hats peeking out from every patch. It was great to explore a different town or city every night and hotels remained very cheap, and the food even cheaper. Catholic churches were prevalent. But even more prevalent were the amount of large graveyards along the coastline, the war had devastating effects on the population that are still felt today. 

"Rice fields, corn, and many other crops lined our path from town to town with conical hats peeking out from every patch."


Our entire route is riddled with memorials and terrible stories from the Vietnam war, known as “The American” war here in SE Asia. Vietnam has either been occupied or at war since practically forever. Only in the last forty years have they stabilized and started to rebuild their country. The moment we crossed the border from Laos we were greeted with memorials from the second Indochina War and just days before we left we visited the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh. 

The war museum was is haunting. Although fairly biased in its’ presentation, the horrible results and amount of lives lost can not be denied. I couldn’t even finish the walk through Agent Orange room it was too horrifying what people can do to one another. I was so heartbroken to hear about the most recent chemical attack on Syria, everyone should have to see this exhibit before even thinking of using such tactics.  



 

  

These guys are crazy, jumping around, dancing, and blurting out every english word they knew while they simultaneously instagramed, snap chatted, and facebooked everything. We met them around noon. I have a feeling they have been on a bender since the night before. 

  

 


We rode through a small fishing village when two guys on a scooter carrying a 15 foot fishing pole stopped us… for selfies, of course. After an impromptu photoshoot, we were invited to join the fishing expedition. Snails were crushed and strung on five individual lines evenly spaced on the main-line. With one giant heave, the line is cast into the sea and a simple wooden wheel used as the reel. I didn’t catch much, but we talked through google translate on our phones until some heavy clouds rolled in and we had to be on our way. People were always down for these kind of small interactions and willing to try to communicate even if it got us no where. 

Vietnamese food is our official favorite food. We haven’t even finished our trip, and I feel pretty confident claiming this now. 

We hadn’t tasted much other than pho, and had no idea what a magical country lay before us. We soon became obsessed, researching all the regional foods and going on day long hunts for specific street food dishes. Every meal tasted unique and fresh, even if the ingredients were similar, we couldn’t stop stuffing our faces. We cycled almost 850 miles …and still gained weight. 

 

"Vietnam ends our Southeast Asia ride, and we know what we were leaving behind. "

Vietnam ends our Southeast Asia ride, and we know what we were leaving behind. What would become of us without our random $20 seaside resorts, mid-day sin tus (smoothies sent from above), or bus drivers willing to get your bike on their bus no matter how dirty. Sure Korea and Japan would be more modern, more like home, but there is a lot of beauty to how this place works and we weren’t exactly ready to be broke again. 


  

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