Vietnam January 2009
February 2012 Hanoi to Dien Bien Phu complete route from Hanoi to Chiang Rai
Hanoi to Hoa Binh 73Ks
City streets to Hwy 6. Heavy traffic with a separate lane for Buses and bikes for 10Ks. All flat variable winds. At 20Ks, road arrows. Broken and being repaired. At 30Ks, better 2-lane road. Still busy. Now good Karst scenery. Less traffic. Easy rolling hills. At 65Ks, flat again. 4-lanes into town at 73Ks.
Hoa Binh to Mai Chau 63Ksam
5Ks through town sprawl then moderate climb to 10Ks, 2-lanes, light traffic. AM light winds becomes cross wind. Down 2Ks to valley. Wick road to 17Ks. Good karst scenery. At 21Ks, up to 24Ks then down into another valley. At 28Ks, Muong Khen. Rolling hills to 38Ks. Climb moderate/steep to 49Ks. Views limited by haze. Adequate sealed road. Down moderate/steep. At, 56Ks, great vista of rice valley. At 68Ks, Junction. Hwy 15, left continue down rice valley to Mai Chau at 63Ks.
(see Northern Vietnam route for route from Sapa south to Lao Border via Mai Chau)
Dien Bien Phu to Lao Border, Tay Trang 36Ks
Out to 14Ks, flat, flat rice valley. into the mountains, moderate/step climb to 24Ks. Broken asphalt road. Down steep to 25Ks. Now mostly gradual to 29Ks. Moderate climb. Mice mountain scenery. Some gravel pits. Some dump trucks. Less traffic, better asphalt. Tay Trang border crossing at 33Ks. Border up gradually to 36Ks.
January to March 20 Saigon to Cambodian boarder
(Ho Chi Minh to Chau Doc and Cambodian border)
Ho Chi Minh Airport (Tan Son Nhut) to downtown. Multiple routes go directly to town. 8Ks
Saigon to My Tho 82Ks
6Ks on city streets left to bridge at 6Ks. Straight on busy road to 9Ks. Right on tollway. Very wide with a separate side road for motorcycles. Makes it almost peaceful, ends at 19Ks. Right on Hwy #1, 4-lanes with a motorcycle shoulder. Lots of traffic, dusty, flat. NE wind (tail). Urban and dull. Tan An at 50Ks, right on minor Hwy #827 to Tam Vu at 62Ks. Junction, at 63Ks, right on farm road toward Long Tri at 67Ks. T junction at 74Ks, right. Rougher and busier into My Tho at 82Ks.
My Tho to Can Tho 94Ks
Out along river. Now its newly industrial for 10Ks. Then quieter. Good 2-lane road.
(7 years later the road is paved only the bridges are the same.) Light traffic to Tam Binh at 24Ks on DT#864. At 28Ks, junction. (This might be where we crossed by ferry in 2002.) Straight. Parts are gravel and under construction other parts are dirt tracks. One ferry and some bike only bridges and one last ferry into Cai Be at 38Ks. Out 1K then right to River at 40Ks. Ferry across. Out for 3Ks along canal then right on cement path to road at 44Ks straight to junction. Sign post to Vinh Long right at 45Ks to ferry. Straight for 7Ks to Hwy #1 then 39Ks very busy. The road is being widened. Ferry at 91Ks. Then 3Ks more into town at 94Ks. Hwy #1 is nasty. Some construction in 2009.
Can Tho to Long Xuyen 75Ks
3Ks to ferry. Cross and 300 meters go left on Hwy 54. Becomes a quiet rural road. Narrow asphalt, usually good. Many 1-lane wooden bridges. After 25Ks, some road widening and new wide cement bridges. At 53Ks Lap Vo, cross road. We made a mistake and took the ferry to Hwy #1 then right to Long Xuyen, 4-lanes. Not that busy. (Better to stay straight to the An Hoa ferry into Long Xuyen.)
Long Xuyen to Chau Doc 90Ks (not direct)
Cross the river on the An Hoa ferry. 1K to ferry. Then first left on narrow asphalt road. Along a minor river at 20Ks, go left over bridge. At 27Ks over bridge into Cho Moi. Straight to Cuan Cianz ferry at 31Ks. Now straight on Hwy #954. A little busier. Not as interesting. Cho Vam at 48Ks. Tan Chau 71Ks, straight through. Rural road. Muslim area before Chan Giang ferry at 88Ks. Into Chau Doc right 2Ks to center at 90Ks. Better but longer than the main Hwy #91 road.
Chau Doc to border with Cambodia 25Ks
Hwy 91 to and around Sam Mountain at 5Ks, 2-lanes. Some traffic. At 17Ks, junction right in Nha Bang. Mild climb into small hills. still on Hwy #91. Nice gradual downhill to the Cambodian border at 25Ks.
We flew from Siem Reap, Cambodia to Hanoi, Vietnam. Rode around the North and then south to Hue and crossed the border to Laos near Hue.
Hanoi to Halong Bay, Northern route via Sapa south to Lao Border at Khe Sanh
Hanoi Airport to Hanoi by Van
Hanoi to Hai Phong 104Ks
Over the Long Bien Bridge (the train bridge which has a motorcycle/bike lane next to the tracks) for 2Ks then right to Hwy #5 at 3Ks. Hwy #5 has a side bike lane. Busy, urban and flat. Through industry all the way. At 92Ks, the highway becomes a city road. Wide. Then into city center. There are good signs.
Hai Phong to Cat Ba Island by ferry
(Hydrofoil will not take bikes.) We took the slow ferry, 2 1/2 hours.
Cat Ba Island riding
Cat Ba to Gia Lucan Port 23Ks
Past the market for 4 Ks to junction. Right. Up an down 2 hills then mostly flat. At 13Ks, junction with coast road. Straight. At 20Ks another hill then beautiful ride to Gia Luan Port at 23Ks. Variable wind.
Gia Lucan Port to Cat Ba 30Ks
Return 9Ks then right at coast junction. Over a hill. At 13Ks, junction. (Straight to Cai Veng Ferry, 9Ks.) Left to Cat Ba Town, 18Ks. 2 hills, along coast. Hillier this way. At 22Ks, up to junction, right. At 26Ks, junction with main road, right. At 28Ks, up then right and into town 30Ks.
Boat to Halong city via Halong Bay
Halong City to Cua Ong 44Ks
From the boat along shore to circuitous climb to bridge at 5Ks. Separate bike lane on bridge for 1.5Ks. Urban. Highway with a bike lane. Rolling hills. Karst scenery spoiled by urban blight. Around Can Pha to Cua Ong, it’s a coal mining area. Flatter as you go nothing worthy. At 44Ks Cua ong. Head winds (NE) wide road.
Cua Ong to Tien Yen 52Ks
Up out of town. Rough, old paved road. 2-lanes, no shoulder. Traffic including trucks. At 10Ks, Mong Duang. End of Coal Mines. Better road, less traffic, rolling hills. Some trucks. Reforested area. Lots of curves. At 34Ks, good hwy. restaurants. Head winds (NE). Flattens out and straighter. At mid-day, more traffic. At 48Ks, junction. Right 4Ks to Tien Yen at 52Ks.
Tien Yen to Dinh Lap 44Ks
4Ks to junction. Straight on Hwy #4B. New road for 10Ks up a river valley. Then under construction to 15Ks, going up gradually. At 20Ks, (February 2009) the old road which is very adequate. At 39Ks, climb out of the valley then down at 41K. Into Dinh Lap at 44Ks. Tail wind. Good ride.
Dinh Lap to Lang Son 55Ks
Around Dinh Lap the somewhat rough paved road is single lane. Gradual river valley up. Road widens. Tail winds (east). Up a short climb and out of the valley at 16Ks. Good scenery. At 22Ks, road and sewer work in Na Duong to 26Ks, then new road. At 31Ks, road construction then new road again. At 39Ks, construction to 47Ks then old rough paved road and more construction. Rolling Hills. Winds mostly following. Nice scenery. Construction into town at 55Ks. (In a year or two, this will be a very good ride. Now in 2/2009, too much construction.)
Lang Son to That Khe 66Ks
5Ks out to Hwy 1, left. 2-lanes with a motorcycle lane. Till 10Ks, there’s a side road option. At 15Ks, left into Dong Dang at 16Ks on Hwy #4A, climb 2Ks then a nice 4K descent. Wide 2-lanes to 24Ks. Junction, left on 4A. Older, narrower road. Rolling. Very good scenery and towns. Generally down river. At 31Ks, Na Sam. Moderate 3K climb then along the Karst then steep down to moderate rolling hills. Tail wind. At 46Ks, back to the river but above it. Fun gradual descend for 4Ks. Narrow but quite, an occasional big truck. Rolling hills along the river. Wider road. At 62Ks, cross the river. A boulevard into town at 66Ks.
That Khe to Cao Bang 63Ks
Fog till 9AM then clear. Out of town then climb to 12Ks. Mostly gradual some moderate. Good new 2-lane road. Very good scenery. Down at 15Ks. Construction starts but rideable (2/2009). At 18Ks, start rolling hills up valley. At 23Ks, Dong Khe. Up moderately to 25Ks. Mostly climbing. New road at 27Ks. Rolling generally up to 29Ks. Tail wind. Then gentle downhill to 35Ks. Climb steep 1.5Ks then down often steeply to 45Ks. Up moderately to 48Ks. Now down to the Bang River then mostly gradual down. At 57Ks, more construction. Into town at 63Ks.
Cao Bang to Tinh Tuc 61Ks
Out of town to Hanoi Hwy. At 7Ks, junction, right at sign for Nguyen Binh. Basically a single lane older tar road. Curves. Rolling. Very good scenery. Generally climbing. Often level to 30Ks. Light traffic. Excellent scenery. Down moderately for 4Ks to river. Gradual up river to Nguyen Binh at 45Ks. Start moderate but long climb to 57Ks then down. Great views. Road broken at times. Down steeply to 61Ks at Tinh Tuc. Usually a tail wind.
Tinh Tuc to Bao Lac 71Ks
Down out of town 2Ks then start climb 2Ks steep then 1K down then switch backs. Steep then moderate to 10Ks. Level traverse to 13Ks. Down steep to a river at 17Ks. Then choppy steep hills to 29Ks. Tough. Moderate descent to 37Ks. More steep choppy hills. At 42Ks, down but still up and down steep. Road is rough in parts. Generally a tailwind. Tribe people. After 50Ks, the road mellows out down the river. Still rolling but easy all the way to Bao Lac, at 71Ks.
In 2/2009, you need a travel permit obtained in Ha Giang to travel to Meo Vac, Dong Van and Lung Cua. This road is reported to have great scenery and improved, Previously dirt roads.
Bao Loc to Bac Me 71Ks
Out down along the Gam River. Good tar road. Lots of twists and turns. A few ups ad downs. All down along the river. Very nice, easy. Last 2Ks into Bao Lam, construction. Bao Lam at 40Ks. Good road continues. Through a narrow gorge, beautiful. Then it widens out. The road is gradual. Almost all down. Then, Wham, a steep 3K climb at 54Ks then corkscrew down 3Ks to river at 60Ks. At 64Ks, the bridge across the Gam River. There’s one moderate hill into town at 71Ks. More of a head wind through here.
Bac Me to Ha Giang 53Ks
Rolling along the river to 5Ks then a moderate/steep climb for 1K away from the river then a gradual serpentine climb to 13Ks. Steep down and up to 15Ks then a long, steep curvey downhill. Tail winds. At 21Ks, over bridge, climb 1K then down to river at 23Ks. Climb above river then down and up steeply to 30Ks then rolling hills. Good scenery and interesting villages. After 36Ks, more up than down. 1K steep curvey climb out of valley. Top at 43Ks. Panoramic view. A great moderate descent into town for 8Ks. Then a wide road to the bridge into central Ha Giang at 53Ks.
Ha Giang to Viet Quang 60Ks
Out along river on Hwy #2. Good 2-land road. At 20Ks, a shoulder. At 24Ks, Vi Xuyen. At 30Ks, no shoulder. Light traffic. OK scenery. Head winds. (We thought the February winds were NE, but not here.) Away from the river then back. Easy rolling or flat. A little rain here. It’s also greener. At 45Ks, a shoulder. At 48Ks, junction with road to Hoang Su Phi. Shoulder ends at 52Ks. Moderate hills into Viet Quang at 60Ks.
Another option recommended by Loc in Hanoi
At the junction to Hoang Su Phi (48Ks south of Ha Giang) take the road to Hoang Su Phi. It is reported as easy cycling then mountains to Xin Man and Bac Ha then to Lao Cai. Reported to be beautiful but tough climbs.
Viet Quang to Pho Rong 67Ks
Turn west at junction in town on Hwy #279. 1 1/2-lane older tar road. Adequate but often broken. Rolling. Beautiful green (in February), rice fields. At 10Ks, some construction is beginning (2/2009). Foggy, overcast and some rain. Little traffic. At 25Ks, Yen Binh. Construction continues to 27Ks. Old tar road (OK). At 31Ks, climb moderately then gradually along the Karst Mountains. Top at 35Ks. Steeper down to 39Ks. Hills to 44Ks. Generally down river, rolling hills. At 50Ks, up 1 1/2Ks steep above river. Very good scenery. Tailwinds. Then 3Ks steep down to bridge over river at 55Ks. Over bridge over Song Chay at 57Ks. Follow river down to Pho Rong, easy grades. Into town at 67Ks.
Pho Rong to Lao Cai 75Ks
Out and up gradually for 3Ks. On a high quality new wide 2-lane road. At 5Ks, road under construction (what else). Rolling but generally up to 18Ks then generally down. At 20Ks, new road. Up again at 23Ks to 26Ks then rolling generally and gradually down. So-so scenery. Tail wind. At 58Ks, the road is narrower then at 64Ks, its a divided 4-lane road still gradual into Lao Cai at 75Ks. Light traffic. (An accident in the mountains stopped all the traffic except bikes and motorcycles so the road was especially quiet, our good luck.)
This route completely surprised us. After 26Ks of hills and bad roads under construction, it was a 50K glide, good road, easy grades and a tail wind all the way to Lao Cai.
Lao Cai to Sapa 37Ks (elevation 1650)
Through town then rolling hills to 9Ks on Hwy #40. The climb starts. Moderate parts and step parts. No wind effect but it’s a tail wind. Lots of nice vistas. Light traffic. 2-lane good tarmac road. At 27Ks,gradual parts. Winds become strong and swirl through the mountains. Steep again the last 5Ks into Sapa at 37Ks. Its a long climb.
Sapa (elevation 1650) to Lia Chau 73Ks
Up steep to Hwy #4D at 1K. Left. Road construction and climb to 4Ks. Road finished and traverse to 7Ks. A gradual descent to 9Ks. Road construction again. Start upward traverse along mountain. Great vistas. Swirling winds. Light traffic. Rocky, dusty road. At 12Ks, steep and rough to top, Tram Ton Pass at 15Ks, 1900 meters (highest pass in Vietnam). Strong winds (head). Now adequate asphalt road, narrow. Steep descent. Great mountain scenery then more moderate to 28Ks, steep again then moderate then gradual to flat at 38Ks then moderate down to 40Ks. Junction Hwy #26, right on 4B down to 42K then rolling into Tam Duong at 45Ks. Start straight moderate climb to 58Ks. Rolling to 60Ks. Construction and down. Some moderate, some steep. Rolling hills into town at 73Ks.(2/2009 extremely dusty, bad last 13Ks.) Lai Chau is the dust/smoke capitol of Vietnam.
Lai Chou to Muong Lay 108Ks
2012, This road is still under repair and traffic can be held up for hours.
Out of town and climb thru good scenery obscured by haze to 10Ks. Moderate/gradual. Good narrow asphalt road. Light traffic. To river at 28Ks. Along river. Construction (very dusty) through Phong Tho to 34Ks. On Hwy 12, along river up and down. Older road but OK. Some trucks. At 55Ks, climb above river until 63Ks. Very nice scenery. Light head winds. At 83Ks, climb inland. Some short dirt (dusty) sections. Chan Nua at 88Ks back at river. Area of land slides. (This is a temporary condition due to making a new higher road for when they create the new dam in this area in 1 or 2 years.) The dirt road closes as they work on it. Stopped five times due to road closures. Adds up to 1-2 hours to a trip. Dirty, dusty, terrible. The last 20Ks is a nightmare into Muong Lay at 108Ks.
Mong Lay to Tuan Giao 92Ks
Reported to be good new road, very quiet, pretty. 13K climb to start, then rolling.
Muong Lay to Dien Bien Pho 102Ks
Rolling up smaller river. At 10Ks, a moderate climb to 18Ks. Very good 2-lane road. Quiet. Hwy #12. Drift lower to 22Ks then climb again to 28Ks. Nice scenery. Vistas. Hazy. Down generally over choppy hills to 35Ks then descent to Muong Cha** at 43Ks. Gradually down to bridge over river at 53Ks. Gradually up river to 57Ks over some hills to 68Ks. Climb to 70Ks then down to 72Ks. New road. Light winds. Start to gradually climb up a nice rice valley. Then climb moderately on curvy road with construction but rideable. Top at 88Ks. Down moderately to 96Ks in a flat valley. Dien Bien Pho at 102Ks.
2012, **Mung Cha to Mung Lay, 43Ks
Good road. Markers show 48Ks but it is 43Ks to Muong Lay bus station, the center of a sprawling town. Road older but still good. New road runs a little above the town. Its a little rough due to on going dam construction.
Dien Bien Pho to Tuan Giao 78Ks
In 2012, road is all good. OK, 300 meters of dirt road just outside town. Hwy#279. Moderate climb to 14Ks then down to river at 16Ks. Now gradual or rolling hills up valley to 30Ks. Moderate climb to top at 32Ks. Vista but haze obscured. Moderate descent. At 40Ks Muong Ang. Gradual descent at 44Ks. Some rolling hills, down river. At 59Ks, beautiful Karst mountain valley. At 72Ks, climb to 74Ks. Then rolling hills mostly down into Tuan Giao at 78Ks.
Tuan Giao to Son La 81Ks
New road gradually up valley to 7.5Ks on Hwy #6. Steep climb starts to 17Ks. OK vistas and scenery. New road over the mountain pass Hills down and up to 22Ks. The top. Down mostly steep Great views to 29Ks. Rolling hills then down again at 31Ks to 36Ks then a gradual drift lower to Thaun Chau at 51Ks. Great scenery, village life and road. Light winds. At 60Ks, junction Hwy #107. Straight on Hy #6. Now gradually up then a moderate climb to 66Ks. Rolling then gradually down to 78Ks. Junction with old Hwy#6. (Check out the climb to the tower.) Straight. Gradually up now stronger head winds. Moderate climb at 79Ks for 3Ks. View of city. Moderate descent into Son La at 81Ks.
2012 Son La to Tuan Giao (opposite direction)
At 49Ks, moderate/steep climb to 54Ks, traverse then down to 56Ks. Now steep/moderate climb to 63Ks. The top. New road but same old mountain. Steep/moderate descent 74Ks. Today in the clouds, fog, no views. Then 7Ks down valley to Tuan Giao at 81Ks.
Son La to Yen Chau 65Ks
6-lane Hwy with bike lane for 12Ks. Rolling and urban sprawl. Then drift lower on rolling hills to 29Ks on a narrow 2-lane asphalt road. Hat Lot (a big town). Light traffic but mostly trucks (loud horns). Agriculture, OK scenery. Slightly ascending. Tail wind here. At 42Ks, climb moderately. At 43Ks, junction, Hwy #37.** At 44Ks, down. Good views, good scenery. Moderate then gradual to 53Ks then rolling hills down generally all the way to Yen Chen at 65s.
2012 Yen Chau to Son La (Opposite direction)
Start climb at 14Ks, moderate then steeper to 21Ks. Fradual descent with tailwind to 36KS.
**Hwy #37 reported to be quiet, pretty with a ferry connection back to Hwy #6.
Yen Chau to Moc Chau 55Ks (1500 meters)
Continue on Hwy #6, 2-lane older asphalt road. Rolling hills down to 6Ks then up river. Good scenery. Light traffic but big trucks. At 29Ks, easy climb above river. Mostly head winds (I don’t understand the wind direction through here.) At 50Ks, sorta the top. Its rounded and anti climatic. Its a 95% gradual and 5% moderate climb. Long (44Ks) but easy. Very good scenery. Wider, better road. Rolling hills into town. At 55Ks, sorta the center of the stretched out town. In 2012, road a little older and bumpier. Winds switch to opposite direction in the middle of the day.
2012, Mai Chau to Moc Chou (opposite direction)
Going up. Moderate to 19Ks, steep to 27Ks. Moderate to 29Ks, 2K descent, 1Ksteep up to 32Ks, moderate to 35Ks (top) Strong head winds, good views but hazy. Rolling moderate hills to 45Ks (2nd top. Steep hills to 53Ks (3rd top). then mostly down to Moc Chau.
Moc Chau to Mai Chau 65Ks
On Hwy #6, up and out of town then rolling hills mostly up. Diary farms. Good scenery. Karsts, green. Moderate climb for 4Ks to 12Ks. Good view from top. Down to 17Ks Steepish hills. Slightly more traffic. Swirling strong winds. At 26Ks, more easy rolling hills. Mostly down. At 42Ks, steep descent into a cloud bank (Views are unknown) Warm on top, cold in the cloud fog. At 59Ks, bottom. Junction Hwy 15, right. Still down on a rougher tar 2-lanes road. Beautiful scenery. Into Mai Chau at 65Ks.
Mai Chau to Ngoc Lac 100Ks
Down valley. Beautiful. Rice fields. 1 1/2-lane road.(Hwy #15) Strong tail wind (NE) some rolling hills into Co Loung at 14Ks. Now follow Ma river, down. Choppy little hills and lots of curves in a norrow valley. At 33Ks, steep climb above the river to 36Ks. Foggy and some rain. Bamboo forest. Down and up to 38Ks. Beautiful scenery. Down to river and rolling hills to Quan Hoa at 45Ks. Over bridge at 48Ks then easy rolling hills to 64Ks. Junction, straight on Hwy #15A. Rolling hills generally up. A short steep climb to 75Ks. Great scenery. Now down rolling hills to 82Ks at Lang Chanh. Up rolling hills to 88Ks then straight and gradual down. One small hill then down into town at 100Ks. Wide road into town. What a great ride even if it was cold and overcast,
Ngoc Lac to Thai Hoa 106Ks
Now on Ho Chi Minh Trail, a new wide 2-lane Hwy. Light traffic. Some trucks including Sugar Cane Trucks. Rolling hills. Never long and never steep. The road skirts the towns. We went in and out of Yen Cat at 55Ks. Light north winds (following). Scenery only OK. The dramatic scenery is gone. At 100Ks, off HCM Hwy and into Thai Hoa at 106Ks.
Thai Hoa to Nam Dan 99Ks
7Ks out on Hwy #48 to Ho Chi Minh Hwy. Right. Again rolling hills. Excellent well engineered highway. Nice agricultural scenery. At 44Ks, Tan Ky. At circle, left on Hwy #15. Flat improved road to Do Luong at 65Ks. Hard to find road to Nam Dan, Hwy 5A,ask for Nam dam. Good older tar road. Narrow 2-lane. Light traffic. Flat through rice fields. Flat Nice agricultural scenery of Vietnam. At 82Ks, some minor hills. Narrow 2-lanes. Light traffic. Flat into Nam Dan at 99Ks.
Nam Dan to Huong Khe 93Ks
1K to Bridge over river. Good flat country road (Hwy #15A) to 16Ks then construction and dirt road to 22Ks. Now older tar road to a 1-lane bridge at 28Ks into Duc Tho. Turn right out to Hwy #8. At the circle at 30Ks, left toward Bai Vot then at 35Ks, bear left on Hwy 15A to Dong Loc. The Hwy becomes a 1-lane road. Mostly flat. Light east wind (head). Light traffic. At 53Ks, Hwy #15A becomes a 2-Lane road. At 55Ks, Dong Loc. At 63Ks, Khe Giao. Now rolling hills (light rain, fog and mud). 1-lane often. Scenery is good (I think). Hillier on 15A to the Ho Chi Minh Trail at 81Ks. Left. Excellent road. Easy hills, light traffic. Turn off for Huong Khe at 90Ks. Rolling good road into town at 93Ks.
Huong Khe to Ba Don 102Ks
Out to Ho Chi Minh Hwy almost in town. 25Ks to junction just beyond Tan Ap. Rolling. Light traffic. OK scenery. No wind. Left. Good tar road along railroad tracks. At 30Ks, stone and mud road, away from tracks and limb (this was not our intention) to 33Ks, down to 36Ks and asphalt and the train tracks. Rolling hills on good road. Nice scenery. East winds (head). At 53Ks, Dong Le. Out on Hwy 12A along train tracks. New improved Hwy. Rolling. East winds (head) slow you. Generally down to 70Ks. Very good Karst scenery then basically flat into Ba Don. Light traffic but heavier into town at 102Ks.
Ba Don to Dong Hoi (River Front) 42Ks
1K to Hwy 1, right. 2-lanes with wide bike shoulder. At 5K, over river bridge. Flat straight, uninteresting. Lots of trucks. At 17Ks, a short hill with sea views. Flat again. The traffic is only moderate here but lots of air-horn honking trucks. NE winds (previously head), so cross to following winds. Dull ride. Don Hoi at 37Ks. Through town to River front at 42Ks.
Dong Hoi to Dong Ha 97Ks
Hwy #1A. 2-lanes with 2 meter shoulder. Moderate traffic but lots of trucks and buses. Flat to 45Ks then slightly rolling. Foggy early then clear and warm. East winds (head winds here) dull scenery. No sea views. Dull. Dong Ha center (junction Hwy#9) at 97Ks.
Dong Ha to Hue 71Ks
Description is Hue to Dong Ha 71Ks
Out over cycle only bridge and left along the river and past Imperial City. 4-lanes and urban to 7Ks. Then 2-lanes on Hwy #1A with cycle shoulder. Along the train tracks. Straight, flat and dull. Cross winds (NE). Through the towns wider 4-lanes road usually. Traffic is relatively light but mostly big trucks and busses. Junction Hwy #9 at 71Ks.
Dong Ha to Khe Sanh 64Ks
Hwy #9, good asphalt road. 2-lanes with shoulder. Up the Cam Lo river valley. Gradual. Light traffic. At 8Ks, the cut off for Hue if going there. At 12Ks, first juction for Ho Chi Minh Road. Straight on Hwy #9. Rolling hills generally up to 27Ks. The Rock Pile. Nice scenery. Gradual rolling to the bridge (Hwy #14, Ho Chi Minh Road) at 50Ks. Gradual to 56Ks then climb moderately to 59Ks. A truck transit check (You don’t have to stop). Continue moderate climb to Khe Sanh at 64Ks.
Khe Sanh to Lao Border 19Ks
Rolling hills and gradually down. Through Lao Bao at 17Ks then to border. Good road, light traffic. Tail wind (east). Easy riding.
2012 – Bike Problems
35 years on the road with bike problems solved by ingenious mechanics with a hammer, oil and bailing wire – not this time. We were in Lo Cai, Northern Vietnam next to China and Sally’s bike broke down. After countless mechanics, some hammering, etc one called in his 14 year old daugher to translate in her school uniform. Dad gave her a long explanation of what was wrong with the bike. She turned to us and said, “Where are you from?” We pointed to the bike. Her Harry Potter glasses looked at us and said, “Can not fix.” At 1AM we woke up and had a brainstorm. We called Jerry at Rainbow Jersey in Milwaukee (noon there). We explained the problem and he told us exactly what we needed: a new back wheel with 9 speed sproket. Our best hope was Hanoi. After a 10 hour bus ride back to Hanoi we contacted Chung who had fixed Peters bike before we left. He works for a bike touring company. His fussy attention to detail drove Peter crazy. Chung is a strong stocky older guy with 1920s greased jet black hair, almost parted in the middle with matching waves at each temple. He examined the wheel, left for 5 minutes, and was back with a new trek 9 speed sprocket wheel. Then he meticulously took 2 hours to go over the bike and get it all set up. We could not face a return 10 hour trip so we decided to once, again, ride out of Hanoi, this time toward the west. Now that’s an expreience you only need once, riding out of Hanoi/breaking a wheel. Phew! Back on the road.
Nosey, Noisey & Bossy
We flew from Angkor Watt to Hanoi Vietnam with our bikes. Rode east to Ha Long Bay, the #1 tourist attraction in North Vietnam. Dramatic karsts form mazes in the sea and Chinese (tourist) Junks weave through the fantastic scenery. Leaving Ha Long Bay we were assured of getting off the tourist trail, at least to some extent. We get to the dot on the map to sleep, Cua Ong. Well, there’s never been a tourist here, believe me. It’s a coal mining town! This is unadulterated Vietnam but in an adulterated landscape. At least there’s a guesthouse. The Vietnamese, they’re noisy. Guests arriving a 1 AM, yelling down the hall to each other. Guests at 6AM, loudly conversing. (Our interpretation) “Hey were is Wu?”. “He’s asleep.” “Let’s get him up.” Bang, Bang,Bang. “Get up.” “Go to Hell.” “We’re leaving.” And so on. Everyone is gone by the time we get to the lobby. Two attractive girls, direct us though one dining room into another. We obey the bosses. We order the usual, noodle soup. The two girls, who run the dining room, serve us and then plop down at our table. They have a running conversation about our condiment choices. One girl gasps when Sally loads her soup with chili sauce. They giggle at our lack of proficiency with chopsticks. They look in our bowls to check our progress. Talk about Nosy! We get out bikes out of storage and park them in front of the hotel to load. The hotel lady gesticulates not to park there. She points to another place. We see no reason to move to this other place. We shrug and obey the boss.
The Yin. Overcharging at every turn, prices and bills must be checked carefully or else. Then there’s the screaming greetings in your face “Hello, Hello”, all day long. We’ve not said “hello” in return for days, they just wear you down. We once called them nosy, noisy and bossy. Now, we’d say obnoxious, aggressive and “in your face”. Finally, the school kids. We cringe when we see school let out. The kids on bikes come streaming out in hoards and swarm us. Riding in front, back and on both sides, screaming at us. Even the girls. We try various tactics. Stopping: they stop. Ignoring it all: it continues. Speed up: they out run us. Confront them “go away”, “leave us alone”: it’s an invitation to them. Often the motor cycles swarm us too. We heave a sigh when they finally turn off but then it’s a reply in the next town. Now for the Yang. We arrived in Huong Khe (pronounced Honky) late, wet, and muddy. We spy a motor cycle shop with a power water hose the owner lets us clean our mud caked bikes and helps me re-oil them. He won’t accept any money. Later at the hotel there was no chance to wash our filthy cloths and get them dry by the morning. We rinsed them out anyway. I am hanging them in the covered court yard when the young receptionist pulls me to their washing machine. Then throws our wet duds in. She says “Downy” and adds some and starts the machine spinning to dry our cloths 90%. We relish these little kindnesses.
Doing Business In Asia
We met Peter Kennedy, a retired Aussie construction business owner. He sold his business and moved to Asia and is now living in Danang, Vietnam. He got bored and is now working for a Construction company in South East Asia. He detailed how business is done in Laos where we are now. He told us of the itemized bills he gets for importing all his equipment. At the bottom of the bill is an amount, itemized as “corruption charge” followed by “police tip”. Kennedy says it’s very straight forward. He also told us that the import charge is based on the perceived utility of the item. So multi million dollar mining equipment will be charged $100US as an import fee but a personal computer ($400 value) will be charged $200US to import. Finally, the working boots for the miners. Peter K says “it’s simple, we attach a couple dozen smaller size working boots to the outside of a container. On arrival, there are no importation charges but there are no small size boots attached to the container.” It’s all very straight forward.