A trip from Tokyo to Hanoi

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It takes two days to ride from the border to Hanoi, where I did my internship as a student in 1996. In Hanoi, I relax and meet friends. I make a short trip in the north of Vietnam, before returning to the Netherlands and spend Christmas with my family.

vietnam.jpg - 20 kB Getting to Hanoi
On the 17th of November I cross the border between China and Vietnam near Lang Son in Vietnam. It feels great to be in a familiair country again. I can read the script again, something that was not possible in Japan, Taiwan and China. I also start remembering the Vietnamese that I studies four years ago, and I can still count and have a very basic "Hello, where are you from" conversation. This feels great. The national road NR 1, which runs from the border all the way in the North to HoChiMinh city in the south is under major construction. Sometimes I ride on a road that is too small to hold all the traffic. Other places, where the road has been finished, it feels like riding on a highway. Along the way I play some pool with some Vietnamese people, because I think I have enough time before dark, to find a hotel in nearby Kep. When I come to Kep, there is no hotel and I have to cycle another 20KM to reach Bac Giang, where I can find a hotel. During my dinner with a good old bowl of "Pho", I meet an English teacher and spend a pleasant evening talking with him and his students. QL1.jpg - 30 kB
The closer I get to Hanoi, the busier and more crazy the traffic gets. Every couple of kilometers I need to take a brake from all the noise, dust and exhaust fumes, before I can face death in the form of two big trucks coming towards me on a road that is too small for even one truck. I guess I forgot this part about Hanoi.

Apparently Hanoi has been expecting me for a while, and the police starts blocking roads when I pass. I am disappointed when I find that the roads are not cleared for me, but for Mr. Bill Clinton, who happens to be in town as well. It is not to my advantage and I have to make a large loop to get to my destination. In my dusty road-outfit, I go directly to the ITIMS, where I did my internship four years ago. It is great to meet all of them again and see some familiair faces since a very very long time. The next day I go shopping for a new set of clothes, get myself a haircut and I am ready for a little more settled way of life again.

Short Trips
My sister joined me in Hanoi after a few day. Together with her I make a one-day trip to the perfume pagoda and a two-day trip to Halong Bay. The perfume pagoda is a series of pagodas, that can be reached after a boattrip through a beautiful landscape. One of the pagodas is located in a cave near the top of a mountain. perfume.jpg - 13 kB
halong_bay.jpg - 18 kB Halong Bay is a bay with thousands of limestone karst islands. It is a magnificent landscape to view, while relaxing on the boat.

Mai Chau
mai_chau.jpg - 8 kB Riding a bicycle works addictive, so I had to get out again after spending some time in Hanoi. In one day I ride to Mai Chau, a small village some 140 KM from Hanoi. Traffic in Vietnam and especially Hanoi proves to be horrible again. Far too many motorbikes for these small streets. What will they do if they have cars? When one motorbike is overtaking me, another faster one comes in between but slides. Vietnamese drivers must have suicidal tendencies. Near Mai Chau is a small minority village, where I stay in one of the houses on tilts. I take a little walk through the area the next day and do a lot of nothing. This is a very nice and quiet escape from the noise of Hanoi. On the way back to Hanoi, a man tries to sell me some pigs when I make a short stop. Around four o'clock, the schools are out and I ride along with some student. They would very much like to talk to me, but when one cyclist almost runs into an oncoming motorbike, I decide to speed up and ignore them for their own safety. I reach Hanoi around rush hour and enjoy another shot of adrenaline, when riding my bicycle through the traffic at the same speed as the motorbikes.

Vietnam: Sweet and Sour - A Bicycle Journey in December 1994

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