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TOWARDS THE RISING SUN

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Good thing about traveling in Vietnam is it's slender geographical shape. Across whole country leads the one and only main road which is also part of asian highway AH1. From Hanoi - capital on the north, to Ho Chi Minh City - the biggest city in the south, we decided to hitchhike.

First stop was Ha Long Bay. This is a point that you should never miss when traveling through Vietnam. Unfortunately we're moving around this area in low season. The weather was not like on tourist propaganda flyers and the true magic of the place hid from us.

 

Shit happens. On such a trip you can't expect sunny days all the time. We hitchhiked further. But hitchhiking in Vietnam is different than we would expect in western world. There is no such word as hitchhiking in vietnamese language. Locals stop at us, trying to help us, but as soon as we explain what we are doing, they start to convincing us this is not possible in Vietnam. But we don't give up. Taxis stop, even busses... And after some time we find some that are willing to take us for free.

Big part of the way to Ninh Binh we made on a sleeper bus. How does this look like you don't want to know, but I'm enclosing photo below right anyway.

 

Not to lose too many words, Ninh Binh is nothing special. It was wort of stopping anyway because we found the cheapest beer in the country here. For a tall glass of draught we spent 6000 dongs (less than 25 euro cents.)

 

Here we also found the smallest roundabout. The traffic in Vietnam flows with some improvisation all the time. Blinking lights are probably additional equipment of vehicles because they're not used. And the most important part is honk. The wear out of the part of steering wheel for honking shows the frequency of using it.

 

Not far from Ninh Binh there is a town called Tam Coc. Here we found above the average number of western tourists in comparison to previous days. However, with some walking you can find a peaceful spot between rice fields and lime stone rocks.

 

And when you're standing by the road waiting for a free ride, you get passed by many things that just make you pull out the camera.

 

Next stop was, a bit unexpected, Dong Hoi. Here we get to know more about budhist rithual of donation. First they put food, candies, fruits and fake money to the street. Some food then they throw on the road but money they burn. Such money you can buy right on the market place.

 

Talking about markets:

 

Third biggest city in Vietnam (after Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi) is Da Nang. This is a modern city which evolves quickly. Because of it's sea side position it produces more relaxed atmosphere than the other two metropolas. City trademark is dragon bridge. A bridge in a shape of snake dragon.

 

 

Proverb says: "When in Rome, do like romans do!" Vietnamese way is by motorbike. So we rented one and hit the road to nearby town of Hoi An. Even that we did so without corresponding drivers license is a vietnamese way. As we were told at least half of drivers don't have any license: "Cops are not checking it, and they definitelly won't bother with you because they don't speak english!" A consequence of those 50% without license is 8000 death casualties per year on vietnamese roads. Well, we saw only one accident - a truck hitting a toll booth.

 

We were told Hoi An is a beautiful historic town. But all we found was a bunch of western tourists and intrusive souvenir sellers. The journey turned out to be more pleasant than destination again.

But the sea was tempting. I haven't mention the temperatures here yet. The air has between 35° and 40°C those days, and the water around 31°C. But water is a better heat conductor than air. It represents a good alternative for those of the chily kind to heat up if they get cold on dry 35°C.

 

We rented a bike with empty tank. We had to find a petrol station. It's easy because they are at every corner. But they don't really look like we would expect in Europe. You can even find some road side tavern that offers cold beer, soft drinks ang gasoline. Not to exagerate, most of the petrol stations are still more similar to those in western world.

 

From Da Nang we planned to hitchhike further to south slowly, but we got a direct ride to Ho Chi Minh. An opportunity that we had to take. A have to mention, the roads in Vietnam are good in comparison to the standard of other infrastructure. Very tipical thing are kilometer stones with names of cities and distances to them.

 

But more about Ho Chi Minh City in another article...



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