Laos / Vietnam

Vietnamese Dragons

We cross the Friendship bridge, leaving Thailand and entering Laos. The good road along the Mekong river takes us to the mountains in the east. It is a surprisingly scenic landscape. Black eroded mountains popping out of the green jungle. In a little village, where the wooden houses are build on poles, a woman is grinning grains and an old man is smoking a bamboo pipe. Little kids are playing around. We on our modern, but 13 year old bikes, stop in this medieval looking village. The inhabitants look at us but pay no attention to us. Like if every day 2 Dutch motor bikers are passing...We only spent a few days in Laos and go on to Vietnam.

Mekong river ; landscape Laos

Leaving Laos gives us no problems but entering Vietnam at Cau Treo the customs have a lunch break. After three hours they finished their lunch and finally they come to us. But before they stamp our papers they do a thorough check of our luggage. Everything has to go out of our boxes...
In the first hour that we are riding in Vietnam we heard more horning then in one month in Laos and Thailand. They drive like nuts here. School kids, in uniform, ride their bicycles in five lanes. Little motorbikes and bicycles zigzag across the road without looking and stop in the middle of the street. The side of the road is used as a market and grass is spread out to dry, making the roads narrower. This makes it more dangerous for us when we have to escape to the road side for coming trucks and buses.
Knock knock, who is there? It is one o'clock in the night when somebody is banging on our hotel door. It is the police that want to check our passports. A bit sleepy we walk down to the reception and the police officer is shouting at the clerk and to us. What did we do wrong? OK, without a shave and bath everyday and with dusty clothes from travelling, we don't look at our best. And putting our bikes inside the hotel lounge was allowed. So, why treat us like criminals? The clerk has to go with our passports to the police station and we can go to sleep again. The next morning we receive our passports back but nobody could tell us why they checked us. We guess it is from the controlling communism in the past. The clerk made his excuses, but he has no blame. We go to the market to get breakfast.

Bikes parked in hotel lounge; breakfast at the market

We rent a boat and take a our in Halong Bay. More than 2000 limestone formations covered with trees pop out the sea as little islands. Some islands have caves with stalagmites and we visit them. For the Vietnamese these rocks have a sacred meaning. It symbolize a mother dragon with kids that defend the country when it is in danger. For us it is spectacular to see how so many rocks rises fom the sea.
Following a part of the Highway no. 1, that goes from Hanoi in the north to Saigon in the south, we get a good impression of Vietnam. The whole country looks like one big rice paddy. Thousands of men and women, with the typical straw hats, stand up to their knees in the water, planting rice.
Dozens of limestone rock formations are spread in the rice fields at Hoa Lu. The canals along the rice fields are used to get to their houses that are build near the rock formations. People live here peaceful and quiet.

"Dragons" at Halong Bay

Dark clouds gather together and some minutes later the rain is pouring down. For 3 days and nights it keeps raining. We take our shelter in Hoi An, a little city with a lot of French colonial houses. The first Chinese settled in this town in Vietnam. But due to the heavy rains the streets are flooded and we stay in our hotel.
After 3 days we pack our bikes because we want to move on. But people from the hotel say that the roads are flooded and that it is impossible to go. We will try anyway. After a few hundred meters the road is blocked and we have to make a detour of 40 kilometers to reach highway 1. The highway is build on a dyke, so there must be no problems. But after 10 kilometers we approach a traffic jam. We ride to the beginning of the jam and see that the road is flooded for 300 meters. A smart boy use his boat as a ferry to bring bicycles and motorbikes to the other side. We will give it a chance. Slowly we ride in the water. The current is strong and we have to concentrate to stay on the road. In the deepest part water waves over the fuel tank and Udo swallows some of it. Luckily the engines keep running and we are glad that we made it. Two days later we read in the newspaper that the water level rise with more than a meter in Hoi An and that 7 people were drowned. We just left in time...

is this a road or a river...