As I sit on the shores of Cambodia’s beaches watching the waves lazily slap the shores, the sweat and fatigue of the last month seem like a distant memory….I almost have to pinch myself to remember what we put ourselves through during our 28 day traverse down the length of Vietnam on two (not entirely trusty) wheels.
But indeed, we did it. As we turned down the small alley in Vietnam’s southern metropolis that hid our hotel, we dismounted and realized, that was it. No more early mornings. No more stinky gear, no more pedalling. We had set out to get as far down the length of Vietnam as our bikes would allow, and they had indeed taken us the whole way. Twenty eight days and 1800kms after pulling out of Hanoi, we arrived in Saigon.
While I hope my life will contain many more, this will forever remain on the list of our ‘trips of a lifetime’. Byron and I both strive for and seek out challenges, enjoying that which pushes us both physically and mentally, and this trip was no exception. Day in and day out, we got up, put on our often rather repulsive smelling jerseys and shorts, and aimed for a spot on the map a relative good distance south from us. As we got stronger we found we could average about 100kms a day, but that often varied depending on the terrain and distance to the next town where we may or may not find a guest house (fortunately we always did). On our slowest, and probably most difficult day going over the mountain pass to Dak Glei in Vietnam’s central interior, we managed to grind out only 58kms, all of which were uphill. Other days, when the wind was at our back and the road seemed to always slope away under our tires, we rode as far as 132kms. It seemed that luck was on our side for much of the way with weather as well; we left Hanoi just as the winter weather was setting in, and were able to keep it behind us for most of the way. We met a system in Hue that kept us over an extra day as the city was deluged in a continual downpour, but for the most part we rode through only mild showers, which left us no more drenched then we already were in our own sweat. At the top of the pass on our slowest day we donned our jackets and stopped for a hot coffee; the first time we specifically requested it. We chuckled about how acclimatized we had become and kept the jackets on until we reached the warm valley bottom below.
With a hardy constitution, an open mind, and a little bit of spirit I would recommend this trip to anyone. Vietnam is a beautifully diverse country, both naturally and culturally. As mentioned in my last post, it’s difficult to go more than a kilometer or two without a joyfully shouted ‘hello!’ from a stranger, or a wave and honk from a passing vehicle. Vietnam can also break your heart in the same instance it lifts it though; as you pass through a village that consists of nothing more than a few poor farmer’s shacks, or you swerve your bike through the garbage and stray dogs lining the streets you realize culture, education and economics have not yet allowed for the same standards we are so fortunate to enjoy at home.
But travelling is one of the best reminders that we are all different, and life plays out in many different ways for us all on earth. It gives one reason to examine and reflect on your own life and habits, and perhaps better understand not only humanity, but your own self as well. As we continue our travels through South East Asia I can only hope we stumble upon more crazy adventures and experiences like we found in Vietnam, and continue to learn and grow along the way.
xo Alison and Byron
*For those of you who are thinking of embarking on a bike trip through Vietnam, I can only say; DO IT! You wont’t regret it, and as Byron and I figured, if the bikes break down beyond repair you can always thrown them in the ditch and catch the next bus to the city. You never know till you try!
The double chair, all day everyday