Sunday, March 12, 2023

Ho Chi Minh Trail

Having visited Vietnam but missed out on Laos and Cambodia it was only a matter of time before I would return to South East Asia. And what better mode of transportation than the trusty motorbike the locals drive. 
I mentioned the idea to Aaron and he immediately was on board. The plan is to head into Laos 🇱🇦 from Hanoi, all the way south to Cambodia 🇰🇭 and cross back to Ho Chi Minh. So it came that the two of us took two months off work and flew to Hanoi. 

Spending some time in the city to see the sights, drink Bia Hoi (fresh beer), having a cooking class, getting a (terrible) haircut and shopping around for two motorbikes. First we had planned to rent but for crossing the borders the original vehicle documents are needed which they are not (or no longer?) willing to hand over. So it came that we became the trusty owners of a Honda Wave each. Aaron paid 425USD and I 450USD as mine got disc brakes in the front 😎 The seller has also an office in HCM and offered to buy them back for 50% of the price if we wouldn’t find somebody else to buy them.
Red Arrow - Marcial

Blue Thunder - Aaron

We got some tips as well: Don’t drive at night, never leave your helmet and something else we forgot 🤣 Also that we should do maintenance and oil change every 700-800km.
After two nights in the city we headed east to Pu Luong. The little village is famous for its rice paddies, caves any lovely scenery. But not wanting to take the highway we took the direct route over the mountains past Hoa Binh.
As we had to wait until 3pm for our Lao Visa we had a rather late start. So unsurprisingly dusk started to set and we were still nowhere. Also worth mentioning that this route meant 3000m of altitude up and 2600m down. Of which we ended up driving most in the dark, there goes tip number one 😅 And we had to buy some gasoline in bottles in a little hamlet as we were running low. Also no pictures as my phone battery died. All in all a perfect start 😬 

The next day we toured through the valley and it’s rice fields, visited the Kho Muong cave and stopped to have a look at the traditional weaving. Sadly the pool and temperatures weren’t inviting 😕
The cave is huge, hard to tell on pictures 😔

And then it was time again to head further east, Laos was waiting. Killing time at the border (lunch break) we invested in some lovely cushions to lessen the strain on our butts. Being made for average sized asians our bikes are a tad small for us 😆

The border crossing itself was uneventful, we paid some fee on the Vietnam side for exporting our bikes  (or being allowed to bring them back in? 🤷‍♂️), had all our information painstakingly written down in a big ledger (which took ages), drove over and then again paid some entrance fee on the Lao side and we were through.
Not everyone travels on little bikes or in little groups 😉