We leave Laos behind in a very relaxed way as we cycle to the airport of Luang Prabang for our flight to Hanoi. They almost take the bikes as is, but after some debate they need to be packed by the 'professional' packing service at the airport. Of course they don’t have a proper bicycle box, but the guy is very creative with plastic foil, small carton stripes and tape and after some time they are good to go. We take the bikes with us as we are not able to sell them off in Laos and hope to get a better price in Hanoi with a bigger cycling community. But our bike adventure stops here. First of all it’s miserable weather in Hanoi, 15 degrees and drizzle. Next thing is trying to navigate the crazy traffic here with zillions of scooters and no apparent rules at all, and this will stay this way on most of the main road to the south, the Highway 1, as we understood from bicycle blogs. You can choose the quieter Ho Chi Minh trail, but then you are in for some serious climbing, and we are just too tired and too eager to have some beach/kiting time.
We spend a few days in Hanoi enjoying the marvelous kitchen of Vietnam: the sandwiches (Banh Mi), the Pho (soup), duck in caramelized tamarind sauce, fresh spring rolls, and so on. The city is humming of the swarms of scooters. The scooter might have been invented in Italy, but here they are used to the max. On a population of around 90 million there are 2 million registered cars, and 37 million motor bikes. So almost half the population has one, and probably the other half is below 15. Mister Honda has definitely reached his goal when he designed his first scooter: an easy to use transport vehicle, affordable for everyone.
And then it is time to use the kites that we dragged around since the start of our trip. We fly to Ho Chi Minh, have a quick stop to pick up the kite bag, and finish the day with an excellent Sushi meal in Ichiban including chilled Sapporo draft. The next day we take the early train to the coast to the windiest place of South-east Asia, Mui Né. Mui Né is not Vietnam at all, its like Phuket, in a decade it exploded from a long beautiful beach with a kite station and 2 hotels to a long strip of resorts were it is actually difficult to reach the beach, and with Russian signs and Russian menu's. Even the local Vietnamese speak the language. Blame it on communication issues or cultural differences, it doesn't really add to the atmosphere, but still we have a good time.
The next two weeks are monotonous: we wake up by the sounds and the light, shower, select a breakfast spot with at least pancakes and fruit/yoghurt/muesli, we drink our coffee overlooking the kite beach and watch the first kites in the air, we decide the proper kite size and have the beach boys set it up for the first session. Then it is lunch time, Vietnamese pancakes, Pho soup, sandwiches and always a fresh coconut. We take a nap on the beach and prepare for the next session, mostly with a smaller kite as the wind increases during the day. Then an after kite beer, a shower in the room and some relaxation before we go out to dinner. We finish off with a banana-nutella waffle and sleep early with slightly painful (stomach) muscles.
So our view on Vietnam is fairly limited, having stayed mainly in this touristy place. Next time we come back and do like the locals, rent a moto bike and tour along the length of it.
Monday, January 04, 2016
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam