Browse Category

Vietnam

Being sick on the road

note: This post is more of a journal style post rather than my usual style. If you find this kind of narrative interesting, please comment 🙂

Being sick on the road

The first part of this post was written while I’m in a dorm bed sick and have been for a couple of days, the second part on day 8. It started 8 days ago with a way too strong aircondition. Didn’t think too much of it – just the sniffles – and so I left Cat Ba island towards Haiphong with a bit of a dizzy head.

The trip went well but I felt tired in the evening and called it an early night. I was travelling with two friends, Matilde and Teun, so we split a 3 bed room which gave me some much needed quiet time.

The next morning, Matilde had to go for Ninh Binh, Teun being restless by nature just wanted to ride again and so he went to Hanoi. I wanted to go to Hanoi as well but opted for another night in Haiphong to get well and rest – this time at a much elevated price since I was alone (300k VND = 13-14USD).

The next morning, I wanted to get going – I had spent the entire day before just watching tv and eating pizza. I hadn’t left the room for 24 hours’ straight.

I got on the motorbike at 12 and made it to the Hanoi hostel at 14, driving maybe a bit too fast. Thinking back – this was probably one of the highest risk rides I’ve made to date. I was feeling quite under the weather and driving in Hanoi is no joke – you’ve got to be alert and vigilant – but I made it and checked in to the hostel. These prices were much more accommodating and with a few more days’ rest I’d be ready to roll again.

The next morning, I still wasn’t too well but still much better than the day before and therefore decided to stay another night at the same place. But, as luck would have it, they had no room for me – so I had to move – again.

I had been recommended another hostel that was only $5, including breakfast – cheapest so far. It had two downsides though, it had 14 bed dorms and it was a party hostel – free beer and music all night. I took it; I was feeling better and I felt like I was done with the cold. I grabbed a couple beers that night.

The next morning the cold was back with a vengeance and I stayed in bed all day. I tried to go out for food but after 5 mins walking in the heat I couldn’t take it anymore. I went back to the hostel and ordered their overpriced food and some tea there and went to bed again. Movies all day and then sleep.

The 6th day and I (again) felt like I’m getting better and this time I’d learned my lesson. No alcohol and just rest. All day till this devil is out of me.

7th day i felt great in the morning but I got a hellish headache around noon so I finally decided to go to a doctor – make that travel insurance worth the money. I decided to walk to the nearest hospital – which in retrospect probably wasn’t the greatest of ideas because when I got there noone spoke English. I walked around like a clueless baboon for a good 10 minutes until a doctor showed mercy on me and asked me (in very good English) what my problem was. I told him my symptoms where to he explained that this was a local surgical hospital and I would have go the French-Vietnamese hospital 5km away. I guess that would explain the stretchers of people with blood on them everywhere. A very overcrowded and bloody hospital indeed.

I took a motorcycle taxi there for about 30k VND (1½ USD) and went inside. From here it was easy – everyone spoke English and I got served quickly, bloodtest, urine test, blood-pressure test, temperature etc. they took good care of me and he concluded that I had somewhat of an inflammation that caused the headache. I got some pills and went home

The next day – the time of this writing I feel much better and the night before I was even out (drinking sprite) for a few hours for the first time since I got sick.

Conclusion

It’s been 8 days and I’ve spent most of them in a dorm room. It can be rough sometimes to get sick while travelling but it’s the name of the game and that’s something you will just have to deal with. Throughout this time, I’m glad I had a nice bed, internet, a computer and enough things to entertain me after all. Oh, and travel insurance! The bill was 5,5mil VND/$250

So why did I write this short piece? Because life on the road can sometimes seem very glamorous when you see those Instagram filtered Facebook pictures and only hear about all the good stuff that has happened. The younger generations (yes I’m still one of them) has started to use social media to brand themselves – it’s so much more than just sharing with your friends. It’s a whole online identity.

With this post I just seek to put a little perspective on it all. There are good times and bad times. Whether it’s sickness, depression, loneliness or something more tangible like being scammed one too many times or just hating whatever place you’re at.

Without the bad times, we can’t enjoy the good times.

HCM trail: Khe Sanh to Phong Nha on a motorbike

Introduction

I recently took the incredibly scenic route from Khe Sahn To Phong Nha along the west leg of the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Vietnam. It was done on an old $280 Yamaha Nuovo Automatic 113 CC motorbike. The 240km’s took about 7 hours in a relatively fast pace but I recommend that you do it in 9-10 (get up early to avoid driving in the dark) as you are going to want to stop and suck in the scenery or maybe just take a long lunchbreak – although doing it in 6 is doable should you want to rush it. We left at 10:15 and made it an hour before nightfall

Vietnam Coracle describes the route as:
“240km of winding road through incredible mountains, forests, and river valleys. There are no hotels, hardly any shops, and just one gas station on this entire stretch. There are very few settlements, vehicles or people. One local in Khe Sanh, bewildered at why anyone would want to go on such a road, described it as vắng người, meaning there’s ‘nobody there’.”

Update!!!: Thanks to Mark (youtube: kennedy9950) with updated information. There is expensive gas (from manual pumps) in Rinh Rinh and one hotel along the route in Duc Tuan, 132km from Khe Sahn

My crew

I rolled into Khe sanh around 4pm on a wednesday after leaving Hue the same morning. I’d been riding solo all morning and short of a dutch guy riding the other way I had not seen any foreigners. As usual it was a stunning route with kids waving and narrow bends.

I wanted to spend the night in Khe Sanh before heading into the 240km remote leg to phong nha. But where? I was looking for a group of people to join so as to not take the leg alone – what if I ran out of gas or had a flat in the middle of nowhere? so I checked the garage in all 4 hotels I could find in town to see if there were some long distance looking bikes anywhere but found none.

Even though I was slowly coming to terms with the idea that I would have to do it alone and that maybe this was allright – atleast I’d be able to stop when I wanted – I gave it one last shot and decided to grab a beer at the main road, helmet on, ready to go, just hoping someone would roll by. As luck would have have it, someone did roll by and chasing after them I ended up at my hotel for the night.

Heather was standing outside the hotel about to head out and I asked her about where she was going and what she was doing – to which she replied “beer by the river – want to come?”. I quickly checked in at the hotel and joined her. A group of 4 other Americans and a Vietnamese were sitting there with a hot pot and a crate of beer enjoying the Vietnamese riverside. Michael and Laura were on a 10-year anniversary trip, Bryan and Heather were both on long term solo travels and finally Jeff and Hao were just enjoying life together travelling around Vietnam for the time being. I had my crew.

phong nha motorbike
The crew enjoying a pizza in Phong Nha after a long day

The ride: Khe Sanh to Phong Nha

Due to some motorbike problems with Mike’s bike we didn’t head out until 10:15 that thursday morning. We stocked up on about 2 liters of gas each and food for the day, some banh mi and fruit. Since we didn’t count on passing any gas stations and our bikes were all thirsty automatics we needed alot of gas. If you are doing this on a semi or the infamous Honda Wins, then you can probably make the whole 240km without extra fuel – especially since you can get a little bit of expensive gas along the way in a small city called Rinh Rinh.

The ride was, well, spectacular. As soon as you get to the trail there is pretty much just one way to go and all you have to do is just follow the road and let the scenery wash over you. Through valleys, mountains and settlements along rivers and waterfalls. You’ll be riding down low looking up at majestic mountain sides and you’ll be riding up high above the clouds which mostly can be described as driving in heaven.

We rode all day through areas where you didn’t see a person for 30 minutes

motorbike-khesanh
Remember to take the time to stop and smell the roses or in this case – the jungle

Through tiny settlements

settlement-khe-sanh
A settlement along the way

We even briefly drove on some of the main roads of the area.

Phong Nha drive
Just imagine how it looks in real life,when it looks this good on a cellphone picture

Reaching our destination

With no extra fuel and two bikes running on fumes well below the red area on the fuel gauge we rolled into Pepperhouse Homestay and within 5 minutes we were all in the pool with a cold beer. If you have a chance, go to Pepperhouse and say hi to the hosts, Multi and Diên, from me.

pepperhouse-homestay-phong-nha
Pepperhouse Homestay

This concluded a long day of motorbiking but, man, was it worth it.

North Vietnam Roadtrip April 2017

What is this!?

I’m on another trip to north vietnam! This time together with Amy!

It will be around 2 weeks and will be to many of the same spots but also some new ones. Since it’s shorter we’ll probably skip the left part of the north and focus on cao bang and hi giang.

Day 1

 Day 2

 

 Day 3

 

 Day 4

 

 Day 5

 

 Day 6

 

 Day 7

Day 7 was spent just hiking around Dong Van!

 Day 8

 

 Day 9

For some reason this is creating trouble to plot but we went all the way from Dong Van to Ha Giang City. A 150km long, very mountainous ride!!

 Day 10

 Day 11

 Day 12

 Day 13

 Day 14