The Last Leg

Ninh Bihn to Hanoi

It was time for the last stretch of the bike tour. Hanoi, our target for a month, lay ahead of us. Normally, coming into a city you approach from over a hill or down a valley. You can see the lay of the land and I always enjoy that, getting a feel of the size and density of a city as you arrive. Hanoi did not go that way. As soon as we left Ninh Binh, there was about 10km of open land and then there was always a wall of houses between us and the fields. It just built up slowly but surely as we got closer and closer to Hanoi Proper™. The distance between us and the fields got deeper, the buildings grew and the density of traffic became incredible.

Biking in Ho Chi Minh was mental, but this is something else. They have 3 lane highways where every inch is covered in bikes about half a meter apart, max. If you want to change direction or cross the road, you just have to go for it. There is no waiting for your space, you start moving and space is made for you. Blind hope and luck gets you from one side to the other.

There are always a lot of westerners in the hostels we stay at. A lot of them have motorbikes but it is still an event for the Vietnamese to see us on the roads. Added to that, our crazy gifts for each other, we got a bit of attention on the ride in. Surprisingly my super colourful paper horse, named Chortle, and Mikes big bunch of flowers, unnamed, survived quite well. Checking in with them was awkward though.

After de-sweating in the shower and grabbing an ‘eat to bite’ (if you know the reference, you get 10,000 dong (HA!)) we met up with Regan in the bar. She had headed off a day early so she could catch a flight that evening. There was also several other people who we had met along the road. It takes roughly a month to go in either direction it seems. We had kept bumping into the same people every few days. It was really nice to catch up and trade stories again. Alice and Bobbi had missed their flight because… Alice and Bobbi… They should have been gone before we arrived so is was cool seeing them briefly.

The fun started at the hostel bar, then headed to a local bar. Everything was going really well and the music was really good. Thats something else I have noticed; while I have no idea about the Vietnamese music, that is played in karaoke bars, the western music they put on in clubs is amazing. The Vietnamese are very musically adept. I think I would have continued onto the next bar if the power hadn’t gone off. This wasn’t a problem, the bar staff just got on with it – must happen regularly here. We took this as a cue to move on, however, because the power looked to be out to a whole block, the guide took us on a mini mission to the next bar.

Halfway there Camilla and I gave up and headed back. It was late and we knew we had to be up early the next day anyway. The only problem was we had no idea where the hostel was. Helpfully, and industriously, a passing chap on a scooter offered to take us there for 20,000 dong (snigger) 70p sounds like a deal for a taxi to me so we both hopped on. He literally took us down 1 street and turned left and there was our hostel. We knew we had been fleeced, but I guess we paid more for the knowledge than the distance travelled.