Ninh Binh, Vietnam to Tinh Gia, Vietnam – 73 Miles
I woke up early to start my second day of bicycle touring in Vietnam. Because I broke the ice the day before, my nerves where settled and I was eager to see where this adventure took me. As I headed down the dirt road towards Vietnam’s infamous highway 1, it was raining, and there was a dense fog covering the scenery.
Blasting through a loudspeaker was the sound of Buddist prayers. It was so strange and foreign. I knew I was traveling.
Because it’s the main artery connecting North and South Vietnam, Highway 1 isn’t the best road for bicycle touring. It’s busy and loud. There’s a constant barrage of honking horns, and the air is thick with the smell of diesel fuel. The only thing it had going for it was endless packs of other bikes in which I could seek shelter. Like a shy fish, I’d settle into the center of the school. The plan was to follow the highway South to Vinh, then turn West towards Laos.
I finished the day late in the afternoon in the town of Tinh Gia near Vietnam’s coast. I was covered in mud and smelled horrible. I was worried nobody would rent me a room.
Southeast Asia Bicycle Tour – Day 3
Tin Gia, Vietnam to Duc Pho, Vietnam – 71 Miles
On the third day, I woke a few hours before sunrise and started riding in the dark. Something I swore I wouldn’t do. I made it three days before breaking my promise. A promise to myself; no biggie.
I was cruising along in the rain and blackness and heard a loud pop. Across the concrete barrier between the lanes, I saw sparks and heard metal grinding. A motorcycled had wrecked. I quickly ditched my Surly Ogre and ran over to help. The driver seemed fine, but his cargo of live fish was scattered everywhere. I stood there useless for a minute then decided to move on.
Later that day, at about 180 miles into my tour, I made my turn West. The trucks disappeared, and the pavement faded away.
I was off the beaten path and immersed in the unfamiliar. The feeling was indescribable.
My Bicycle in Thanh Hoa
I used the maps.me app on my phone, and found a guesthouse in the small town of Duc Tho, Vietnam. Before checking in, I decided to eat. Cautiously I entered a restaurant and started my usual routine of pointing at my mouth and rubbing my belly. Like every time before, the lucky person to witness my primitive gestures looked back at me confused. That was my cue to start shoulder shrugging and pointing at other customers’ plates. I don’t know what I ate that afternoon. If I had to guess, I’d say oxtail. It was beyond excellent.
Southeast Asia Bicycle Tour – Day 4
Duc Tho, Vietnam to Lak Sao, Laos – 61 Miles
Another drizzly start on what I anticipated to be a tough day of climbing. I wasn’t disappointed. The climb to the border of Laos seemed fucking endless. It was foggy, wet and steep. During the last five miles, I never left my lowest three gears. It was a relentless uphill grind. I was moving at a snail’s pace drenched in a cold sweat loving every second.
At the top of the climb was the border. Soaking wet and on the verge of hyperthermia, I went through the immigration process and entered Laos. I had 20 miles to ride before any chance of a hotel and I was not happy about that, but the landscape was dramatic, and the sun started shining. That final push into town will forever be one of my favorite moments.
I’m in Laos. I’m on the other side of the world riding my bicycle. Everyone I know and love is over 8,000 miles away. Most of the time it gives me a thrill to focus on this. Other times, I’m overwhelmed with loneliness.
In preparation for my upcoming tour of Iceland, I wanted to make some touring bicycle upgrades to my Surly Ogre. To start, I wanted power. I wanted a solution for charging electronics while touring. I also needed more storage. Unlike my previous tour of Southeast Asia, I will need to carry a tent, food, fuel, and other camping supplies.