Captain Caveman was back from his 4 day Tu Lan trip tomorrow and while he was away I have had one of the most exciting 3 days of my life (definitely in the top 10!)
On Sunday after Captain Caveman had left Ho Khanh’s Veronika and I waited for our easy rider motorbike drivers and 2 women, Sissy and Beth, to arrive. We were about to embark on a 3 day trip over one of the steepest and winding roads in Vietnam – the whole 246km of the Ho Chi Minh trail on the back of a motorbike. We rode from Phong Nha to Khe Sanh on the first day having to deal with a flat tyre before we’d gone 15km and then a loss of power getting up the hills and having to stop and wait for another bike to take Sissy. We had mist, baking hot sun and torrential rain as well as news that an english man had been killed that morning in a motorbike accident in Phong Nha. We left at 8.30am and arrived in Khe Sanh at 5pm filthy and knackered so we’re surprised that the cheap hotel we had was ok and had a nice warm shower. Veronika and I shared one room, Beth an Australian who’s son was a chef in Saigon, shared with Sissy, a financial analyst from Austria.
That evening the riders took us for chicken in sticky rice which was a speciality of Khe Sanh and was so tasty – football chicken is fantastic. Unfortunately we were too tired for karaoke and headed back to the hotel before 9pm after just 3 beers. I slept like a log and didn’t wake up ’til almost 7am…
… After breakfast of bread, jam and lychees we checked out and, wearing the same smelly and slightly damp clothes, we set off just up the road to the Khe Sanh combat base. Veronika did an excellent job of being our guide as she told us of the horrific fatalities in the area during the war. The small museum was interesting and it felt so sad that the war had even happened. The photos on display showed an unrecognisable place to where we were.
Back on the bikes and our next stop would be for lunch which we arrived at just before the torrential downpour came. Food was amazing and we waited for the rain to stop before heading off again to visit a waterfall where we could swim, not too far from Hue.
When we arrived 2 of the drivers said to follow them on foot down a path, across some rocks and in to ‘blood stream’. I asked why it was called that and Chung replied that we would find out later. I couldn’t be bothered to put my bikini on so went in, in my bra and knickers. It was really nice and the fish even chewed our feet. The water was cool and refreshing with a gushing waterfall into a small natural rock pool.
As we walked back we were reassured that blood stream was because when the heavy rains come it washes the orangey red sand down the waterfall making it resemble blood.We rode on, me regretting having a wet bra on as it got a bit nippy on the bike and it later meant wearing a bikini to dinner later.
We arrived in Hue at 5pm and checked in to a dump of a hotel but for £6 for the night it seemed acceptable to manage without soap or a light in the bathroom.
After beers in the Why Not? bar we got a taxi to a delightful restaurant, Les Jardins de La Carambole which is situated near the citadel. I particularly enjoyed the duck a l’orange for dinner and we shared 2 bottles of French fizz which was amazing.
We chatted with the owner after our meal and he bought us all a Bailey’s before we headed back to our basic accommodation where Veronika and I said our goodbyes to Sissy and Beth, who were heading to Hoi An the next day. We would spend a day in Hue, shopping, then get the bus back to Phong Nha.
Despite the ‘roughing it’ $10 digs I slept well and went over to the Why Not bar for a lemon juice at 9.30am. Hue was unusually quiet with hardly any traffic or tourists which was weird. Our bus back was booked for 4.30pm so we went shopping and I bought a dress and 2 pairs of trousers for $25.
We ate lunch at Bistro La Carambole, same owner as the restaurant the previous evening and in the centre of Hue. I had goats cheese salad and a glass of wine which was most enjoyable. Having had a taste for cheese we found a shop that sold cheese, crisps and sweets and bought a load to take back to Phong Nha. Considering we had a 38 degree heat to contend with plus a 5 hour bus journey and then a motorbike taxi before they would reach the fridge again we were a little concerned. We decided to walk in to a 4 star hotel and sleep on a sun lounger, with our shopping bags of cheese in the shade. No one questioned us being there and the hotel was nice – no one questions anything you do when you’re travelling with a pensioner.
Just as we were drifting off to sleep in the shade by the pool Veronica’s phone rang and important news came that she needed to leave the country tomorrow as her request to extend her visa hadn’t been agreed. She wasn’t happy, especially as she had her motorbike driving test on Friday but calmly we checked out flights and within half an hour she had a flight booked to Bangkok for Wednesday afternoon and we were on our way to the bus.
The bus driver was not happy for us to be anywhere near the front of the sleeper bus but Veronika did get a bottom bunk. We did worry that the cheese was starting to smell a bit so when the driver came towards us I thought it was for that reason. He wanted us to tell him where we were from and when we said Phong Nha he wouldn’t have any of it and got quite mad with us, he even tried to slap us with his clipboard!
Photo credit – everyone on the trip