Winter 17/18 From Ninh Binh over Binh Long to Lạng Sơn⁩

From Ninh Binh to Binh Long

I started this winter trip quite late to push the return flight back into May. This way I am able to do the North Vietnam Loop in April. This would give me better chances to see more blue sky. But that did not happen cause Mitzos decided he comes over and drive with me. But he also wanted to be back in Bangkok for Songkran. That is the New Year in Thailand. So I had to do the loop mid-March instead of April. One never knows how the sky might look ad if it rains or not. Since spring comes to the North of Vietnam in April – the later you go the better it is. It turned out to be just like I expected it – mostly gray and lots of rain. Guess I have to do that again. Only with all that logging and dam building going on. Not sure if it is really worth it. Guess you have to find the last pockets of resisting out there. But I leave that for next time. Now let’s have a look at the pictures.

A very happy Mitzos with his old helmet
A very happy Mitzos with his old helmet

We started from Ninh Binh and it was not easy to explain to the Greek why we had to go East to do a proper loop. He only wanted to go to Sapa to see what was on sale over there. A strange animal after all.

Ricefield in Vietnam
Time to plant the rice. Somewhere before Binh Long.
Preparing the rice field before planting
Preparing the rice field before planting
A green rock
One of the smaller ones
Chicken looking for food
Looking for food

It was late afternoon when we passed a nice little town and it was time to look for a hotel. But Mitzos wanted to find something along the river. I agreed – big mistake. We drove and drove – very nice landscape but already it got dark so I could not take pictures. And nothing – absolute nothing in terms of a Nhà Nghi along the road. When it was completely dark we found a really shitty one in a small village. If you ever drove in the countryside of Vietnam in the night you know the roads. Some potholes are larger than a bathtub and can swallow you and your bike. Trucks that blind you so you wont see anything and therefore will not see any pothole. Or the street for that matter. The list goes on and on. So you better have a place to stay for the night before nightfall.

Today’s drive: 228 kilometers in 8 hours and 13 minutes including food and gas stops. Looking at the map in the evening, I was not happy. We drove not really the best way. Should have gone way more east to avoid heavy traffic and boring landscape close to Hanoi. Well next time….

From Binh Long to Lạng Sơn

After a short night in our luxury hotel we continued our trip. The sky was gray for most of the day but it stayed dry. Which was good. Today no more nonsense – we stop at a bigger place with more options.

Looking over the river
Looking over the river
The DT 244 before Dinh Ca
The DT 244 before Dinh Ca
Peacefull lake
Peacefull lake
Monument in Xa Tan Wan on the 14
Monument in Xa Tan Wan on the 14

As far as I could translate it is something like: Tan Van Commune, Bing Ghia District is the winner of Lung Son Province in the period of resistance against the French (1946-1954).
On this road No 4 and the border campaign in 1950.
At Dong province here from the end of 1947 to the 1950s. From 16th to 19th of June 1948 the general meeting of the party is organized in Bac Dao, X Van Binh District
From the 25th to the 29th of June 1049 the general association of the second party of the Lang Son Province is organized in Dinh Dong Thon, Tan Van commune in Binh Cia district.

A Fisherman at Chau Khanh Keh on the 1B
A Fisherman at Chau Khanh Keh on the 1B
Another dam
Another dam
River, rice fields, mountains and a few houses
River, rice fields, mountains and a few houses
A look on the other side - imagine blue sky!
A look on the other side – imagine blue sky!
On the DT 235C somewhere in Song Giap
On the DT 235C somewhere in Song Giap
The beautiful lake in Lang Son
The beautiful lake in Lang Son

We arrived quite early at Lang Son so we had time to go for a walk after we found our hotel. This spot was beautiful. There was a big garden to the left – a perfect spot for a Bia Hoi place. But look at all the trash in the lake. No clue why the city does not clean these spots. There is money for propaganda posters and flags and what not everywhere. But nobody cares how the rest of the city looks.

The best Hotel in Lạng Sơn: The Trung Xuân

We looked at a few shitty places and by chance we drove past the entrance of this place. From the street you have to go into the courtyard and there you find the hotel. According to TripAdvisor the restaurant is also good. We paid only 16 US $ for this room! Find it at 29 Tam Thanh, Thành phố Lạng Sơn.

Finally at the hotel
Finally at the hotel
Very nice room with two big beds
Very nice room with two big beds
Our window goes out to...
Our window goes out to…
....the ball room??
….the ball room??
The wedding was the next morning when we left
The wedding was the next morning when we left

Today’s drive:
We drove 147 kilometres in 6 hours and 14 minutes with gas and food stops.

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Winter 17/18 – From Phong Nha to Ninh Binh

On this trip I wanted some blue sky in the North. So I pushed it as far back in the year as I could. But Dimitry had other plans. He wanted to go to the water festival in Thailand. I told him not to come before April but he does not care of course. So I had to drive up North after a few days in Phong Nha to meet him in Ninh Binh.
Checked out of the Elegant Hostel which had another name at the time. They are now on booking.com and I would go there again!

I have a few pictures of my room at the Elegant Hostel all the way down at my last blog post: Winter 16/17: From A Loui to Phong Nha

Adios Phong Nha
Adios Phong Nha

I have this picture so many times now. I do like this one since I have no clouds on it. Last time it started to rain and I had to get one of those capes that are really to small for me. And after a few hours in the rain it got quite cold. Much better today!

Mountains close to Cha Noi
Mountains close to Cha Noi
Local House
This kind of house I only saw in this region
Houses in front of Mountains in Vietnam
Very different from the other ones in Vietnam
House in Vietnam
The modern style with a metal house next to the original wood house
Old house in Vietnam
In the good old times the roof was still done with roof tiles
Modern House in Vietnam
This one is the latest fashion – metal with a big roof in front

I have some more pictures of the houses from the last trip from Phong Nha to Phố Châu

A few night in Phố Châu

Pho Chau
The roundabout in Pho Chau

Stopped in Phố Châu for a few days to see Trần again. He is the manager of my hotel and the Ly Ha Hotel is now on booking.com. Most of his free time he spends helping kids to learn English. And so we went to teach them some English.

The Ly Ha Hotel in Phố Châu

Room at the Ly Ha Hotel in Phố Châu
Ly Ha Hotel in Phố Châu
Bed at the Ly Ha Hotel in Phố Châu
The bed
Girl with water
A young girl bringing some water from the sea. Strange art here in the mountians. Took of her nipple – sorry! But you know facebook 🙁
Bathroom at the Ly Ha Hotel in Phố Châu
Bathroom at the Ly Ha Hotel in Phố Châu

Today’s Drive: 181 Kilometer in 3 hours and 30 minutes with a few stops

Butcher shop in the morning
Butcher shop in the morning
At the electronic shop
At the electronic shop
Family dinner
I was invited every day for the family lunch and dinner
The latest addition to the family
The latest addition to the family
My friend Trần - the manager of the hotel
My friend Trần – the manager of the hotel

Thank you Trần! See you again next year!

From Phố Châu to Ninh Binh

Took no pictures today. Was only driving and driving and driving…
Went down to the A1 to save some time. Not really nice but so much faster. Would only recommend that road if you in a hurry.

Today’s Drive: 252 Kilometers in 5 hours and 35 minutes with a few stops

Back in Ninh Binh

New dog in da house
New dog in da house

Ninh Binh Brothers Hotel

Got my stuff at my friends house and said “Hello” to the new dog. Drove to the Ninh Binh Brothers Hotel where I usually stay in Ninh Binh. The Brothers Hotel is in booking.com and if you go to Ninh Binh – stay there!

The Pink Room at the Two Brothers Hotel in Ninh Binh
The Pink Room at the Two Brothers Hotel
The Pink Room at the Two Brothers Hotel in Ninh Binh
Comes with a nice hand carved wood bed
The Pink Room at Two Brothers Hotel Ninh Binh
The bathroom door on the left
Happy Viet
Happy Viet

At the Bia hơi Place at the Lake

First we tried the open beer
First we tried the open beer

Bia is from French bière and hơi means gas. Bia hơi is a freshly brewed beer. It is usually delivered every day to the bars and restaurants that sell it. The beer is very light, most of the times it has not more than 3% alcohol. It is brewed without conservatives so it has to go fast. A glass of beer is anywhere between 3000 and 7000 Dong. 1 € is about 25.000 Dong.

Most of the places serve some food and snacks as well. Great to spend an evening with friends or make new friends.

At the Bia Hoi
At the Bia Hoi – Somebody is not to impressed
Viet needs more food
Viet needs more food
Later we had the fresh canned one
Later we had the fresh canned one and lots of food. Everybody was happy

Winter 17/18 – From A Loui to Phong Nha

Pictures, hotel information and maps from this part of my Winter 17/18 trip in Vietnam.

Had a nice evening with Rin in A Lưới. Slept well at the Thanh Quang Guesthouse. After a coffee, it was time to put the bag on the bike. Paid the room and I was on the move again.

Less and less trees every year I pass here
Less and less trees every year I ride that stretch of road
Truong Son road - Ho Chi Minh trail
Truong Son road – Ho Chi Minh trail

No need to type in that web sites. One is dead and the other one leads to a big site where you will not find anything if you do not speak the language.

Ho Chi Minh Highway Sign
Not sure for whom they put this sign up
Forrest along the Ho Chi Minh Trail
Still you find big trees from time to time
Slash and burn along the road
Slash and burn along the road
The forest goes so fast and becomes farmland
The forest goes so fast and becomes farmland
Clear cut along Ho Chi Minh Trail
All over Vietnam it is the same. Only in the North where it is still green it is evident. Not a lot left in the South anymore.
A mountain with a forest hat
A mountain with a forest hat
I bet you - next time it will look different
I bet you – next time it will look different
Finished Dam at the Ho Chi Minh Highway
Took quite a while but the dam is finished

I have two pictures from Winter 15/16 and Winter 16/17 in this blog post.

Forest up at the top - farmland below
Forest up at the top – farmland below
No more forest left
If you have farmland up in the mountains you need streets that will kill the farmland below. As long as you own the farmland on top it does not matter to much for you. But if you have the land below you wont be happy.

A Night in Khe Sanh

Stayed at my usual Guesthouse in Khe Sanh. Had some dinner and a early night. The next day I continued my ride to Phong Nha

Ngoc Chau Guesthouse in Khe Sanh
Ngoc Chau Guesthouse in Khe Sanh
Ngoc Chau Guesthouse
My room at the Ngoc Chau Guesthouse in Khe Sanh. Sports a TV, hot shower, toilet, fan, Wifi and AC for 6 US $.
Seating area
Seating area
Door to the bathroom
Entertainment at the wall and the door towards the private bathroom
Bathroom at Ngoc Chau Guesthouse
The bathroom

Today I drove only 106 kilometer in 3 hours. Not really to much but no way to drive from here all the way to Phong Nha if you start as late as I usually do.

If you are in the area make sure to stop at the Khe Sanh Combat Base. The base is on the way towards Phong Nha a few kilometers after Khe Sanh. Read up before it or at last after it. It was one of the most dangerous places in the war. Here is a link to the Wikipedia article about one famous battle: The Battle of Khe Sanh

The Beauty and the Beast

And here are a few pictures from last years visit

From Khe Sanh to Phong Nha

A new road over the river
A new road over the river
New propaganda along the road
New propaganda along the road
Sad landscape left
Sad landscape left
At last it is green
At last it is green
Clear cut forest along the Ho Chi Minh Trail
Next time we will know what crops they plant
Snake on a road
Wildlife crossing
The road gets wider
The road gets wider
A stretch of green forest
A stretch of green
Nice part of the road
Nice part of the road
Most of the big trees are gone
Most of the big trees are gone
One of the few villages up in the mountains
One of the few villages up in the mountains
Very basic huts
Very basic huts
Water Buffalo
At last he has a water hole

Last year when I drove this part of the Ho Chi Minh Road they where digging holes for the power poles. Now they have power and you can see satellite dishes on most of the houses. It is the same all over the place. First they get a TV and watch shitty shows. Product placement and commercials tell them what to consume and the whole place starts to change quick into “it looks all the same no matter where you go”. Luckily I found some places without power on this trip. But it gets harder and harder.
Guess the locals do see that different. Of course, I would be happy if I have power at home. But I am a tourist and see things very selfish and different.

A new gas station along the way
A new gas station along the way. No need to carry gasoline in water bottles anymore!
Happy Water Buffalo's
Happy Water Buffalo’s

Today something went wrong!

There was a new gas station but I still had enough gas. So I drove on – that was a big mistake. The station I wanted to fill up was closed and so where many of the small stalls on the road that sell you gas in bottles or pump it for you out of a barrel. I got to the fork at the road where it went down towards the sea again. Not sure if I could make it to Phong Nha with the gas that was left I decided to drive down and fill up at the next station. Which was almost at the beach! And I had to drive up again to get the best bit of this days drive. The limestone mountains before Phong Nha.

But this went not well too! As soon as I got back up again heavy fog moved in and it got cold and wet. Could not see a thing – had to concentrate on the road in front of me. No nice view with a sunset like last time.

In the end I drove 291 kilometer in 8 hours. With stops for gas, pictures and food.

The Thành Đạt Hotel in Phong Nha

Thành Đạt Hotel in Phong Nha is only a few meter away from Tran’s place. And it is nice and clean.

My room in at the Thành Đạt Hotel in Phong Nha
My room in at the Thành Đạt Hotel in Phong Nha
Of course with AC and TV
Of course with AC and TV
The bathroom
The bathroom

The hotel has a new name: Elegant Hostel and it is on booking.com

Khát - she is working the mini market
Khát – she is working the mini market
Trang after only one coffee!
Trang after only one coffee!

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