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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From Hue to Khe Sanh

Had a good breakfast at Vu Homestay at the outskirts of Hue. After that it was time to load the bike and drive to A Lưới to meet a friend for lunch.

Close to the Guest-house in Hue
Close to the Guest-house in Hue one finds the rest of a business idea that didn’t work to good.

Little village over the river
Thị xã Hương Thủy over the river

Farming cuts into the forest
Farming cuts into the forest

Up towards A Lưới

Stopped in A Lưới to meet Rin for lunch. Thank you very much – that was a nice lunch break. A Lưới is on the Ho Chi Minh Highway again. So up up North it was!

On the Ho Chi Minh Highway - The locals dry grass which will become brooms later
On the Ho Chi Minh Highway – The locals dry grass which will become brooms later

Not a lot of traffic here
Not a lot of traffic here

Lots of farmland left and right of the river
Lots of farmland left and right of the river

Not a lot of forest left at this part of the road
Not a lot of forest left at this part of the road

Tet decoration in the villages
Tet decoration in the villages along the road. Here we are in the outskirts of Ta Ay.

More or less original forest
More or less original forest

Blue sky and green forest
Blue sky and green forest

Still a lot of unexploded ammunition in the ground
In a little village in Quảng Trị province. Still a lot of unexploded ammunition in the ground.

A new "traditional" town hall
A new “traditional” town hall

Small village over the river
Small farming village over the river

The water does look clean!
The water does look clean!

I can not really see a lot of improvement. Looks almost like 1 year ago.
I can not really see a lot of improvement. Looks almost like 1 year ago.

A new dam will change things for sure
This was last winter

Empty roads
Empty roads – cruising the left right left right of the HCM Highway and sometimes the road is like this – so you do not have to steer for a minute or so.

On the way to Khe Sanh
On the way to Khe Sanh

Ngoc Chau Guesthouse in Khe Sanh
Ngoc Chau Guesthouse in Khe Sanh

My room at the Ngoc Chau Guesthouse in Khe Sanh
My room at the Ngoc Chau Guesthouse in Khe Sanh. Sports a TV, hot shower, toilet, fan, Wifi and AC for 6 US $. Much better than last year where I had to fork out 16$ for the worst nights sleep in Vietnam. But the other place was with breakfast – this one without.

My room at the Ngoc Chau Guesthouse in Khe Sanh

Ngoc Chau Guesthouse in Khe Sanh

Bathroom at the Ngoc Chau Guesthouse in Khe Sanh

Todays Drive

166 km in 6 hours and 16 minutes including lunch, photo stops as well as a Gas stop

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From A Lưới to Khe Sanh

Did sleep quite good and got up before 09:00 again. Since I did not see any interesting place for breakfast last night and no Bánh mì stand as well the decision to find some breakfast on the way was very easy.
Pack the bag game, pay for the room and put the bag on the bike. Today I not even have to worry that the Google lady sends me somewhere where I do not want to go. The border to Laos is on the left. Sometimes less than 2 kilometres away so everything that goes left goes to Laos. And there is nothing bigger than a path going to the right. Just stay on the main road and you can not go wrong.
Today this road leads to an area that was once at the centre of the ‘American War’ as they call it here. And only a few kilometres out of A Lưới the first reminder of one of the many battles here towers on the left of the road.

Hamburger Hill
It is Hill 937 or “Hamburger Hill”. This hill was of little strategic value to the US but the US command ordered to capture it. What followed was a 10 day battle from the 10th to the 20th of May 1969 that left more than 700 people death on the slopes of the mountain. And this are only the ones that were counted. After the US got the hill they abandoned it quietly on the 5th of June 1969.

At last it is green
Not pristine forest but at last a lot of green

Breakfast stop
In a little village I saw a shop that sold bread, fruits and vegetables. Had the idea of a pick nick so I told her I take 2 baguette. Saw some cut tofu and soja sprouts as well. Great! Told her I want some of that as well. She did not speak English so you point to everything. She got some tofu put it in a small bag together with a hand full of sprouts. She reached for the scale – paused – looked at me and walked into her house in the back of the shop.
No idea what she did that for. After a few seconds her son waved me to the back and her husband pointed to the tea pot. Well that looked like a longer shopping stop. Did put the helmet on the bike and went to the table in the back. From there I could see her in the kitchen cooking! Quick I fetched a few tomatoes, garlic and onions and gave it to her son to bring it to his mother.
Got a glass of ice water and hot green tea. The man did offer me even cigarettes but I still do not smoke. After a few minutes they put a big plate of food and some baguette on the table. And this is not even a restaurant! I sit on their table in a shop and they made me food. Imagine a Vietnamese guy would stop at a shop in your home town to get some groceries. Would they ever make him food on the spot?
Did manage to eat 3 breads stuffed with her really good vegetables. Cleared the rest of the bread and had another tea.
After a very good breakfast she wanted 20000 Dong – that is 0,81 €!!!

Long and winding road
Long and winding road

Of course they have to burn as well
Of course they have to burn as well

Add smoke to the haze
Add smoke to the haze

Low water
Low water

A new dam will change things for sure
A new dam will change things for sure. No more fish migrating will be one of the results.

Only a few kilometres more
Only a few kilometres more to the hotel

My room at the Khanh Phuong Hotel
My room at the Khanh Phuong Hotel. I have no clue why this is 16,50 US $. There is a TV, fridge, chairs, table, closet, AC and private bathroom with hot shower. I had all of this for 5 US $ as well here in Vietnam. But at last the other rooms had a window. This one here is smaller than a half news paper page. And it was so noisy the whole night. That does prove it again. Only because your hotel has 2 stars does not mean it is any better than one with no stars. It is only way more expensive!

At last the best breakfast set of all the hotels so far
At last the best breakfast set of all the hotels so far

The clock: 61065 km: 109 km. You might ask why only 109 km today. Because the next 240 km there is no place to sleep unless you find a kind local that put you on his floor.

The Wood Grave of a Rice Farmer

Well I have no idea if this is a grave of a rice farmer. But if you look at the construction and details of the grave. And at some of the stuff they put under the roof I can only picture a rice farmer. One of the farmers that works in the small rice paddies – ploughing with his buffalo.

Wodden grave
Heads of water buffaloes at the end of the roof construction. Buffalo yokes as main parts of the grave under the roof.

Wodden grave
V

Water buffalo head
Very detailed – would love to see it when it was new

Looks like the yoke they use on the buffaloes as well

That means grave in Vietnamese
That little basket is still used every day. Did pass so many people who have them on the back all over the mountains here. The writing means Grave in Vietnamese

Detail of the roof
Detail of the roof

 
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