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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Winter 17/18 – The Tomb Rider Road to Hue

From Phong Nha to Dong Ha

The last few times I went down this road it was from Dong Hoi and I went all the way to Hue. But this way there is not enough time to admire the graves along the road. This time I broke it down into two parts to have more time. From Phong Nha to Dong Ha on the first day. And from Dong Ha to A Loui on the second day. And if there will be rain I still can stay another day to take some pictures of the tombs. There is another post from the 2016/17 trip with a few more pictures of the beach and some other tombs.

Guess next time I will spend a day or more at the beach as well.

Day one from Phong Nha to Dong Ha

Hoa Phuong Guesthouse in Dong Ha

Hoa Phuong Guesthouse
The room at Hoa Phuong Guesthouse

Took a room at the Hoa Phuong Guesthouse in Dong Ha. A very nice friendly family runs this place. Secure parking for the bike and a good room where you can leave the window open the whole day – thanks to the bars.

Hoa Phuong Guesthouse
Comes with a fridge on top of the usual TV and AC
Hoa Phuong Guesthouse
Shower and Toilet

Today’s ride – down from the mountains to the coast. Tomorrow the Graves & Rice-field road is waiting.

The Tomb Rider Road from Dong Ha to Hue

This time of the year you might have a blue and sunny day or it is gray and overcast the whole day. I had a mix of clouds and blue sky but you will see that in the pictures that come up now. Left the hotel not to early and took the road towards the beach.
The 200 km stretch of coast between Dong Hoi and the former imperial capital of Hue is still untouched and completely empty. If you oversee a few spots along the beach where somebody tried to start some hotels or resorts. Mostly you will see fisherman doing their fisherman stuff on the beach. Repairing nets or get the boats in and out of the water.
The beach itself is for the most part quite clean as soon as you get away from the bigger villages along the coast. A bit back from the shore the rice fields begin and in them, you will find thousands of traditional Vietnamese-Chinese royal style tombs. Usually, they are elaborately decorated and well looked after.

At the grave road towards Hue
At the grave road towards Hue
Regular graveyard
Regular graveyard
Never saw sunflower fields but it might be because I am only there in winter?
Never saw sunflower fields but it might be because I am only there in winter?
Very different from the other ones
Very different from the other ones
I like the colors
I like the colors
Quite different with this bowl in the middle
Quite different with this bowl in the middle
The tomb stone in the back
The tomb stone in the back
Monument
Monument
Another monument
Another monument

The Traditional Vietnamese Grave Houses

This one comes with the lions on each side
This one comes with the lions on each side
Usually the entrance from the gate leads to the tomb. Looks like somebody added a second one on the left
Usually the entrance from the gate leads to the tomb. Looks like somebody added a second one on the left
A small gate followed by a wall
A small gate followed by a wall
A bit different in style
A bit different in style
Only a fence around it
Only a fence around it
Quite some space between the gate and the actual tomb
Quite some space between the gate and the actual tomb
The birds in front of the tomb
The birds in front of the tomb – this time Golden
This one has only a wall and no gate
This one has only a wall and no gate
A new one with a bridge
A new one with a bridge
It looks similar but it is way bigger
It looks similar but it is way bigger
Graves and houses are all mixed in the fields
Graves and houses are all mixed in the fields
He / she must be important
He / she must be important
If they keep building the graves they will run out of rice fields soon
If they keep building the graves they will run out of rice fields soon

What else was there to see Today?

Drove to the beach for a quick look. It is still deserted and has super fine sand!!

Waves on the beach
Waves on the beach
So calming
So calming
30 minutes break from the road!
Soldiers cemetery
Soldiers cemetery
To many of those all over the world
To many of those all over the world
Cactus next to the road
Cactus next to the road
The road less traveled
The road less traveled
Shrimp farm
Shrimp farm
I wonder if they burn the trash here
I wonder if they burn the trash here
Smaller graves close to Hue on the right side of the road
Smaller graves close to Hue on the right side of the road
Fisherman houses on the left side of the road
Fisherman houses on the left side of the road

A Night in A Lưới at the Thang Quang Guesthouse

Since I wanted to see Rin in A Luoi there was no need to spend the night in Hue. I continued the road up the mountains to A Luoi and checked into my usual hotel. Usually, they gave me a room downstairs in the Thanh Quang Guesthouse but this time I got one upstairs. The rooms downstairs are bigger and have two big beds. Upstairs they have only one bed which is not too big but enough for one person.

Take a look at the other room in this post here from my 2015/16 trip.

The Thanh Quang Guesthouse in A Loui
The Thanh Quang Guesthouse in A Loui
Small room with shower and toilet
Small room with shower and toilet
This time I was at the 1st floor. Quite different from the usual room
This time I was at the 1st floor. Quite different from the usual room
Vegetarian restaurant at the main road
Vegetarian restaurant at the main road

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Winter 17/18 – A few Days in Phong Nha

After a few days at the beach it was time to move on and meet Trang in Phong Nha.

It is a quick ride up the mountain – only 42 kilometers but still, it took me an hour. I like to look what is happening along the road so I go quite slow. Booked a hotel for a few days since you never know how full it gets in the season up here.

Nhat Tan Hotel in Phong Nha

Nhat Tan Hotel
My room at the Nhat Tan Hotel

I booked a room at the Nhat Tan Hotel at the main drag in Phong Nha and only a few meters away from Trang’s bar.

Bathroom at the Nhat Tan Hotel
The Bathroom
Breakfast at the Nhat Tan Hotel
Breakfast at the Nhat Tan Hotel

That happens if you are tired and forget to tell them NO EGG!

The bike parking - Vietnam style inside the hotel
The bike parking – Vietnam style inside the hotel

Trangs Place

Nothing changed at the Spa apart from new staff. Some cosmetic changes at the bar and the rooftop was finished. The supermarket is open now.

Trang had the idea of getting more space for the bar to have one or two tables more. So she ordered a truckload of stones and sand. We filled the pond and I removed the last concrete bit of the old stairs to the first floor behind the house. Lots of work and sweat. But things looked much better behind the house with the stones.

Most of the stones
Most of the stones that went into the pond
More space for the restaurant - we filled the pond
More space for the restaurant – we filled the pond
Some of the stones went here
Some of the stones went here
And some went behind the house
And some went behind the house
Best shop keeper in the afternoon
Best shop keeper in the afternoon
Greens with Huda for lunch
Greens with Huda for lunch

At the little Bar on the Hill

A bit outside is a bar on a hill. Nice spot to see the sunset or for a drink in the afternoon. We where not so lucky today. Clouds moved in and that was it with the sunset.

Little restaurant on a hill outside of Phong Nha
Little restaurant on a hill outside of Phong Nha
The sun sinking into the mountains at Phong Nha
The sun sinking into the clouds at Phong Nha
Afternoon snack - Mango with Tiger Beer
Afternoon snack – Mango with Tiger Beer
Trang & George
Trang & George – note the sweater!

I only stayed a few days in town so there are not too many pictures.

Breakfast at the pool - Trang looks even smaller on this picture
Breakfast at the pool – Trang looks even smaller on this picture
George - after breakfast
George – after breakfast – very happy!
Greens with Huda for lunch - again
Greens with Huda for lunch – again
The village behind the rice fields
The village behind the rice fields
Cold noodles with greens
Cold noodles with greens

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