Traversing Vietnam By Motorbike: Day 6 – Kon Tum to Hoi An… WHOA, we’re Halfway there, WHOA… (Bikes are) Livin’ on a Prayer!
Distance: 285km / 177 miles
Bike Condition: shake, rattle, and roll…
Driver Condition: takin’ the heat & butterflies in the face
Our drive today started out on the Ho Chi Minh road, which traverses the country almost 2,000km (1242 miles) from north to south, from Hanoi to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh), along the mountainous spine of Vietnam’s Truong Son range. This is not to be confused with the Ho Chi Minh Trail, the majority of which runs through Laos, which was used as a supply and logistical corridor from the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam) to the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam) during the war.
The Ho Chi Minh Highway runs through some of the best scenery in the county, particularly though central Vietnam, and we got a taste of the gorgeous scenery during the first half of today’s ride. Before the beautiful mountains though, we’d have to stop off for some bike repairs! Typical day motorbiking Vietnam. The foot pegs on Shawn’s bike had become so loose he felt like they’d fall off. While we’d pulled to the side of the road a couple times so he could try and tighten them up, we had to stop by a bike service shop to get it done well. While there, they also fixed up his exhaust pipe, which had a small leak.
One of the workers there was keen for conversation, despite neither party being able to speak the others’ language beyond a word or two; however, with the help of Google translate, Shawn managed a short conversation. The man pulled a U.S. $2 bill out of his wallet and seemed happy to hear that they were no longer made anymore and rare. Bike fixed up, we waved goodbye and head down the road.
The route was along nice smooth roads with gradual curves through the mountains, making for easy driving with stunning scenery. As per usual, I had us pulling over every ten minutes or so for photos. Thousands of small yellow butterflies crisscrossed some sections of the road. Other than the bike repair, the worst thing that happened all day was getting slapped in the face by adorable little yellow butterflies that covered the the ridiculously beautiful mountain roadways. When the worst thig that happens to you is butterflies high-fiving your face, life is good.
After a break for lunch a little over halfway through the journey in Kham Duc, a small city along the highway not far from the border with Laos, we were back into the mountains, weaving our way through small palm-laden agricultural communities and past water buffalos so big they looked like hippos with long legs. Much of this afternoon portion of the drive was very hot, and the scorching headwind was like a blowtorch to the face. We pulled over into the shade several times to down some water.
Eventually we emerged from the mountains onto flatter, busier highway toward Hoi An. Exiting the highway off a small unmarked ramp, we took small backroads through rice fields around the city to our hostel on the east side of Hoi An, bypassing the traffic through the city center. Paddy’s Hostel literally overlooked rice paddies, and most importantly: it had a pool, which we were quickly in to cool off from the hot day on the road.
After time to cool off, relax, and enjoy some free happy hour beers, we made our way down the road for an awesome dinner – no surprise there – as we’ve had more consistently good meals in Vietnam than any other country. When it comes to food, this country knows how to blend flavors and textures to perfection.
Hoi An and Hue (our next stop) mark roughly the half-way point of our journey northward. We’re taking an extra day here in Hoi An to take a break from biking, explore the old town area, relax on the beach, and enjoy some of the delicious food central Vietnam has to offer.