Last 2 days of bike tour - Cao Bang - Lang Son - Hanoi

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April 20th 2009
Published: April 20th 2009
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Getting ready for the ride on Day 4Getting ready for the ride on Day 4Getting ready for the ride on Day 4

This pic shows our support vehicles.
Saturday 18th April

Today was to be a big ride, about 80 kms. We left our hotel in Cao Bang, one of the best we have had up to now, at about 8 am and drove for some distance along the highway towards our destination of Lang Son.

Judy and a couple of the other woman decided the road was too rough, with too many trucks and the incline too steep so they elected not to join the ride today. It was uphill for a relatively short distance when we began, not too hard for about 5 kms. Then the fun began! It was a winding road downhill for at least the next 25 kms and we were flying, being able to pass cars and motorbikes with ease, until we hit a section where roadworks were underway. Then the pace slowed somewhat and we were glad of the knobbly tyres to keep a grip on the road.

It got worse, the road became a quagmire with water and mud blocking the way. Some tried to walk around it and found themselves ankle deep in mud, the others rode through it very gingerly, most getting through with only a
Start of ride on Day 4Start of ride on Day 4Start of ride on Day 4

A short distance uphill before a long steep ride down.
‘little’ mud on them.

Once underway again the mud soon dried and we continued to the town of Na Sam, where a lunch awaited us. The scenery was magnificent and everybody waved and called out on the way. It looked just like it does in movies you see of this part of the country.

The lunches are becoming a bit boring, with any meat, be it chicken or pork (or at least that’s what we’re told!!) very tough and the spices very bland. This one was no different. Interestingly, it was noticed that the drivers and other staff were eating different dishes to us!

Whilst we had lunch the bikes were washed nearby and loaded onto the truck. Han was a little upset as Dunno had passed the town, was caught by the truck about 7 kms out where he told them he was continuing on to Lang Son, about 105 kms in total.

We all boarded the bus and set off for Lang Son, keeping our eyes open for Dunno. We caught up with him just outside the town, he having waited for about 15 mins as he didn’t know where the hotel was. We
Deserted kittensDeserted kittensDeserted kittens

At one of the stops on the way due to roadworks Judy found these little kittens at the side of the road.
have noticed that this information is not given to us and we don’t know where we are sleeping until we get there.

Lang Son is very close to the Chinese border and because of this it has become a large trading town as well as a base for smugglers. Using small vans the smugglers bring goods across the border, evading the police and border patrols, and sell them without paying any duty.

We got there early and checked into the worst hotel we have had this trip. It was fairly clean but close inspection showed it up a little. The power to the town was off so there was no airconditioning and most of us had cold showers to wash off the mud.

A huge market was just down the road but most of the stuff on sale was either cheap junk, or clothing which didn’t fit anyone. Rags did buy an electronic bug zapper shaped like a tennis racquet but others told him later they were banned in Australia. As it only cost just over $4 we’ll see what happens.

Pre-dinner drinks at the bar over from the road was an experience, with none of the staff speaking English. We ended up serving ourselves then passing over the money, but it did become a bit more of an experience when Judy and a couple of others ordered cocktails. The order was changed by them when they didn’t have the correct ingredients!

There was an impromptu party on the verandah of some of the rooms with everyone reliving the day’s adventure before retiring, ready for the final day.

Sunday 19th April
After an early breakfast of the ubiquitous bread roll, fried egg, and sickly sweet white coffee or tea we drove a short distance out of town and got on our bikes, destination Hanoi. The riding distance was about 80km.

Judy and Julie both started off with the group not certain how far they would go. Rags didn’t hare off with the others, instead staying a couple of metres behind her, not making any suggestions or comments. He followed for about 10 kms until we met the others who had stopped to regroup. She then set off with Julie, Rags joining the others.

The riding was great in that there was a smooth bike lane at the edge of the highway
The group at the end of the muddy rideThe group at the end of the muddy rideThe group at the end of the muddy ride

Most agreed this was one of the most interesting day's riding.
and for some time the going was downhill or flat. Then the clouds seemed to disperse, the headwind became stronger, and it became hard work. By the time Rags caught up with the lead group they had stopped at an old border crossing and were having cold drinks purchased from a stall. The temperature was now in the high 30s and Rags joined several others back on the bus. Judy had rejoined the bus with several others after they’d completed 30kms. Her bottom was quite sore from the bike seat!

The usual stalwarts continued until they reaching the lunchstop very soon after. This time the “Vietnamese 10km” was only about 4km. After lunch it was farewell to the truck driver and the bikes put in the truck. Photos followed, behind a banner made by Buffalo tours.

From here it was a 2 hour trip back to the Army Hotel where we had a welcome swim in the pool, marred a little by the dozens of yelling kids also there. It appeared that many were local children, who pay to enter.

We spent some time walking to check out another hotel as there are no vacancies here for

A lot of unusual shaped hills were passed on Day 3 and 4.
tomorrow night. We decided not to do the tour to Ha Long Bay as we’ve had enough of sitting in a bus for a while! Chris and Baguette are booked into the Ritz and we were thinking of joining them. We went the wrong way and eventually we found the Classic 1 Hotel opposite where we had 3000 vdn bia hois last week. They had a 50% off rate, and as we like the area because of all the activities going on here booked for tomorrow night.
A delicious dinner followed a few 3000vnd bia hois at the nearby Quam Bia Minh restaurant.

Additional photos below
Photos: 15, Displayed: 15



The bus didn't quite make it this way into the hotel carpark.
Border CrossingBorder Crossing
Border Crossing

We passed the border crossing into China on Day 5.

There are a lot of basic huts but some of the richer people have big houses. They like them bright!

Here is an example of a more elaborate house. This one is special because it's painted at the side - most only paint the front of the house.

Another one - this is typical with the side not painted.
We're thereWe're there
We're there

This was the group that made it all the way to the restaurant - the last leg of the bike trip!

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