Gettin' lost in the fog on the way North
Trip Start Sep 29, 2010
149Trip End Dec 23, 2011
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Where I stayed
Ha Thu Hoa House Service
Heading out of Cam Thuy, I knew that I was really close to Cuc Phuong National Park, and I thought it might be really cool to go there for a day and maybe even spend the night. Ben from Phong Nha had said there was an entrance off of the Ho Chi Minh road, so it wouldn't be that out of the way at all. It also meant that I had to bypass the best highways that led to Mai Chau, but I figured it would be worth it.
Problem is, I had no clue where the entrance was supposed to be, so I just kept on going North. Along the way, I asked some people about Cuc Phuong, and they kept on pointing for me to continue, but it was coming to a point where I would be passing all the most direct routes to Mai Chau
This road was very different from the nice smooth HCM highway I had gotten used to. Very worn, full of potholes and exposed ground underneath the asphalt, and really bumpy. I had only a vague idea of how long it went for, but I figured it was worth it to keep going. From what I could tell from my map, it couldn't be too long along this stretch of highway, so I pushed on. Luckily I was right, and as I got closer to the junction with the bigger highway, the road improved considerably. After an awesome lunch in the town, it was only 30km or so to Mai Chau, and I was pumped. I had really been looking forward to riding around the North, because it's supposed to be really scenic. I was taking the first step to an awesome part of the country!
The North is quite mountainous, and this road was cutting right through and around some steep forested peaks, absolutely amazing
Coming into Mai Chau, I just wanted to find someplace to crash and quick - it had been a long day. Somebody came up to me with a card for a homestay, so I decided to just take it without looking around. I ended up following him into the middle of the valley Mai Chau is in, where there are many stilt houses set up for homestays. The location was beautiful, in the middle of rice paddies and surrounded on all sides by steep hills. I put my stuff away and decided to go for a walk. It didn't take long to realize that this whole area was a fabricated tourist destination for travellers to get an "authentic" Vietnamese homestay, but it was complete bullshit. Every "house" was selling the usual tourist wares, and the whole pace felt fake. Even the rice fields looked fake! All that was growing in them were weeds. Compared to the homestay I did in Kong Lo, Laos, it was completely phony. I just laughed about it because what could I do - I was already there.
Funnily enough three English guys turned up at the same place with motorbikes. They had bought them in Hanoi and this was their first day on the road! I was able to give them a few tips as they were heading down the stretch I'd just come up. Really nice guys. It got dark early and we were all exhausted, so we headed to bed after a home-cooked meal at the house.
I read for a bit before falling asleep, and then when I tried to, I couldn't brush bad thoughts out of my head about the road in front of me. What if the fog kept up like that the whole way? What if I crashed again? Or worse? And the problems with the bike? As much as I tried to brush the thoughts away, they wouldn't leave my head. I had one night to sleep on it before deciding in the morning. I was still within an easy day's drive to Hanoi.
Would I be backtracking into Hanoi, or pushing on?