Tanks, Tunnels and Thunder

Trip Start Jan 31, 2011
Trip End Dec 15, 2011

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Flag of Vietnam  , Cao Bang,
Thursday, May 12, 2011

As I arrived downstairs for breakfast this morning Tri was there, ready to pack up my bag onto the back of the bike and get going. He put my bags into plastic bags and then tied them tightly onto the back of the bike.

We got going on the main highway north, it's a busy road with lots of traffic and the larger vehicles think nothing of setting off into the oncoming 2 wheeled traffic and forcing them into the side. There is a very nice hard shoulder there, about the same size as our motorway hard shoulder, but it doesn’t means its clear – there could be people walking, dogs, buffalo, slow bicycles, buses letting people off….it’s not an easy road to go on.

The first 'sight’ we came across was a church that had been fought around for 81 days. It’s a wreck now, with clear evidence of bullet holes all over the place.

We carried on up the road and found a bit of a ropey place for lunch just after we saw an old tank in the bushes by the side of the road. Tri gets up at 5am and goes running, so he likes to have his lunch about 11.30/12. The man at the place was clearly drunk and brought a massive plate of plain rice with some ‘morning glory’ and beef. It wasn’t very appetising, and I wasn’t very hungry. I went to use the bathroom – this turned out to be a hole in the ground up the garden. Nice.

Not far after the lunch stop we crossed the official North South dividing river which is commemorated with a huge stone statue and the original bridge is covered in flags.

All this occurred right by the main road, we turned off and headed East towards the Vinh Moc tunnels, a place where villagers spent 2 years digging more than 50 tunnels over 3 levels to shelter fro the constant air raids. The journey there was fabulous – we drove along the coast of white sands, blue sea and palm trees. The air was noticeably cooler as well, which was a huge relief. The Vinh Moc Tunnels place was only small, with a small museum and we were able to go under ground into the tunnels which were much cooler, and much smaller than I expected, not only heightwise but also the ‘rooms’ were just bits dug off the side with nothing roomlike about them. At the end of the look about we got a cold drink and lay in the hammocks a while.

The next stop was due to me the Cemetry, and as we set off down the road towards it, the rain came, and not just little rain, enormous great splodges of rain, the sort that drowns 20 ants in one go. We were in an area that was flat and wooded, so we stopped super quick, dug out the waterproofs and quickly got into them, and lightning decided that this wooded area was a good place to strike it’s vengeance. I’ve never heard lightning/thunder that loud and close, and both me and Tri were hot footed about running away back down the road we came from, (all a bit Monty Python "Run Away! Run Away"). It wasn’t long before we'd driven out of the rain, and then continued south a bit further before turning west again, and effectively rode around the localised heavy rain. Quite an odd thing to do considering you can never escape the UK rain.

When we set off west towards Khe Sanh, I was allowed to ride, it was good to do, and I had to learn to avoid all the unexpected hard shoulder objects, and enjoy the views. After about an hour we ran into the rain again, donned the blue macs and Tri drove us on to Khe Sanh. 

When we arrived at the airbase, it had stopped raining, but the thunder was still rolling in the hills, which I suppose gave the effect of booming gunfire considering I was at a place where a fierce battle took place and there were bunkers and guns and helicopters, as well as various items in the museum. It added to the atmosphere I suppose.

We had dinner at 6 near the hotel, and I discovered that in just wearing a vest top and a thin shirt on top, I'd still got burnt on my shoulders, so I'm in need of a thicker shirt underneath. 

I was pooped and fell asleep quite early after quite the long day.

Best: riding the bike

Worst: the rain!

Beautiful: the views around Khe Sanh  
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Alex Baxter on

Hey Zo bo, still reading your blogs! just thought i'd update you ... Man City WON the FA CUP!!! and I was at Wembley to see it! saw tonkin there too! shame you weren't there to see it!

Miss you lots Al xxx

Sara Cheung on

Hi Zeo, finished a big project at work early this morning, now I can accelerate reading your blog. I wanted to take cooking lesson in Hanoi but schedule did not fit , I like Vietnamese food, fresh herbs are the stars!

Pam Wight on

Hi Zoe
We enjoyed reading your blog.
Mum & Dad are here this weekend & we are all having a nice time.
Please take care of yourself.
Love Pam & Alan

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