Travelling by Pedalling


Xin Chào Vietnam

We cycle towards the border of Vietnam. We’ve only been to Laos for a short time and part of that time we’ve been sick so it’s hard to get to grips on this country but we’ve enjoyed the short time we’ve been here.

The people of Laos live close to nature.  They work hard but meanwhile there is a relaxed atmosphere.  Everything seems to slow down here.  We are in no hurry and don’t have to be anywhere so we adapt easily.  We see how people work.  They dry grass feathers for export to China to make brooms, they dry chilli and seaweed which they fish from the rivers to fry and eat.  They carry heavy sacks of rice on a rope over their heads, and wicker baskets on their backs with feathers drying elsewhere or other products such as rice.  We see people living in wooden houses, cooking on an open fire, washing themselves and their clothes in the river or having a communal tap in the village.  People often have their own vegetable garden, sometimes right next to a busy road where trucks race passed.  Most people have chickens foraging in their garden and people in the mountains catch rats with a bamboo rat trap for dinner.  We see poverty.  Children in torn dirty clothes and when we hand them a banana or tangerine while we are eating they snatch it from our hands.  We see rubbish heaps on the side of the road being set on fire.  We prefer to hold our breath for as long as possible, but when you are cycling you will gasp for air soon enough.  Laos has beautiful nature, the people are friendly and the children run or cycle after us… Falang, Falang!!  Sabaidee, Sabaidee!!  (Foreigner! Hello!)

We enter the Vietnam border.  On the one hand we already feel a little homesick for Laos and on the other hand we are looking forward to another new country with a new culture, cuisine and language.  So much to discover again.

We descend a long way because the border was at an altitude of 1200 meters.  We are immediately welcomed by green rice fields and beautiful views.  Everything seems extinct at first.  We cycle on and meet Jimmy on the way.  He is from Australia and is traveling through Southeast Asia by bicycle.  We cycle together to the next city to arrange a SIM card, eat something and find a place to sleep.  While we arrange a place to sleep we meet another cyclist, John from America.  That evening we eat something together and say goodbye because the next day everyone will go their own way again.

As we cycled into town, we had to get used to all the noise and lights.  Here it is very much alive.  So much traffic and everyone is honking their horns to indicate they are there.  Everywhere is neon light, signs, many colors and flags.  Since January 21, it is TET (Tết Nguyên Đán) Vietnamese New Year, which is not very different from Chinese New Year.  It falls on the day of the first new moon of the year.  This year is the year of the rabbit.  Last year was the year of the tiger.  We cycled into the country on the 25th, but we will notice that the Vietnamese will celebrate it for days to come.

Everywhere there is loud music, people are drunk, candy is being handed out, there are trees in blossom decorated with lights in the houses.  Loud music is also played in the smallest villages.  We cycle through beautiful nature and relaxing beautiful places, but then cycle into a village where there is a party.  People like us and almost pull us off the bike when they grab us.  We can laugh about it but are also happy when we find peace outside the village again.  Of course, this is not the case in every village.  Most people shout and wave at us and some wave us in.  Normally we wouldn’t say no to an invitation so quickly, but we don’t need so many people together who don’t speak English, and most of them are drunk.  So we wave back with a smile, say “Xin Chao” (hello) and continue cycling.

We are also often stopped for selfies.  Groups of people gather around us and want a selfie one by one.  Very occasionally we also get something in return.  Two guys on a scooter ask for a selfie so we stop and take a picture with them.  A little later when we are cycling, the same guys on the scooter come back with two bottles of ice tea.  In any case, since we have been in Vietnam we have received so much food and drinks.

The days are beautiful, we make a lot of altitude meters and it’s tough steep climbs but it’s totally worth it.