|Short Reports from part TWO of the journey 2003
(13 – 17)
We are in Hanoi, in the middle of the old town bustle. But first
we took a nap after a 32-hour-trip from Germany to Asia. Everything
went fine. We have to thank ”Emirates Airline” for being
so kind with us instead of our baggage and the ”Goethe Institute”
for their support. Our heavy luggage and the bikes eventually arrived
in Hanoi without any damages. Two days of sightseeing followed,
still we are among the hundreds and thousands of people of Hanoi.
Everyone’s friendly and greeting us with a smile. Traffic
is unbelievable, most people use motorbikes. Weather is fine, too.
It is not raining at a temperature of 15 degrees Celsius.
On January 5th we want to leave Hanoi on
our bikes and we hope to find a comfortable way out of this pulsating
city on our way south.
Keep your fingers crossed for us. We feel
fit and ready to set about the journey.
Jutta and Gerhard
We have been on our way south for four days now, 350 kilometres
(207 miles) lay behind us. Tomorrow we will set about the next 150
(88). This national road ”Number one” is stunning. While
travelling we are surrounded by dozens of people, most of them sitting
on bicycles, with which they transport just everything: glass windows,
piglets or chickens in little cages, enormous wardrobes or long
heavy iron bars.
After a rain shower we reached our lodge
soaking wet and dirty. The next day held a bad surprise. The gearshift
of my bike broke which had always been a nightmare for me –
now only the heaviest gear was left for me to use. Just a moment
later I had a flat tire, which forced me off my bike. Fortunately
we could fix everything with the help of a smart mechanic.
People here seem to have so much joy. It
is almost contagious. Everyone offers help. We enjoy every second.
Jutta and Gerhard
We love Vietnam – it is an impressing country. After 700 kilometres
(414 miles) we arrived in Hue. Today we take a break. Travelling
by bike in Vietnam is exciting but also demanding. Men on bicycles,
motorbikes carrying two or three persons, buffalo and cows in-between,
suddenly crossing the road without any warning. We crossed lots
of villages and cities with urban life. The natives are not at all
impressed by busses and trucks, which work their way through the
crowds honking. We often have to make way for them. We saw columns
of students on bikes on their way home after school, but also accidents,
ambulances (bikes of course), and little kitchens cooking soup just
by the roadside.
We had to fix four flat tires in two hours,
once we almost lost one of our bike packs. We are preparing for
the mountains; lodging and food are very good here.
But there are also peaceful moments, when
the number of trucks and busses decreases, the condition of the
road improves and we reach a speed of 25 kilometres per hour (15
We see hundreds of workers in the fields planting rice, bananas
and palm trees by the roadside, lots of new houses as well as old
little huts. The view from the bridges shows yellow, indolently
running water, huge fishing nets and fishing boats just like in
the old times. Day number five was the most exciting one. People
are still very friendly and hospitable.
We are still in love with each other, never
argue – we should have more time, days are short.
Wish us luck – Jutta and Gerhard
We are in Buon Me Thuot, a mountain city in the south of Vietnam
situated 400 kilometres (239 miles) from the Cambodian border. We
plan to pass Saigon north, which is kind of difficult because of
inaccuracies in our maps. 1100 kilometres (650 miles) on the national
road lay behind us, the ”vein” and lifeblood of Vietnam,
that connects Hanoi with Saigon. The road is highway, expressway,
and cycle track, taken by students on their way to school, sidewalk
as well as shopping street at the same time. For many it is place
for trading and earning money. We felt relief anyway, when we finally
left it for the mountains in the west of the country. DaNang was
lying ahead of us, when we had our most difficult passage climbing
a mountain road in serpentines together with the trucks. We witnessed
a fatal accident involving two young men on a motorbike.
Now we have managed three mountain passages,
several hundred metres uphill. We were pretty exhausted, especially
Jutta, when we arrived. It is sunny and warm up here. The houses
of the mountain people are built of plain wickerwork, often covered
with straw. We saw rubber trees and enjoyed the smell coming from
coffee plantations. We discover new things behind every hill and
every turn. Camping and private lodging is forbidden up here, if
we cannot find a hotel, we have to come up with a new idea. But
somehow it will work out.
Jutta and Gerhard send you best wishes.
We found a way to drive round Saigon. From Thai Ninh we went for
the Kingdom of Cambodia. At the border the world seemed to have
just ended, as if the Khmer Rouge had just left the country the
day before. Unbelievable: The road from Saigon to Phnom Penh almost
did not exist anymore because of floods that had destroyed it almost
completely. The country is totally isolated towards Vietnam. People
here live in even bigger poverty than the Vietnamese people do.
After two hard days of cycling we reached Phnom Penh. It is still
amazing despite of all the things we know how different the Cambodian
people look compared to the Vietnamese. Their skin has the colour
of coffee, most of them have real dark, round eyes – not at
all like what we imagine when we think of Asia.
The smell of the water buffaloes was dominant;
we had to share the road with them for a while. We struggled with
potholes, sand, gravel and wet loam. I was worried about our tires.
Jutta was grumbling at the bad road, but didn’t argue with
me. She is tough enough to manage these difficult parts of the journey.
When I praise her strength after a hard day she gives the compliment
right back to me.
The children’s Hello reached us before
we reached the children. They came running down the road before
we even arrived in the little villages. Their shouting was like
bush drums. We could not answer all of them, because the underground
demanded all our concentration. We crossed Mekong River by ferry,
cramped between bikes carrying chickens, squealing piglets or banana
piles and dozens of motorbikes. The roads on the opposite side of
the river were in good condition and sometimes the tropical trees
gave us shade.
We also are in good shape and say hello
to those thinking of us back home in Germany and all the other countries
from where we receive good wishes. Jutta and Gerhard