After several attempts to practice before I left, I realized that the Vietnamese language isn’t ONE language, but MANY!!! There are 53 different ethnic groups in Vietnam, and they all speak “Vietnamese” a little differently…. One word said with a different tone can have an entirely different meaning…. Still, I TRIED!
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Sometimes you have to get off the beaten path (Highway 1, which we’ve been following our entire journey).
And you get to see cool stuff like this.
Sometimes you then have trouble getting back ON the beaten path.
WE MADE IT! After 21 days and 1100 miles, Danny and I completed our trans-Vietnam journey from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City. Thanks to all of you, especially my Jackson Middle School summer school class, for following along!
Stay tuned – there are tons more stories, pictures, and videos coming from the road!
Vietnam is one of the largest growers of rice in the world. I got to see the rice-growing process from the flooding of the paddies…
…to the harvest! After the rice is harvested, it is spread out to dry on flat surfaces – in front of homes, even on the shoulders of the national highway!
Scenes from the rice paddies – leveling with water buffalo, weeding, and homemade tractor wheels.
200 miles south of Hanoi, we got lost! We’re not using Google Maps or Siri or anything like that out here, folks – just an old-fashioned paper map and Mr. Sun. Some locals helped us with directions, which was difficult with the language barrier. Our little turnaround totaled 57 extra miles on the bikes!
As a cycling enthusiast, I’ve been keeping my eyes peeled for bikes on my journey. Here are some I’ve come across in Vietnam!
When I checked out of my hotel room the other day, I had planned to give the hotel a credit card, but they told me that they would only accept Vietnamese money, called dong. So I spent all the dong that I had on the hotel room and couldn’t get any more before we left town. We stopped to get water, and I realized that I only had dollars. When I asked the shopkeeper if he would take that, he said no! After some negotiations, he finally took my dollars. Then I tried to get dong at a gas station, but the guy was going to gouge me! Finally, after several tense minutes, we found a bank and all was well. Why was this so critical? No dong = can’t buy water = WE WILL DIE!
Ho Chi Minh City currently has a population of 6 million people…. There are only several war sites which are available for touring… Although some of the French architecture remains, most G.I.’s who went into Saigon for R&R during the Vietnam War would not recognize the modernized city.
I have a number of friends that have served in the Vietnam or “American” War. Some have made inquiries or requests that I visit places where they served during the conflict. With a limited amount of time, I attempted to honor all their requests, but the truth of the matter is that in the month I was bicycling in Vietnam, the reminders of the “War” only surfaced in several locations. A majority of the Vietnamese population is under the age of 30! Average life expectancy is 66 years old….. For most Vietnamese, the “American War” is not in their memory.
While not a complete “war tour”, I was able to see some of the history from this time period. This section is dedicated to my friend Paul Ebaugh III who served in Vietnam in 1968-69, and passed away on January 19th, 2016.
When we arrived at the former Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) we arranged for a tour of the Vinh Moc Tunnels…. These tunnels housed from 300-500 people over a period of years! They had a hospital, school, nursery, family areas, a water well and entertainment spaces… ALL UNDERGROUND! There were 3 levels, with the deepest being 35 meters below ground (100 feet!) All of these tunnels were carved out of clay, which was sticky and slightly damp and VERY DARK! (the tunnels were lit during this period with oil lamps)
This was how the Vietnamese used the bicycle during the war and still use it Today!
The DMZ or Demilitarized Zone was the next thing on our list! Our interpreter Mr. Hoa used his first hand knowledge of the area to show us around. He was a teenager when the first U.S. Marines came to Vietnam, and was conscripted into the South Vietnamese Army before the end of the war. Most of our DMZ Tour was along highway number 9. The string of bases is shown below:
It is HOT in Vietnam!! It is almost IMPOSSIBLE to ride after 11:00 a.m. The temps were always above 100 and most days 110-115 degrees! We weren’t the only ones resting…. Most Vietnamese rest during the middle of the day…
There are certain things which amazed me as I was traveling through Vietnam. Here are two examples……
In case you find yourself on Highway One and you are not hungry…. There are many other items that might interest you!
Or perhaps something decorative for your Lawn or Garden?