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Vietnam : End of the First Stage

First analysis for a cyclist in the south of Vietnam : it’s flat, really flat. So even if it’s hot, you can ride your bike for a lot of kilometers. We understood quickly that we had to start our days early (6am) to make the most of the temperatures in the morning. Besides, we can’t really talk about cool temperatures as we know them in the middle of August in France. Here, there’s about half an hour when the air is enjoyable and then the heat is stiffling for the next six hours and a half. Once you know that, you live with it. Anyway when the sun is setting in the countryside (around 6pm) all the shops close and it’s time for us to have our last meal before getting to bed.

When you’re outside town villages stretch all along the road, hidden behind a luxuriant vegetation, so you never really know when they start and when they finish. We’re under the impression that there’s always a coffee shop or an hawker or a shop or a few houses along the road.

Here we feel like people depend on the earth. All kinds of delicious fruit are sold on the road. We love buying local products and so we enjoy that. In this region, the main production is pineapple. So we’ll be eating pineapple. When the main production is bananas, we eat bananas. Generally speaking it’s really easy to find products to eat or drink, even in tiny places. We eat what we can see growing in the distance. We love that kind of relationship with the environment. But what we don’t like is that Vietnamese people love packing the goods. There’s obviously no problem for them to use a lot of paper to cover what we buy. Street food is everywhere and there’re always a polystyrene container, a plastic bag, a glass, a straw… It’s easy to make reports like this one and not offer a solution, but it’s hard to see all kinds of garbage and other waste on the side of the road.

On the whole, we understood quickly how it was going to be like in Vietnam as far as ecology/environnementalism is concerned ! In Romania we needed a stick to make the dogs go away, here we need beautiful dust masks. Everbody’s wearing them, in fabric with Hello Kitty on it or disposable ones. It’s almost vital to breath on the road, in town or in the countryside. Is it really efficient when you know the atmosphere is so polluted ? Let’s say that we can avoid coughing too much with those masks. That’s better than nothing.

Relationship with the population

When we were on the Eurovelo 6 trip, we wrote a lot about our relationships with the locals who were by far the best part of our trip. In Vietnam we are disillusioned. It seems it is forbidden for the people to accomdate strangers. So we said farewell to our nights in our tents in gardens and we have to settle for nha nghi, these cheap hostels. Besides, we discovered that nha nghi we used as hotels for prostitutes in the south. Our doubts were clearly blown when we saw condoms on the bedside table, posters fighting HIV and the grid with payments per hours… Vincent has often had problems with the manager. The latter didn’t understand that we were a couple and that we wanted to stay for the night not for an hour… No, noone is shocked that we came with our bikes and luggage just to have it off !

Our contacts are mostly warm but they’re limited to a mere consumption relationship. To them, let’s be clear, we are tourists. Wherever we went, even far away, even just to wanter around, we must make the same report. A few curious people on their scooters, speaking a little English asked us questions while we were riding on the road. But most of the time we’re not asked any questions. We don’t know if it’s because of a lack of interest or discretion. When Vietnamese people see two foreigners riding their bikes from nowhere… They don’t say a thing. There’s no need to write again on our communication problems. Like anywhere else we must make efforts to make ourself understood. And we’re not keen on talking with them because they’re distant and we don’t want to put our tent in their gardens.

So, on the whole, no memorable conversation with Vietnamese people, except for our host in Hô Chi Minh with whom we were happy to talk a little.

Street food Life time Iced coffee vietnamien River Back from the market Fields and moutains in Vietnam Last cycling moments in Vietnam

Bye bye Vietnam

Today we’re already at the border of Cambodia and the few points of reference we had are going to be of no use. It’s a new start. It’s a bit sad because we had learnt a few words and we knew some prices (like the one for one kilo of bananas)… But finally we’re getting used quickly and we’re not worried about our trip. We know that we have to adapt to a new currency, a new language, a new culture. And it’s easy if you’re ready to sacrifice your own habits.

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Peu importe la distance, peu importe la destination. Le plus important en voyage, vélo ou autre, est de profiter de l'instant présent. Que ce soit le paysage, les rencontres, la route, les longues instrospections ou les discussions endiablées… tout est prétexte à la découverte et à l'aventure. Reste à chacun d'en choisir le cadre.
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