Today’s ride was split. One group headed to Valla Beach as part of a community celebration – Lark in the Park – and the other group headed into Coffs Harbour. For the group that went to Coffs Harbour (Phil, Herb,…
On our last full day in Vietnam, DUBBUG members took a one day bus/boat tour to Halong Bay. Halong Bay is described as “newest wonder of the world” and it was clear that we could only get a taste of this world heritage listed site in such a short time. The bus ride in both directions is long, due to speed, road quality & traffic playing “chicken”, however it is a well travelled route and the stopovers were classic tourist shops with over inflated prices (even in Vietnam standards). We were herded onto our boat and rewarded with some fine local foods as we cruised towards a recently discovered limestone cave that, last year, played host to some 1 million tourists. A cruise to a floating platform with a chance to do some kayaking, and then return past “fighting cock” islands back to the mainland was a very pleasant way to spend our last few hours in Vietnam.
Everyone agreed that DUBBUG ventures have exceled with this trip to Vietnam. We are extremely grateful to Mike & Colleen for their efforts in coordinating the package. Well done guys, take a bow.
For most of us, our flight left Hanoi the next morning just after 9 am. After a 7 hour stop over in Kuala Lumpur we made it back to the Gold Coast Airport about 7 am the day after. It was a long flight, especially for Alan, however that did not deter many of our group being at the regular weekday bike ride the next morning at Urunga.
In the morning we walked around Ba Be before leaving in buses back to Hanoi, with lunch along the way. A favourite local industry includes creating & drying plywood sheets, with many on the sides of the road. The roads out of the mountains are windy and, when we got to it, the maximum speed limit on the “motorway” is 80 km/h. Even then, there are lots of reminders to “keep spacing”. The major transport in Vietnam is the motorcycle – when trying to cross a road, never run so they have time to avoid you! Throughout the tour we tried to collect photographs of motorcycles carrying incredible loads.
We were all keen to catch up with Alan and pleased he was at the hotel waiting for us. The “old quarters” of Hanoi is a delight on the weekends as they close the streets at night to only pedestrians – amazing bands appear, and food stalls are abundant. Be sure to check out the music videos.
Today’s ride involved three climbs, crossing a succession of river valleys. The tour guide (Le Kien) decided we would stay on the village road, rather than take mountain tracks. After a big breakfast in Bac Me, we start from the top of the first pass. ED manages to challenge Kein up the hills, even after taking the photos of the DUBBUG climbing the next hill from the rear.
Coming downhill, towards Yen Hoa, Alan comes off his bike and requires to be taken to the local hospital and then transported back to Hanoi. We were most fortunate to have Kirk as “tail end Charlie”. With his medical training, he quickly stabilised Alan and then stayed by his side, including returning to Hanoi.
We had lunch and the remaining DUBBUG continued to the village of Dan Dong, where we transferred into traditional long boats for a relaxing 1.5-hr ride along the beautiful Nang River and cross the lake into the stunning Ba Be National Park. The park is centered on the country’s largest natural lake which is surrounded by limestone cliffs, waterfalls, caves and abundant of wildlife (though we did not see much wildlife). Dinner and accommodation was in a traditional house of Tay minority.
After a night of indulgence in a resort, we have a late-ish start from the top of a pass. At first we tackle 12 km undulating, idyllic route through friendly villages and paddy fields, surrounded by jagged limestone hills with just a few steepish climbs in the heat. Light lunch en route and a chance to mingle with the local school. A couple of massive climbs justified the “Rose of the Mountain” going to Colleen. Then a pleasant run downhill into the small town of Bac Me late afternoon. The rest of the day, was used to explore the town and its surroundings before dinner next door, Kirk being invited by the locals to participate in Karaoke (a favourite of the Vietnamese).
This was one of the most challenging biking days of the trip. Leaving Hoang Su Phi early morning, we turn off onto a remote track leading though mountains. On this part our support vehicle was not able to follow, limited to a motor bike (which even found the going tough). It was a steady, and often steep, climb up to the summit following not more than a “goat track”. The ride however was highlighted by a long descent punctuated with waterfalls and switchbacks, which flowed seamlessly into some sinuous riverside single track. It made for some fantastic mountain bike riding. Eventually we emerge onto rough tarmac before being shuttled to the buses on the back of a truck over road that had been severely washed away in many places.
We were driven 10 km west to Lung Phin where we climbed towards Xin Man. The start was a mess of mud, luckily the vehicles got us through as we biked across one of the most remote parts of northern Vietnam. One section of mud proved a great challenge, especially for the vehicles. From the beginning, there was a steady climb before a fast descent above the quiet town of Xin Man, where we had a picnic in the heat. It was so hot we immediately had a coffee break in the town to avoid the sun.
The riding in the afternoon took us down to a bridge over and then upstream of the Chay River. For the next 40 km we cycled along a quiet road that gently climbs and follow the river to the town of Hoang Su Phi. We stayed overnight in the only hotel in town. Some of the locals attempted to engage us with rice wine over dinner.