Vietnam is hot as balls. Seriously.
Granted, I don’t have a lot of experience in the tropics. Before this trip the closest I came to a jungle was a palm tree at the Regina mall.
As far as ideal temperatures go, I’m a lot like margarine, and now that the sun is screaming down I’ve nothing to do but melt.
But you’ll never hear me complain. Vietnam is incredible, and even though it’s kicking my butt, I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world.
Case in point: the ride from the border to Sapa, a 35 km climb that would have made John Wayne tinkle in his chaps. It took me a day and a half, mostly spent doubled over my handle bars, panting and dripping.
But I had every reason to keep going. The higher I rode, the better my view of sweeping rice fields, terraced in a lazy ascent up the same mountains whose peaks disappeared into the clouds. I followed, amazed.
And on that narrow misty road I fell in love with the hill tribes of the northwest – H’mong, Dao, Tay, all in fantastic colors, waving hello, wearing smiles that stretched from their faces to mine.
I haven’t stopped grinning yet. After a week in Sapa I pedaled over Tram Ton Pass – Vietnam’s highest – and descended into the oven of the lower mountains.
It took me five sweat-soaked days to bike to Dien Bien Phu, and no doubt the ride would have been hell if not for the hospitality along the way. In every town I had invitations for shade and tea. Kids handed me fresh fruit while old ladies fussed over my water bottles.
The only words I know in Vietnamese are “hello” and “thank you”. Sometimes that’s enough.
I’ll spend one more day in Dien Bien Phu before turning west and cycling to the border of Laos. My legs can use the rest, and honestly, I’m not ready to leave the country just yet.
Every day I spend in Vietnam, I feel my energy returning, my faith in this trip being restored. They’re easy things to lose, hard to come by when they’re gone.
I’m only thankful that I’m heading in the right direction once more.