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.

Mike on Bike crossing border from China into Vietnam.

Arriving in Vietnam

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.

Red Dao women in Sapa as seen on bicycle tour of Vietnam.

Red Dao women in Sapa

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.

Dien Bien Phu as seen in bicycle tour of Vietnam.

Dien Bien Phu

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.


12 responses to “Vietnam

  1. Glad things are looking up! Lots of love always, my friend. Hopefully we can have a wee chat again soon. It’s been far too long.

  2. Heat sounds good right now. It’s really nice to hear how friendly people are. I’m looking forward to some hospitality when I start traveling.

    As for Regina, we just had our first day with temperatures in the double digits. I took my bike out for a quick ride, but was limited to the few roads that weren’t over run with spring runoff.

  3. We are following your trip and love your reflections and writing.

    May you continue onward with joy in your heart.

    Sheila & Kai

  4. hi mike,
    I often think about you as i do my teaching duties back home-yes i arrived here about 2 weeks ago-a shock. I treasure our time together chatting over a beer in sapa and discussing the universe. travel lightly and with the spirit.
    drop a line when in australia
    paul brown

  5. Mike,

    We met as you were going through Serbia as we were preparing to move. My wife and I just came back to the US for a few months. In the packing, I came across the paper with your address on it so I decided to look you up. I’ve thought about you quite a bit over the last year. I’m excited to read and catch up with you again (albeit virtually).

    Have a great rest of your trip.

  6. Mike,
    I am once again reminded about your journey as I sit in the same high school class subbing for the teacher that has your article on her wall. I want to encourage you to keep riding, fighting through the weather and enjoying the people you are coming in contact with daily. When you are all alone riding with your thoughts, ask God to speak to you, protect and reveal all He is to you. You will be amazed and surprised at what He might speak to you. I am praying for your safety. Have you been to South Korea yet? It is a beautiful country where I spent 6 1/2 years teaching.

  7. hi mike,
    Wondering when you will be getting to australia. How has it been for you since sapa.It,s a cold winter here but have a cosy warm home.
    cheers paul

  8. Hello Mike,
    As a prairie girl and fellow cycle tourist currently living in Hanoi, Vietnam, I’m glad to hear you had a beautiful experience in Vietnam. I enjoyed reading your (well-written) post and will check in on your travels from time to time. Happy pedaling and Happy New Year!!!


  9. Pingback: Watching the Wheels in Vietnam | rfljenksy – Practicing Simplicity·

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