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  • Day22

    Slog North to Ninh Binh

    October 31, 2018 in Vietnam ⋅ ☀️ 26 °C

    We leave Phong Nha and the first 100k are much like the last. Beautiful.
    Masterpiece of a road here: https://photos.app.goo.gl/NMdg9YJBqLHkPAfe8

    We continue north toward Hanoi. The landscape changes. Small towns breaking up the long rural stretches give way to long inhabited strips that seem to go on forever. The main road is in pretty good shape and we're able to log some miles. The side roads that we take for color are heavily populated, dusty, and broken. The riding is hard. My kidneys ache from the harsh, bumpy, pitted ride. Our eyes feel gritty from the dust and exhaust fumes. We stay in two hotels that are 'the best in the area' according to Booking.com, but they're really both just surreal. One is in the center of an off season amusement park, the other at a busy crossroad town on the road out of Laos. There are no other guests in these places as far as we can tell. The restaurants for dinner are bad enough that we opt for Cup o Noodles in the room. We can't read the noodle cup so we end up using the translator and pick out one that says 'ham'. Turns out it comes with an unrefrigerated tube of liverwurst...

    Things are looking and feeling somewhat bleak. Then we ride down a side street off of a detour and pass a sign saying 'Bun Cha!'. The place is packed with a lunchtime crowd; mainly groups of middle aged women. This has to be good. As Augie and I take off our helmets they all burst into laughter at our expense. The proprietor prepares our rice noodles, shredded pork, fresh greens, slices of mild ginger. All is wrapped in a rice paper and dipped in a fish sauce.
    Assembly video here: https://photos.app.goo.gl/RUp8FfZHSbpjtKqj8
    It is delicious. She even comes over and slices up our rice noodles into smaller clumps when she sees us struggling with the chop sticks. Given the general merriment in the room I'm guessing this is what they do for little kids. Things are looking up.

    The last little side road we take as we approach Ninh Binh is one of the best yet. It is one lane of concrete smoothness threading along at the base of some beautiful forested mountains.

    Yes, things are looking up as we pull into our last stop before Hanoi.
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