Vietnam 2/2 5. 12. 2017 - 21. 12. 2017 895km We chose Thap Cham as the exit station, which was the closest town where it was not raining. The journey was unexpectedly comfortable, there was air conditioning, television, the sleeper seats and blanket for the night. Just like in an airplane.

High temperatures, high humidity, unpacked bikes were waiting for us in Thap Cham. We had chosen a hotel and we hoped it would be okay. Surprisingly, it was. There was a washing machine available, so we didn‘t hesitate to wash our dirty clothes immediately. There are some interesting places around the city, so we decided to stay in the hotel for two nights. We went to the pottery village, but we didn‘t see it too much, because all the clay things had people hidden in their dwellings. We reached at least the Cham Towers - Po Klong Garai - and the local sand dunes that we caught with sunset and we were almost alone there. We didn‘t even know what to expect next day.

We left the hotel and we were cycling along the coast. We passed fish farms and small remote villages. Later the sand began to appear on the road, there were less and less houses and suddenly we were compeletly alone. In the middle of the desert! We will not lie, it was fantastic. The sand dunes were as far as eye could see, we met only few goats, and all the rush of civilization vanished. The sky was almost cloudless and the temperature climbed to 45 ° C. We cycled through the dunes and marveled at their beauty and size. The wind was blowing the sand on the road, sometimes we were literally wading. We had grains of sand all over our body. Before we had left the desert, it was scorching hot and we were thirsty. When we finally found stall with drink, we drank the iced tea in one gulp. Refreshed, we continued on beautiful asphalt with minimal traffic and magnificent sea views.

We came to Mui Ne, where the most visited sand dunes in Vietnam are located. The first one, the white one, we passed by mistake, because it was so small that we didn‘t even know it was the renowned one. Red ones we securely recognized according to the crowds of tourists. For their color, they are really magical, but crowds of tourists and the garbage there debased this place of beauty. We were grateful for the moments when we had been wandering "Desert" and had the gem for ourselves. There is plenty of red sand around Mui Ne, in one place nature has created the mini "Grand Canyon". It is a canyon through which a stream flows, on one side rises limestone rocks covered with red sand, the other grows lush vegetation. The stream is not deep, it is possible to walk through the entire canyon, which was very refreshing in the heat. The hotels in the south seemed to be clean and fragrant so far, but we were still somewhat horrified that we would accomodate in some dirty and smelly one. Along the coastal road there are a few resorts that allow to sleep in a tent that we missed. Vietnam isn‘t an ideal country for wild camping, there aren‘t many places where you can put up a tent, and also in those high temperatures and thanks to the dust, one is desperate for a bath, which is really impossible in the local sewers, sorry I mean rivers. That is why we used hotel services that are affordable. However, that time we had a chance to sleep in a tent and have a shower, that was something we could’t miss. We were little bit surprised that we could’t sleep in our own tent but in rented one, but it was still pleasant change. Unfortunately, we didn‘t find any other similar offers.

We moved from arid region to the extensive dragon fruit plantations. Finally, we saw how this fruit grew. Kata had a huge appetite for it, but we could’t find any seller. Then we žet old woman with full basket of this delicious fruit. But she didn‘t want to sell it to us and she was telling us something in Vietnamese. We let it be and went on cycling. After a while, our dear old woman was passing us by moped, then she stopped and gave us two big, red pieces of a dragon fruit. We wanted to pay for that, but instead of taking the money, she showed us that it was a gift from her, and she refused momey. We can’t describe how we were surprised by this nice gesture.

We already knew in Hanoi that we wanted to avoid the largest Vietnamese city of Ho Chi Minh (Saigon). Everyone told us that there are a few monuments from the French colonization, but otherwise it is a city full of skyscrapers and higher crime, which we didn’t find attractive. We got a great idea. We wanted to go to Vung Tau, where we would take a ferry across the Mekong Delta and in this case we would avoid Saigon. When we arrived to Vung Tau, we were surprised how modern and relatively clean the city was. Along the road there are wide pathways, there are many expensive villas and luxury restaurants, and every time you pass some hotel. Our beloved coffee was also served in moder way, no dripping, you get everything mixed in a large glass. When we talked to a Frenchman living in this town, he explained to us that people don‘t like watching the coffee being dripping in, they want to have it ready to drink. What a shame. He also told us that rich Vietnamese people from Ho Chi Minh go to this city to spend weekends or holidays. The whole of Vietnam has been developing and changing very rapidly. Three years ago there were rice fields in front of his house; today there are the villas and hotels. In Vung Tau there is also one of the largest statues of Jesus, we had to go there. You can even climb on his shoulders via stairs inside his body. In the afternoon, we decided to go to the port where we wanted to také a ferry next day. We couldn’t find the port, but the local helped us. There were a few ships in the „port“, but the boats were mostly fishing. One mucky guy explained us that we ferry left every morning at 9am and the departure is 500m backwards. At the hotel we read concerning information about this „ferry“, which is only for local people. But some travellers used it too. In the morning we got up and went to the port. We saw our ship and naively thought that everything would be okay. Eventually they refused to let us go on board otherwise they could go to the jail. It was for a local not for the tourists.

We had to cycle and we could’t avoid Saigon. Initially, the ride was interesting, mangrovers grew along the way, and floating villages could be seen from the bridges. But then, perhaps, the worst section for us followed. The main road to Ho Chi Minh was horrible busy, we could’t breathe because of the dust and smog and our ears suffered again as a result of the noise of constant hooting. Thank God we could avoid at least the center of the metropolis.

Our goal was the Mekong delta, one of the most fertile region of Vietnam. We wanted to see not only the river but also the life along it. Long ago there used to be significant floating markets where people were selling their crops. Now, the country is economically better, most of the people live on the mainland and the market is mostly on the land. Floating markets are more like an attraction for tourists. But we are interested in reality. That is why we went along the river. During this section, we had to use the boats several times over the individual shoulders of the river. It was a great experience sometimes the boat was operated by the captain sitting in the hammock, sometimes the deck was very leaking, and occasionally we felt that the boat hadn’t to reach the other side. The people around the river lived in very humble dwellings. Fish and frogs were dried on shores. River ships sailed across the river, carrying rice, garlic, potatoes, various tools, and other necessary things. We also saw water palms (Nypa), which we hadn’t known before. On the palms grow huge cones whose seeds contain white pulp. From this flesh they make a delicious beverage with a touch of coconut.

We left the Mekong delta and headed for the Cambodian border. The penultimate stop was the small town of Tri Ton. We discovered there a beautiful Buddhist complex. Compare to other temples in this country, this one wasn’t kitschy. We also found a hidden pond with clear water, which is unusual in Vietnam. If we had not already paid a hotel, we would surely camp here. To make this day little more special about discoveres, we also finally figure out where vegetarian are eating in Vietnam. Just look for "Com chay" = vegetarian rice. Even though the meal looks like meat, it is a trusted imitation of soybean, maybe that is the reason why we couldn’t find vegetarian food. We'll be smarter next time.

A few words to history: Until the 1950s, Vietnam had been a French colony, so you can find architectural monuments of that time in whole country. The Vietnamese also took the French baguettes that they love. When the French were forced to leave after the lost battle, Vietnam was divided into two states - the Communist North and the Democratic South. At that time many people migrated from north to south. Due to the expanding Communism, the longest and bloodiest war in Vietnam in modern history had emerged. This was a north-south war, but due to the involving of America this war is known as Vietnam-American. Eventually the North won and took power over the whole country. After the unification, Vietnam suffered mainly economically. In the 1980s and 1990s, the country was on the brink of famine, and this led to a high migration to the former Communist bloc. Today Vietnam is one of the fastest growing countries in the world. What did we like in Vietnam? Smiling and friendly people, relaxing atmosphere, perfect Vietnamese coffee, varied landscape, very favorable prices, a large selection of exotic fruits What we didn‘t like? piles of rubbish, hotels, Vietnamese karaoke (which we involuntarily listened to almost every night), Kate Vietnamese cuisine

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