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Dave Jaquin – VIETNAM



Riding the local loop, training with the shop ride crew and pushing pedals into the office are regular beats of a cyclists life repeated week in, week out, whatever the weather. We learn our limits and adventure to a different coffee shop every now and then but stepping off a plane half way round the world gives a whole new perspective on the world and where a bike can take you.

Vietnam may have been ravaged by its famous war but should by no means be defined by it. In Diem Bien Phu a bomb crater remains as a monument near the museum but nationally the country has moved a long way since the late 60’s. Seeing a country so vastly different from a bike gives two perspectives. Within a few feet of the bike you can witness everything from a horse being butchered, to ironwork being welded and sweetcorn being dried. Then drift away from civilisation and begin to climb deep into the jungle cloaked mountains and the vistas expand after every curve in the tarmac.

In the last four days we have tipped the 400-mile marker and crested 1000’s of feet of climbing.

Urban and rural patterns follow mainly traditional definitions; agriculture takes over industry as the smell of diesel evolves into something altogether more natural. The two sides of this beautiful country crossover more than expected. The rural farm stay from which I’m typing this could not look any more traditional from the outside but a 21” flat screen TV hangs on the wall and a karaoke system big enough to fill the whole valley rests before the next big event.

In the last four days we have tipped the 400-mile marker and crested 1000’s of feet of climbing. The roads have swept us along, and for 95% of the time have been superb. Landslides mean road surfaces are regularly renewed and some of the ribbons of fresh asphalt that we have been gifted make false summit climbing all worth it. With another 100 miles on the cards each day for the next three, the roads will open further and no doubt the coffee stops will be even more removed from a handcrafted flat white.

Words – Dave Jaquin
Photos –Tom Caldwell

_MG_2203Photo: Tom Caldwell
Cafe Sua Da was the staple caffiene fix of our road side stop,
setting out towards Lai Châu after one such stop.

Vietnam-Plug-Ride-Pano-3Photo: Dave Jaquin 
Anything can be carried on a moped, straw was tame compared to the 2 people,
2 sows and 9 piglets that we saw on market day.

Vietnam-Plug-Ride-Pano-1Photo: Dave Jaquin
Tiered paddy fields in the Phu Tho province, north west Vietnam.

Vietnam-Plug-Ride-4Photo: Dave Jaquin
The space under this stilt built house was home to two Vietnamese staples,
a large but friendly Water Buffalo and a Yahamha 125 moped.

Vietnam-Plug-Ride-2Photo: Dave Jaquin
The beginning of the descent towards Són La not far from the Laos border.

Descent 1Photo: Tom Caldwell
The view after climbing an average of 8% for 38km on day one.

IMG_2285-loPhoto: Tom Caldwell
Lush mountain forests just outside Nhì Thàng border agricultural
land mainly used for crops and grazing buffalo.

IMG_2354-loPhoto: Tom Caldwell
Fishing boat on the river Da just outside Xã Lê Loi. After three days
in the mountains this was the first big expanse of water we had seen.

IMG_2457-loPhoto: Tom Caldwell
Rice wine loaded with tree grubs await consumption in a roadside shop.
Honey in the middle of the shot was straight from the nest and was collected locally.

IMG_2700-loPhoto: Dave Jaquin
It rains in the UK but I’ve never ridden in rain,
dirt and mist like we had during the last 400 miles of this trip.

IMG_2706-loPhoto: Tom Caldwell
The rain kept coming, glasses made the reflections from the road bearable
but after days of the same weather it was sometimes easier to go without.

IMG_2708-loPhoto: Tom Caldwell
One of those wet days, beers were welcome after surviving 150km of rain and grit.

IMG_2798-loPhoto: Tom Caldwell
Into the mist on the penultimate day, the weather had set in but
the descents were just as beautiful if a little more exciting in the wet.

IMG_2872-loPhoto: Tom Caldwell
With the end in sight the road wound down the northern slopes of the central highlands.

IMG_2920-loPhoto: Tom Caldwell
Approaching the coast low-lying land remains flooded for much of the year.
This lady was casting and catching fish all the time we were stopped for a break.

IMG_2971-loPhoto: Tom Caldwell
DONE! At the top of the Hai Van Pass, scaled in 31 min 51s wasn’t too shabby
and a great way to finish the bulk of the riding. We were just left with a superb descent
followed by a flat roll to the finish in Da Nang.