This section from Yang Reh to Krong No is the twentieth instalment of my bicycle ride from Yunnan to Cambodia – if all goes according to plan. Titled “Slap the Belgian!”, it is simultaneously published on Crazyguyonabike.com, where you’ll find a map with the itinerary and many other bicycle diaries by me and others. I hope you’ll enjoy.

 When we wake up there’s a knock on our door. Whether we speak English. Our brains are still snoozing so we have to ponder that question for a while. We realise it must be those other foreigners that are staying at the hotel. I’m excited at the prospect of meeting some other travellers. When we open the door, our poor brains have a little more to ponder.

In front of me is a man with skin burned to a crisp, a hat made of his own hair and all kinds of jewellery scattered over his beard and colourful clothes. Another no less colourful figure appears behind him. They’re Katya and Mirek and they’re on bikes on their way to Dalat. Hooray.

Katya, Mirek and Tu at Yang Reh
Katya, Mirek and Tu at Yang Reh

Over some coffee, we learn they’ve been on the road for 12 years now and cover their expenses by making jewellery which they then sell. They mostly camp but the last night had been so windy that they were craving a more comfortable option. They leave while we pack, promising that we’ll catch up with them. That’s a possibility: Mirek’s bike has a trailer and weighs over 80 kgs, and Katya’s looks like she could use a little trailer of her own too.

Tu and Katya leaning against the wind
Tu and Katya leaning against the wind

After packing, we indeed catch up with them between the insanely windy rice fields between Yang Reh and Lien Son, home to the famous lake Lak. We decide to stop and chat some more in Lien Son and because they’re vegetarians, we grab a bun while they scavenge the market for supplies.

During the chat, I’m happy to have found in Mirek someone who will share Tu’s dad’s alcohol with me. We decide to ride together until it gets dark.

Mirek and his train
Mirek and his train

Tu gets stomach trouble and needs to vomit. Probably food poisoning from this or that. I had some trouble too, but not as bad as her. We hope that some sodium bicarbonate and coke will help settle her stomach down and give her energy, because she suddenly seems to be unable to hold anything down.

Fortunately, most of the day is gentle, with only minor climbs and one actual mountain pass, but nothing too serious. We make sure we get ample rest on the way with sugarcane juice, hanging in hammocks and chatting the day away. Somewhere on the road, I see the funny men/women again that bothered me when I got out of the jungle three years ago. They offer their bodies by the side of the road. Why they’re wearing a mouth mask and a hat so their sex is a mystery to all, is beyond me.

More rice fields
More rice fields

With all the talking and exchanging of experiences and information going on, we almost unwittingly roll into our Krong No, a town not done justice by its small circle on the Google Map and road atlas: it has a market, a few hotels and a few restaurants.

We find a fairly nice hotel for 110,000 VND, which is about 500 m off the road. They’re obviously preparing for larger tourism: the rooms are actual separate bungalows with a river view and they’re tidy and decently equipped. At any rate, it’s a lot better than the dirty rooms in the roadside hotels that charge the same.

Planting of the rice plants
Planting of the rice plants

As it’s already dark, our only food options are the restaurants at the market, complemented by some fresh beer from across the street. The meat-selling lady avows that she is in fact a vegetarian too, and cooks up some tofu and veggies. We realise that, with the exception of a few specialised vegetarian restaurants in larger cities, Vietnamese food must be very boring for those who don’t eat meat.

Tu explains that veggies are mostly cooked at home, as Vietnamese, unlike Chinese, eat at home most of the time. And restaurants outside don’t offer a lot of home-cooking on the street, why is why you eat mostly snacks and why there is meat in almost everything.

Coffee and sugarcane break
Coffee and sugarcane break

We all retreat to our quarters where Tu has another private battle with what she’s just eaten. We realise she’s going to have to fast a little.

Bungalow: basic but clean and with a pretty view!
Bungalow: basic but clean and with a pretty view!

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