This section from Krong No to Dinh Van is the twenty-first 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.

 I’d apparently been chuckling in my sleep all night so I’ve got a slightly moody bedpartner in the morning. We pack, pay and roll our caravan into the town market for a royal breakfast, consisting of mixed kinds of sticky rice topped with shredded pork and coconut, three baguettes and some fruity snacks. Tu feels hungry so she eats along with us.

Girl on the windowsill
Girl on the windowsill

The day starts relatively easily with gently sloping roads and the odd longer climb. Nothing too hard though. We take a break at Tu’s request because she now feels really sick. After emptying her stomach, she naps a good hour in a hammock while the rest contemplate conspiracy theories around technologies that would save the world.

Morning view
Morning view

When she wakes up, Tu still feels very weak and we momentarily consider the option of taking a bus to the next destination. When an actual bus comes, she decides to ignore the stomach trouble and ride on anyway, against better judgment: today we’re expecting two heavy passes.

The first one comes soon after noon, with our elevation raising from 500m to around 1000m on a long, 10-km slope snaking through pine woods. There are no places to buy anything so when we rest, we rely on the supplies inside Mirek’s enormous trailer.

The Indian!
The Indian!

Traffic is gentle, only sometimes are we disturbed by a loudly honking truck driver or a group of Vietnamese motorcycle tourists on their way to Dalat. At least the Vietnamese tourists greet us. We’ve noticed that westerners are less and less pleased or excited to see us, with a wave from the back of an easy-riders motorcycle becoming the exception.

Contemplating this, the dark thought crosses our mind that perhaps those people were hoping to do something they considered extremely special – riding motorcycles through Vietnam – but when they meet people riding by themselves, they suddenly feel less adventurous and are generally not happy to see us. Either that, or they’ve seen enough foreigners, or all foreigners are just nurks.

Mirek and the mountains
Mirek and the mountains

At 3:30pm, after another 10 km of undulating riding, we reach the foot of the second pass. This one is smaller than the last, but – at this juncture – not to be sniffed at. We feast on a Bun Bo Hue before attempting the climb and Tu decides she will be able to do it. Mirek and Katya, who are slower because heavier, allow us to go ahead without waiting: after all, they can set up camp wherever they want. We, on the other hand, would rather not ride in the dark.

Sander at the top of the second pass
Sander at the top of the second pass

We commence the climb just before 4. The ride is fortunately fairly easy: the slope is gradual and there is ample shade while the hot midday sun is also sinking behind the mountains. Everywhere is the smell of roasted coffee and the colourful berries are drying in front of nearly every house.

We take a break half-way and then another just before the top. When we reach the top at 1350m much sooner than expected, we just stop for a couple of pictures and decide to get down to Dinh Van as soon as possible.

Racing
Racing

The ensuing downhill takes us through long towns built over several switchbacks and with funny churchtowers sticking out of the chaotic soup. The downhill helps us some 20 km on our ways and before we know it, we’re on the last stretch to Dinh Van.

The last stretch is bad: roadworks and unsealed patches of dusty gravel everywhere and heaps of annoying traffic to boot. Fortunately, we arrive just before dark and quickly find a decent hotel: the Saigon Star for 150.000 VND. The rooms are fake-pretty with fake wooden flooring, the beds feel like water beds but that’s really because some of the support is gone and it’s humid inside. Every other hotel around looks worse, though, so we settle on a room here. 200,000 VND gets you a room with air-con and a window.

Before industrial design became a thing
Before industrial design became a thing

When Katya and Mirek roll in a while later, we go for lunch at a nearby stir-fry restaurant, are once more reminded how boring it is to eat vegetarian in Vietnam, but how exciting it is to drink alcohol. We eat our tummies round and wash it all down with alcohol in which some roots were drenched. Also on display were gecko, snake and bee alcohol.

Coffee trees in bloom
Coffee trees in bloom

2 thoughts on “Slap the Belgian! Making a Pass at a Pass”

  1. Dear Tu ( This is the message to Tu only),
    You did a really good work. I understand something the sickness feeling is annoying but once you believe you can do it, you can overcome the mountains and also your sickness! Cycling is good for health! I am also small like you…no cycling experiences but just believe you can do it…then you can sure can do it! No one can convinced you except yourself! ;-) Enjoy the ride with Sandra who is your spiritual support! Go further!

    Greetings from Vicky en Raggie ( Hope to meet you soon here)

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