I took my good old time waking up today and getting ready since I only planned on riding 100 or so kilometers to the next town, which also represented according to one Vietnamese motorbiking website the last place you can find a hotel/petrol station/some semblance of a city before tackling the last 240 km to Phong Nha. I rode out of A Luoi and found pristine open roads with many straight aways that allowed me to set a quick early pace to the day. Around some great untouched rolling countryside I ran into the first backpacker in some time. It turns out that I had met this chap before in DaNang; he was the famous Kenny that the crazed Filipono girl I met through Tinder had talked about on another one of her dates and I in fact met at my hostel that night. That night in DaNang we both talked about what a peculiar girl she was so we already had some bond right from the get go. Since I did not really want to ride through the deserted, isolated 240 km between Khe Sanh and Phong Nha I joined him for the ride even though he kept a slower pace than I. We somehow made it into Khe Sanh around one o’clock for a lunch and rest stop. Noticing signs that kept mentioning a town called Tang Ky 100 kilometers further down the road, I figured we could some place to sleep there if the town was worthy enough for the multiple signs it had been afforded (along with the many red and white posts lining both sides of Vietnamese roads, the roads contain multiple signs every kilometer listing the town/city and its given distance away). After filling up on petrol (without the second extra petrol bottle I had been advised by the Easy Rider in Hue) and pho, we left in search of this mysterious, unknown town. Thinking about it then, I figured it would cut down our ride the next day to lessen the load on a day that expected to last a complete day. The HCM highway went up and down through gorgeous, stunning mountain passes pushing all my gears and brakes to the limit (to the point I felt like I was idling up the inclines and hugging the brakes to submission on the steep, winding drops). The road was never a bore; after a fair bit of clean straightaways we hit up switchback and hairpin upon hairpin in an effort to carve ourselves around the mountains which opened to sweeping views of the valleys. While riding along I always wanted to cast my eyes off the road to the views around me but at the same time I had to be aware of the rare truck that took a wide sweeping turn around the mountain or the various animals that meandered across my path. The land was quite deserted with occasional hut-style villages that felt pristine amongst the flat, gold and green farmland that encompassed the valley floors. The villages were almost tribal in how far sent back they felt in time; who knows, maybe at this point these people had lost touch with the Vietnamese language and perhaps spoke their own mountain and provincial language. The pace that we kept was not a trouble since it offered countless moments to enjoy the panoramic views but the day was beginning to reach nightfall. As much as I enjoyed the sunset in the mountains, my motivations to find a place for the night intensified. Riding at night is difficult enough but when I kept riding at times uncontrollably down steep roadway with what felt like declining brakes, my nerves grew further perplexed and uncertain. The kilometers to Tang Ky lessened as we progressed along but night travel turned our speed to a glacier pace. We found a village/town where the road marker indicated the city should be but it didn’t amount to much. We rode into town and out before we even knew it and reached desolated land once more. Apparently no hotel bed could be found in these parts and so we would need to find a family willing to put us up for the night. After some attempts by gesture to signifying what we wanted, a woman took us into her home. With further gesturing we willed some leftover food onto the table to sustain us from a long day. Her family or friends, including her husband, found as a curiosity but not sure if they were overly pleased by our presence. The husband was most sociable as he sat and joined us while we ate and brought his bottle of rice whisky for the occasion. The man was determined to finish that bottle as he poured shot upon shot while we took turns necking the devilish liquid. The liquor was unpleasant but it sure eased the uncomfortable atmosphere in which I was about to sleep in. I chose a hammock as my mode of accommodation for the night which surprisingly did just fine. I slept mostly like a baby as a rocked side to side but eventually the liquor high plummeted me into the netherworld of a growing headache and the spins. This was never my intention to set out for a place like this but once again it adds to the narrative and journey.
Riding Vietnam Day 175: An Unexpected Homestay