The trip did not start out well. Ten meters from my apartment, I nearly hit a man who had run into the street. I still remember his face: the shock in his eyes, the huge enthusiastic smile. Most of all, I remember the large stick he was carrying, which he then used to smack someone nearby after he dodged out of the way of my bike.
Josh commented that they must be playing but immediately we were proven wrong. There were several small fights going on with different groups. People had large sticks or pipes. There was a lot of shouting. Some people arrived in a taxi and got out to join the fight. Josh and I watched nervously from the other side of the street while filling our tank with gas.
Neither of us understand what was being shouted. A little shaken, we headed off.
Driving was kind of scary due to how dark it was. There’s very few other vehicles, and we sometimes drove for multiple kilometers without seeing any light that wasn’t our own. Fortunately, all the other drivers were polite and there were no issues. We kept a speed of 60km most of the time even though we were regularly passed by both cars and bikes.
After two-ish hours of driving, which had previously taken us five hours on our last attempt, we took a break in Hai Duong.
Unlike Hanoi which has a banh mi seller (Vietnamese sandwich) under seemingly every overpass, Hai Duong was silent. Only the taxi drivers were awake, sitting in their cars scattered around the city. We had been expecting a warm sandwich and were disappointed, but enjoyed eating some of the snacks we had packed for the trip.
The second leg of the trip wasn’t as pleasant.
When the rain started, we pulled over on the side of the road under a bridge, like many other people driving a scooter, and put our raincoats on. We drove slowly because it became hard to see very far. After so long in the dark it was nice to be in the city again. The puddles were often huge and we drove slowly through them, nervous that they may be deeper than expected.
After driving around in the dark and pouring rain at 5am, we found somewhere to eat, a local roadside place at an intersection. Josh ordered two bowls of bún bò. The soup has noodles with beef and you can dunk some fresh greens in.
One of the servers asked if we wanted green tea, and we accepted. What we received was barely larger than a shot glass, holding the strongest green tea I’ve ever had in my life. Josh ended up drinking both glasses because we didn’t want to seem rude.
With food in our bellies and the sun fully up, it was time to set off again. Unfortunately, the sun being up does not mean that places are open. We drove around for about 45 minutes waiting for local cafes to open up so we would have a nice place to drink something warm and get out of the rain. Check in time for our hostel was listed as 2pm.
Once inside a cafe, we quickly ordered hot chocolate and let our dampest clothes drape over the chair next to us. I also opened the backpack to let it air a bit. Thankfully we were seated in a corner so it wasn’t too obvious. After an hour of drying in the warmth, we either stopped smelling like wet dog or just stopped noticing it. Our moods had also improved dramatically, its amazing what a nice chair and a warm cup to drink can do.
At 9AM, I sent an email to the hostel asking if they would let us check in early. They replied that we would have to wait, as no one had checked out yet. I replied with my thanks, and asked them to let us know when someone checked out. I did not expect a reply, hostels are not exactly known to give great customer service.
To my astonishment, I received an email an hour later saying our beds were ready, and at 10:30AM we checked into May Hostel.
The clothes were put up to dry immediately. After getting everything situated and seeing how nice the hostel was and realizing how cold and tired we were, we extended our stay to two nights instead of just one.
Then we crawled into our bunks and passed out for the next eleven hours.
Eventually we woke up and went outside around 10pm. Unfortunately, it seemed like almost the entire city was closed.
While driving past closed shops, we smelled something amazing and followed our noses to this roadside BBQ place. Even though it was on the sidewalk, it had a sign displaying the name Chicken 58. We were seated on plastic stools at a plastic table and served sliced mango with spicy dipping sauce as a starter.
When the food arrived, we ended up ordering a second and third helping. The food was so good that it made me want to calculate the exact speed the food dissolved in my stomach so I could sit on that little plastic stool and eat for eternity.
We drove around a little.
On the hostel rooftop
Mostly resting. We didn’t end up going to the beach as it was pouring the whole day and I didn’t feel well. Josh took a walk and took the following photos.
Ready to head off.
It was raining hard. By the time I moved the towel from one side of the seat to the other, the beginning was wet again. The receptionist at the hostel told us we should wait until it stops raining before we leave. Unfortunately, the weather said that would mean staying another two days.
We donned our plastic bags and over-sized rain coats and took off.
There was very light traffic on the way back. Because it was light outside and there were other bikes to follow, we drove around 75km for most of the way, and made it home incredibly fast.
Pretty much all of the photos here were taken by Josh (Nori) while I was driving. You can follow his instagram here