Cycling from the Cau Treo border to Hué (part one)
Sunday 31st January
I should have known that the deer we had seen in a cage last night had a bad fate in store. As we walked by this morning, we saw that it had had its throat cut, and two people were carefully holding its head so that its blood would drain into a bowl. I thought it was dead… and then it blinked, and I felt very sorry for it indeed. A bit of a shocking start to the day.
People at the morning market.
On the way out of town.
Today we joined the famous/infamous highway 1, a road which stretches the length of the country. I have heard opposing accounts from cyclists of “don’t go on this road, it’s a death trap” and “this road is fine”, so… time to see for ourselves.
A view of the road.
The driving in Vietnam is a whole new level of crazy, and sharing the road with the cars and lorries felt quite stressful. The good thing is that on highway 1 there is a large hard shoulder which the cars and lorries stay out of entirely (unless they decide to park).
There were no real moments where I felt like our own safety was endangered by cars or lorries. What was stressful was watching everybody elses’ driving!
Why cycling along highway 1 was stressful
1. This highway goes right through the middle of towns. Little old ladies nipping down to the shops shouldn’t mix with the 60 mph truck, but in this scenario they do!
2. The people driving the vehicles are very aggressive. They drive as if they are racing their expiring relative to hospital. Seriously. Everyone in a truck, bus or car is so impatient it’s unbelievable, and they take phenomenal risks overtaking each other.
3. The horns. The horns! I think vehicle manufacturers are engaged in a car horn arms race, where because everyone beeps each other, horns are made louder and louder. Horns are used all the time, and sometimes it’s “beep beep”, while sometimes it’s “BAAAA! BAAAA BAAAA BAAAA! BAAAA BAAAA BAAAA! BAAAAAAAAAAAAA!” Reasons for beeping we saw today included:
a) You’re in my way, move now move now move now move now I am losing one precious second
b) Hey young children by the side of the road, I’m an enormous truck, don’t even think about stepping out because I WON’T slow down as I go past you
c) I have moved onto the wrong side of the road to overtake, so cars coming the other way STOP or I will crash into you
d) What do you think you’re doing? You’re too close! (That one’s valid, but it happens a lot)
e) I’m about to push in front of you… ready or not!
f) Hi farangs!
g) I haven’t beeped my horn in a while. Yep, still works!
4. People who aren’t travelling long distances use motorbikes and scooters, and to us a lot of them seemed both dozy and reckless. I guess living by highway 1 makes you blasé about the constant traffic. They often linger in the middle lanes, which, as they can only go at half the speed of the cars/lorries, earns them a hearty beeping every time. I couldn’t think of a worse combination: aggressive, fast drivers in large vehicles with unaware, risk-taking people on scooters. Not good.
We’re going to be on this highway for a while. As you can tell, I’m not feeling all that enthusiastic about it.
Anyway, enough moaning. We’re in Vietnam, and this is exciting… we saw flashy cars passing ox-pulled carts, posters with Ho Chi Minh, ladies with bamboo hats and miles of rice paddies – the kind of perfect arable land which we never saw in Laos.
A statue symbolising communist values.
We were feeling a bit gloomy after today’s cycle, but we did cheer up when we finally managed to order something other than pho for dinner. Chicken rice – apparently a staple dish in Vietnam. It was delicious, though the cuts of chicken we were served definitely fell under the “miscellaneous” category.