In rural Vietnam nothing happens fast, and I had embraced that concept to the full when I took to the road at almost midday today. I don’t really know where the morning went, but then again I can’t claim that I was paying much attention to the clock.

Vietnam on a motorbike by Simon Jones

It was another hot day and the wind felt refreshing as I picked up speed and got into the swing of my second day on the road. I had intended to really get some miles (or Kilometres as they are here) under my belt today, but after an hour or so on the highway, I was bored with the trucks and snaking asphalt, so I took a detour down a narrow side road.

You don’t have to go to far from the highway to feel like you’ve traveled back in time here. The villages are basic and homes are often set among the crops. Riding slowly through villages is a pleasure because the response from the villagers is always so warm and welcoming. They wave, say “Hello” and occasionally try to speak to you, in Vietnamese, of course.

At several points, friendly villagers would point me back in the direction of the highway, convinced that I had somehow gotten lost and needed help. I tried explaining that I was going the long way and taking a scenic route, but sign language for that just results in confusion and laughter.

Vietnam on a motorbike by Simon Jones

Vietnam on a motorbike by Simon Jones

My problem today was trying to remain as covered up as possible. Yesterday’s sun gave my skin a little more glow than I had expected and I didn’t want to compound the problem by roasting in the sun even more today. The locals here often wear clothes that cover every inch of them as if they were living in the Nation of Islam!

Simon Jones on the roadAfter a while I decided to stop and have a bite to eat (bananas again!) beside a river with a distant view of mountains disappearing into the distant heat haze.

Small fishing boats gently went up and down the river, their motors rhythmically sounding with a gentle patter that would quickly fade as they passed. Not far away from me sat a man mending nets by his boat. He saw me and waved, I waved back making a connection between our seemingly different worlds.

Vietnam on a motorbike by Simon Jones

I had been on road for about four hours when I realized that I had probably covered less than 40 Kilometres! It was time to hit the highway again so I plugged in my iPod and took off heading north, trying to resist the urge to just open up the throttle and make up some of that lost time. The roads here are dangerous enough without speed!

Vietnam on a motorbike by Simon Jones

At just after 4pm I arrived at the city of Dong Hoi. As usual, I took the more scenic road through the city which took me right by a vibrant seaside market. Colorful fishing boats swayed peacefully in the water as the fishermen ferried supplies to and from them in little fishing pods.

I stopped for a drink by the beach and had a chat with a local man. When I say we had a chat what I mean is he spoke to me in Vietnamese, and I spoke to him in English. We pointed and made gestures, understanding some of what the other was saying, but only a very small amount.

Vietnam on a motorbike by Simon Jones

In the end, I elected to stay overnight in Dong Hoi. I wanted to continue but from what I could make out on Google maps the road beyond here appears to be very rural and there simply wasn’t enough daylight left for me to feel confident about finding a hotel along the way.

The early stop meant I could head into the city and get a haircut. I found a suitable place and asked the hairdresser if she could cut my hair. Her answer was very long but I assumed she meant yes, so I sat down.

I then asked her to cut my hair short which seemed to confuse her, so with the help of Google Translate I asked again and this time she understood. She was clearly thrilled by the translation app and insisted on having a conversation with me. It started off the usual way. “What is your name?” “Where are you from?” But then became a little more in-depth.

Unfortunately, Google wasn’t up to the challenge of an in-depth conversation with a hairdresser, and the translations I was getting from here were as confusing as they were hilarious. Eventually, we stopped confusing one another with technology and she got down to the business of cutting my hair, which she thankfully was far better without the involvement of Google.

Google confusion

So my plan for tomorrow is to get up early and hit the road while it’s still relatively cool outside. That’s my plan at least, we’ll see what actually happens when my alarm goes off at 6am!

Slow Road to Hanoi – Day 3
Read my tips about touring Vietnam on a motorbike

Show your appreciation by buying me a coffee