Sweet potato. Vietnam begins.

Sweet potato. Vietnam begins.

After 3 weeks riding all over Cambodia I had to drop my plan to go to Laos as the border is apparently closed. To do that I should’ve done a little detour through central Vietnam mountains, which would have taken me at least a couple of days. So better to change a bit the itinerary doing Cambodia-Vietnam-Laos.

Under a fairly strong and unpleasant rain (rain is never fun when you’re riding) I left Kampot, my last stop in Cambodia and headed towards the border, to Vietnam! A country which looks longer and longer as you keep looking at the map.

Passed the border the landscape started to change rapidly with beautiful carsic rocks rising on the sides of the road. There were more people in the streets, everything looked more busy and congested than Cambodia. People looked different too, their skin a bit fairer than Cambodians, their traits different and most of them were wearing the typical conical hats. Incredible how much difference there can be within just a few kilometers. It’s probably our ignorance, but seen from Europe we always think of all those countries are a bit all the same, but the differences are quite stark. Definitely more than between two bordering European countries.

One of the first signs I’ve seen was saying Hanoi 2058km. That was not my final destination, but a it was quite a checkpoint and it looked far…

My first stop in Vietnam was Can Tho a relatively small city (1.5million people) on the Mekong Delta. Apparently it’s not a common touristic destination given the number of hostels (one) and the amount of people saying “hello, hello” while biking around just because you’re a Westerner.
There is nothing really to do there except visiting the Mekong Delta at sunrise, so basically at 10am you’re done with it. Despite that, I stayed two nights and it was fun!

The first night I arrived at the hostel, it was empty, but as I checked in the guy running it said:
“8 o’clock sweet potato! 8 o’clock sweet potato!”
“sweet potato?”
“yes yes, sweet potato”
“….ok….sweet potato, so should I come here?”
“yes yes, everybody in hostel come! Sweet potato, 8 o’clock!”
I looked around the empty hostel a little uncertain…
“Alright, sweet potato”
He nodded smiling broadly and went back to his business, whatever it was, I think he was watching something…

I left the hostel for a ride around the city and to have some food as well. Whatever those sweet potatoes would be, they didn’t sound like a great, filling dinner…

At 8pm I was back to the hostel, ready to meet “everyone in the hostel”. I was skeptical but eventually there were two guys, a Mexican and an Israeli. They were cool, we looked at each other a bit perplexed “sweet potato?”
“yep, sweet potato..”

At that point the hostel guy emerged from the backroom with a bucket and some sort of potatoes. He lead us outside the hostel door in the street. It wasn’t a nice street, indeed it was a big road with 4 car lanes and the hostel had a small entrance on the sidewalk. We sat on some little stools just outside the door and the hostel guy lit up a fire in the bucket. On that we had to grill the potatoes apparently. So ok, let’s do it…

We spent a couple of hours roasting potatoes, eating maybe 4 of them, not even too well cooked. That bucket wasn’t working, but apparently that was the hostel’s social event. In its on way, it was nice.

It was then while roasting the sweet potatoes that a taxi stopped just in front of us and a guy came out of it heading towards the hostel door. A backpacker in a taxi…well, alright. Should I still be surprised today?

I asked if he wanted a sweet potato and he looked at me like I was a beggar asking for some change, waving the hand, looking straight and walking into the hostel.

That fucker was going to be my travel companion for the rest of my trip so far.

After he dropped his bag, the new guy came to us introducing himself as David from Costa Rica and guess what, he asked if he could have a sweet potato as he hadn’t eaten yet. I gave him one, uncooked…or better grilled for over an hour, but still uncooked.

Apparently David had travelled the same way as me that day, he started from Cambodia as well, crossed the border and did all the way to Can Tho. However he did it hitch-hiking. Yep, hitch-hiking… The guy who arrived by taxi…
I obviously asked how that was possible. He apparently had hick-hiked until the Vietnam border, that took a bus and then once in the city, tired he had taken a taxi. It kind of made sense…I call it a failed hitch-hike.

After the sweet potatoes we went to look for some real food, but found a restaurant everything was written exclusively in Vietnamese and despite the help of a Vietnamese guy who at his saying “he could speak English”, (I think he was able to say 3 words). We ordered some chicken, but what they brought us were chicken feet….”no thanks”.

Vietnam was going to be tough.

The floating market on the Mekong Delta in Can Tho.

After 2 days in Can Tho, I (or better we…from this moment on my solo trip was not that solo) went to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon as they prefer to call it) with the intention to spend a few days there, including New Years Eve. What a shit that was…but whatever, I shouldn’t complain, New Years Eve is always shit and my days in Saigon were actually great.

It was in these days that I convinced David to buy a motorbike and ride Vietnam across with me. It took him few days to find the perfect bike, but eventually he found the best one he could get. Sold to him by Simonas another guy that we met in that “crowded” hostel of Can Tho.

The moment when after 5 days of relentless persuasion Simonas managed to sell his bike to David. The guy in the middle was very happy about all this and offered himself as witness.

Now we’ve been riding for a while, we stopped in Mũi Né, Da Lat, Nha Trang and many other places which I’m not going to list…you wouldn’t know all the names anyway unless you go to Vietnam. Had quite a few of adventures like losing my license plate and being stopped by the police (twice), rode completely in the dark on some mountains using my phone torch for the light as the light of my bike was not working, got a food poisoning, met a girl who I brought in the back of my bike for 10 days, slept in extremely small villages in the middle of nowhere, risked to lose all my luggage as the rack was about to come off, ate unidentifiable shits, met a lot of people on the way, my bike stopped in the middle of a desert under pouring rain and had to push it, rode for hours in the dark under the rain and strong wind which was pushing my bike out of the road (I really thought I was not going to make it) and so on…adventures everyday, but now we’re almost half way in Vietnam, in Da Nang. We feel a bit like veterans, but the way is still long and full of surprises I’m sure…



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