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2009 Biking Vietnam

Vietnam highlights: 10 December 2009 through 10 January 2010

Welcome to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Vietnam measures 330,000km2 and has 3,000km of coastline bordering the Gulf of Tonkin, the South China Sea and the Gulf of Thailand. Her neighbours are China, Laos and Cambodia. At her narrowest point, she measures only 50km while there are 1710km between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Vietnam’s population is 80 million strong of whom more than half are under 25 years of age, 10% are ethnic minorities, and only 2 million are Communist Party members.

Charl and I cycled 1100km in sections between Dien Bien Phu (northwest) and Chau Doc (southwest).

The Red River delta is home to Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi, which was founded exactly 1,000 years ago. Her population of 3,7 million are hard working, sophisticated and tolerant. During our four-day sojourn, we visited the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum (Uncle Ho died in 1969 before the Vietnam War ended; his embalmed body goes to Russia once a year for maintenance); the Temple of Literature (from 1070, for 800 years, the elite and bright were educated at the university here); the Hoa Lo Prison Museum (built by the French to house Vietnamese political prisoners, nicknamed the Hanoi Hilton by American POWs, the prison saw more than its fair share of torture); the excellent Fine Arts and Ethnology museums (bridal pairs often choose to have their photos taken outside the tribal homes on display at the latter); the incredible karst hills 60km south of the city; and a Water Puppet show.

Hanoi
Hanoi
Hanoi
Hanoi
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
Hanoi Temple of Literature
Hanoi Temple of Literature
Hanoi Ethnology museum
Hanoi Ethnology museum
Hanoi Ethnology museum
Hanoi Ethnology museum
Hanoi Hoa Lo Prison
Hanoi Hoa Lo Prison
Near Perfume Pagoda southwest of Hanoi
Near Perfume Pagoda southwest of Hanoi

From Hanoi we flew west to Dien Bien Phu near the Laos border. It was here, on 7 May 1954, that the French were defeated by the Viet Minh* after a 57 day siege, effectively numbering the days of French colonial rule in Indochina (Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia). When we left this provincial city, it was on our bikes. We cycled into and over just some of Vietnam’s northern mountains, enjoying the stunning scenery and the hill tribes (called “moi” or savages by the Viet, the various tribes make up 10% of Vietnam’s population).

Dien Bien Phu cemetry
Dien Bien Phu cemetry
Dien Bien Phu A1 hill
Dien Bien Phu A1 hill
En route Tuan Giao
En route Tuan Giao
En route Tuan Giao
En route Tuan Giao
En route Son La
En route Son La
En route Son La
En route Son La
En route Mai Chau
En route Mai Chau
En route Ninh Binh
En route Ninh Binh
En route Ninh Binh
En route Ninh Binh
En route Ninh Binh
En route Ninh Binh
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