Vinh to the Lao Border through the DMZ
My journey from Vinh to the Lao border at Lao Bao had continued after the deception in Can Loc where I got a un-repairable tire repaired (here's the whole story). And with my new Taiwanese tires, I left Ha Tinh in the direction of Dong Hoi, Dong Ha, Khe Sanh and Lao Bao.
Dong Hoi was 150km away. Despite an expected flat ride, I was not expecting it would be an easy ride. The rain had been heavy here in the last days and I had only picked up a little but all around me the lands were flooded.
Apart of in the last 25 km or so, I didn't see any hotels on the way to the city. Near Dong Hoi there are beach resorts though but as the weather was not really in favor of visiting a beach, I let that go.
Dong Hoi had very little to offer so I left in the early morning for the next 95 km to Dong Ha which I expected to be more interesting.
This part of the road from Vinh to the Lao border was truly former DMZ, DeMilitarized Zone country. It was also one of the flattest areas on my journey from Hanoi to Vinh and the Lao border.
Soon I started to see many more war memorials with graveyard of fallen soldiers and civilians victim of a war in the early 1970's.
There were villages on the way and here and there some beautiful old temples, miraculously spared in the war.I was cycling with tailwind which made me move quickly on the quiet highway AH1. I passed the main War memorial and the Hien Luong Bridge. This part of Vietnam is still (artificially or not) completely flat and empty as a reminder of the violent past.
The Vinh Moc tunnels were also close by. I have a whole lot more about the DMZ on this page as once I did a tour to explore the more interesting sites in this are.
At the end of the flat lands the hills that separate the flatlands with Dong Ha. Just after the main DMZ zone there are several beach resorts where you might want to stay.
Dong Ha to Khe Sanh and the Lao Border at Lao Bao
My journey from Vinh to the Lao border at Lao Bao would now lead me into the heart of the DMZ: Dakrong Bridge and Khe Sanh where the Vietcong used the Ho Chi Minh trail to smuggle goods and weapons into south Vietnam.
It was an all flat road until the Dakrong bridge without much of interesting sights or sceneries apart from one roadside shrine.
The bridge, well, to be honest, it's a bridge, nothing special except the story about it. Just a bit further it was also the start of an 8km long climb Khe Sanh, which made world news in 1968 in the Battle of Khe Sanh, a battle neither the American or the Vietnamese won despite claims from the Americans based on official death rates. Fact is that the Americans abandoned the battlefield because of enemy pressure.
Today there is little left of these days. The town center of Khe Sanh has a monument and outside the town there are several rusty tanks left as reminders of a time when this place was one of the worst places on earth.
I had my lunch in Khe Sanh, visited the impressive museum and went further the last 17 km to Lao Bao, all the way down.
I had seen many small towns on my way from Vinh to Lao border but none was as strange as Lao Bao. It was one of those tiny border towns where people live on the trade between two countries. The huge market had a section for fruits and vegetables and a section for .... washing machine soap and electronics!
There are several hotels in town and it seems it's better to stay on this side of the border than on the Lao side which is even less inspiring. But the border is at the edge of town and crossing the border is easy, either into Laos (a visa can be obtained here, I paid a hefty US $42) and Vietnam (as usual, you can not obtain a Vietnamese visa at the border).
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