Thanh Hoa to Ky Lien via Vinh and Ha Tinh (26 oct 15)
You either know who Kim Phuc is, or you don't.
Kim being napalmed at the age of nine is one of the pictures which turned Americans against the war. I suspect pictures of dead Americans were even more persuasive.
I finally got sick, and had to take Cipro and stay another (fourth) night in Thanh Hoa. I usually get a stomach upset after a month or more in a developing country. You have to be careful - for example, don't use tap water to wash out bottles before filling them with filtered water. (I've got a Katadyn water filter, which is good enough for filtering the Congo).
Thanh Hoa to Vinh was another 140 Km. Completely flat and uneventful, except where I was squeezed into a narrow lane against a road construction concrete wall with a truck chasing me. Vinh to Son Trach is 214 Km on the coast road, but includes the Ngang pass, so I doubt I'll do it in three days.
I seem to have recovered from the bug, but I only did another 47 Km today (Oct 28), against a southerly sea breeze, to the pleasant town of Ha Tinh. I checked out a cathedral and a big Catholic cemetery in a small village to the north east, then rode around town a bit. I avoided the Dong A Hotel initially, and tried out the Nha Nghi nearest to the Vimart supermarket on the west side of the main drag. They wouldn't go below 210,000 dong, and it was a dump. I tried out the Dong A on the other side of the road, down a side street, a bit further north. They said 300,000, I talked them down to 250,000, and it's a nice place. I bought some salami and wine at the Vimart.
The sea breeze comes from the South China Sea, where the USA and China are acting provocatively toward each other over some islands. I hope they don't start a war while I'm here.
Round the corner is a cafe where I had a beer and was surrounded by three women in their twenties who said I'd do alright if I learned Vietnamese. After several days of not really enjoying this trip, I'm beginning to have a good time.
The next stage was the 75 Km to Ky Lien - uneventful riding against a strong southerly. I rode through an area which I thought must be a national park, because there were no houses or shops for 20Km, just trees. I saw the towns of Ky Lien and its neighbors to the left of me, separated from the road by a deep moat, but there didn't seem to be any way of reaching them, so I just kept going. Eventually, I reached the bottom of the Ngang pass. At this point, I took a sharp left and headed back into the town, and took the first hotel I saw, a decent place called Anh Loan, for 300,000 dong. If I'd ridden through the towns I would have stopped earlier, but now I'm close to the pass.
I was happy to find that the Phong Nha Farmstay hotel, where I hope to stay, is closer than I thought - it's only 52 Km if I follow the directions carefully. I found it in a Lonely Planet guide, but it's run by an Australian, so it's probably OK. I should be able to watch the Rugby World Cup final there on Saturday at 23:00. Also, from there you can explore the biggest caves in the world in a boat.
After that, I'll head south west toward the old DMZ, remnants of the battle of Khe San, and the Lao border.