Day 0 (6-October-2013): 3 km. Mr. Iik's plane arrived to Hanoi in the early afternoon. His trip oscillated between watching comedies on in-flight TV and rushing to catch the connecting flights in time. There is a huge crowd travelling around now-days and it is truly fascinating how the schedules, which are stretched to the limits, are working well. The good news is that he paid only 30 Eur to transport the bike from Europe; that kept smile on his face for the whole 35 hours of the trip. A smile of a millionaire broadened after he exchanged the money at the airport: he got 2.8 million dongs for 100 Eur. A bit groggy from the jet-lag, he assembled the bike in slow motion and cycled a couple of km to the hotel he had spotted on Google Earth. A shower, telephone call home and ice-cooled beer completed the day.
A street in some Vietnam town.

Day 1: 137 km. He woke up enthusiastically with the expectation of the really big day - he aimed at 200 km today. This calls for more aerodynamic posture, so he decided to lower the handlebar a bit. In doing so his 4 mm Allen key broke. He wasn't particularly upset as his second tool also had a 4 mm key, but what he didn't know at the time was that this little incident represented a small snow ball that started rolling, eventually growing into avalanche and turning this tour into catastrophe.
Things were working good for the first 50 km on QL3. The traffic is high, composed mostly of motorcyclists with few trucks and buses and fewer cars, but everybody is driving in predictable manner, so everything is flowing smoothly. 10 km before Thai Nguyen Mr. Iik takes a secondary road, more peaceful but with more potholes. Suddenly, there is a big bang and his water bottle was thrown to the ground. He had run in full speed into a pothole that was hidden in the shade. He stops and checks the front tire: flat. The rear one: also flat. Double puncture in first 2 hours of the tour! An absolute record. And what was even more miraculous: both "snake bites" were about 3 cm from the valve. He needs 3 hours and all of his spare patches to repair the punctures. The first thing he did in Thai Nguyen was to buy 8 more patches -  that shows his trust in lightweight and soft tires that he put on for this trip. By the end of the day he reaches Bac Kan and in the evening he went for a beer. The group at the next table was having a party with a whole crate of beer and  a pile of food cooked in banana leaves.
The first lunch.
Enjoying the mud bath.

Day 2: 132 km. A rich day. After the first climb and descent, Mr. Iik stops in Na Young for a pho (noodles). Excellent! He carries on on the secondary road, as usual with less traffic and more potholes. Immediately, there is a new, strange, squealing sound coming from the bike. A quick inspection reveals that the rear rack mount is cracked. He turns back and slowly pedals, while holding the rack with one hand, to the nearest mechanical shop. (These are numerous in Vietnam, which is not surprising, given the number of motorcycles on the road.) In less then half hour and for less then 1 euro the rack mount is welded and repaired, and Mr. Iik can resume the trip. The rest of the day was filled with innumerable climbs and descents with steep gradients up to 20%, asphalt and stones exchanging all the way. All that in fantastic, famous scenery of limestone pinnacles. Steep climbs slow him down, so he gives up hope to make it to Bao Lac today and rather takes a longer lunch brake. Just before dark he finds a rare camping spot and puts up the tent.
A stop for a pho.
Karst 2.

Day 3: 107 km. In the morning Mr. Iik notices the rear tire is flat. He changes the tube, but can not find the cause of the puncture, nor the hole of the puncture itself. The ups and downs follow the rest of the day, as appropriate for Vietnamese Alps. Few kilometers before Meo Vac, he has another puncture on the rear wheel. It seems the puncture is on the inner side of the tube, facing the rim, but again, he can't find the cause. In Meo Vac he finds a room in a rather posh hotel with a couple of white faces hanging in the lobby. In the middle of the night he wakes up with a brilliant idea: to wash his bike in a shower. Showers in Asia usually drain to the floor of the bathroom. This is quite inconvenient, because you are always left with wet feet, but for showering the bike, it is ideal.
Limestone pinnacles.
The only advantage of Asian bathrooms: convenient for washing the bike.

Day 4: 120 km. From Meo Vac there is a climb to 1200 m. That's about the highest point Mr. Iik reached in Vietnam. The passes are not high but are steep and difficult, and the disappointing thing about them is that they don't have a name, are not signposted and nobody will know that you ever climbed them. Even you yourself will forget about them after a while. The scenery is stunning, though. Just as he starts to enjoy it, there is another puncture on the rear wheel. He finally finds the cause of these punctures: the rim tape was only partially covering one spoke hole, which had a sharp edge and that's what was puncturing the tubes. To make the whole thing more Murphy-esque, the valve of the spare tube seemed to leak at high pressure. An hour and a half passed before he could move on. Mr. Iik is a little bit angry about the whole thing: these things should't happen to such an experienced tourer. He gets recompense in a long and fast descent that continues along the river for quite some km. He thought he could reach Ha Giang today, however when deciding between two roads, he chose the one that lead him into dead-end. Lost at the end of the day, he puts up the tent in a tiny space between two rice fields.

Pinnacle scenery.

Day 5: 106 km. Next morning, a return from the dead end, the last big climb to 1100 m and a long, long descent all the way to Vi Xuyen. Down in the plane he realizes how hot it really is: 38 degrees C. Mr. Iik is delighted to the sights of smiling youth, returning from school, holding umbrellas while riding their bikes; it made it easier to bear the heat. In Vi Xuyen he finds the cheapest hotel so far. It was also the best one. And the only one where he didn't have to fight with receptionists to take his bike into the room. There is a certain charm to cheep hotels, much of it coming from a satisfaction of a good deal.
Along the river, ...
.. and on to Ha Giang.
A nice hotel room for 7 Eur.
Day 6: 179 km. Yesterday, his left Achilles's tendon started to hurt. He was pushing too hard on the climbs last few days, and an old injury reoccurred. He finished the Vietnam leg of this tour with a long ride to the border town of Lao Cai. Mostly on flat roads and with several food stops. The last part to the Chinese border features higher traffic, dust, smog and smoke from exhausts and burning hay. As it turned out, appropriate introduction to China.
In the rice field.
Transporting pigs.

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