It's been almost a year since I wrote the last post. Image-heavy blogging from my first generation iPad Air was a bit too slow and cumbersome to keep up, especially with what turned out to be very long days on a motorbike as I ended up taking the very, very scenic route to Hanoi from Hue.
I will post about each leg of the ten-day journey here, as well as my days in Hanoi and my visit to tourist magnet Ha Long Bay.
In Hue I asked in my very simple but nice guesthouse Sunny Fine if they could recommend a driver to take me around to the different crypts in the area. The manager asked if I wanted someone who just could drive or someone who spoke English and could tell me a bit about the history, for a slightly higher but very reasonable price. The morning after I was picked up by motorcycle driver and cultural history graduate Thuận Nguyễn.
Hiring Thuận was a much better choice than I expected. He was funny and easy to get along with, very knowledgeable and a safe driver. In between the crypts and sights we stopped by his parents house as we were nearby, his mother made us a great lunch.
He told me he had made a trip to northern Vietnam along the Ho Chi Minh trail to Sapa and the more remote areas close to China the year before with a friend, and that he wanted to do trips like that with tourists. My original plan was to continue from Hue to Hanoi by bus and then go to Sapa and Ninh Bình and maybe Halong Bay, but after a day with on the bike with Thuận we agreed to drive through the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and stop over in Khe Sanh, then continue north through the mountains along the border with Laos to Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park and the caves there as a trial run.
If it felt safe and comfortable being two on the bike 8 to 10 hours a day we would continue to Hanoi, the very long and scenic route.