The Road Through Paradise - This Time Tomorrow - CycleBlaze

November 4, 2016

The Road Through Paradise

34 Miles of Beauty

The Road Through Paradise

Bac Son to Minh Son

As we rode through Bac Son one last time we thought we should eat something and call it breakfast. We stopped at a banh mi stand which we had walked past many times in our three day stay in Bac Son. It was a good decision because that banh mi was the best I’ve ever eaten. From there the day only got better.

Best banh mi ever.
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After repeatedly squinting at Google Earth maps in our hotel room we decided that every route except the one to the south out of the Bac Son valley would be too difficult for us since we had just begun our trip and are woefully out of shape. It doesn’t really matter very much to us where we bike in northern Vietnam because it’s all new to us, all an adventure, and we always find interesting things.

Bac Son valley looking south. The road we took went all the way to the end of this valley and through an opening in the karst hills.
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Fortified with that best-ever banh mi we took the road to the south. For the first three miles we passed through rice harvesting operations; all the workers waving. The Bac Son valley, ever narrowing, finally ended with karst hills plugging the southern end except for the road. For the next few miles the road slipped between steep karst hills and through a series of delightful little valleys of paddy fields so small they seemed to be private individual gardens. Again, everyone shouted hello along the way.

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We passed the front gates of a school just as dozens of kids burst through mostly on bicycles. Lunch time. We were instant fascination for them and like the pied piper we led several down the dusty road; a chorus of repeated hellos pushing us from behind. The bold ones also practiced, “What is your name?” but just laughed when we answered. One by one they peeled off to their homes for lunch and again we were left to ride the quiet road nearly free of vehicles.

School's out for lunchtime.
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We felt we were way out there, beyond tourist country and certainly beyond tourists-on-bikes country. I said to Andrea, “It sure seems like people have never seen foreigners on bikes out here.” She agreed but of course we don’t know. What I didn’t understand was why we hadn’t seen one foreigner since Hanoi since it was some of the most beautiful country I’ve ever seen in S.E. Asia. It was as if we had discovered paradise.

Then we hit a wall. Well, it wasn’t exactly a wall but close to it. The road sign stated a grade of 10% but we think it was more like 20%. The road was solid cement which was nice but it was so steep that we could just barely push the bikes up it. It was so steep that I wondered how they got the cement to not sag before it set up. The sign also stated that the steep incline would continue for three quarters of a mile! But, having to work a little to continue to be in paradise is no big deal.

I know what this sign means, I'm just not sure why it means what it does.
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At one point, while we were catching our breath, a man on a motor bike came coasting down. Astonished at the sight before him (no, not the view) he stopped, got his motor bike to stay and asked to take photos of us with his phone. We were all smiles and he took several and then a couple of selfies with us. Never were there any words spoken. He was so sincerely thrilled to have met us that he threw his arms around me and gave me a big kiss on my neck! This is why traveling way off the beaten path is so much fun. One never knows what one will encounter.

The steep cement section indeed went on for nearly a mile but once on top we had great views and then it was all downhill. I mean, it was downhill for the next 16 miles. That huge hill was the only one. With each approaching blind bend between karst hills I figured there would be another steep section up but one never materialized.

Down steeply at first but then slowly down for miles.
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Karst
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The road slipping through a slot in the karst.
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The view from our snack spot.
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It was a most delightful 16 miles with the karst formations more and more beautiful and amazing with each mile. Many times we stopped and just stared at each other in disbelief. The birdsong was great, the cicadas powerful, cows well fed, water buffalo well muddied, little irrigation rivulets gurgling happily, children running next to us and adults all smiling and waving. It really doesn’t get any better than this when riding a bike in a remote foreign place. The temperature and blue sky were even perfect. Maybe it was all a dream.

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A larger valley opened up near the end.
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