BootsnAll Travel Network

Hue – Aluoi – Khe Sahn – Dong Hoi – Vinh (ouch) – Nimh Binh


You don’t know how miserable of a feeling you get watching the rain come down out your fully equipped luxury pad and knowing that you have to ride through the stuff back into the central highlands. That in itself does not give you that warm and fuzzy feeling like when you think “I’m heading to the beach.” It took all of the full five days of sitting in my room for the lower half of my jeans to dry and my boots were still soggy on the insides. Putting all that gear on which included my new rain pants just really took the funness of hopping on your ride and heading down the highway.

There were three options heading out of Hue. I could just say screw it and head directly north on the direct but truly unfun and treacherous 1A to Dong Hoi. Head up the 1A for a very short bit to the main turn-off to the Central highlands or be adventurous (disguised meaning for still believing that short cuts are shorter (they never are but you never know unless you try)). I decided of course for the short cut because coming into Hue I noticed a little sign on a little side road that branched off the main road just on the outskirts of the city centre. Well, it kind of brought to mind my little fiasco trying to get out of Bangkok, and of past experiences of fishing. When I was in Key West I really got into fishing. I picked up the gear, read about how to do it, and was even schooled by one of the best charter Captains (Captain Carl). You prep the boat, the night before all your rods and reels are set, the bait and chum are readied, a handful of Dramamine are taken, and then you ease out of the harbor. Just about six miles out is the reef line where you can see a little bit of reef break. Just past that you look out and you suddenly realize that the ocean is huge and you are a tiny speck. You can drive for days and not run into anything. There is nothing except the big blue. You realize at that moment that you have no idea what you are doing. I headed back to that little sign with the name of my destination city written on it. Turned right and headed down the muddy alley way. And then I looked up and realized that there are no signs once you leave the main road and that one sign. I just drove around in the rain up and down residential areas, down farm roads, followed tourist buses to tourists sites, followed roads until they ended into a field, and pretty much could of mapped out the area as I must have hit pretty much every road out of there. And three hours later I was finally on the road which was only about fifteen minutes out of town had I just taken the non-shortcut direct route.

My first destination stop was the city of Aluoi. Aluoi and pretty much this whole section was part of the Ho Chi Minh Trail. These locations were the sight of a lot of heavy action during the Vietnam War. For those in the know, some of the well known places were landing zones Cunningham, Erskine, Razor, Hill 1175, Hill 521, and to the south in the Ashau Valley, the movie star of the bunch Hamburger Hill. I was a bit worried about this stretch as I wasn’t sure what accommodations were going to be like along this stretch. I just kept thinking that six to eight hours in the rain followed by sleeping on the ground in some shack just wasn’t going to be so fun especially when I just left my sweet love nest. Fortunately, the towns along the way have prospered from the sweet new Ho Chi Minh Highway as well as a bump from tourism interested in seeing the old battle sites. There were a few really nice places, so I ended up having a nice hot shower, some clean sheets and fresh blankets, and a very homey stay. Since I had a good home base, I made the 20km run to see Hamburger hill only to find it shrouded in clouds. It was pretty miserable and I wasn’t even getting shot at. I quickly surrendered and headed back to town for some pork and rice and my warm dry bed.

One key acquisition which is going to rank as a top five traveling purchase, was some gum boots (rubber boots). Good old Farmer John style footwear. The frozen wet foot thing was just becoming a problem. My trekking boots are waterproof in that they will allow water in but won’t let it escape. At the end of the day I had enough foot marinade to fill a water bottle. The new stylish boots cost $4US, but as soon as I put them on it was like slipping on a little bit of sunshine. Walking through the muddy markets with a mix of fluids that even scientists can’t identify was always a bit sketchy, but when you have full on foot condoms, it’s like a walk in the park. So now, with my heavy duty rain poncho, rain pants, full face helmet and rubber boots, the rain is no longer a problem.

My next destination was also home to some famous battles. Khe Sahn now known as Huong Hoa was famous for the Khe Sahn Combat Base. This was a line drawn in the sand by General Westmoreland. I’ve read a bit about this little bit of controversy so it was nice to be able to visit the actual site where they had set up a museum and had some of the old war remnants from both sides. Oh yea, it was still raining so I passed on the other highlights Lang Vay Special Forces Camp, Camp Carroll, and the Rock Pile. This whole stretch is really beautiful riding with minimal traffic. When the weather is clear it must be awesome.

Fortunately my next destination of Dong Hoi was a quick three drive back to the coast. Dong Hoi was my first no rain location, well at least for half a day. It is North Vietnams premier resort town for Vietnamese at least, but with it being off season it was empty and I clicked with it instantly. I don’t know if it was being dry, but as soon as I arrived I called it a rest stop and planned on a two night layover. I ended up getting a sweet suite on the top floor of a hotel overlooking the river and just before the beach. It had a really active market with boats unloading their catch right at the edge and people buying it straight forward. It gets a bit tiring doing the new destination every day so I really took advantage of the rest day and spent a lot of time just wandering along the boardwalk and watching tv of course.

I’ll cut it off here as the next section was a bit of a ride and makes for a good cut off. Don’t worry there was no wreck involved.

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