I wrote the draft for this post on my sketch book, late in the evening, after my motorcycle ride. While writing the draft I was sitting in my room with a beautiful view of the river and the limestone cliffs that towered over the river.
I reflected on the wonderful motorcycle trip that I had just completed. With the caves closed down for COVID I had the excuse to ride my motorcycle in the surrounding area, the mountain passes near Phong Nha.
The cliffs and the forest were some on the most uniquely beautiful areas I had ever seen. The roads had been dynamited right through the cliffs and the trees and mountains stood beside the road. Towering above it and almost completely undisturbed.
When I brought the bike to a stop so I could snap some photos I became enveloped by the peace and the serenity of nature. The bugs happily chirped from the branches of the trees, the birds sang their songs and the leaves danced in the gentle wind. After spending so much time in the city I had forgotten what the peace of the forest felt like. After I snapped the above photos I put the camera and laid down on my motorbike and meditated upon the sounds of nature
The tranquility of the scene was interrupted by the most unusual sight. The rumbling and popping sound of an extremely old motorbike slowly making its way down the steep mountain road. The only thing louder than the bike was the old man driving the contraption. He was singing Vietnamese pop songs in a high pitched voice that echoed off the cliffs, stopping only to shoot me a friendly yellow smile, he continued his private karaoke session on the rumbling shaking old motorbike. As the sounds of the Vietnamese pop songs faded the sound of the forest slowly returned.
After a few more minutes of meditation I hopped back on my motorcycle and made the journey back to Phong Nha and passed by more beautiful landscapes.
As I passed through nature I rode through a small town between the forests and Phong Nha I lowered my speed and observed the locals.
I witnessed two boys (around 8 -10 years old) playing a game with pebbles they found on the street. Using the pebbles they found they used two pebbles to make a gold post and taking a small rounded pebble they flicked the pebble in an attempt to score goals. I loved the creativity and the use of free resources that the children used to entertain themselves.
I also casually noticed a young teen couple on an electric bike. The girl on the back quietly and subtlety smiling to herself, clearly enjoying the thrills of first love. Then they passed her friend on a bicycle and the teen’s friend shot her a bright smile and the young girlfriend couldn’t contain her joy. Blushing she covered her face and laughed a loud. I couldn’t help but smile at the lovely scene of innocent love.
After leaving the town I pulled over near Phong Nha and checked on my camera. Further ahead a high school girl on a bicycle came to a stop in preparation for a right turn down a steep a path to school. Before doing this she stopped to throw a second confused glance in my direction.
“What is a foreigner doing all the way out here at this time” she probably thought to her self.
Seeing this I gave a dramatic and friendly wave and despite the distance between I saw a flash of white as she smiled an waved back.
Ah vintage Vietnam.
After putting my camera away I rode into Phong Nha with dinner on my mind.
After parking my bike at my homestay I turned on my audio book and walked towards the Indian restaurant for a nice big meal for I was hungry. While I ate my meal I listen to my audio book Vietnam: A History by Stanley Karnow. Hands down one of the best books you can get about Vietnamese history.
After my meal I chatted with a nice family from France (a husband a wife and two kids) were stranded in Vietnam because of COVID but they seemed quite happy nonetheless. It merely gave them more time to explore Vietnam they said.
After speaking with the French family I met a young man from Israel. He was backpacking through South East Asia and was also caught in Vietnam. He was completely unconcerned he had savings and could teach English if he had to. We shared our travel adventures and he told me about a wonderful time when he was in Burma. He came across a small village and befriend the local children by playing soccer with them. After soccer one village girl led him by the hand to her home where her parents prepared a meal for him. The little girl’s cousin spoke a little English and eagerly practiced with him. He spent the night in the village rather than back in his hotel.
This was a genuine and fulfilling travel experience he would never forget. He barely remembered seeing the famous landmarks and sites. But he would never forget that little village.
I also told him about my experience in Laos where I came across a friendly village where poor but happy children befriended me. You can find more about the experience in this post: https://hunterthetravelingpanda.home.blog/2020/04/09/laos-friendly-village/
We also talked about both of our military experience. We both talked about the good memories and the friendships we had in the military. We also talked of the shitty times in the military and how happy we were to be civilians again. Apparently he and his platoon referred to their sergeant as “Hitler”.
That’s right an Israeli Jewish platoon calling their sergeant Hitler. That sergeant must have been an asshole of a sergeant. Eventually we wished each other safe travels and parted ways. On my way home I joined in on a game of badminton with some locals in the empty streets. After the game I returned to the homestay and fell asleep to the sound of crickets and the flowing river.
Phong Nha doesn’t need caves to be a great place. I will return again after the caves have reopened.