Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, is a much quieter place than Ho Chi Minh City. It is home to about three
million people. Tourists generally get a view of the Old Quarter, the area on the north side of Hoan Kiem lake.
I spent much of my time here wandering the 36 shopping streets (derived from 36 guilds which set up shop on different
I was also amazed at the pace of development in Hanoi. A mall (the first of it's kind, I believe) had recently opened up.
Among other things, it included a grocery store complete with bar codes (but sans Snickers bars), a couple of electronics
stores, a Pierre Cardin store, ATM machine, and a piano! By the time I left Hanoi two weeks later, three new stores had
openend up, two had moved, and the grocery store had started carrying Snickers bars.
Before I left Hanoi, I made sure to send out a second note to my list, letting them know about my
The ride out to Hoa Binh was fairly uneventful, though getting out of Hanoi was a bit of a trick. It was here that I ended up
being invited to a business dinner where I ate fish soup. It turns out that fish soup also contains pig brain. Go figure. The follow day's ride to
the rice farming village of Pom Coong just outside of Mai Chau was the most challenging, and most beautiful ride of my trip.
Suffice it to say that when you're cycling through mountains, there are few sections of the ride places to rest your entire
I spent two days in Pom Coong, where I inadvertently ended up staying with the woman featured on the bottom right of page 272
in the Lonely Planet Vietnam guide and her family. It was a great stay. Since the power went out, we were unable to watch
World Cup action, so instead they asked me to sing some songs by candlelight. We spent the next hour trading music.
Mai Chau and the surrounding villages rest in a valley of rice fields and are surrounded by a broken ring of mountains. In the
morning, those mountains are shrouded in low-hanging clouds and mist. If only I could have adequately caught it on camera. If you
ever visit Vietnam, be sure to go there and experience the views and kindness of the people yourself.
After I left Mai Chau, I spent two relatively uneventful days bicycling my way back to Hanoi. These were my last days of cycling, as I would spend
the next few days on a tour of Ha Long Bay.
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