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  • Writer's pictureEliane Bowden

Turns Out, Paradise is Noisy

Day 2: Pù Luông - Mộc Châu (126 km) Day 3: Mộc Châu - Sơn La (122 km)

Rice fields and little fires everywhere greeted us in the morning. We woke up at 5:45 AM to see the sun start to creep over the mountains and illuminate the valley. To our surprise, fires were already lit throughout the countryside, resulting from the burning of biowaste and trash. We have come to realize that many of the “breathtaking views” we would witness during the rest of our motorcycle journey would be seen through a haze of smoke.

Hopeful that today would be better than yesterday, we packed our bags and headed out in search of breakfast. Despite the hazy skies, our journey back down the mountain from our home stay was truly stunning. Jared found a great roadside restaurant on the way to our next destination, and we dined on beef pho overlooking some more rice fields. In celebration of women’s day, two of the servers presented me with some flowers!

Feeling confident and well fed, we ventured off the main road after breakfast in search of a cave in the nearby area. As we putted further into the countryside, a familiar deterioration of road conditions followed us. Smooth pavement became broken pavement, which then became chunks of pavement and rock, and even that became just dirt. After being shooed away from a household (after following some pointed arrows, no less), and following a steep gravelly incline, we were ready to abandon our quest, but a local gestured that we need only to continue on this path and around the corner. We assumed he meant that this path would pop us out… somewhere better than here? Taking the local’s advice, we continued up the path only to find out that the road, now really just shards of rock glued together, became thick red mud, deeply grooved in some areas from truck tires, and ended in a complete dead end. The road literally stopped because they hadn’t yet built it and were in the process of logging the area. Finally a passing worker motioned for us to turn around, as if that wasn’t clear enough already.

Sweating furiously in the 30° heat and damp humidity, already shaken from an earlier incident that morning where I nearly lost the bike by throttling it while standing, I could feel my second meltdown incoming at the thought of having to turn my thousand pound bike around on this narrow track and make it back down the way we came. Images of getting stuck in the red clay mud and going over my handlebars replayed in my mind.

Lucky for me I came prepared with my very own Jared, who helped me turn my bike around. Unfortunately he couldn’t ride my bike for me, so I adopted a new mantra that I repeated the entire way back to the main road, and would recommend to anyone in a similar situation: keep your shit together. I was indeed able to keep my shit together enough to make it the rest of the way to Mộc Châu. Needless to say, we did not keep looking for the cave.

Gratefully, the rest of our drive was smooth, if not a little tiresome as we adjusted to yet another aspect of Vietnamese driving: their insane four-wheeled drivers. Here are some of the things we encountered on the main roads:

  • Truck drivers don’t give a flying f*ck about literally any other vehicle on the road

  • Cars will pass cars already passing motorbikes

  • Trucks and cars will enter into oncoming traffic lanes even if that means coming within a feet of you in order to pass another vehicle.

  • Trucks don’t really bother to slow down on corners

  • Trucks and cars will drive in the centre of the road pretty much no matter what

  • Solid yellow lines mean absolutely nothing to anybody

  • Actually, almost no traffic laws mean anything to anybody

Anyways, we arrived in one piece to our interestingly decorated home stay in Mộc Châu. After one of the best instant ramen dishes of my life, we retired up to our room, which happened to be a bungalow or “treehouse” at the very top of the hill overlooking the surrounding areas, to enjoy what we thought would be some peace and quiet. However, not pictured in the photo gallery on, was that the hotel actually looked out immediately upon an industrial farmland. And so the sounds of cattle, pigs, roosters, industrial machinery, and trucks rattling past on the road below floated up to meet us. As dusk fell, I sat out on the balcony and watched a group of locals play volleyball in a cement courtyard across the road below, slowly coming to terms with the reality of our next two weeks: we’re really doing this motorcycle thing!

1 Comment

Chris Davis
Chris Davis
Oct 30, 2023

Your own personal Jared 😆

Keep your shit together is a very practical and useful mantra.

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