Day 45.  18th February.  Hai Duong to Tuan Chau Island, Ha Long Bay. 95km.

We didn’t seem to have too many ill effects after cycling yesterday – 11 hours in bed may have helped! We set off through Hai Duong and found a prettier part of town as we made our way towards the bridge over the river.  We successfully found an ATM but were less successful in finding a large supermarket that might sell instant coffee (as opposed to the mixed packets of coffee, creamer and sugar that are ubiquitous here but to our taste disgusting).

At the bridge we had to filter on to the AH14 highway – a busy motorway-type road but with a wide shoulder and good road surface.  In fact we were on this for the next 20km. We were crossing the Red River delta heading eastwards so our route was defined by bridges over numerous rivers. We sped along the motorway, which wasn’t too busy, and ate up the Kms at a rate of about 20km an hour – fast for us and definitely much faster than when we started last month in Bangkok.

At last we turned off the motorway but we were still in industrial heartland, passing numerous belching factories along the river tributaries. The air quality was pretty unpleasant.  This is just as much ‘real’ Vietnam as the quaint alleyways of yesterday – every country has its industrial areas. When we buy something in the UK which is marked “Made in Vietnam”, these are the type of factories that are producing the goods.

Made in Vietnam

Towards the end of the morning we crossed the last river then turned South East along the side of some hills. It was still a main road but more of an ‘A’ road size, passing through towns.  In fact virtually the whole day was continuously inhabited as one town merged into the next.

After 60km we  reached Uong Bi where we sought out the Vietnam-Sweden friendship community hospital. There we found a small Emergency Department to ask if they could take out the sutures on my forehead as the 7 days were up.  We walked straight in (no problem with 4 hour waiting targets here) and it took David some explaining using google translate (and despite looking at his healing burns, we convinced them that no, he didn’t need a full check up). They wanted my passport, date of birth and numerous details about our trip including a permanent place of residence in Vietnam.  However, once they realised was that all we wanted was suture removal, I was whisked into a clinical room and they quickly removed the sutures in a sterile environment.  

There was no question of a formal “bill”.  We were told the cost was 500,00 VND (about £17.50).  The nurse insisted we pay him before leaving the room and he tucked the notes into his pocket before ushering us out of the department forthwith!  I suspect our visit remained unregistered and I hope the money was put towards their christmas party fund (or equivalent)! We really didn’t mind.  I was just very happy that it looked as if the nurses in Laos had done a good job with the suturing.

I have made an interesting observation which I think is a new symptom post-concussion.  I am thinking of writing it up as a case study for the Lancet with a cohort of one.  This is the symptom of Pizzaphilia – the urge to want to eat Pizza (and nothing else will quite do).  Neither of us have had much appetite since the accident but Pizza seems to have hit the spot.  Therefore, after the hospital visit, we found a Pizza place and had good cheesy Pizza.  It seems a scandal when the food in Vietnam is so fabulous.  There must be something about wanting home comfort food in times of stress.  Hopefully now we are almost fully recovered we will ditch Pizza and move on to Pho.

We had 30km to cover after lunch.  The road was tedious and we were tired and finding it hard going.  However, our fitness kicked in and kept our legs turning even when the rest of the body and mind wanted to stop.  The last section towards Halong Bay city turned into a 6 lane highway but at last we turned onto the bridge to Tuan Chau island, where we hope to get a ferry across Halong Bay to Cat Ba island tomorrow. 

We chugged the last few Kms across the island to check on the ferry times then found ourselves a small hotel – basic but clean. There seems to have been an explosion of building here in the last few years, but at the moment hardly any tourists.  We are off season for this part of Vietnam (as it is largely cloudy and relatively cool) but read that it gets packed in the summer. 

When we went out later to find something to eat there were virtually no restaurants open.  There was one large posh hotel doing and expensive buffet but we felt neither dressed for the occasion or that hungry. We walked to the end of the road and were pausing to turn round when suddenly I felt an arm round my shoulder pulling me away.  Luckily I did not karate chop my assailant – he was just pulling me away from standing under a coconut tree full of coconuts.  This is apparently a very dangerous thing to do with more people being killed each year by being hit by falling coconuts than being killed sharks.  I was jolly glad from being saved from that eventuality having just had my sutures removed!

As we wandered back wondering what we could find to eat, we passed a small  place that had filled with (local) people since we first passed it. They had put on a different buffet – a tin tray and selection of 6 or so dishes with a large dollop of steamed rice.  Perfect – just what we wanted for a 10th of the price! We could end the day replete after all. 

2 thoughts on “Day 45.  18th February.  Hai Duong to Tuan Chau Island, Ha Long Bay. 95km.

  1. Oh dear! We’ve only just caught up with the last week’s events. Glad you seem to be on the mend now. Keep all wounds clean and dry and avoid any more bangs to the head (even trivial ones) – but you know all this. Coincidentally I’ve just taken delivery of an ultra-lightweight tent made in Vietnam, perhaps made in one of those factories. P.S. I would have charged less than £17.50 for suture removal.

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