Friday, March 3, 2017
Dien Bien Phu, Vietnam - mile 769
This post is from March 3, 2017.
We started off this morning to warmer and dryer weather at around 9 AM. We had to do about 19 miles to the border between Laos and Vietnam. The last 13 miles of those was a moderate but steady climb. You exit through Laotian immigration about 2 miles before the actual border and go through Vietnamese immigration about 2 miles after the border. The border itself where there used to be some sort of customs office is now a kind of no man's land. Everything is in ruins there.
As I neared the top of that 13 mile climb Ray had gone ahead to check things out. I was grinding away and breathing heavily nearing the top when I saw Ray biking downhill towards me yelling "They're going to close in 10 minutes you have to hurry up". It turns out that the customs and immigration offices close between 11 o'clock and 1 o'clock each day for lunch. We did not know this before hand but information like that is hard to come by in this part of the world, except for reading blogs like this one. In any case I did manage to get to the Laotian border control station at about 10:50. The process of stamping our visas to exit was fairly straightforward and we were done by 10:57. We asked the officer where did we go to enter Vietnam. He pointed in a vague direction which we eventually understood and we pedalled off after he said "you have two minutes". We were thinking that somehow it would be around the corner and we might make it by 11 o'clock Well, the Vietnamese immigration is about 4 miles away, so no amount of pedaling was going to get us there in two minutes.
During that 4 mile ride through no man's land we saw these signs:
Naturally, when we got to the Vietnamese customs house it was shut until 1 o'clock so we found a very small restaurant where we had some soup. There was a busload of students from Laos that were going on a three day holiday to Vietnam. We spent some of the remaining time until 1 o'clock resting and talking with them here are some photos of those moments:
When 1 o'clock came the people in the bus were polite enough to let Ray and I go first so we were done with our immigration into Vietnam and the check of our visas in about 10 minutes and quickly went through the security control gate. Right after that there was a small store where I was able to change my remaining Laotian money (Kip into Dong) into the Vietnamese dong currency. I also bought a Vietnamese SIM card for my IPhone so I now have a Vietnamese telephone number and I am able to do data here in Vietnam even without a Wi-Fi connection. The descent from the border to Dien Bien Phu looked very easy on the maps I have been looking at but the road was in terrible condition and I actually lost my computer sensor and hurt my panniers during that 15 km long rough dissent. The panniers have lost all their internal structure and are catching on my spokes. I need to somehow reinforce them before we continue. Here are some views during that descent. Note that the grade sign is in fact covered with thousands of bugs:
When we finally reached the valley floor we had about 10 miles of flat biking in this Dien Bien Phu valley in order to get to the city. These are some of the many views of massive rice fields we saw on that drive:
This is our location as of tonight: