And so I took that 2 day boat ride up the Nam Ou river to the town of Muang Khua, close to the Chinese and Vietnamese borders. The road to Vietnam would be classed as a dirt track in most other countries, but here in Laos it was labelled as a secondary road. The scenic 80KM journey through jungle took almost 2 days to cycle. But once I got over the the hilltop border post into Vietnam, it was 500KMs of asphalt to Hanoi.
When you take just the briefest glimpse at the history of Vietnam, it gives up an indication of the strenght of these amazing people. Although physically they are probably some of the smallest people I've come across, they are a people of great heart and patricism. Throughout history, anyone who picked a fight with these people, got their ass severly kicked. The Mongols back in the 1300's may have taken everything from Mongloia to North Africa, but there was no getting through the region where Vietnam now stands. The Chinese had an unsuccessful go at Vietnam in 1979. It was the Vietnamese who overthrew Polpot and the Khmer Rouge when the U.N. and the rest of the western world turned its back on the Cambodian killing fields. And when the mighty arm of the U.S. with the support of the Australias, Kiwis, Thai and Koreans marched into the Vietnam war, they were chucked out of therre in such a panic, that you can still see the remains of U.S. military equipment throughout the country. There are abandoned tanks at major roundabouts and junctions and theres still U.S. army trucks hauling timber on the roads here. The Vietnamese have never started a war but they have finished many. The French were about the only nation to gain hold of Vietnam when they colonised here in the 19th century. But ultimately Vietnam gained independence in 1954. What a history! What a country! What a way to finish Asia.
With just over 17000KMs cycled, I pedalled into Hanoi on the doorstep of the Pacific Ocean. In doing so, I completed stage 3 of GCR. 2 continents cycled and I now only plan to cycle 1 more (North America). Its been a great adventure to date. Slowly passing through different countries. The thousands of smiles and waves and Hellos (not forgetting the occasional roadside round of applause in Iran). Watching peoples' features gradually change from our fair Irish complexion to the lovely Vietnamese family who this evening invited me into their homefor food and a bed for the night. Throughout Asia, whether I've greeted with a handshake or some guy holding a machine gun, I've always smiled and said a welcoming Hello. And the reply has been almost always the same. Its been friendly.