Another long day. The morning started out as we expected: more of the loud dirty road heading for Hanoi. We were not really sure when the traffic would thin out, but it was not until we passed by the airport that things finally quieted down. Then the road got a bit bumpy, so our speed dropped down a bit to save our butts some pain. Merry and Scott were riding mountain bike tires, but they also had about 65psi, so the ride was pretty bumpy all around.
Up until this point, we had mostly ridden national highways. However, in order to try to avoid accidents and lung cancer, we came up with a route that meandered a bit to the north before catching provincial route 293 into HaLong. We could not find the first turn out of Yen Phong and ended up spending the better part of the afternoon trying to get ourselves out of the mess.
Not to be stubborn, we asked for directions many times. At every corner there was always someone eager to interpret our map and point us in the right direction. The first woman seem to suggest that we take the second left and later a right. Coming off of a narrow tar road, the only turn-offs were dirt paths that looked unfit for most vehicles. We tried the second one and found ourselves in some mini village on the way to nowhere. There, someone advised we go back and take the first right. However, there was no other right, so we went back and took the next left which looked promising. This led us past a cool temple and another friendly man who encouraged us to continue onward. Up a crazy brick road and down some alleys, we found ourselves - - - right back in the same mini village in the middle of nowhere. Embarrassed, we just kept riding through and next made it to a huge river. Realizing there would not be a bridge across this river at the critical moment, we made a back-tracking move along the river and back toward the main road.
Along the way, we became quite tired and frustrated, but at the same time we got to see a crazy side of Vietnam that we had not previously seen. At one point we stopped along a grassy area and tried to take a quiet break but were mauled by schoolboys. Later, as we contemplated our next move, we were molested by old women. However, as always, the people at the lunch stops, and the people at random intersections, and even people working along the road were all more than friendly. These people helped us through our tired day.
Resigned, we headed back for the main road as we passed through Bach Ninh and got on 18. To our surprise, route 18 was a newly paved masterpiece with shoulders wide enough for three bikes. We kicked it into high gear and made the last 40km in no time. Despite our challenges, we managed to average over 22kmh leaving us with less than 100km to HaLong tomorrow.