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E-bike expedition part 4 Vietnam - Online diary 2016-2017

Nightmare – brake failure, boiled eggs and smelly water

N 18°32'08.4'' E 105°25'54.5''
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    17.11.2016 until 24.11.2016

    Day: 510 – 517


    Hà Tĩnh

    Pho Chau

    Latitude N:

    Longitude E:

    Daily kilometers:
    65 km

    Total kilometers:
    20,792 km

    Soil condition:

    Maximum height:
    120 m

    Total altitude meters:
    57.005 m

    06:05 am – 06:09 am

    5:20 pm – 5:19 pm

    Temperature day max:

(Photos of the diary entry can be found at the end of the text).


My body is boiling hot as I notice the sudden failure of both brakes during a steep descent. That’s it, it goes through my head. It’s too late to jump off, as my speedometer is already showing 50 km/h. The next hairpin bend races towards me. 60 km/h, the speedometer display scares me. The trees fly past me to the left and right. I approach the next right-hand bend from the far left-hand side of the road. I put my heavily laden bike inside with great concentration. 70 km/h. Ajaci’s trailer begins to dance. Whhhouuuu!” he begins to howl like a wolf. Then follows a left-hand bend. The bike shoots through like a rocket. Whhhouuu! Whhhouuuu!, it howls behind me. My front wheel starts to wobble. A concrete ditch appears to my right. It is still going down steeply. I should have jumped off at 50 km/h, a thought chases through my brain. “Oh no!” The centrifugal forces push my bike off the asphalt and into the ditch. It shakes me hard, then the tires thunder over a small rock. The fact that the trailer has not yet tipped over is nothing short of a miracle. Suddenly the moat comes to an end. My Roadtrain shoots up into the air over a brick ramp from the man-made concrete depression. We’re flying, I think, as we land in a cornfield. I’m still sitting on the trestle, cutting a path through the field with the aluminum vehicle. Corn cobs fly around my ears and leaves slap me painfully in the face. Whhhouuu! Whhhouuuu!, howls my dog excitedly as he is tossed back and forth in his trailer. The speed of my hellish ride slows down and after 500 meters I come to a halt. I look around and see the long swath of desolation in the cornfield. Wildly shouting farmers race towards us in a rage. Their raised sticks scare me. Suffering from the consequences of the terrible fall, I am paralyzed and can’t move. The first farmer is already there. He shouts at me, raises his heavy stick and strikes. “Ahhhh,” I roar in pain. “What is it?” I hear a familiar voice. “Ahhhh,” I yell in horror in response. “Denis! Denis! Wake up, you were dreaming,” Tanja brings me back to the pretty hotel room where we checked in last night.

Still suffering from the influence of my nightmare, we sit in the terribly uncomfortable dining room at breakfast. Hai, the manager, takes a seat at our table and keeps us company. “You absolutely have to see our hot springs,” he advises. “Is this really something special?” I ask, because we actually want to drive on and haven’t read about this place in any travel guides or on the internet. “Yes, very special. Many Vietnamese come to us specifically because of the hot springs. They are a tourist magnet, the mineral-rich water is very healthy and you can even boil eggs in it. I can take you there if you want.” “Can’t we go there by bike?” asks Tanja. “The springs are in the mountains. Getting up there is very strenuous. You’d better hire our four-wheeler. I’ll give you a good price,” he offers, which is why two hours later we’re sitting in the car being chased along the narrow roads by a crazy kamikaze driver. “And where are the mountains here?” I ask Tanja. “Strange, maybe they’ll come,” she replies.

After we reach the village, the altimeter on my watch reads 70 meters above sea level. “Ha, ha, ha, that really is a joke. We could have done that in our sleep with our bikes,” I say. As I don’t want to embarrass Hai, I hold back and wonder about his idiosyncratic height estimation. We enter a simple, flat building, scarred by the monsoon weather. A few Vietnamese play cards, otherwise there is not a single tourist. “They only come in the high season,” explains Hai. Then we buy four raw eggs for 40,000 dong, four times the retail price. Hai also buys a few eggs and leads us to the river on whose banks the hot springs are said to come out of the ground. “The last time I was here, they were still here,” says Hai, after 20 minutes of searching along the riverbank. “And where are they now?” I ask with interest. “The river is in flood. They’re probably under the water now. Look, there’s a little hut there. The spring water is pumped out of the ground and fed into the house.” “Is that the bathhouse?” Tanja wants to know. “No, the mineral-rich water is bottled there to be sold later. I pull out my camera to take a few pictures of the primitive bottling plant and the workers. As soon as I raise the camera to my eye, the workers wave it away energetically. “No photography allowed!”, we understand. Strange, it goes through my head. “Would you like to boil the eggs in the spring water now?” asks Hai. “Sure, but I thought the spring was in the river because of the flood?” “One of the workers will open a tap on the pipe. We can then boil the eggs under the water flowing out.” “Very special,” I whisper to Tanja. We wait on the bank next to a group of dozing water buffalo until the worker arrives. I raise my camera again to take a picture of the boys. They also seem to have something against being photographed, because they jump up, lower their horned heavy heads and seem to want to threaten me. Well, not then, I think to myself and run back to Tanja. “Denis, they’re attacking!” she warns me. I turn around in a flash, reach into the sand and hurl it at the first buffalo. Puzzled, he stops. Attack is the best defense, it goes through my head, and now I run towards the water buffalo. In panic, they break off their attack and all rush into the river. “Ha! Ha! Ha!” I triumph, rejoicing in my success.

In the meantime, the worker has arrived. He opens the tap and boiling hot water pours onto our eggs, which are in a raffia basket underneath. 10 minutes later, Hai shows us how to slurp the almost raw eggs out of the shell. “It’s very healthy. A friend of mine once slurped up 15 eggs in one go.” Because we are aware of the risk of salmonella poisoning from raw eggs, we put them under the steaming water jet again. Then we sit with Hai on a large pebble to eat them. “But now we should take a bath,” Hai suggests and enters the flat building with us. Each guest is allocated a small, ugly, white-tiled room. Tanja and I take one together, undress, hang our clothes on a rusty hook, shower off with water that smells of eggs and get into a large bathtub. We now sit and sweat in the sulphurous hot water from the belly of Mother Earth. My gaze glides through the dingy bathroom. Dull light falls through a windowless hole. “Wellness in Vietnamese,” says Tanja with amusement. “Hm, and that’s why we stayed an extra day,” I reply. “What the heck. It’s another bizarre travel experience.” “That’s right, that’s another thing that makes life interesting and unforgettable,” I reply with a laugh.

Because the monsoon rains are drowning the land, there is no question of setting off. As a result, we spend eight days as almost the only guests in the huge resort. When the rain lets up a little, we go for a walk in the beautifully landscaped park with its small lakes. Numerous birds flutter around in oversized bird cages and peacocks do their cartwheels. Three monkeys live out their lives in a cage that is far too small and an alligator vegetates in a fenced-in pond.

As always, Ajaci is the absolute favorite of all employees. Hai reduces the room rate so that we can stay even longer. When he found out that we had appeared in a few promotional films for the Nature Lodge in Mai Chau, he got a film camera and shot an interview with us to promote his hotel complex. A large wedding with a thousand guests is taking place at the weekend. Events are the business of the resort in the low season. According to Hai, hundreds of guests bustle around the resort in summer, even on weekdays. One reason why swimming pools and buildings continue to be built. Hai invites us to a tasty dinner and tells us about his life as a manager far away from his family. Then he has to go on a business trip to Thailand for a week, which is why we are alone with the employees. Except for one evening, when we meet an abandoned tourist in the large dining room who greets us happily and invites us to join him at the table. Mario, who crosses Vietnam on a moped, also has an interesting life story and tells how he made his way from Croatia to London, worked a lot there, built up a company, became rich, sold the company before he burned out completely, moved to Madrid and now, as a 38-year-old man, has enough money to never have to work again…

If you would like to find out more about our adventures, you can find our books under this link.

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