Nhat Ky Xe Day 4: Son La -> Dien Bien Phu Approx. 150km
After a good sleep, we left early. The rain began falling soon after, although it wasn’t heavy. We hit some muddy bits of road early in the day but the conditions were generally good. In the late afternoon the rain let up, the sun came out and the roads began to dry.
We were feeling good and started taking the turns a bit faster. Just as I was pulling out of a particularly sharp one, I heard that gut-wrenching sound of plastic smashing againt asphalt and turned to see that Michael had dumped his bike in the middle of the turn. He tumbled a little bit but he and the bike got right back up with only minor injuries (scraped up leg and arms, sore hip, bent pegs, crooked handlebars, cracked thingy). Since we were only a couple km’s past the last town, we decided to go back briefly to borrow some tools and bend a few things back to normal.
A few hours later, we hit a temporary road-block due to some construction going on. Several dozen people were waiting with their vehicles (trucks, motorbikes and some fellow tourists in a land rover) to be let through. After 15 minutes or so, they let all the motorbikes go, causing a wild, honking, mad-dash down the hill. In the chaos, Michael scored a flat tire.
He waited by the road while I went ahead to find some kind of solution. Luckily, only a couple km’s up the road I spotted a moto-repair shack. It took a few minutes of skillful pantomime and highly technical diagrams to explain that my friend up the road had a flat tire. They kept looking at the tires on my bike and shrugging. Finally I got the point across and the mechanic climbed onto the back my bike with a new innertube and some tools. 15 minutes and $2 later we were back on the road for the last 8km to Dien Bien Phu.
Dien Bien Phu (a small city just minutes from the Laos border) is a historically important spot as it is the site of a crucial battle against the French which marked a turning point in Vietnam’s history as an independent nation. Wikipedia has got the details. There are plenty of monuments, a couple cemetaries (one of which Hiep designed!), and a museum, but we were too tired to visit any of them. Instead, we found a hotel and food and slept. The next day was to be our longest leg yet.