After an action packed few days on the motorcycle, the most southerly part of the Ho Chi Minh trail now awaited me on the final stretch of the motorcycle tour – this leg concluded the journey, heading up the trail from Kon Tum to stop off overnight at Kham Duc before arriving at Hoi An. The trail was the most important spinal network during the Vietnam War for the logistical transportation of Viet Cong troops, supplies and ammunition from the North to the South of Vietnam, with parts crossing over into nearby Laos and Cambodia. It was an area of supreme strategic and tactical importance and was therefore host to many bloody battles. Apart from the historical aspect of the trail, the landscape it cuts through is some of the most breath-taking in the world. The trail was originally quite compact, but its modernisation has led to the construction of long winding roads that cut through a the complex terrains. The next couple of days gave me a chance to see just what the jungle was about and ended up being the most enjoyable for cruising on the bike. The majority of time on both days was spent just taking in the sights and enjoying the bike ride.
As we moved on past Charlie Mountain and headed past the remains of a US airfield, the vegetation started to spring out at us more readily – the landscape was still trying to fight off the war remnants, and as we headed further out of Kon Tum towards Kham Duc, the scenery changed into thick forestry with the occasional beautiful waterfall, until finally becoming full grown jungle territory.
En route, the only main stop off we had in terms of culture, was a brief visit to the Ve Tribe. They had much more traditional housing, bungalow in appearance, but again on stilts. In contrast to what I’d seen so far, they were built widely rather than deep, with the main entrances to the side of the building. For them, the bull was central to their sacrificial ritual, and in similar vein to the Ba Na, sees the bull with great power and presence – a protector of their people.
Upon arrival at Kham Duc in the Quang Nam province, I was at complete ease with myself and was completely blown away by the scenery. It was the final night of dining with Mui as the following day would complete our 5-day journey to Hoi An, so we decided to have a few beers and rice wine to see off the night. At this point, having spent the last 4 days with Mui, we felt a good bonding between us and it was a shame that it was to end soon…
The final stretch between Kham Duc and Hoi An was quite a short affair with some final spectacular jungle foliage to cut through with some wide rampaging rivers to cross over.
Mui did his usual emergency stop when he spotted something interesting. One touching visit was to a farmer and his wife who had apparently built shelter in the middle of nowhere. Mui questioned why they were so isolated on their own, and we learnt that they ran away a couple of years ago in order to be together and start a family. The customs of their village forbade them from marriage; so daringly, they decided to start life elsewhere on their own. They haven’t been back since. As I was coming to terms that the trip in Vietnam was ending, Mui had one last trick up his sleeve. He took me into nearby Quy Thang to visit another temple – this time; it was of the Caoist religion. This is a modern day religion that attempts to combine world religions bringing together Buddhism, Christianity and Islam. Their core belief is for peaceful homogenisation – that all beings should be able to live and share the same space, irrelevant of beliefs and worship the god that they choose unchallenged. It was an interesting premise that was working here…
At Hoi An, it was time to say a fond farewell to Mui after an incredible journey. Although it had only been 5 days since we met, it seemed a long time ago that he wandered into the hostel in Da Lat to offer me his services. And I’m glad he convinced me…
Further Reading on Vietnam
Off Road Vietnam
Easy Riders – Motorcycle Tours of Vietnam
More Photography :
“The Photography Collection” by Antematters