Vietnamese Highlands – A Motorcycle Journey – The Final Part – Kon Tum to Kham Duc and Hoi An

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.

Breakfast with Mui Ne - Kon Tum, Vietnam

Breakfast with Mui Ne – Kon Tum, Vietnam


Charlie Mountain - Kon Tum, Vietnam

Charlie Mountain – Kon Tum, Vietnam


War Memorial - Kon Tum, Vietnam

War Memorial – Kon Tum, Vietnam


Schoolkids with Guns - Memorial at Kon Tum, Vietnam

Schoolkids with Guns – Memorial at Kon Tum, Vietnam


Kon Tum Airstrip - Vietnam

Kon Tum Airstrip – Vietnam


Start of Ho Chi Minh Trail - Kon Tum, Vietnam

Start of Ho Chi Minh Trail – Kon Tum, Vietnam


Ho Chi Minh Trail Roadsign - Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh Trail Roadsign – Vietnam

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.

Ve Tribe Dwellings, Vietnam

Ve Tribe Dwellings, Vietnam


Ve Tribe Dwellings, Vietnam

Ve Tribe Dwellings, Vietnam


Interior of Ve Tribe Dwellings - Vietnam

Interior of Ve Tribe Dwellings – Vietnam


Bulls Skull - Ve Tribe, Vietnam

Bulls Skull – Ve Tribe, Vietnam


Interior of Ve Tribe Dwellings - Vietnam

Interior of Ve Tribe Dwellings – Vietnam


Ve Tribe Councilman Dwellings - Vietnam

Ve Tribe Councilman Dwellings – Vietnam


Ve Tribe Councilman - Vietnam

Ve Tribe Councilman – Vietnam


Children at Play - Ve Tribe, Vietnam

Children at Play – Ve Tribe, Vietnam


Twig Bridge - Ho Chi Minh Trail, Vietnam

Twig Bridge – Ho Chi Minh Trail, Vietnam


Wobbly Bridge - Ho Chi Minh Trail, Vietnam

Wobbly Bridge – Ho Chi Minh Trail, Vietnam


Schoolgirl Walking Home - Ho Chi Minh Trail, Vietnam

Schoolgirl Walking Home – Ho Chi Minh Trail, Vietnam


Restful Boy - Ho Chi Minh Trail, Vietnam

Restful Boy – Ho Chi Minh Trail, Vietnam


Hills of the Ho Chi Minh Trail - Vietnam

Hills of the Ho Chi Minh Trail – Vietnam


Farming along the Ho Chi Minh Trail - Vietnam

Farming along the Ho Chi Minh Trail – Vietnam


Smoky Invasion - Ho Chi Minh Trail, Vietnam

Smoky Invasion – Ho Chi Minh Trail, Vietnam


Jungle Post Agent Orange - Ho Chi Minh Trail, Vietnam

Jungle Post Agent Orange – Ho Chi Minh Trail, Vietnam


Ho Chi Minh Trail - Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh Trail – Vietnam


Rice Farming - Ho Chi Minh Trail, Vietnam

Rice Farming – Ho Chi Minh Trail, Vietnam


Hidden Waterfall - Ho Chi Minh Trail, Vietnam

Hidden Waterfall – Ho Chi Minh Trail, Vietnam


Modern Ho Chi Minh Trail - Vietnam

Modern Ho Chi Minh Trail – Vietnam


Peaceful Jungle - Ho Chi Minh Trail, Vietnam

Peaceful Jungle – Ho Chi Minh Trail, Vietnam


Jungle Canape - Ho Chi Minh Trail, Vietnam

Jungle Canape – Ho Chi Minh Trail, Vietnam


Jungle Valley - Ho Chi Minh Trail, Vietnam

Jungle Valley – Ho Chi Minh Trail, Vietnam


Local Kids of Kham Duc - Vietnam

Local Kids of Kham Duc – Vietnam


Woman Making Pancakes - Vietnam

Woman Making Pancakes – Vietnam

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.

River Cutting Through the Jungle - Vietnam

River Cutting Through the Jungle – Vietnam


Rapid River - Vietnam

Rapid River – Vietnam


Colourful River - Ho Chi Minh Trail, Vietnam

Colourful River – Ho Chi Minh Trail, Vietnam


Riverboats - Vietnam

Riverboats – Vietnam

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.

Isolated Family - Ho Chi Minh Trial, Vietnam

Isolated Family – Ho Chi Minh Trial, Vietnam

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…

Caoist Temple - Vietnam

Caoist Temple – Vietnam


The Three Saints of Caiosm - Vietnam

The Three Saints of Caiosm – Vietnam

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…

Mui and Me - Hoi An, Vietnam

Mui and Me – Hoi An, Vietnam

Further Reading on Vietnam

 
Off Road Vietnam
http://www.offroadvietnam.com/eng/13-45.php

Easy Riders – Motorcycle Tours of Vietnam
http://www.easy-riders.net/

Lonely Planet
http://www.lonelyplanet.com/vietnam/central-vietnam/history

More Photography :

 
“The Photography Collection” by Antematters

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