The morning drive was misty and wet, as most mornings in the north tended to be, and it added a mystical feeling on the road. We were driving away from Ninh Binh through the limestone hills and tiny villages clustered at the base of the towering rock formations. We turned onto the Ho Chi Minh Trail, which would be our main route for most of the trip. This highway was much more manageable with just two lanes, much fewer trucks and buses, and the most incredible scenery to break up the monotony of the road. We dipped in and out of rural towns, followed by long stretches of rice fields and people in the cone shaped hats wading through the water to tend to the fields and the water buffalo. We crossed over rivers, zoomed past rich green patches of farming, and waved to all the school children on the street that smiled and shouted in excitement when they saw us. Even the animals seemed to be in good spirits as I saw a baby buffalo prance and skip down the road to catch up with its family.
We stopped for lunch in a town called Yen Cat, a bit bigger than the villages we’d passed with only a few houses and a mechanic, but there still wasn’t much going on. We pushed onwards to the next town of decent size 55km away, Thai Hoa.
After seeing the slim pickings in Yen Cat, I was worried we’d end up staying in some pretty questionable accommodation. I pulled over at the first guest house in town and had to interrupt the “manager” at the family dinner table in order to view the room. Thankfully, we cruised around the area for a bit and stumbled upon a much larger town that wasn’t even on Google maps. There were plenty of hotels and restaurants to satisfy our needs for the evening. We enjoyed some local “bun ga”, which is a soup with thick noodles and chicken, watched some “Better Call Saul” and planned for the next day’s drive.