Been following a couple Vietnam RRs on this site, which has inspired me to finish this RR. If Vietnam is overdone on this site it's for a reason -- spectacular country and great riding -- and I for one never get tired of seeing reports from there.
The day after visiting Phong Na we rode through the World Heritage Khe Bang national park, 230 km to Khe Sanh. One road in, from the north, with a checkpoint. Despite its status as a park, entry is strictly limited, I'm told, but our trip leaders Digby and Mark have obtained permits.
A leg of the original HoChi Minh trail runs from inside the park, across the border to Laos -- the 'cobblestone' paving is always a tell-tale. We rode up it for a ways before turning back. I was on the Lao side on this part of the trail in '08. This east-west leg crosses Ban Laboy ford on the Lao side before joining up with the main north-south trail in Laos. For those of you who follow Vietnam War history, Ban Laboy was where Lance Sijan was shot down.
Quick photo-op before rejoining the main north-south highway.
Approx. 230 km to Khe Sanh and we did not pass an oncoming vehicle the whole way -- the whole day. The first vehicle I saw all day (other than our own) was just a couple km before reaching Khe Sanh. That's because the park is basically closed from the north. Beautiful cement slab road. Up and over three mountain passes, countless curves, through pristine jungle. A couple years ago some scientists "discovered" the world's largest cave here, Son Doong cave, which is 5 times bigger than Phong Na cave and is believed to run under the border to Laos. I heard they flew over it and saw the jungle 'breathing' from air rushing out of the cave mouth. Of course, it was known to locals who reportedly didn't venture in because of a strange constant whistling from the cave mouth, caused by a raging underground river.
Pit stop to repair one of the bikes:
Empty highway all to ourselves:
After the first hour we spread out pretty far apart so that for long stretches, we were riding by ourselves.
Later in the afternoon, we started to pass villages and fields, but still no other vehicles.=:
Entering Khe Sanh: