I tried again and again at other shops, restaurants and street vendors. Every time I got opposed with similar reactions. Nobody let me enter his shop let alone wanted to sell me any food. Being confronted with such reactions only because I looked different than the locals triggered a mixture of feelings inside of me. First I got irritated and nervous but also mad the more I got refused and was yelled at. I felt like an alien which the people seemed to rather let starve instead of selling some food so that I could simply leave their country.
I tried to keep a cool head but was anxious on the inside since I didn't know when and where to get food again. I hoped it would be in Laos at the latest and tried to think about out my options right now. My only reasonable idea was to ration the little food I had until I'd reach Laos. I checked my panniers and found half a package of crackers and two oranges.
With an empty stomach I pushed my bicycle slowly up the steep mountain road to Nam Phao International Checkpoint.
I reassembled my bicycle the next morning and started to explore the city. Since I just came from Oman, where was barely any traffic, Hanoi was another story. The streets were crowded with scooters. At first it seemed chaotic but I quickly realized that it was actually quite well organized and the traffic was always flowing. Cycling between the scooter masses and with the traffic stream turned out to be a lot of fun.
A few days later I pedaled out of Ha Giang and followed a river. The road was flat and I wondered why everyone said that it would be a hard ride. It didn't take long to realize why! The road turned into a steep and windy mountain road. I slowly pushed my bike uphill. The Exertion made me do ugly grimaces. :D
It took me six days to make it around the loop via Dong Van, Meo Vac and then alongside the Gam River back to Ha Giang. Without the help of some motorbike drivers it would have taken me longer. It occurred three times that I got towed to the top of the next mountain or town. I found myself often sitting knackered on the side of the road and wondered why I was doing this to myself. But whenever I reached the next peak or view point I got rewarded with spectacular views and immediately forgot about the pain until I faced the next slope. Some views were that spectacular that I got goosebumps.
The hostel owner, as well as some other small business owners, told me that about 90 percent of tourists in Ha Long come from China but since they were not allowed to enter the country anymore the city and their businesses were besically dead.
A guest house manager and I already agreed on the price for one night but then he changed his mind and said that he can't accept me as a guest due to Covid. I was a bit puzzled since just a few seconds earlier everything was fine. I crossed the street and checked into another guest house for the night. The owner, an elderly lady, seemed happy to have me as her customer.
It got already dark as I finally found a small home stay that was willing to host me. The young lady asked me for how long I was already in Vietnam. As she realized that I was already for a while in the country she said: "I think you can stay here but I also need to convince my mum. She's afraid of the virus." A few minutes later they showed me my room.
"Can you please not leave the room tonight anymore?" asked the young lady. "Officially we're not allowed to accept any guests right now due to the virus and we don't want to get in trouble with the authorities if a neighbor sees you and reports it."
I assured to stay inside. "But I also need something for dinner."
"We'll cook and give you something", she said. "Oh, and one more thing. You also have to leave before eight tomorrow morning."
A little bit later she brought me a tray with a home cooked meal. Hiding in a room didn't feel good at all and now I got nervous how traveling on a bicycle would go in future.
I thanked the home stay family for taking me in and left early the next morning. From now on more and more people covered their mouth and nose with their hands and turned their backs at me when they saw me coming down the street. Kids pointed at me and shouted: "Corona, Corona". The more often I was confronted with such reactions the more I didn't feel welcomed anymore in Vietnam. Thus I cycled from sunrise to sunset the following days to cover as many kilometers as possible to make it out of the country in hope the situation would be calmer in Laos.
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Interview mit dem shz - Weltreise mit dem Fahrrad: Christopher Fritze aus Schafflund sitzt seit neun Monaten in Laos fest
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