In search of new routes for mountain tours I recently headed to the north east province of Cao Bang from Hanoi on a solo ride clocking 820km over four days unsupported. In terms of packing, I stuffed a saddle bag with a t shirt and shorts and used a little top tube bag for spares.

The Sony RX100 was out of action, so I relied on an iPhone 4 and 5S (I carry a spare phone when I ride long distances solo). Here are some phone shots from the road….
 The informal taxi service on the road between one of the five passes that lead to Cao Bang city


The informal taxi service on the road between two of the five passes that lead to Cao Bang city. This day was a 270km monster.

It takes an hour to make each blade

Not far from the city of Cao Bang is a village that specialises in making knives. It takes an hour to make each blade

 

I had hoped to make a loop out to the waterfall but the road I tested turned out to be almost unridable on a roadie. That was a shame as the river it follows features these beautiful water wheels used to provide irrigation for the rice paddies.

I had hoped to make a loop out to the waterfall but the road I tested turned out to be almost unridable on a roadie. That was a shame as the river it follows features these beautiful water wheels and plenty more great views.

This is the Thac Ban Gioc waterfall and that's China on the other side of the river.

This is the Thac Ban Gioc waterfall and that’s China on the other side of the river. This was the first long ride for the Cannondale Evo Hi Mod and the Reynolds Assaults and it did not disappoint . I am now deeply in love with this pairing.

I had spent the week before this ride at my desk writing words and selecting photos for Vietnam's new national tourism campaign. Naturally, I wrote a lot of gushing words about how brilliant Vietnam is. Half way into this day's 200km ride I was eating some crisps when this gentleman who sold them to me invited me into his house to share lunch with his wife and 8 year old daughter. This, after riding through some of the most awesome scenery imaginable. Nice to be reminded, again, why I love living here and why I am happy to write gushing words for tourism campaigns.

I had spent the week before this ride at my desk writing words and selecting photos for Vietnam’s new national tourism campaign.
Naturally, I wrote a lot of gushing words about how brilliant Vietnam is. Half way into this day’s 200km ride I was eating some crisps when this gentleman who sold them to me invited me into his house to share lunch with his wife and 8 year old daughter.
This, after riding through some of the most awesome scenery imaginable.
Nice to be reminded, again, why I love living here and why I am happy to write gushing words for tourism campaigns.

 Chinese script hangs from the door frames of most houses in this area and a mirror is hung above the entrance


Taoist script hangs from the door frames of most houses in this area and a mirror is hung above the entrance

Pho noodle soup is taken to a whole new level in Cao Bang, where the duck variety comes with a helping of pork belly and the crispiest crackling known to man

Pho noodle soup is taken to a whole new level in Cao Bang, where the duck variety comes with a helping of pork belly and the crispiest crackling known to man

On day three I put in 220km and plenty of climbing including what might now be my favourite stretch of road in the land. Someone recently told me the human eye can distinguish more shades of green than any other colour. I'm not sure that's true, but Cao Bang is probably the best place on the world to test the theory.... just look at the greens on that hillside!

On day three I put in 220km and plenty of climbing including what might now be my favourite stretch of road in the land. Someone recently told me the human eye can distinguish more shades of green than any other colour. I’m not sure that’s true, but Cao Bang is probably the best place on the world to test the theory…. just look at the greens on that hillside!

When I took this photo I made a note to remember the incredible noise coming out of the forest - a chorus of insects created an intense buzz backed up with tens of different birdsongs and the gentle knocking of wooden buffalo bells. I stopped to enjoy it.... and also get some energy back in the legs for the steep climb that was up ahead

When I took this photo I made a note to remember the incredible noise coming out of the forest – a chorus of insects created an intense buzz backed up with tens of different birdsongs and the gentle knocking of wooden buffalo bells. I stopped to enjoy it…. and also get some energy back in the legs for the steep climb that was up ahead

This road was mine, all mine!

This road was mine, all mine!