16th April 2011, Saturday
Our last day on the road! Route 32 remains spectacular for the first half of the day. Around midday we enter the province of Phu To. I’ve driven through this province, bordering Hanoi in the north-western corner, several times. Large parts of it are urban and ugly. But today we drive through the southern part of the province and it’s almost as lovely and mountainous as Yen Bai. Rice fields give way to tea terraces. Tea in Vietnam is grown mostly on hill slopes and in small lots; the plants themselves are no more than 30 cm high.
|A rice and tea farmhouse|
|Tea terraces in Phu To|
|A church - a clear indicator that we are entering the Red River plains|
In the afternoon everything changes:
About 150 kilometres out of Hanoi traffic increases and trucks and busses start driving aggressively. The honking begins and people drive as if they were blind. The Hanoi conurbation is getting closer. About 100 kilometres out we cross the Da River, shortly before it flows into the Red River, and enter Hanoi province – despite the worsening traffic there is one last respite ahead: the arterial road we are taking into Hanoi from the north-west passes through the still largely rural district of Son Tay. It lies close to the national park and mountain of Ba Vi. A mountain with mythohistorical relevance, somehow like a Vietnamese Mt. Olympus. The road turns out to be one of the most scenic ones in Hanoi province. It goes relatively straight though flat country; with the Red River dike to your left and green rice fields to the right.
|The fertile fields of Ha Noi|
|On the dike|
|Red River - the Mother River|
|There are worse ways to transport a pig ...|
The good quality and size of this road is probably due to a now abandoned relocation and construction plan by Vietnam’s central government. In the last years they made plans to relocate almost all the government buildings (ministries, departments, etc.) to this far of district. And off course that would necessitate quick access from the “new” capital to the centre of the “old”. Fortunately these plans were scrapped – what has been left are plans to relocate several of Hanoi’s universities to this spot. The road is already there.
Unfortunately about 50 kilometres out even that short reprieve ends and we are back in the thick of it.
After exactly 1.375 kilometres we are back home.
|Map of the routes I've driven in Tonkin / Northern Vietnam|