Platypus Highlander Ride 2019

Hanoi to Hoi An via Luang Prabang and the Plain of Jars (Laos)

Written by: Bob Greer (Platypus member) and rider on the trip.

Six Highlanders flew out from Scotland to join 4 Aussies for Platypus charity ride no 12. The Scots had not been in this neck of the woods before and everyone looked forward to 2500km of some of the best scenery and riding the region has to offer.

Day 1 provided a highlight of not only this ride but all 11 previous trips. Firstly, the scenery was superb, especially the views of the Black River, now part of a hydro-electric scheme that has created spectacular scenery over a wide area.
We were to stage the Great International Challenge: Our Highland dancers vs the White Thai traditional dancers. We had previously always enjoyed the Thai dancing but were unable to respond, but this time we let it be known we would reveal our secret weapon and what a roaring success it was.

It must be said the young Thai ladies were superb but were outclassed by our team, light as feathers on their feet despite there being no sign of malnutrition among their number! It was fabulous fun with Dance Master Andy Blackie instructing the young ladies in the intricacies of dance.

There were no injuries on the night and hopefully the young ladies are not scarred by the experience of being flung about by some (very) large dancers.
The locals thoroughly enjoyed themselves but were a bit baffled by the whole process and of course their few English lessons left them unprepared for the strange tongue spoken on the night – they were as confused as us Aussie riders. But gee, it was fun.

The next day saw us in Laos for 6 days, including a rest day in Luang Prabang, the last royal capital of Laos. A visit to Kuangsi Waterfall provided opportunity for swimming and rides on elephants before departing for Phonsavan to visit the Plain of Jars, one of the old mysteries of the region. We also took in large numbers of bomb casings displayed at pubs and coffee shops around the city. This was Air America territory during the war and very much part of the action that made Laos the most heavily bombed country per capita in history. Luckily they were neutral or it could have been worse.

At our overnight stop in Vieng Thong it was necessary to help Michael Beveridge celebrate – he was foolish enough to have his birthday that day. It cost him dearly but a good evening was had by all although the villagers were bewildered at the Highland Games and dancing that took place. Michael survived and was presented with a miniature motorcycle model by Cuong Dong Minh (Koony) – our ever-thoughtful Hanoi ride partner.

Back in Vietnam, we visited the magnificent Phong Nha caves, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a place well worth visiting.
The next day saw us on the Ho Chi Minh Trail on fine roads through forests where the USAF had desperately sought enemy trails heading south, until we reached Khe Sanh, another war theatre that has a small museum dedicated to the bloody battle that took place there.

Day 11 took us to Vinh Moc, where a small village moved underground when danger approached in the form of naval shelling, heavy artillery fire or aerial bombing. It was a revealing look at the toughness of the Central Highlanders – not the sort of people you would wish to pick a fight with. We finished the day in Hue, the last imperial capital city.

The next day permitted sightseeing around Hue until midday, when we left for Danang via the spectacular Hai Van Pass, offering magical views of coastal areas, with a trip the following day to Nam Giang to visit school children supported by Platypus before finishing the day, and the ride in Hoi An.

Conclusion: It was another magical ride, as they all are, given the very special country that is Vietnam, ably assisted by Laos, a country not short of beauty and interest. The Scots dispelled all the images of tight-fisted misers and regularly displayed a rare generosity of spirit and dollars, and were well received by adults and kids alike wherever we went.

To the Scots: Hoots mon and lumb may your lam reek. It was nice to share the road with you and we hope to see more of you.

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