The Deadly Road to Ninh Binh
After spending four days in the area of Ha Long Bay and Cat Ba Island, it was time to leave. The next morning, I took the road to the city of Ninh Binh ("Ning Bing").
I had definitely developed an interest, if not a relationship with this extraordinary rock. I felt a twinge of regret at leaving behind these magnificent rocks, but I knew I would have other opportunities to discover their secrets.
Notably, Ninh Binh also has karst rock formations through which rivers flow. This area is also called "the land of Ha Long Bay". I was eager to discover it.
I was tired that morning. The night before, I had celebrated the New Year with the other tourists I had met in Cat Ba, including Miguel and Lida, but also Germans and Brits. I had also met a Torontonian who had just finished crossing Vietnam from Hanoi to Saigon by bike. The evening, which had been well lubricated with rice alcohol, had ended at dawn.
I had a long way to go to Ninh Binh, about 210 kilometers. So, I had set the alarm clock for seven o'clock. I hit the road that morning with three hours of sleep in my body. It was risky. So I had to be extra careful.
The road to Ninh Binh was horrible. It was an industrial road, saturated with heavy trucks and construction. The air was cloudy with pollution and dust. It was ugly, unpleasant, and downright dangerous.
The road consisted of two lanes against the direction of travel, without any median. Vehicles were constantly passing each other, using the opposite lane. I often found myself squeezed onto the shoulder to let oncoming trucks pass in my lane.
Obstacles were everywhere. The gravel on the road. Holes, cracks and bumps in the road. The construction sites. Traffic entering the road from the right. Horns roaring from all sides. Bikes zigzagging. Children playing on the side of the road. Motorcycles passing on the left and right. Pedestrians crossing the street.
I could have died a hundred times that day.
I just wanted to get there. With 20 miles to go, I began to speed up, hoping to put an end to this ordeal.
Suddenly, I saw a crowd of people gathered along the road. Then, police cars and ambulance lights.
A little further on, a woman's body was lying on the ground. She was obviously dead. Her arms were crossed. Around her, police officers were directing traffic. Dozens of observers stood along the roadside watching the scene.
I was shocked by the lack of modesty of the authorities and the onlookers. In Canada, this woman's body would have been kept away from curious eyes, or at least covered.
On the ground were money bills. This woman must have been a shopkeeper. On impact, the wad of bills she was carrying in her pockets must have twirled in the air before falling like a shower of confetti.
The ground was littered with bills for several meters. The gallery of onlookers did not move. Nobody dared to pick up a dead woman's money.
As I passed the scene of the accident, I got a shock. I slowed down my run. I remembered that the main purpose of this trip was to return.