interlude the second: up up up up up

There is a section of Viet Nam’s Highway 1 which is immaculately paved. It has marked no-passing zones that people actually obey. Drivers take this road at a steady, even appropriate pace, and there are very very few mopeds on it, and no cyclos.

And yet, it is still terrifying.

Because, of course, it is the High Van Pass: a 30-km long stretch of highway that switches back and forth as it goes up the Ai Van Mountain Range, which divides Viet Nam neatly at the center. The views from a bus window are amazing: deep chasms and falling streams. They are also terrifying: the road has no shoulder, the mountain drops off instantly past the flimsy lane barrier, and despite the relative lack of traffic, there are still dozens of moments where three or more busses are all contending for the same spot at the same time, usually in order to pass around another bus that has broken down at the side of the road, with the driver and mechanic staring sadly at the drivetrain that they have removed from the bus in a bit of impromptou roadside maintenence.

At every instant, you are one bad sneeze on the driver’s part away from a spectacularly messy death, so it’s a good thing the views are so nice.

At the top, all the busses stop for a short break at a rest area that features breathtaking views, passable toilets, and the most persistant postcard hawkers in all of Viet Nam, which is quite saying something.

Then you get to do the whole thing again, but going downhill, and therefore faster.

Every time I think I’ve gotten used to the traffic here, they figure out another way to scare me. It’s kinda cool.

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