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We were too close the cliff’s edge but closing in on our target – 007 couldn’t have done it any better. (thinkstock)
We were too close the cliff’s edge but closing in on our target – 007 couldn’t have done it any better. (thinkstock)

My James Bond moment in the mountains of Vietnam Add to ...

Sometimes things don’t go as planned – and those moments often make for the best stories. Tripping columns offer readers a chance to share their wild adventures from the road.

The distance between Hue, Vietnam’s pre-communist capital, and Savannakhet, a sleepy Lao city by the Mekong River, is over 400 kilometres of thick tropical forest. The border checkpoint, somewhere in-between, lies truly in the middle of nowhere. Four hours got us this far, and it would be longer until Savannakhet: five hours by bus, and unimaginably longer if the bus, say, left without us.

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Which, of course, it just did.

I’d asked my girlfriend to wait where it had parked, and jogged up to the bank to exchange our Vietnamese money for Lao kip. I was figuring out how best to mime “commission rate” to the English-impaired teller when a Dutch guy, who’d been sitting behind us on the bus, opened the door and nervously announced: “Um, our bus is leaving.”

I looked out the window and saw two things: first, my girlfriend, looking incredulous by the empty parking space, mouth open and arms outstretched; second, our big grey bus, leisurely rolling away from her.

I quickly shoved the Vietnamese money back into my wallet and rushed outside with the Dutchman. We screamed and ran hopelessly for maybe 10 seconds before, almost out of nowhere, a dozen motorcyclists pulled up ahead of us, waving us down: “Ride?”

Didn’t need to think twice. “Ride, ride!” I yelled, leaping onto the closest bike. My right hand instinctively clutched the driver’s scrawny torso as we sped off; my left pointed wildly: “Bus! Bus!”

So now we found ourselves in this high-speed chase – me, my girlfriend and the Dutchman whose name I never learned – on three separate bikes, racing down this dusty mountain road. A canvas-covered shipment truck drove ahead of us, and when we overtook it, I glimpsed the edge of the cliff a few metres away. Beyond that, the whole Lao mountain range spread out into the horizon; everything was high-noon bright, but hazy, too, because of the mountain fog. The wind blew my hair hard but I turned into it, squinting ahead, honing into our target.

In that moment, I felt exactly like James Bond.

We cut the bend to catch up, when suddenly – there it is! It’s slowing down! I assumed the bus driver saw us, because he began pulling over into a plot of dirt in front of a wooden bungalow. Mission accomplished.

As we hopped off the bikes, we realized the bungalow was, in fact, a restaurant, situated only a few hundred metres from the border, where everyone on the bus stepped off, relaxed, and ate lunch for the next 30 minutes.

Oh.

We paid our drivers a dollar each, and I stopped to wonder if the whole thing was just a big set-up to catch slow foreigners. But then, I consider: one dollar is roughly what I’d pay to ride a roller coaster, which is nowhere near as thrilling as those 10 seconds of being James Bond.

Share your 500-word travel adventure with us. Please send it to travel@globeandmail.com.

 

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