Say "Hello" To Vietnam's Duck Stop

19 January 2016

Only “mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun”, they say, and so being both fools and Englishmen, my friends and I set off on rickety old rented bicycles to explore the area near Phong Nha-Ke Bang national park in central Vietnam.

I clutched a paper map that was soon sodden and torn from sweat and directed us down dirt tracks. As we bumped along we were greeted like conquering heroes by delighted children, who ran from their small houses to wave and say “hello!”, their one word of English.

Phong Na-Ke National Park Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park in Vietnam. Photo: Fotolia/AP

Our hoped-for destination was the fabled 'Pub with Cold Beer', so named by a wandering Australian several years before. However, as the midday sun beat down from the clear blue sky, soaring above the glorious green hills in the distance, I settled my hopes on a place marked on the map as 'Duck Stop' for some halfway hydration.

The 'Duck Stop' was a small wooden house with a little veranda at the front. We were greeted with welcoming smiles by a middle-aged couple and nods towards a fridge. We bought the three remaining cans of soft drink and took a seat.

A tethered cow gave us a disapproving look from his shaded spot as if to emphasise our stupidity as we downed our drinks.

boat Vietnam Locals on a boat at Phong Nha Ke Bang. Photo: Getty Images

Where to go in this colourful land. Where To Go In Vietnam: North Or South?

Want more on cycling Vietnam? Cycling Vietnam – A Two-Week Itinerary


Suddenly, a boy in a smart school uniform arrived on a moped. “Hello, hello,” he said as he approached.

He was 16 years old and although short in stature, he made up for it with his beaming smile and enthusiasm. He spoke excellent English and, noticing our red, perspiring faces, led us to a little well in the corner of the veranda.

He told me to pull up the bucket and throw the cool water over my head as if he had somehow seen social media’s 'Ice Bucket Challenge' in this remote and poor place.

The boy told me that he hoped to see more tourists come to his village. He said he had persuaded the local hostel owner to put his house on the paper map. He showed me the small crop of land where black pepper plants grew and then some small glass bottles filled with peppercorns that he hoped to sell.

 Vietnam boy The boy told me that he hoped to see more tourists come to his village. Photo: Fotolia/AP

He planned that after he had finished his studies he would get investment to open his own hotel. He wanted to build a lake beside it for fishing. The passion he had for his plans left me with no doubt he would achieve his dreams and we all posed for a 'selfie'.

The boy had each of us lay a stone in a pile of stones that formed the D and would eventually spell out 'Duck Stop'. I assured him I would return one day to stay in his hotel, and I cycled away refreshed and weighed down only slightly by an unexpected supply of peppercorns.


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This article was written by Sam Larcombe from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.