My host, Scott, took me out for one of my favorite Vietnamese dishes, bun cha. Sweetened fish sauce broth with rice noodles, carrots, and grilled pork medallions. I started a little later than desired, but it was ok. Good to be back on the open road!
It was already starting to get hot as I navigated my way out of Hoi An. Today I would be cutting East, back into the rural spine of the country to pick up the north-south Ho Chi Minh Road. About an hour into the road my stomach went on the fritz. I found a cafe and rushed into the bathroom. Now, I admitted to myself, it was time to find some Imodium. I found a pharmacy in the next town - I was hopeful to find something here. I’ve been to the pharmacies here now a few times, and each time is an adventure. Google Translate is usually sufficient, but sometimes it takes some reiteration and re-phrasing. I showed the pharmacist both a picture of Imodium and the active drug. Head shake. First, she offered me an herbal supplement. Not what I needed. Then live yeast samples. No. Finally, she pulled down “Axelrop” - same dosage and active ingredients of Imodium. Without health insurance, it was 10,000 VND ($.43USD) for 20 pills. I checked, in the U.S. the price is about $10USD for 24 pills. I popped a couple down and kept riding.
Today’s road, the QL14E was very quiet. Cutting through small hamlets, lakes, and muddy rice paddies. A light drizzle in the afternoon actually cut through some of the heat and humidity. I was glad for that, and it gave the road a photogenic slick look.To be sure, it was nice to spend time in the tourist Mecca’s of Da Nang and Hoi An, eating hamburgers and chili poppers, but I was ready to get back into the thick of it. This is why I am here, to immerse and make myself vulnerable in Vietnam’s heartland. It’s prettier, too, in my opinion. Near the end of the ride, I rode over a dam holding back a seemingly massive amount of water. The surface was a clean silver shimmer with trees and mountains in the background. It was absolutely gorgeous, you’ll have to look at the pictures!
I felt mentally prepared for the last 20kms of the day to be climbing, but I did not know that the lunch opportunities would end after 50kms. And so fueled by a Clif bar, two Gu shots, and the fierce desire not to have to ride in the dark, I pressed on. On a mostly empty stomach, the climb that should have been physically difficult became just as much of a mental battle. I’m happy to report that I made it into town before dusk, but only barely. Whether I seek it out or not, these physical trials have their place in the experience too. I’ll get into that more tomorrow.
The town of Kham Duc is small, but with a surprisingly decent hotel where I had an interesting interaction. There was an Australian family of four “easy riding” through some portion of Vietnam. This means that each day they ride on the back of motorcycles piloted by local tour guides. They were really nice people, but I can’t imagine myself enjoying this kind of trip. I’ve really enjoyed bopping around on the back of the Grab transportation scooters in the cities, to be sure. But on these less trafficked, rural roads, it is much more appealing to be in control.