The big mistake of the day was a pitifully late start of 10:15 with full knowledge of the difficult ride the day would bring. These last couple days I’ve been losing a bit of my traveler’s edge. Some of this is out of my control - these long days have rendered me unfathomably tired. I need about nine hours of sleep to feel fully rested. But staying up a little bit too late watching Netflix and lazing around in the morning time came back today as a slap on the wrist.
The breakfast at the hotel, if nothing else, was a good way to start the day. A couple of hot Vietnamese filter coffee’s, a couple fried egg, tomato, sweet and spicy chili sauce sandwiches, and another toast with butter and jelly filled me right up.
The first 30kms or so we’re rolling countryside, pretty but not jaw-dropping (I’m getting picky). The real excitement for the day came in the form of 11kms of climbing with sections of 10% gradient. At this point it was about 85 degrees, full sun. I took breaks, drank a lot of water, walked the bike a couple times, got some good tunes going, reminded myself that this is why I am here, ate a couple packages of “Cream-O’s” (knockoff Oreos) and made it to the top, a sweaty but energetic puddle ready to tuck into the first plate of food put down in front of me. My British friend Stuart had happily shared with me the “rest stop” at the top of the climb had great food.
I wandered into the dark restaurant, squinting a bit from the sun. There were a few teenagers watching what looked to be Vietnamese vines on a TV in the corner, and some other local truck drivers enjoying lunch. I had a good chuckle from the Vines. A middle-aged, very nice Vietnamese lady approached me. Her “mom-mode” was in full swing. I was famished, ready to point, gesticulate, make chicken noises, whatever it took to get something. I found a plate of rice and pointed to it, adding “ga” which means chicken in Vietnamese (I probably didn’t pronounce it right). She kept saying back to me “ca” which means fish. I didn’t want fish, I wanted chicken. After just a bit of this back-and-forth, she threw me a lifeline: “poisson”? She spoke French. Incredible. “Poulet, legumes, riz”, I shared with her, thrilled to be getting somewhere. She spoke only a little, but it was enough to communicate. I took a couple of rehydration salts and took a seat. Wondering why this woman spoke French. The French haven’t been here in a long time, and she wasn’t that old. Soon my mind was off it as a plate of fried rice filled with garlic, onions, pineapple, tomatoes, and greens came into sight. On top, a whole leg of fried chicken.
I trundled onwards. After an aggressive descent with a gorgeous vista, it was back to the rolling hills. Just as much as they make the ride exciting, they are annoying. It’s slow going. I can’t maintain a constant speed like I can on a flat road and I have to change gears all the time.
With about 20kms left to my destination, I accepted my fate. Darkness. I stopped, switched to yellow glass lenses, and turned on all of my bike lights. The light setup on some of these trucks and buses are incredible. Oftentimes the entire fascia of the truck is covered in bright lights. The glare is blinding. But slowly, I pushed onwards, arriving at the hotel safely, demolished from the day’s ride.
Another huge hotel. I was the only guest. I was greeted by a cockroach in my room. To add insult to injury, the price of 630k for the night ($27USD) was outrageous. I checked in and wandered out, finding a street vendor selling ban xeo (rice flour pancakes stuffed with vegetables and pork, wrapped up in rice paper and dipped in spicy fish sauce). Juices dripping from my mouth, I realized that it had been a pretty good day after all.