Riding my bicycle across Vietnam
Today was another early morning. Up around 5:30, it was still mostly dark outside. While I am starting to streamline the morning routine, agenda items such as a thorough application of sunscreen still take time. But it’s nice to savor the routine, putting what few belongings I have away, starting to form habits of where everything goes, and, more simply, getting ready for the day.
Lyle was with me, and we planned to have a quick Clif bar before heading out onto the road in search of breakfast. About 5 miles in we were in luck. Locals were flocking on motorbikes to this one stretch of road. On both sides, vendors with fruit lined the dirt and rough concrete sidewalks, and one narrow, long building held big tables, colorful plastic chairs, and a counter behind which a vat of broth steamed. As we parked our bikes, a man came over with Google Translate. His phone read, “Please eat breakfast here, you are delicious” I smiled at that one, nodding and giving him a thumbs up. Two women worked quickly behind the counter, filling bowls with vermicelli noodles, cutting fat slabs of pork on a well-worn block, and retrieving a rich, golden broth from a tub behind them. I pointed at some sausage, meatballs, noodles, and broth, and I think they got the idea. That bowl of soup was truly magnificent, the best one of the trip so far. But that was only the first breakfast.
Lyle and I found just next door an old man with a small food-vending truck. Behind the glass: eggs, golden breakfast buns, cucumber, hot dog, and sweet and sour sauce. Egg sandwiches! He fired up a small skillet, splashing fresh, orange egg into an oily saute pan, and toasting the bun in a kind of old-fashioned panini press. Buttery, eggy, starchy, wow. Then Lyle found a small coffee shop, it could not get much better.
While our little breakfast adventure was tasty, it had cost us time. We were out of the hotel by 7:00. Having pedaled 4 miles and eaten breakfast, it was 8:30. It was decidedly time to get on the road, and I was excited. We seem to be in a particularly pretty part of the country, lush island hills jutting up all over the place. Sometimes the foliage gives way to reveal clean limestone. There are small farms everywhere, the occasional factory, and plenty of power lines zig-zagging all over the place. That first part of the morning we were riding right for a big mountain range, but at the last minute we turned parallel to it, being swallowed up into a valley with mountains on either side. It was incredible.
I made it to the hotel around 3:45 today. It is an austere, Soviet era looking building. It is concrete and gray as can be. At one time, this hotel might have been something, but not any more. I am very curious though, as to why there is such a large hotel in a relatively sparsely populated area. The shower felt really nice tonight, the 70 miles of orange soil dust, sunscreen, and sweat going right down the drain. I gave my riding suit a quick wash in the sink and wandered out into the town to see what was what. Scouting a few potential restaurant choices, a group of small kids found me and started waving profusely. I smiled and waved, much to their amusement. So far the roads have been really nicely maintained, and I have passed several active road works to improve what is already decent. In fact, I passed a truck today that was just puttering along washing the stone mile markers. In this intersection-city, the sidewalks were mostly nice. A couple of holes right by the street, and a big pile of gravel obstructed the walkway. Everywhere, it seems like there is this desire to build build build. Concrete and brick being the two favorite mediums. I passed a big game of volleyball and made my way into a corner store to buy some candy. “ChocoPN” “chocolate coated pie” was what I walked out with. Dinner was bun bo hue, I had two bowls, hungry from the days pedaling. Back at the hotel, I got into bed, settling down with the aforementioned candy, unfolded my keyboard, and got to writing. Tomorrow is only 55 miles (still no small feat) but importantly, there is the promise of a nicer hotel, which I am looking forward to immensely!