Riding my bicycle across Vietnam
I made the decision to sleep in a bit today - 6:30. I woke up feeling sore but well rested. I had to pack up, but also wipe down and re-oil the bike chain, as the dust and road grime wreaks havoc on all those little moving parts. In the morning light the hotel room looked more dingy than ever. Overnight, the bathroom had developed a smell of sewage - not from me! I was looking forward to heading out onto the road. Lyle was a bit ahead of me, but just as I was getting ready to leave, my stomach took a turn for the worse . I went to the bathroom and sat down for a few minutes. I was annoyed, I was sure that I would get sick on this trip, but not so soon! I started to feel better as soon as I walked out of the hotel into the sun - perhaps this was a sign! Lyle and I had breakfast next door - bun cha. Char-grilled pork in a rich, fish-saucy broth with sliced carrots and a plate of noodle clusters on the side. This was one of the best dishes so far, and I really wish I would have been feeling better while I had it. After breakfast, the two young ladies operating the restaurant insisted on getting pictures (see below). If things don’t work out in the U.S. I know I will have a place to go in Yen Cat!
Lyle and I set out on the road around 9:00, which is actually not terribly late. With only 55 miles , spirits were high, and I was able to ride through my earlier stomach-blues. Again, the scenery was exceedingly beautiful, although perhaps less mountainous today than yesterday. These first days have all been on the Ho Chi Minh Highway which is a very well maintained rural highway. There is a lot of truck and bus traffic, and the drivers are absolutely mental. They overtake at every opportunity, not just when it is safe, but when they feel like it. That being said, nearly every truck, bus, or car gives me nearly a full lane when passing - a much better number than in the U.S. The road cuts through many rural hamlets, farms, and the occasional factory (complete with smokestacks) tucked away on the roadside. There is a lot of motorbike traffic, everything from old women heading to the farm to people dressed in full suits or dresses headed to work.
And there’s construction everywhere - these people just don’t stop building. Power lines criss-cross the road, covering the distance to mountaintops on the horizon and everywhere in between. Several cement trucks pass per day and all over the place people carve just a little bit out of the jungle for some new construction. This morning I stopped to have a can of “winter melon tea” from a cooler at a construction site with a few amiable workers. They were building a house or something right on the side of the road. Even with all of the cement and brick, the jungle is unmoved. Thick, dark, luscious green blankets the mountains and valleys, interrupted only by flood plains, rivers, or farm plots. It’s incredible.
The town of Tan Ky is the biggest I’ve stayed in so far, with the nicest hotel too. It’s a bustling place with non-stop bus and truck traffic at the city-center roundabout. Right before town I had a wee collision, or rather, I was collided into. I was going for a left turn. I checked my mirror before I moved over in the lane and saw that there was a motorbike a ways behind me on the right side of the lane. No problem, I thought, as I moved to the middle of the road to complete the turn. Then I was on the ground, landing on both forearms and my left thigh, but fortunately not hitting my head. The motorbike which had been on the right side of the road ran right into me, sending me into the pavement. Fortunately I was going slow, so there is next to no road rash. But much to my confusion and anger the motorbike did not even turn around to see if I was ok. A middle-aged man stepped out of his shop next door. I got up quickly and pulled myself off the road, giving him a thumbs-up sign. I took a few minutes to dust myself off, fuming that I was so close to the hotel, but fortunate that I was walking away with barely a scrape. I changed in the hotel, found Lyle, and then went for a fantastic hot coffee with condensed milk, I might be headed back there tomorrow morning.
Dinner tonight was a greasy, unhealthy, invigorating experience. On the street corner right next to the hotel a young woman had a coal-fired grate and two deep pans filled with fry oil. She was making these kind of latke pancakes, but they were sweet, and not potato. Also on tap: frozen fried chicken drumsticks, fried pockets of rice stuffed with egg, and this lovely homemade orange dipping sauce. Accompanied with a co-ca (coke), Lyle and I were set, watching trucks tear around the roundabout, we tore into our chicken. Noodles are great and all, but this was a happy break from the usual, and a fitting end to another successful, beautiful, rewarding day.
Avg. Speed of 14.0mph