Riding my bicycle across Vietnam
This morning was rough. I woke up with a headache and a stomachache, texted Lyle, drank some water, and went back to bed for half an hour. I didn’t feel much better after I woke, so I stumbled to the local pharmacy. Using Google Translate, the nice lady behind the counter determined that some probiotics would be the best bet. I have some Cippro with me, but I’m trying to save that for a real emergency - this was not. I went back to bed for about 45 minutes, really doubting that I would feel much better. I expected this to happen, but not so soon into the trip. And this small town was not the place I wanted to convalesce from traveller’s sickness. Miraculously, I felt a good deal better when I woke. I hurriedly packed my bags and applied sunscreen to my reddening thighs.
It was a 55 mile day today, and Lyle and I were marginally concerned that our 11:00 start would be cutting close to the sunset at 5:30. My solution was to take fewer breaks. I skipped breakfast, save a couple Clif bars and a cup of coffee. And kept snacking throughout the day on stroopwafels and gu shots, barely sustained without a proper meal in the belly. The scenery today was again, exceedingly beautiful, similar to yesterday. The road was nicely maintained. The one difference in the riding is that it was markedly less busy than previous days. Fewer trucks hurtling down the road, fewer posses of motorbikes. The cycling itself passed quickly, one of my teachers at school was able to download the whole first season of Bob Dylan’s short-lived SiriusXM show “Theme Time Radio Hour”. It’s great to ride to.
The other thing that propelled my legs was the promise of a nice resort hotel. I arrived to the town of Pho Chau around 3:45. I was also going to meet up with a local accountant in town to talk about my academic project on the changing culture and economies of Vietnam. I was blown away by the sheer size of the resort. Massive buildings, lakes, swimming pools. Empty. The whole thing. It was incredible, we must have been the only guests in this place. Nevertheless, the beds were comfortable. This was the most expensive hotel yet 450,000 VND (~$20 U.S.). After showering and relaxing, Lyle and I rode the remaining 4K into town to meet with “Alex”, the local accountant at his favorite restaurant. Dinner was simple but excellent, fatty strips of pork belly, bok choy sautéed with garlic, and tofu.
After dinner, Lyle, “Alex”, and I headed back to the hotel. Lyle called it a night, and I sat down in the hotel lobby with “Alex”, set up a microphone, and got to it In retrospect, the interview was more useful than it felt in the moment. “Alex” has slow, stumbling English, but he told me that he is self-taught from YouTube videos - impressive. He wanted to learn English to be able to communicate more readily with the Western world, he wants to travel, leaving his hometown. He remarked that economic disparity is a real issue. Subsistence farmers struggling to make ends meet live just a mile up the road from people who have two or three cars from logging exports. Real estate companies and private parties are coming into the area to build large houses and then disappearing. At the same time, “Alex” informed me, the government is funneling millions of dollars into projects like the resort we’re in right now. A lot is changing economically - new buildings, real estate investments, and modernization in the city. But much is staying the same - cattle-driven plows and carts and never-ending days in the fields under an unrelenting Vietnam sun.
Time spent riding: 4:23
Avg. speed: 12.8mph
Distance: 56.38 miles