Riding my bicycle across Vietnam
It was tough to leave Dong Hoi today, after my second cup of coffee at the Tree Hugger Cafe and breakfast at the hotel, I was staring down the barrel of a 70 mile day. It was 10:45 by the time I left, cutting it a little close. Within just a few kilometers, the city bustle of Dong Hoi melted away into bucolic Vietnam. But the hills were gone, replaced with flatness. It made for less interesting riding, that’s for sure, but plenty of time to think. I was making incredible time, with 35 miles dispatched in only a couple hours, dovetailing nicely with a lunch spot tucked away from the road. In a metal cafeteria tray, I was presented beef, chicken, vegetable salad, rice, and a little omelette. Simple, but delicious, and great fuel for the bike. It was actually a fairly large building; I was sitting out on the patio. As I was finishing lunch, some excitement behind me sparked my attention.
The owners and some locals had a pig in a wicker cage against a corner. One of the men had a long, bamboo rod with an extension cord wrapped around it plugged into the wall, exposed diodes at the end of the pole. One of the women doused the pig with water, then, zap. Almost immediately, men worked to break down the pig. There was no pork on my plate that afternoon, but I guessed it would be on the menu tonight. These, were simple, rural techniques. But I would guess the distance my beef and chicken traveled before my cafeteria style plate were minuscule. This is what America has lost. I paid my bill, a whopping $3.50 with a coke, and carried on the road.
In the afternoon, it was rote deforestation that captured my attention. For the entire trip, I’ve seen trucks of various sizes hauling timber, but today was the first day that I got to see where that timber came from. Vast, orange wastelands became the not-so inspiring scenic reprieve from my ride. It was depressing, but gave me a reason to think about the severity of some of the larger environmental issues threatening Vietnam. Pollution, trash disposal, and exploitation of natural resources. Additionally, this logging, according to the accountant “Alex”, is fueling economic inequality in rural areas - an unsubstantiated claim, but one that is worth looking into when I have a bit more time.
The city of Dong Ha is an uninspiring metropolis. It’s the capital of Quang Tri province, and seems to be a hub for Vietnamese business. The restaurant scene is abysmal. I checked in to the most expensive hotel of my trip. - the Sai Gon Dong Ha Hotel, paying 750k VND ($32.37). Yikes. It was a nice hotel, to be sure, but I much preferred last night’s lodging in Dong Hoi. Like Dong Hoi city itself, the hotel had more charm and ambiance. I guess the hotels reflect the towns they’re in. I was properly knackered. I hadn’t slept much the night before due to my cold, and I had an early morning to make a call with my college counselor (thanks Ms. B!) In addition to the 70 miles and a day spent in the sun, I had no problem collapsing in bed at around 8:45. I turned on the tv to find the last twenty minutes of one of the later Men in Black movies, set a not-so ambitious alarm for 7:30, and went to bed.
Time spent on the bike: 4:28