Riding my bicycle across Vietnam
Everything about this morning was uninspiring. I stumbled out of bed around 8:00, meandering down to the morning breakfast buffet, preparing to gorge myself on mediocre American food, like a lazy tick. I got a bit of work done, but much of the morning was an undisciplined free-for-all on Facebook, email, WhatsApp, and Apple News. On the other hand, for all of the going that this trip has been so far, it feels really nice to “do nothing” for a morning. It was a short 40 miles today into the city of Hue, which I was very excited for.
Today also saw a brief departure from the Ho Chi Minh road, the route instead opting for the more heavily traveled 1A. It’s a bland, separated dual carriage way. But it gave me some time to plug away, and think about some of the questions I’m starting to ask and think about for my project. Tomorrow in Hue, I am going to chat with a tour guide operator expat, which I think will yield some interesting conversation. Part of the project is looking at the changing culture of Vietnam. And the tourism narrative is one that has to be taken into account - it’s shaping economies too. The question is, how can tourism uphold traditional culture while also being accessible and forward-focused? I thought the Tree Huger Cafe in Dong Hoi was a great example of a well executed tourist shop.
Economically, what effects is tourism having on Vietnam? From what I’ve seen - and this is true all over the world - tourism’s economic force is very localized. The small city of Phong Nha, for example, with the largest cave in the world, was a booming tourist Mecca. It’s clear that dollars are flowing in. There’s new construction all over the place, and the buildings are generally nicer. But just a couple of miles or so in either direction and you would not know that Phong Nha existed. How does tourism benefit certain communities while leaving others adrift?
What role does / should the government play in all this. This is a big question, but it seems to have something to do with everything else that I’ve brought up.
The city of Hue is nice, home to the royal citadel which I’ll be exploring tomorrow during my much needed rest day. I’m staying at Sahi Homestay, which is just a bit outside of town, but an absolutely beautiful architectural piece. I’m in a shared dorm with one other guy who is riding his motorbike all over SE Asia. He seems to be in no rush. I think he’s spent a while in Hue, but a nice guy. I was really ready for a cheeseburger last night, so I headed to Nook Eatery for a “double double”. Double patties, double cheese, double bacon... it was superb. Two German uni students were sitting next to me and we talked for a while. They’re on vacation too. We might get together again tomorrow for dinner or something. While we were eating, there was a soccer game on, Vietnam vs. Indonesia I think. Every time Vietnam scored a goal, you could hear the whole block erupt. It was quite funny. In the downstairs of the restaurant, a bunch of tourists, as well as all the servers, fixed their gaze on the TV, chilled bottles of wine sweating in ice baths.
Time spent riding: 3:15
Average speed: 13.7