Four weeks ago we sent all of our waterproof clothing home. It was a bad decision.

Cycling from the Cau Treo border to Hué (part two)


Monday 1st February

Miles: 38

 Map of Ha Tinh to Ky Anh 
Another short day, due to the spacing between hotels. 

It drizzled all day. We were on highway 1 all day. It was not the most inspiring cycling.  Cycling highway 1 

The weather forecast shows rain for the next week. I am really regretting sending back our high quality raincoats and waterproof shoe covers in Chiang Rai. 

When we arrived at our hotel everything was wet, and our shoes, legs and bags were covered in mud – bleh.  Muddy panniers 

Today’s photos from the road… a pro-communist poster (I like these!). Communist billboard in Vietnam 

One thing we’ve noticed about Vietnam is that people take their karaoke very seriously.  Karaoke in Vietnam: serious business 

The good thing about today was the interesting food we’ve been having. We had banh mi for breakfast – that’s a baguette sandwich Vietnamese style. It had chili paste, some kind of flavoured oil, fish ball slices, cucumber, tofu, fresh coriander and something shredded that looked like cheese but was super salty. 

We’ve also been enjoying pickled vegetables and extremely delicious miscellaneous meat pieces. 

Our snack was rambutan from the market. I am familiar with this fruit as my mum would get it for us when we visited Thailand, but Eric had never tried it before. It’s like a sharper-tasting lychee. Eric gave it a thumbs up.  Rambutan in Vietnam 

At the fruit and vegetable market a lot of the sellers simply had vegetables on the back of their bicycles for sale.  A market in Ky Anh, Vietnam 

It’s been so cool and wet that none of our clothes can dry. This evening we came up with a creative solution. 

 Drying clothes  


Tuesday 2nd February

Miles: 63

 Map: Ky Anh to Dong Hoi 

Another wet day on the road. We finally managed to find some rain ponchos like the locals all wear. (My odd expression is due to the biscuit I’m eating. I complete the cycle touring look with a further biscuit in each hand, ready to go.)

 This season's must-have: rain ponchos in Vietnam 

Eric ready for action. 

 There's nothing that makes Eric more serious than a rain poncho 

“How much were they?” asked Eric. 

“9000 each,” I said. 

“That’s cheap,” said Eric. 

“No… 900,000,” I said. 

“That’s really expensive,” said Eric. 

“Wait… 90,000,” I said. 

“That’s fine,” said Eric. 

I am not good with all the zeros. 

The road was quieter today, and the drivers slower. We are also getting used to the beeping. The scenery was quite dull and urban for a lot of the time, but we did pass by some magnificently moody mountains. 

 Mountain view along highway 1, Vietnam  
Mountain view along highway 1, Vietnam 

It rained for a lot of today, so the ponchos really saved us. It was a bit strange cycling with them on at first. They’re so big that they completely cover our legs, making me feel like a duck paddling across a pond: I’m moving but I can’t see how.

We’ve seen a few western-style churches in Vietnam. As a communist country, Vietnam is one of the least religious countries in the world, but out of the 94 million inhabitants there are apparently 6 million Catholics and 1.4. million Protestants (thanks Wikipedia).

 Church being constructed along highway 1, Vietnam 

We also saw the sea for the very first time on our South East Asian trip! Not quite a tropical beach…

 The coast along highway 1, Vietnam 

Today’s treat was American TV in our hotel room. Feeling pretty knackered after our cycle, we vegged out watching Groundhog Day, The Blindside and Chappie. 


Thursday 4th February
 

Miles: 65

 Map: Dong Hoi to Dang Ha 
Today it was not raining! It turns out that cycling in the not-rain is much nicer. 

We began the day with a bit of road rage as we cycled out of Dong Hoi. Though your outrage is never going to be very intimidating when you are a couple on a tandem in full-length rain ponchos. 

Away from the crazy city-driving the road grew much quieter, and we had a nice time saying “Hello!” to lots of school kids who were cycling to school.

I can confirm that this 59 mile stretch of Vietnam is still a little bit communist. 

Communist billboard in Vietnam   

Communist billboard in Vietnam 

Here’s the water buffalo which can often be seen pulling a cart along the road or a plough through rice paddies. They are pretty tough-looking beasts! 

  

Crossing one of the many wide rivers we’ve seen.Views from highway 1, Vietnam 

One more interesting sight from the road: graves in Vietnam are numerous (along highway 1 anyway). They look a bit like little oriental houses, and are quite often in the middle of rice paddies.  Views from highway 1, Vietnam 

Our bike was not in the best shape today. After the days of cycling in the rain and the mud, our chain is dusty and dry and was squeaking all day. Even worse, our back tyre was partially torn by something, and has started to come away from the wheel rim, meaning that its days are now seriously numbered. We have a spare tyre, so we don’t have to worry about being stranded. It’s just a drag. We’re hoping it will hold up tomorrow until we find a bike shop. 


Friday 5th February

Miles: 48

 Map: Dong Ha to Hue 
This morning we oiled the bike chain and stuck some duct tape to the wheel, hoping to keep it together until we reached Hué (you can just about see the duct tape – it’s the slightly blacker black).

 Duct tape on the back wheel 

The rain was back and the ponchos were on for a few hours in the morning. 

The long, straight road.  Views from highway 1, Vietnam 

Passing by a market in the rain.  Views from highway 1, Vietnam 

Our tyre slowly got worse, until, with fifteen miles to go we could feel it wiggling from side to side with every rotation. After a bit of debate we gave in and swapped it for our spare tyre (feeling very glad at this point that we had a spare tyre). While we were fixing up the bike we had a few interested onlookers, and two people stopped and asked if we needed help. Vietnamese people are nice.

Eric unfolds our spare tyre. We bought this in an Italian town called Aqui Terme the last time our back tyre split. What happy times.   

Our old tyre was strapped to the back and off we went. 

 Eric with the tandem 

Traffic on the way into Hué. 

  

You see some fairly impossible-looking loads being transported on scooters. Here was a good one – a wardrobe secured (“secured”) with what looked like one bungee!

  

After five days cycling south we’ve arrived at our first stop-off in Vietnam. We are both really looking forward to a few days rest, and actually seeing a bit of Vietnam, rather than just cycling along its biggest road. 

Last picture… during tonight’s dinner we tried the traditional Vietnamese dish, fresh spring rolls, filled with shrimp and vegetables. Mmm, tasty! 

  

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