Cycling from Quy Nhon to Ho Chi Minh City: part one
Friday 19th February
The terrain was a mixture of flat and hilly, passing by lakes, rivers, rice paddies, palm and pine trees. After three days of rest and plenty of calories we were feeling fresh, and the inclines didn’t give us much trouble.
We are now south of Bangkok, where we first started out from, and today we were feeling the heat. We arrived at our hotel feeling very grubby (a very good, cheap place called the Lam Tra).
In search of some lunch, we turned right from our hotel and walked for almost 2 miles trying to find a restaurant. Any restaurant. (For dinner we turned left from our hotel and realised that we were actually next door to one.) We eventually found a place, but had to play mystery menu as aside from knowing that everything contained fish (“ca”) we didn’t recognise a thing, and requests for pho or com (noodles or rice) received blank looks. I pointed at one meal, and we ended up with a salad. Just what we needed after a 6 hour cycle! (It was obviously still delicious.)
So far, I’ve found the waves on the beaches of South Vietnam to have a specific personality that I’ve never noticed on other beaches: they gather up high as they approach the shore, and then just as they break they kind of go “flumpf” (like the 10p marshmallow, remember those?). Their height instantly collapses and the energy is transferred into fast-spreading, hissing foam.
We filled the calorie deficit with snacks and a very big dinner. The restaurant seemed nice, but then we saw a vole scuttle across the floor. Then a rat. And then there was some definite squeaking coming from the flowerpots near our table.
When the bill came I nearly did a squeak of my own. 506,000 dong! That’s just over £15! (To put this into context, we would normally expect to pay £3-4.) Just as frustrating was that I had learned the phrase “oi zoi oi!!” (an equivalent of “oh my god”) especially for this kind of occasion, but forget to use it. Oi zoi oi!!
Saturday 20th February
Our target for today was a hotel near a beach called Doc Let, which according to Lonely Planet is a beautiful, quiet alternative to the much more touristy Nha Trang.
We arrived by Doc Let beach and found ourselves a hotel for 300 dong per night. For somewhere that’s meant to be a bit more remote, there were quite a lot of westerners (maybe they all read the Lonely Planet web page too).
Two firsts at the restaurant this evening. Number one: Eric had the dubious privilege of choosing which live fish would be meeting its doom for our dinner. Number two: as we left the restaurant we were handed a complimentary watermelon. Vietnam, you continue to surprise us.
Sunday 21st February
We were also advised to stay to the north, as this has less rubbish. There was still quite a bit of rubbish on the north side.
It was OK, but we both felt a bit underwhelmed.
Despite the clouds and some drizzle we had a nice enough time there.
The highlight of the day was playing with some local kids. We exchanged sand-related culture. They built a sand castle and dug a big hole with us. We made sand foot-caves (bury your foot with wet sand, then remove your foot – voila, foot cave!) and sand balls (balls made of sand) with them.
Very sweet kids. Though the “peace” sign doesn’t always translate well!
In the late afternoon some blue sky emerged and the beach was transformed. The clear water turned iridescent blue, the sand went from grey to white. I began to see its charms, but not too long after this the sun set, and it was time to get back and seal the fate of another fish.
Monday 22nd February
I was wondering if Nha Trang would be my idea of a holiday nightmare – crowds, noise, rubbish, ripoff restaurants, tacky clubs and bars etc. But it is actually almost the opposite. The beach is clean, beautiful and well-kept, and while there are plenty of other tourists, it’s still easy to find a quiet spot.