Cycling from Quy Nhon to Ho Chi Minh City: part three
Saturday 27th February
The wind howled all night long, battering the windows and doors, and sending unknown objects rattling across the courtyard. The rain had now disappeared from the weather forecast, but we decided that huge gusts of wind on cliff-side roads were a lot more dangerous. We would be staying in Vinh Hai today.
It was actually a glorious sunny day – just so windy.
There wasn’t a lot to do here, but hey, that’s never bothered us before!
Vinh Hai’s bay.
Sunday 28th February
The morning was marginally less windy than yesterday, and in any case we were running out of cash… time to go!
We cycled with the sea on one side, and salt flats and distant mountains on the other.
On the flat we built up to a stonking 18-20mph, much faster than our usual speed of 11mph, especially considering that we had been forced to swap our ailing touring tyres for sturdy but slow mountain bike tyres.
We were in fact the lucky benefactors of the strong prevailing north to south wind. The funny thing is that while cycling, a tailwind merely feels like a gentle tickle at your back. It was only when we turned around and the tailwind became a headwind that we realised just how strong it was. It’s nice to be on the right side of a prevailing wind for once.
On our map there were six out-of-town hotels grouped in one location by the shore, which could only mean that there was a nice beach.
But… upon arrival every single hotel was apparently full (though they didn’t look it). During our entire time in Vietnam we have only ever come across one full hotel, so this was a surprise. Maybe they all have deals with tour companies or something.
Feeling a bit miffed, we carried on. A couple of miles later we found another resort that was half deserted. After a lot of walking around I finally found the reception and we paid a pricey £15 for a room. It’s funny how much your mindset adjusts when it comes to money. We’re used to paying £9 for a hotel, so an additional £6 feels outrageous until you remind yourself what hotels in the UK cost.
It was worth it. The resort was a couple of metres from a tiny, empty beach. The perfect place to lounge after cycling.
Monday 29th February
Back on the road with our trusty tailwind. We passed by wind turbines today – evidence of how reliable the wind is round these parts.
Crossing a river we were treated to a view of colourful fishing boats (Eric was a bit grumpy when I requested stopping for a photograph, but I think it was worth it – hey you, future Eric, enjoying this precious memory – YOU’RE WELCOME).
The landscape was very interesting today. The road took us up and down long, gradual hills surrounded by sand, including the occasional dune. It was hot on the way up, but the long, shallow declines were great fun.
We cycled by some naturally created dunes which have now become an attraction called the White Dunes. They looked beautiful, but in the intense heat the thought of slogging it up a massive dune was not at all tempting.
This beach is famous for kite surfing due to the reliable wind.
Tuesday 1st March
I had read that the docks of the nearby town Phan Thiét were worth a look, so we had decided to make this a short and easy day so that we could see them.
Due to the short distance we made the time to have a proper breakfast for once (banana pancakes and a coconut). I could get used to 17 miles per day.
We had arrived at a very nice hotel called the Tay Ho by 10.30. It was my intention to get out and see the docks, but I accidentally had a two hour nap instead. We are getting very soft these days.
They were nice.
Is Phan Thiét worth stopping over to see? I would say… no. Not overnight. You can just walk around for ten minutes to see the docks and then move on. The boats are nice, and coming to think of it, so was my two hour nap. Je ne regrette rien!
Wednesday 2nd March
We set off along a small road, which slowly downgraded from tarmac, to rubble, to rubble surrounded by stinky rubbish…
Once we joined back onto the tarmac the cycling was fine, with fairly unremarkable scenery. There were a few nice views.
We reached a town called La Gi by midday, and stopped at a nha nghi (guesthouse). After being shown a fairly basic room I asked the price, and the owner held up six fingers, which either meant 600,000 dong (very expensive) or 60,000 dong (incredibly cheap – £2!). I asked him to write it down, and he wrote:
1 hour = 60,000
“Oh!” I said.
It was then that I remembered that some nha nghis are in fact “love hotels”, used by young Vietnamese couples who want to get away from their ever-present families.
After explaining that we were looking for one night, I was told that the cost for that would be 150,000 dong. Still extremely cheap, but somehow the room wasn’t very tempting anymore…
I decided that we would keep looking. When I returned to the bike and explained what had happened to Eric, he went all Victorian (which was quite funny) and expressed a great deal of amazement that the owner had thought we were the “rent for an hour” type! He did have a point. We were both covered in sweat, wearing baggy old clothes, cycle helmets, and of course were riding a fully loaded bike. Tandems: not as romantic as you think they are.
In the owner’s defence, it’s probably obvious to most people what type of nha nghi it is.
Anyway, not so long afterwards we found a much more reputable establishment, which actually said “NO PROSTITUTES” in the hotel rules, so there you go.
And for dinner there was a rare occurrence: we actually did stumble upon a place which was unique and worth mentioning. Next time you go to La Gi (heh!) visit the restaurant alongside the Chua Phap Duu Buong temple. It’s run by the nuns. We saw rice and tried asking for com ga (chicken and rice). They did what restaurant owners do about 50% of the time, which is ignore the clueless foreigners who can’t pronounce anything correctly, and just serve up whatever they’ve got. I actually really like it when this happens as we get to try some things that I wouldn’t have known to order.
They gave us a rice dish topped with a whole bunch of delicious things. It took us a few minutes to realise that all of it was vegetarian. We had a few different types of tofu, mushrooms, deep-fried mystery veg, stir-fried veg and probably a few other things that I’ve forgotten about.
Our meal and two drinks came to just 60,000 dong, which is so cheap that we felt very happy to make a donation to the temple.
From love hotels to temples, all in one day!
Thursday 3rd March
Our early morning starts have slowly been getting later and later. Today we decided to get our act together. The alarm went off at 5.30, and we were ready to go by a respectable 6.30.
For the first time we saw that we had been the victim of an attempted theft in the night. One of the hotel guests had tried to take the horn which is tied to the pannier wrack, but luckily they had tried pulling it through part of the pannier wrack instead of untying it, and it had gotten stuck at a weird angle. We couldn’t move it either, but didn’t care too much as the horn was now more steal-proof than before.
Stealing aside, we find that people often come up and fiddle with our bike, either while we’re there or not. We often hear people honking the horn while the bike is in hotel lobbies, and while in Nha Trang we found that somebody changed all the gears to their highest setting and then moved the bike in such a way that our bike stand snapped. We came back to find the snapped piece placed upon one of the saddles. I think this is a flip-side of the lovely friendliness of South East Asian people – it’s normal to smile and say hello, but it’s also fairly acceptable to fiddle with things that aren’t yours!
We got a bit lost a couple of times, as a lot of Vietnamese sign posts are yet to exist (I am putting this a lot more diplomatically than Eric did).
When we arrived at our destination our milometer was at 68 miles. We then spent another two miles cycling around and around a very small area, trying to find the hotel we had booked. We got there eventually.
We are now in Vung Tau, which is the beach resort where Saigon’s residents pop to for the weekend. After a month of slowly making our way down Vietnam, we are finally almost at Ho Chi Minh City.