Jan 24,25 Hue
After riding all day in the rain to get here, and then having all of my clothes washed I was not looking forward to getting out more in the rain. But that is what I had to do. It rained, creating a cold wet two days for me here. On the first day I headed out on foot dodging unsuccessfully the blowing rain that made my umbrella pretty useless. I was heading towards the Citadel to get a
feeling for the Nguyen Dynasty. Gia Long, with the help of the French created a unified Vietnam Kingdom with the capital at Hue in 1802. The Nguyen Emperors, some seven of them lasted in power until 1945 when then Emperor Bao Dai abdicated. In truth they were mostly titular emperors anyway. The French mostly pulled the strings of power during that time.
But the Citadel, and the inner Imperial City, which housed the emperors and their extended families is pretty impressive. It is being slowly restored after the deterioration of the years, in particular that inflicted by the heavy bombardment during the American War. Thankfully some kms of covered walkways are part of the restoration and so I was able to get some cover from the perpetual rain. There are also some temples and other buildings that have been rebuilt. There is a pretty good hint of the gardens and walkways that must have existed. At least one of the emperors had over 100 wives and numereous concubines and so there was the need for significant living quarters. On display, hung in the long covered walkways are hundreds of grainy photographs illustrating the clothing that the women, children and temple mandarins wore during these years. There are not a lot of artifacts on display, no doubt these have been destroyed or on display at museums around the world. I spent the better part of the day here and then made my way out and back across the Perfume River to my hotel, the Hue Nino.
I did not wander around the city nor head out on my bike during my two days here. It was more comfortable to hang out close to my nice warm hotel room and the restaurants and bars in the vicinity. I did get to watch a bit of tennis including our man Milos. I did not visit any of the emperor mausoleums that are spotted around the city. They are park like settings and it was not park visiting weather, at least for me.
On my second day in Hue I decided that I would take the bus the 100 plus kms down the road to Hoi An, my next spot that I wanted to spend a bit of time visiting.
Jan 26,27 Hoi An
I really am glad not to be travelling backpacker style. I was ready at 7:00, as instructed. At 7:30 I rode my bike to the bus area and left my bike to be loaded onto the bus in advance of departure. I rode back to the hotel on a motor bike with one of the Hue Nino guys. Had more coffee and then was back out on the street at 8:15 waiting for a mini-bus, which then took us to a spot where we waited for the big bus. At 9:00 it came around the corner and it looked like the bus my bike had been loaded onto, but it was too hurried for me to ensure it was the right bus. I was ushered on and climbed up into a top bunk. The bus had three rows of up/down reclining seats. Naturally my crypt was not quite long enough for me to stretch out, and the cavity for my feet did not allow me to ride with my feet pointing up; I had to lie pigeon toed. We seemed to be all on, but then we had to wait another half hour for a few late comers. Finally we were underway. Thankfully there was a pee stop and then another stop at Da Nang to let some off. We arrived in Hoi An at about 1:00.
As I ride down the road on my bike I often think that a ride on a bus now and then would be a nice break. Unfortunately this one didn’t really meet that need. As it turned out it never did rain on this day and I am quite sure that if I had left my hotel at 7:30 like I would normally have done I would have made into Hoi An at about the same time, and I would have had a nicer time of it. The day was just as grey as all my days have been and it got warmer as the day progressed. It was so cold in Hue that I was not looking forward to riding in a cold rainy day, as was forecast.
At the bus depot I was picked up and sold a “home-stay”. I quite liked the fellow who owns the place and so I followed his motor bike to my place. Hoi An is a tiny tourist town compared to anything I have seen here so far. After dropping my bags off at my room I rode the 6 or 7 blocks into the heart of the town, had some snacks and beer and then rode a few of the streets. I was trying to determine if I would spend one or two nights. I am anxious to hit the road again, but there are some attractions here, and it is supposed to be the best place in Vie
tnam to try different foods.
I had two new for me hot snacks and was leaning towards staying, if for no other reason to try more food. Back at my room my host recommended a tour to My Son in the morning. This is another place that I wanted to see, but felt it was too far out of my way. So it looks like I will stay two nights.
My tour to My Son began at about 8:00 with an hour drive around Hoi An, as the large bus gradually filled every seat. We must have stopped at 20 places to get the 40 people. At least I saw parts of the town I wouldn’t have seen other wise.
Our guide, with a raspy interesting voice had a pretty good sense of humour and was entertaining as well as informative. Had I known the tour was of this sort I probably would not have bit, but I am kind of glad I went. I had wanted to see some of Vietnam’s history that wasn’t wrapped up with the French or the Americans. My Son (Beautiful Mountain) was discovered by French Archaeologists early in their period here. It is probably the most significant Cham site and has a lot of similar features to those at Ankor. Many if the carvings show that Hindu Influence and it dates from around a thousand years ago.
It is set part way up into the highlands in deep jungle and so the setting is lovely. Unfortunately the French and American Influence is significant. The French archaeologists, as was the rule in those days, did a fair amount of robbing. Many of the remaining figures are missing their heads which have found their way to the Louvre. The Americans also had their affect. Prior to a couple of days bombing sixties there were about 70 buildings in fairly good condition, now there are 20, and what is left is pretty beat up with heaps of rubble spread out around the bomb craters. Restoration has had a boost with the World Heritage Site declaration.
I had another ride around town at night. It will be a few days before I get back into tourist towns again.
Jan 28 Quang Ngai – 125 km
It was a bit drizzly as I headed off out of Hoi An. It felt to get back on my bike again. I had 10 km of back country riding before I would hit Hwy # 1, and I was never really sure I was headed in the right way. Soon I was rocketing along with the teeming motorbikes, buses and trucks. The road did not seem as good, often only two lanes and no shoulder, but that didn’t change the way people drove. Still lots of motor bikes particularly coming at me the wrong way and lots of honking as drivers wanted some room to come through. The drizzle meant that I was getting covered in grit again, but luckily the drizzle stopped about mid-day and the sun actually came out, and now it was hot.
I am now in rolling country side and so the effort to get down the road is quite a bit more. Most of these hills are not much more than a km and possible 6-7% at maximum, but it is still taxing.
I am thinking about heading into the highlands and looking for a spot to head in. It is quite a way in (100+ km) and so I have to choose my spot carefully because I don’t know what the roads or the accommodation will be like. I had to pass up one route because I don’t have enough cash. None of the ATMs in Hoi An worked for me. I rode all day and finally saw an ATM that I knew worked, but this was just before I stopped for the day. Now I am flush and so I might try in the next couple of days.
I am at a low level place again tonight. I had two hotel beers and washed some clothes. To dry I hung them on my bike in the covered lot. I knew they would be damp in the morning but that would feel good to start the day on. I had a very poor dinner in the bus/truck stop across the hwy. It confirms my decision to use the small much more basic roadside places as I go. Interestingly there was a high-end coffee place on the way back where I had an excellent Vietnamese coffee. In spite of my very basic room I did get some of the Australian Open on TV.
Jan 29, Near Bong Son – 120 km
It was sunny, as I got away a bit after7:00 and it was already hot. I had not slept much during the night. First cats had a Donny-brook around midnight and then a very ambitious rooster began his screeching well before any sun began to appear. So I wasn’t that spry today. I had a mediocre breakfast about 45 minutes into the day. I am not doing near as well as I was doing in the north. I am really missing the Pho Bo that was so good to start the day.
I have two short days, about 100km each ahead of me and so I tried to ride slowly and stop often. Each time I stop it was obvious how draining the ride is, even though the traffic is not as bad as yesterday. Unfortunately, I rode right through the town I was to stop at and as I don’t like to turn back I kept riding. I finally came to a strip of buildings where I often see the Nha Nghi signs that designate little guest houses. As I went under-budget last night I looked a little more carefully and have a nicer place. Alas, for the first time the TV coverage, about 90 channels does not include the Aussie Open, and I had hoped to see Milos and Murray. Before and after my dinner break I did get some herky-jerky streaming so I could unsuccessfully cheer Milos on.
Dinner was pretty interesting. I had about a km walk along the hwy to a little roadside place offering food. There seem to be less open that during the day. I had a Bun Bo, noodles and beef, with a lot of greens that are added as you eat. I had lots of company and provided a fair amount of entertainment. There was not a word of English understood here.
Jan 30, Quy Nhon, 85 km
It was thankfully a bit overcast as I started today. In spite of the excellent sleep I had last night I was still not that spry again today. But I did ride along at a reasonable pace. It has been my habit of late to ride for 30-60 minutes before stopping for breakfast. The advantage is that gives a good reason to have a long stop early; the disadvantage is that I am thinking about the stop the whole time. I look at all of tHhe little food places advertising Com, Bun, Pho, Ga, and other things.
One break that got me through the morning was about a 30 minute shower. It is now hot enough that I don’t bother about my rain coat. It is pleasant riding along in a light drizzle, so much cooler than normal. I have been touching the sea at the odd occasion but it is still mostly rice fields, mountains, and villages
I had been out there close to an hour, still without food, and had just climbed a hill when I saw a nice spot with a couple of people sitting in a covered courtyard. I stopped, asked and signed that I needed some food. They waved me in and soon gave me a Vietnamese coffee and tea, both hot. I would not be eating yet. I did enjoy the stop and it gave me another excuse to stop again soon. And that happened a few kms later. This time and old guy stepped out and waved me in. I sat with him and his buddy while his wife made be a better Pho Bo that I have had for a few days. My meal mates were 72 and 66 and had all sorts of questions, some of which I was able to interpret. These little sustenance stops are becoming my favourite things during the day.
A while later, on one of the two lane town bypasses I ran into about 5 kms of roadside flowered bonsai trees in ceramic pots. They were being grown in the fields and were on display along the road. There must have been hundreds of cars, buses and trucks stopped along the way for people to look or to purchase. It caused a few near accidents that I saw, but that is just the way that road-side business is conducted.
Quy Nhon is a beach town that is about 10 km off of my hwy #1 route. The drive in had me very confused as all I saw was industrial development followed by a dirty look harbour area. When I got into town, up against more ocean it didn’t seem much like a beach area. I got into a housing district that was leading nowhere. I found an area with a lot of low level guest houses and looked at 3 or 4 before I chose one that was quite nice at a good rate. In my room the manager showed me a map where 10 minutes’ walk got me to beach. I was in my room by noon, still a bit tired from the ride. I washed some clothes had a nice shower and walked down to and along the beach. I had beer and snacks sitting beside the deserted beach and enjoyed the light breeze coming off the water.
This beach town was recommended in my book as being quite nice but very much off the tourist track. I have only seen two white kids so far. I am having a nice rest this afternoon and may try to find some western food in the backpacker area tonight.