Feb 3-5, Nha Trang -70+20km
After the hot exhausting day riding into Van Gia it was very pleasant leaving. I got away at about 6:30 into a dark, windy day. I was a bit worried that it may rain, but it didn’t. It took an hour before I stopped for Pho Bo and then I relaxed and coasted along. The threat of rain disappeared and the wind was solidly with me. I followed a sign to Nha Trang away from the highway that added almost ten kms to my trip. The quiet road snaked up and down, in and out around a peninsula, until finally Nha Trang came into view. I stopped in a tea house on the edge of town at 9:30 to make my plans.
I chose a recommended little hotel/hostel called Mozjo. It was squirreled away in a little alley a couple blocks away from the beach. I had ridden about ten kms along the big divided road leading past the big international hotels and I could see that this was a significant tourist draw. After showering and having a sandwich in the little rooftop restaurant I wandered down to the beach to soak up a little wave action.
I decided on a high-end tea house that charged about 3 times normal prices. It had comfortable easy chairs where I sat for a few hours over coffee and then beer. The waves crashed heavily and only a few of the many beach visitors ventured out into the water. I came to understand that the majority of tourists here were Russian. Apparently there are direct flights from cities in Russia to each of the major Vietnamese beaches. Interestingly in my hotel there are mostly young budget travellers from all of the usual countries including Canada. Dam, from Van Gia, called my cell with the message that he had come into town to do some business and I had him come to the restaurant I was in so I could buy him a beer. He was horrified by the prices.
Back at the Mozjos I took part in the free beer hour where I sat with and talked with girls and guys from Britain and the Netherlands. Each of my three days here had me visiting a different collection of people. My last night it was five Canadians sitting together, including a 72 year old doctor from Toronto. Mozjo also had a breakfast included with many choices, all good.
My second day here was a bike day. I rode back up to the edge of town to visit Po-Nagar Cham towers, a nicely restored Champa site set in peaceful gardens. I followed this by fighting through some very thick city traffic to get to Long Son Pagoda a nice Buddhist park. The large Buddha that topped to site had images of the monks who burned themselves during the protests of the Diem regime in the sixties.
I gave myself a third day in Nha Trang during which I walked the beach, drank coffee in the coffee gardens and continued eating from menus that had English translations. I ate some western and some Vietnamese. My long stay in Nha Trang was in part to fiddle away some of the many days I have left before my train ticket back north. I only have about five days of riding to get to HCMC and I had about ten to do it.
Feb 6, Phan Rang – 100 km
After a final Mozjo breakfast I was on the road out of Nha Trang by 7:30. These sound like early times, but the streets are active by 6:00. Again I had about 20 kms of quiet hilly ocean front road before merging with Hwy 1. Into the hills I saw two other bike tourers struggling up hill into the wind. I, knock on wood, have finally chosen a ride which is down wind.
Out on hwy #1 I was rocketing down the highway in top gear. There was very little traffic, possibly because it was Saturday before Tet. So I could cruise along at good speed still looking around and appreciating life around me. That is until the road turned a bit and the winds hit me cross ways. Then it was a bit spooky at the speeds I was going, but mostly the wind was directly behind me so it was good.
I turned about 7 km away from Phan Rang to head for the beach area called Ninh Chu. There was supposed to be some better hotels along the beach. I cruised along the beach strip passing a few large resorts and the odd little Nha Nghi, but mostly empty lots.
I finally chose an old place that must have been something in its day, which was quite some time ago. There were some hundreds of rooms spread between about five buildings. A couple of swimming pools and a tennis court. There seemed to be one car there when I arrived. But they said they had a restaurant, which was something I had not seen in my ride down hotel strip. After showering I found a cavernous dining room with about thirty tables, none with chairs. The wind was blowing dust through. But someone came out and we agreed on something that turned out to be fried beef and white rice.
I walked down to the beach and along a nice beach walk, never seeing a soul. I passed a large teahouse resort complex but no-one was home. And I was exhausted, I’m not sure why. Back at my place I had a beer and flopped back on my bed. I woke four hours later at 6:30, in time to get another one dish meal in the big empty restaurant.
Saturday before Tet and no one was here. No idea why.
Feb 7, Phan Ri – 90 km
My start up ride today took me through the heart of Phan Rang, which turned to be teeming with motor bikes, narrow streets and endless markets that spilled out onto the roads. I connected with hw#1 and stopped right away for breakfast, which today was two fried eggs, lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers. Not bad, but not really as sustaining as Pho Bo.
The wind was just as helpful as yesterday and today (Sunday) the roads even less busy. I can’t stop wondering how I got so lucky with the wind. I stopped at one point and took some rice harvest shots. It seemed like only a few days ago that I was taking rice planting pictures near Hanoi.
In Phan Ri, the road seemed to bypass the main town, so I cut back in to find a hotel. Using Google I rode back north on a minor road about 5 kms to a hotel to find that it was nicely set in the countryside but with no restaurant. Back in on the edge of town, I went up-budget at a place with a few nicer features than normal. I showered and ate in their extensive garden area. I went for a walk along the water-front. No beach access at all here. I had a long afternoon teahouse stop with about 50 locals, and then back in the nice garden area, now under a myriad of lights of all colours, for a light dinner.
This the night before Tet and I don’t see any sign of things going on here. In the big tea-house type area at my hotel there were about 15 servers and maybe three tables of customers. Mind you I do go to bed before most revellers would arrive.
Feb 8,9 Mui Ne, 70 + 15 km
Today is Tet. My ride began with an escort by the hotel owner through Phan Ri to a bridge that put me out of town onto a new road. Today my whole ride would be on minor (not Hwy #1) roads. Some minor road. It is brand new; four lanes with a big median down the middle. It set out through a semi-desert area. The problem is that I did not have anything for breakfast and there didn’t look like any possibility of hitting the little service strips that are almost continuous on hwy #1. Oh well, I had some water, it was only about 60 km, and it was early enough to be almost cool. The wind had stopped though, so I wasn’t getting the 5kph help that I am now almost addicted to.
After riding on the new road for about an hour and a half I joined an older road and soon found a place where I could buy some peanuts and juice. The road then began to hug the coast until a final climb into the village of Mui Ne. I was heading to Mui Ne because it is billed as one of the beach areas and so I expected to find lots of food choices. I had made a two night reservation online because of Tet.
In the village, expecting to find a tourist strip by the sea, I got into a maze of narrow streets and rode up and down for a while before using my google maps app that pointed out that the tourist spots began about 5 km along the coast. At any rate, I arrived at my hotel at 10:00. My days end earlier and earlier. I have been in the habit of having lunch when my ride is finished for the day. Today I had breakfast to finish my riding day.
Mui Ne is a very different beach experience than the big city – big hotel Nha Trang. Here, at least where my little hotel is, there is a busy narrow road running along with most of the nicer hotels on the sea side of the road and all sorts of restaurants shops and cheaper hotels on the other side of the road. Possibly I will see some bigger resort type places down the road when I head on. In the afternoon of my first day here I walked along for a couple of kms, picking a little restaurant/bar that had squeezed out a beach front. I had a beer and read for a while, watching and listening to the waves pound the retaining wall.
There are lots of places along here to eat, but it looks like I will just stick to my hotel restaurant. It seems to be the most popular spot and there is no end of choice. I walked into one of the fancy resorts and one couple was eating.
After breakfast, my day here, I rode my bike back along the road to Fairy Creek. With about 1000 people I walked in the creek bed up a red and white sand canyon for about three kms. I thought of walking Paria Canyon with George Kinnear. We also walked most of the way in the water and the walls were a deep red. Mind you there we walked three days, today I walked 3 kms. And where I was walking along with countless people, in Paria there was a limit of about 3 parties a day.
I did a further ride back and forth along the strip for a while, finally finding an ATM that topped up my cash. Most bank ATMs here won’t do that.
I made a mistake today. I had had no bike trouble at all. But I decided to clean some of the gunky oil off my chain and put new oil on. My tires had not even had a top of the air pressure so I did that as well. Then when I came back from lunch I saw that the rear tire had gone flat, probably too much air. So I had to change tubes. The ones I brought are pretty narrow for my tires and so the first one I put in popped when I was close to the pressure I wanted. I then had to go back to patch the one that was originally in the tire to try to make that work. Now I am spooked. I will be checking things all the time for a while.
I am two days away from HCMC, but I don’t actually want to get there for a few days longer than that. Tomorrow I will begin to hit some junctions that if all goes well I will be able to work my way around the outskirts of HCMC and get into the Mekong Delta without stopping in the city. I have had a real problem finding road junctions within cities here and so that my not work. The problem is that HCMC sits on the Saigon River and I need to find a bridge not too far into the city. We’ll see.