Feb 10, Gia Ray – 115 km
Leaving Mui Ne at 6:30 was pleasant and cool. Being a beach area there was very little traffic; it seems beach communities are late night not early morning places. But soon I was coming into Phan Thiet and the normal busy street activity began. I had a long ride through town until I found hwy #1, which I was now joining again after being away from it for a couple of days.
Interestingly, now as I got inside 200 km from HCMC the divided four-lane with good shoulder road that I had been riding since Hanoi dropped down to two-lane, not divided with a shoulder that acted like the extra lane. And it would last until I finally left hwy #1 40 km from HCMC. I also began to notice high numbers of 2-4 people on their motor bikes. This would be a couple with one or two young kids, with a small piece of baggage tied on as well. I think that I was joining a large number of people, going both ways on their way home from Tet holidays.
It did not take long on this day for the heat to get to me. It felt like I was going up-hill much of the day. By 9:30 it was well into the 30s. I stopped a few times as always for drink stops. At one stop I asked for a coke. I also pointed to a plate of noodles that another customer was having. I was brought my coke with a glass of ice, a glass of cool tea that was topped up. A plate of noodles was followed by some sweet cakes. I was charged 10 k dong, about Cdn$ 0.66. The lovely elderly woman indicated that all she was charging me for was the coke. At my next stop I had a cold lemon tasting soft drink and was charged 20 k. I guess it depends upon whether they feel sorry for this old red-faced fool or not.
My hotel in Gia Ray was quite nice and so welcome that I had to have a seat in the lobby for a few minutes before venturing up to my room. I pulled in about 1:30, late for me, even though I had not ridden that far. My almost inevitable procedure is to get in my room, get the AC going, have a long warm, not hot shower and then lie out on the big double bed that I always get. The AC gradually gets my body temperature lower again. I will drink quite a bit of cold water or cold beer, depending upon what is in the room fridge. As the outside temperature lowers a bit, I will venture out for a very short walk to a tea-house and have a relaxing drink, possibly reading or doing some internet research before finding a place for dinner. On this night my dinner was Pho Bo at a roadside vendor
Feb 11, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), 110 km
My plan, leaving the hotel, was to leave hwy #1 after about 40 km onto a major road that would enter HCMC on the SE corner and then to the bus station that serves the south. I would then try to catch a bus that would take me into the Mekong Delta. I would spend a couple of nights there and then ride back north into HCMC. Google supported me in this plan by giving me the route I would take.
My riding started out pretty well, it seemed to take longer to get real hot on this day. Unfortunately when I got to my junction the road I was to take was off-limits to bikes, motorbikes and such things. I coasted under the overpass noting no vehicles at all passing along this freeway. It did knock the wind out of my sails a bit, as I continued along.
Sometime later, about 40 km from HCMC, I took an alternate road that looked good. The new road was divided and four- lane. I was concerned that there were no km-posts with HCMC on them, but it was heading in the right direction and so I continued along. The divided part has been fairly important to me, as illustrated by the last day and a half of non-divided road. On this part of the ride I had to watch much more diligently the traffic coming towards me. Without the divider it was not unusual for the two lanes to be filled with big truck/bus traffic coming at me, often overlapping into the shoulder I was on. The shoulder going both ways was still filled with the normal motorbike traffic and so it made for a very hectic situation. Much higher stress levels may have led to my exhaustion on these days.
So the divided four lanes became divided six lane with a further two lanes each way just for us bikes. So as I was crossing the bridges over the Saigon River entering greater HCMC it was about ten lanes of highway, four for motorbikes; quite a luxury. I stopped at a shaded tea house about 15 km out. There were a few of the motorbike families there when I stopped. They were having a good rest before continuing on into the city. At many of these places there are hammocks hung under the roof and they are well used; it seems motor bike travel is tiring as well as leg bike travel.
Now I had a big decision to make. It would take me a couple of hours to get through the city with the hope of finding the bus station and then to hope I could get find a bus that would take me and my bike to one of the towns in the Mekong. I think it was a combination of the heat exhaustion and the spectre of riding back to HCMC in a couple of days that helped me make up my mind. I had done my ride after all. I rode into the centre of town. When near to what I thought might be the centre, I had left the big highway by now, I pulled out my guidebook and my google maps and found that I was a block from The Spring Hotel, a highly recommended hotel. It is pricier than I normally choose, but they offered me a bit of a deal if I stayed for a few extra days. Again it might have been my exhaustion that kicked in, but I agreed to stay until my train trip north.
My bike ride is finished, although I do not expect to stop riding my bike, and I have seven days to use in and around HCMC.
(No photos this time)