Central to Southern Vietnam
~ 1000km to Ho Chi Minh City ~
When I’m not on Surly Temple, which isn't that often, I don’t think too much about how hot the sun is, or it’s intensity, because I tend not to sit in it for hours. It’s only when I jump on Surly Temple and I’m in it for up to 10 hours a day, that I really notice it’s ferocity.
I was so excited to jump back on Surly Temple and continue on this journey. I left Hoi An at a reasonable hour and boy, was it hot.
I’d been off the bike for long enough for this day to seem like a very difficult day. Strong headwinds, intense sun and arid, open lands. That, and an incredibly itchy tattoo.
The ride wasn’t particularly memorable or scenic, with the route taking me along a brand new, but not quite completed highway. It was such arid, flat terrain, I could have been in the middle of the salt planes of Bolivia!....ok, maybe not, but the surrounding sands were almost white and actually hurt your eyes to look at. Only 5 km out of Hoi An, and Hoi An seems like a million miles away. There is a pretty big theme park and water park being built called Vin Pearl Nam Hoi An, and it would be very interesting to see how its success fares in the future.
Things got much easier after 2 days back in the saddle and on the 3rd, I had a short, but great 65km ride to Sa Huynh Beach Resort, a resort in the middle of nowhere, with the temperature soring.
The majority of the times, a days riding distance is dictated by what accommodation is available, and this was a perfect example of this. Except for the price, in this instance, it was no bad thing. Sa Huynh Beach Resort was a lovely resort, full of locals and with a wedding on in the evening, which only meant one thing; horrendous karaoke. You hear Karaoke so much in Southeast Asia, and I can’t help but grin from ear to ear and laugh every time, because it is usually comically awful. There’s been occasions where I’ve had to compose myself as not to make a scene.
In the morning, I had a good buffet breakfast while the wedding party also had theirs, and apparently the sight of me was funny, which also happens a lot in Southeast Asia.
I couldn't help but take a little stroll along the beach before hitting the road, and who could blame me!?
Along the roads in this area, they would dry 100’s of meters of what I think was wheat, with people raking it all day to dry it out as quickly as possible. If you get a bit of gravel or grit in your noodles, you know why.
The ride to Qui Nhon from Sa Huynh Beach Resort was 115km of headwinds and heat, but was great fun with lots happening. I met 2 different cyclist at different times, 1 Chinese guy, who spoke no English, and a German guy called Julian, who I stopped and had a drink and chat with. Nice guy.
At one point in the day, a guy sped past on his motorbike with a woven basket with a pig in it, perched on the back, with it’s ass hanging out. As I’m watching, the big starts pi**ing out the back, and because of the speed, and with me not going slowly, I got a little splash in the face, which I could only laugh at. You couldn’t make that up.
The things that people carry on the back of motorbikes here in Southeast Asia is quite incredible, ridiculous and so so dangerous. You could dedicate an entire social media page to this and continue to surprise people.
As I got close to Qui Nhon the sun was slowly fading and as I crossed a bridge I was welcomed by this incredible sight. Ahh, life as it happens.
Qui Nhon was an unexpected gem of a place. I arrived in the dark, on a lively Saturday night to a boulevard of bright lights, leading to the sea front. It was so well lit up, it could have been Vegas. I stopped at the traffic lights amongst lots of motorbikes and cars, as a cyclist does, and received lots of smiles. Especially from one particular mid 50’s lady who was riding along with a group of friends, who all had a great giggle when she said “Hello Mister”, in quite a provocative voice and a big smile, which just made me laugh too.
As I set of from the traffic lights, I feel a nudge in the back of my bike, and turn to see a man on a motorbike, with his leg out, pushing my bike from behind, which is another common sight in Southeast Asia. He just started giggling and rode off.
I’ve seen kids on ‘basic’ bicycles casually doing about 30mph as their friend pushes them on his motorbike.
I took the coastal road the whole way down to Ho Chi Minh, stopping at beach side towns and guest houses the whole way down.
From Qui Nhon, it was a very short, 11km’s to Bai Xep, the small fishing village that Canadian Jay said to stop at en route. Because it was such a short day, I had a lay in, then enjoyed a Banh Mi by the beach; my 5th in 2 days, bready brilliant!
Dressed in my non cycling clothes, I hadn’t realized that this short 11km was 5km of very steep incline, so the short, leisurely 11km turned into an absolute sweat fest. It was well worth it though, as the scenery was absolutely stunning.
Bai Xep is a very small little fishing village, down very narrow alleyways, which leads out to this picturesque cove beach, with only a 3-4 small places to stay, but with obvious plans and space for development, with a few developments ‘going up’ around already. If you weren’t looking this little village, you’d never find it.
I stayed at a beautiful bamboo hostel called ‘Life’s a Beach’ and had a great, 2 storey bamboo hut to myself, with an incredible view from my bed and balcony.
I made my way to Alex’s hostel and bar just up the beach and ordered some food. Soon enough, in walks Canadian Jay. “Jay!?” expecting him to not recognise me. “Andy, the cyclist” I said as my expectation was met.
“Andy?…Andy? ….Ah yes, Andy! Took your time” he said
“Yes, got held up in Hoi An" pointing at my tattoo.
Having met Jay a few hundred km back when he stopped on the side of the road to chat, it was cool to catch a beer with him.
Bai Xep is so laidback and would be an amazing place to retire to, if you could handle the culture.
I did watch a man walk out of his house holding 5 big, empty, plastic bottles of water, walk to the sea and just throw them in.
I was absolutely gobsmacked and I should have gone and picked them up and put them in a bin, which only moves the problem else were, but at least out of the sea. I don’t know why I didn’t, but if a similar thing were to happen, that is what I will do. I digress…
I woke at 05.30 the following morning to the most stunning view and to try and catch the sunrise.
I did some stretching on my balcony and some meditating as the sun poked it’s head above the clouds on the horizon which was stunning.
After some breakfast, it was packing up and back on the road, 91km to Tuy Hoa. The ride was pretty straight forward, with a few small hills along the way, which was great fun.
Tuy Hoa was a very unexciting city on the coast, with the coastal side of it dilapidated and almost derelict, which was a real shame, as it could have been beautiful. There wasn’t a single “farang” in sight in this town, and it seemed there was very little reason to visit. I crossed a 1km long bridge, which entered into a quieter, dustier part of town. I’d booked Yellow Farm Guesthouse, which was the best of a bad bunch, and whilst on a very back street looking for it, another cyclist pulls up next to me. “Hi mate, I’m Sam.”
'Cue that stupid surprised face you pull when the unexpected happens'
Sam was an English guy from Kent, cycling around the world, and of all the places, we met in this quiet, local back street. Turns out, Sam also knows Julian, the German guy I’d met a few days before, having met cycling through Nepal. They’d planned to meet, but got their days wrong and missed each other and I managed to meet both, days apart in random places.
I stayed at Yellow Farm Homestay and it was an absolute gem amongst the rubble. The family were lovely, the beer cold and the room was fine. The bathroom was another open air bathroom, which I just love.
Breakfast the following morning was a real treat, and I certainly felt spoilt. I sat in the families’ kitchen with another local family, who were lovely, and ate with them. Cherry, a recent mother in the family, spoke good English and explained some of the food to me, which was all local to Tuy Hoa, she explained.
So after an incredibly friendly and delicious breakfast, and a photo with one of the guys that worked there, it was onto Nha Trang, 135km down the road.
The local kids were going to school when I left Tuy Hoa and when I pulled down a quiet, dusty road, there must have been about 100 kids standing on the side of the road. A friendly “Xin Chao” and a wave, causing them all to laugh, cheer, wave, shouting “hello hello” back, which was a great start to the day. The days ride was up there with some of the best in Vietnam to date, but the best was yet to come. I shook about 12 different peoples hands and felt incredibly welcome. It was the first bit of climbing I’d done for a while, which was incredible, and which always provides a better scenery, and this didn't disappoint.
I got a slow puncture along the way and I stopped to pump it up a couple of times before replacing it, which was about every 10km. Each time someone would stop and help/watch/interfere, but in the nicest way. This particular gentleman stopped, then escorted me 5km down the road until he turned off, which was so kind.
On arriving in Nha Trang, I was so surprised to see that every shop and every person, was Russian. I’d been told this previously, and as the former military Russian HQ in Vietnam, it’s no surprise, but it’s not till you witness it, you really understand. Seeing is believing right!? . I didn’t particularly like the feel of the city, so I just carried on going to a smaller suburb 5km’s further down the road called Cau Da, also full of Russians, and Russian cafes, but much quieter and really quite strange. The houses were all massive, the streets pristine and eerily quiet, but it all felt like a scene out of an Apocalypse movie, or like a town set-up to test an atomic bomb with mannequins everywhere.
The next few days riding were quite spectacular and I can confidently say, the best few days riding in Vietnam. 250km and with one day consisting of 144KM and 1680m elevation on the quietest road yet in Vietnam, and stunning views. It was incredible and hot.
I met Lorenz and Paula from the states on a tandem, who had just started their Southeast Asia tour, but were seasoned tourers and had just released a book from their last around the world tour. Really lovely people and a great chat. They said the best was yet to come on the road we were on and boy were they right. It was a day of epic proportions and one I would love for everyone to experience.
Mui Ne, a really cool coastal town known for it’s kite surfing and sand dunes, 200km from Ho Chi Minh was next and I ended up spending a couple of 4 days here at a lovely boutique hotel, called Marin Boutique Hotel, with a glorious view of palms and sea.
Next door to my guest house happened to be one of the best food courts I’d been to…..ever. Dong Vui is an open air food court and bar, with 8 different draft Ales, run by an Englishman named Chris. With 13 individual and independent food stalls, and an excellent selection of food, I ended up spending my evenings here, and even extended my stay by a night so I could get my blog online and so I could try some more of the food on offer. I met some great people here, including Jeff, a cool Aussie dude, who runs JJ’s, serving Paella and these delicious Paella croquettes with a red pepper coulis, and garlic aiolo, which were awesome. Jeff’s paella and salt and pepper squid is something to marvel at. Who wouldn’t like these two together.
Mui Ne Surfing Wok also served up some pretty delicious food, with their sweet and sour chicken up there with the best I’ve had, and that’s saying something. The Mall in West Palm Beach, FL, takes some beating.
Chris, the English owner was also a nice guy, and we ended having a long chat over a few beers.
If I was a talented blogger, or a digital nomad, I imaging I could get quite used to the life style of traveling the world by bicycle, eating food and writing about it by a pool, as I did that day. It was lovely.
South from Mui Nui was a straight forward ride. I didn't end up eating till late lunch time which left me tired and a little frustrated, but 2 Banh Mi sorted that out. Such a great snack. I’m looking forward to playing with some recipes when I can, that’s for sure. As I was stopped on the side of the road, eating away, a guy on the back of his girl friends moped going past, turned around, shouted “fuck you” and gave me a long held, middle finger, which was nice of him.
I was pretty tired, hot and bothered at this point, and I just gave him a pretty long hard, penetrating stare, and was reminded for a second, that the chimp inside me still exists, but then even more so, that the human in side me is much stronger than the chimp. For those that haven’t read the ‘Chimp Paradox’, and are interested in mind management, it’s an interesting, intuitive read.
Dogs are a big obstacle here in Southeast Asia, especially in Thailand, but as I arrived, I was reminded of how bloody untrained and feral they can be, when, on arriving at Aurora Beach resort, a hotel in the middle of ‘Bumble’, the two dogs at reception took an instant disliking to me, and could seemingly see my jugular pulsating. So much so that one of the little buggers gave me a little nip on the back of the leg. Now, I love dogs in the UK and all animials, but from that moment on, if a dog was ‘having a go’ I was not going to be afraid to put it between the imaginary rugby posts.
So, from Hoi An and 1,000km later and I arrived in Vung Tau, 100km south of ‘Kujo’, and a 1.5 hour boat trip away from Ho Chi Minh City and the last City before heading into Cambodia.
I enjoy the experience of riding into large cities, the hustle and bustle, having to be on hyper alert and muscling against vehicles and scooters, but on this occasion, I’d been recommended by a few people to jump on a boat at Vung Tau, so the next day, that is exactly what I did.
Hello Ho Chi Minh City
Next post coming soon
Thank you and much love