Monday 12 Aug – Friday 16 Aug. 72km around Nha Trang.
In recuperation mode and although neither of us are good at completely relaxing we have been forced to have a week of doing very little while I try to get back to full strength to get back on the road. We have read many blogs and books and spoken to other long-distance cyclists before and during our trip, and without fail all of them recount tales of having to take time out of their journeys for illness, accidents, bike malfunction or even political unrest. So while it’s reassuring to know that this blip is not unusual for a trip of this duration, that’s not to say it’s not frustrating!!!
Nigel already said this in his blog, but there are so many things that could have been so different with my accident – and it definitely could have happened in a worse place. Nha Trang is a big city with multiple hospitals so medical care was easily available here. Before my accident, I wouldn’t have fancied my chances having to rely on Vietnamese healthcare, based on nothing I hasten to add, other than an uninformed assumption that it would be terrible. (We had been told Thailand is the best in SE Asia) – but I was pleasantly surprised at how efficient and competent both the services and professionals were….and would almost put the NHS to shame! The ambulance and hospital were very clean and staff were nice and professional. I arrived at the hospital in an ambulance and within 2 hours I’d had a CT scan, ultrasound, had my side stitched, was issued medicine and discharged ….and at no stage did I feel that they were rushing to get rid of me. It might sound obvious, but needles were all taken from sterilised packaging and medical staff wore gloves when treating me….and although these are the western standards we are used to, we had been told by medical professionals in London before this trip that in many countries these basics might not be the case – but they absolutely were, which was a relief! The entire process, including follow-up appointments to clean my wounds and later to remove my stitches, cost £150, which I will hopefully get back on travel insurance but even if I don’t, it was well worth it. Mind you, that cost probably is extortionate for a local….and everyone (foreigners and locals, regardless of their social standing) has to pay the same, which surprised us. We did wonder if I got special treatment as a foreigner in terms of queue-jumping, but I don’t think so – especially with the after care. If an emergency hospital visit can be a positive experience, it definitely was. And the staff at our accommodation were absolutely fantastic and looked after us both so well for our time there. Our place was also just a 5-minute walk to the beach, which we visited every day, so there were definitely worse places we could have been – even if Nha Trang is overrun with Russian and Chinese tourists! Interestingly our excitement at having a washing machine in our apartment soon died when we realised that after the first load of washing was done we actually didn’t have enough clothes to use it very often…!
Tues 13 Aug – Walked to the hospital and back, got my stitches out and all is well with my wounds. Went for an afternoon walk as well, so in total covered about 8km today without feeling too exhausted.
Wed 14 Aug – A gentle bike ride to the supermarket and back (my first time on a bike in a week) and managed about 10km. My body is obviously designed for cycling as I managed it fine and it didn’t involve too much pain! I just need to get a bit more training in before we can get fully back on the road again. Nigel managed a dip in the sea before lunch, with me sitting on a bench looking enviously at him….! Generally beach holidays wouldn’t be our thing, but 10 days here has made us realise that it might be nice to intersperse some beach days with other activities in the future as we have quite enjoyed it!
Thursday 15 Aug – First day in over a week that we set the alarm for 6.30am so we could get back to some semblance of normality. Decided to do a decent practice ride today and managed a 37km round-trip out of town and back and returned to have lunch on the beach.
Not a bad way to get back into the swing of things, and it’s looking good to leave on Saturday. Fingers crossed!
After a few pre-dinner drinks on the beach we decided to venture into a different area of the city for dinner. Just as we decided on a restaurant, someone sneaked in just in front of us and nabbed the last free table. Not to be deterred we asked a man who was sitting alone if we could sit at the end if his table. Turns out Wilson was the owner of the restaurant, originally from Scotland, had spend quite a bit of time in Australia and had lived in Vietnam for 20 years. We had a lovely chat for about an hour, with him lamenting how touristy Nha Trang had become in recent years (apparently modelled on the Gold Coast in Australia) and buying us beers as we ate dinner. He left before we had finished and when we went to pay our bill discovered that he had picked up the entire tab for us….including BOTH Nigel’s dinners!! Yet again the kindness of strangers on this trip has been amazing!
Fri 16 Aug.
To keep our training going we were out in the bikes early again….this time passing the spot where I had my accident, which already seems like a long time ago! Nothing unusual about the road or even that there was a lot of gravel, but it was at the bottom of a hill so maybe the speed at which I was travelling played a factor in how hard I fell when I came off. Interestingly there we quite a few skid marks across the gravel, some of which weren’t mine and some of which appeared to be very new. One skid mark even continued into the curb so it would seem that this corner is a bit of a black spot. Anyway, therapy of visiting the traumatic location over, we had a lovely coastal ride towards town….and I can now say I cycled the whole journey!
Stopped off along the way to visit Ponagar Tower, a Buddhist temple with Hindu and Muslims influences. By the way, that’s NOT a hospital gown in the photo…it’s the robe I was provided with to make myself decent to go inside….
A very nice hour taking it all in before heading back to our hotel via the supermarket. I am still a bit bruised and sore but feeling well enough to get back on the road again tomorrow so we needed to stock up for the journey. We are both quite looking forward to getting back to the “normality” of being on the road again.
Saturday 17 Aug. Nha Trang to Lua de Thi Hong. 67km.
We were up early, quite excited to be on the move again. As we were getting ready to depart what has been a very comfortable base for 10 days, the owner of the hotel came to give us a present – a small Vietnamese embroidered bag for me and some alcoholic home brew for “medicinal purposes” to help us on our way. She obviously got to know us well during our stay! But honestly the Vietnamese people have been so nice and especially helpful when we needed them – and we will never forget that.
The first part of our route took us alongside a relatively quiet coastal road that we had cycled a few days ago, which was good for me as I felt a bit apprehensive to start. The sun was quite hot even at 6:30 and we had an annoying headwind to contend with, but overall I felt fine. It wasn’t the most interesting scenery but there were a few nice flashes of coastline ….
…as well as lots of construction. The area is obviously gearing up for a tourism boom, which we hope they get….otherwise there will be lots of empty hotels and unemployed service people!
One thing they do need to sort out though is the rubbish. The further south we have travelled the worse it has become, and this is now the norm at the side of the road….
We knew there was a guest house at 65km, which was our planned end destination for the day …far enough to feel like we are moving, but not pushing myself too hard. Despite being on a main road it was a faff to find it and when we did, what a disappointment. Despite getting great reviews on google it was probably our worst accommodation in SE Asia. We had a tiny room that was akin to a shed and we had to store half our luggage in the bathroom as it’s was so small. The shower consisted of a pipe sticking out of the wall, there were ants all over the window sill and at least 3 HUGE flying cockroaches. Our hearts sank when we saw it, but it was a case of cycle another 30km to the next town or take it – so we did. When we confirmed we would stay the young lad checking us in tried to increase the price from what he initially quoted, but we were having none of it…especially when we had seen the room! But the air-conditioning worked and it was on the ground floor so we (or should I say Nigel!) didn’t have far to carry our bags. I was too pooped to have lunch so I crashed for 2 hours – after which I felt back to normal. Rest of the day was just chilling out in our jail cell…..
Dinner was also a challenge as there wasn’t much nearby and we had a choice of goat, badly-butchered chicken or egg-fried rice. We opted for the rice! We then returned to our accommodation to find that the owner had been in our room and tampered with the air-conditioning…probably to save on the electricity. Not the perfect end to our day, but it still felt good to be back on the road!
In order to make the best of a bad deal we decided to try some of the “medicinal” hooch. Apparently it’s made with roots and apart from being very strong tasted somewhere between cooking sherry and cough mixture. I’m sure it was dissolving our teeth and it certainly burnt a bit as it went down! We looked up Vietnamese home brewed alcohol on line and having read the side effects decided a small sip was all we should try as we didn’t fancy going blind!
Sunday 18 Aug. Lua de Thi Hong to Tuy Phong. 88 km.
A 5am rise, which really wasn’t that hard as the room was quite hot and sticky, and we were on the road before 6am. Slightly cooler in temperature, which made it more comfortable than yesterday, but the annoying headwind was still there! Although getting on and off my bike isn’t that easy for me (especially lifting my leg to get on) and my side where I had stitches is still sore, I generally felt OK after yesterday’s exertions. The journey today was one long boring road like this….
…and other than a couple of stops for cold drinks it was fairly uneventful…although we did seem to pass through the Vietnamese capital of fish sauce where it was on sale by the bucketload….
…as well as the Vietnamese wine region with shop after shop selling bottles of wine. Who would have guessed that Vietnam has a wine culture?!
We had planned a 76km day but the accommodation option at that point appeared to be similar to last night in that it was by the side of a road with limited food options nearby. So checking I was OK to push on a further 12km we decided to aim for a small town along the coast….with more hotel and food options. And we definitely made the right decision as we got a great hotel with a big ground floor room and great air-con at a decent price. I guess nights like last night make us appreciate decent accommodation even more! And the town itself was a lovely bustling little market town…. lots of locals going about their business with not a tourist other than ourselves in sight. And we had success on the dinner front with a tasty meal of a pork-based noodle soup….
…followed by a fried egg sandwich with hot chilli sauce. We aren’t hard to please on the food front these days, are we??
As our time on Vietnam comes slowly to an end we have just looked at our progress through the country. How cool is this for a footprint?
Monday 19 Aug. Tuy Phong to Mui Ne. 67km.
Today was a tough old cycling day as there were lots of hill climbs directly into the face of a headwind. But despite the challenging terrain it was a fantastic ride along a stunning coastline, with the sea to our left and lots of enormous white sand dunes to our right – in fact, one of our nicest rides for a while!
Our route also took us passed some pretty, but pungent, fishing villages…
…and it’s obviously an area where they harvest dragon fruit as there were rows and rows of the small trees along the road, which at first we though looked like aloe vera plants.
Even before we set out we had planned a shorter day than yesterday, so around midday we stopped for an early lunch in a resort destination where we were definitely the only tourists! Like yesterday there was lots of construction along the route and not many tourist or indeed locals so we practically had a dual carriageway to ourselves for the entire journey! But as are now quite near Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City we wonder if the government are gearing this area up for a tourism push. We did pass a lone female cyclist been blown nicely along by the wind in the opposite direction, but she didn’t stop to chat unfortunately!
A couple of kilometres later we stopped off at some “red” sand dunes, which are a local attraction . The sand looked more orange than red to us and to be honest we actually preferred the white sands from earlier along the route….but it was a nice diversion all the same, even if I did get stuck in sand that was absolutely burning the soles of my feet!
Arrived at our digs (covered in sand!), which were in a fairly secluded part of a small town. As we had eaten out for lunch, we opted for a picnic on the beach for dinner….
….followed by a second dinner in town for Nigel, and return to base for an early night. Another successful day in the bag!