I’ve been cycling with Adi in Vietnam now for about a week. The cycling physically has been easy. In fact after 7 days we only encounted our first hill yesterday and had we wanted to we could have gone through the tunnel at the base. The road over the top looked quiet and more scenic however, so we cycled over there.
The bikes have decided that resistance is futile and for the last few days I have not needed to fix anything. In fact now the most trying thing is the constant hellos from every third person. I’ve never been a particularly sociable person so replying to constant hellos tends to tire me more than the cycling. There’s always some hello coming from the houses or yards that border the road or a child screaming it in the distance. I probably manage to acknowledge only one out of four hellos and my limit is strictly one hello per person. One hello is often not enough for some people. Whereas in South America I could ignore all the locals who whistled at me or used some other rude means to get my attention, it’s hard for me to ignore a genuine hello.
I have noticed while riding along among the hordes a few things that could be improved upon. I think firstly that if people are carrying 3 or 4 ducks or geese on their scooter they should be restrained in some way. Otherwise they can fall off and then their necks drag on the ground.
When carrying huge pigs on the side of your scooter you need to have animals of similar size on each side otherwise it’s hard to keep the scooter going in a straight line.
Don’t bother offering cycle tourists chickens from your cages. They probably aren’t in the market for a chicken or any other living animal. A prepared chicken mixed with a bit of rice probably would hit the spot though.
Don’t bother offering two New Zealand cycle tourists straight from winter and having cycled all day in 36C heat a free sauna as part of the hotel package. Hotel showers are fine cold but mini bars should be turned on!
Yesterday Adi convinced me to take the track off the main road and down to the beach. I have to say I was hesitant because the area we had been cycling through was a bit trashy and I felt the beach wouldn’t be much better. But since it was the first time we had got close to the coast I agreed. We bumped our way down the scooter trail to the surf and the water was not only reasonably clean it was as warm as a bath.
We just dived straight in with all our cycle clothes still on. Twenty minutes later we were back on the bikes and heading down the main road south looking for a hose down. Hose downs have become a survival mechanism in the heat. There seems to be an abundance of water in Vietnam and people are often seen hosing down their scooters or trucks along the road. I got such a positive response from the first person I asked to hose me down that it has now become a habit. After a good drenching received from a local woman hosing her car we were ready to run the scooter gauntlet to the next Hotel.
Adi’s got a bit of the travellers diarrhoea at the moment. A bit of the cycle, squat and squirt. I feel sympathetic although it’s a great way to lose weight. Having had it for two months in Peru and Bolivia earlier in the year I not only lost a lot of weight but also got damn good at finding toilet stops in an instant and virtually hauling myself off the bike and into a squat in one motion. The dinner menu, once translated slowly by Lei, didn’t help Adi’s stomach. She turned down the hedgehog and weasel but I was surprised when she opted out of jellyfish because I thought that might settle her tum.
Joking aside I was greedily finishing my Vietnamese soup when I had this horrible thought that I might have my own weasel head submerged at the bottom of the bowl ready to greet me as I drained the last of the broth.
Our new friend Lei who works in room service and speaks a small amount of English confirmed my thoughts. They get very few tourists in this part of Vietnam. When word gets out that you can get fresh weasel and dog for just a few dollars and as much rice as you desire I think the tourists will flock here.