Thursday, April 19, 2007

Day 12-16: Life is good

After three days of cycling we were looking forward to taking a few days off in Nha Trang to enjoy the beach, refuel with western food and converse with other tourists. Besides Ho Cho Minh City, Nha Trang is the first place where tourists are seen everywhere. Normally you would imagine this to be negative, but we were excited to speak English and hear other stories and adventures from other tourists. We met a few Swedes, an Irish couple, few Canadians and Aussies. All are exceptionally friendly and open-minded. You easily strike up a conversation and the topic is easily chosen; travel. Our first day in tourist paradise we spend at the Nha Trang beach, trying to even out our "farmer's tan" we had contracted from the last days of cycling. (T-shirt and cycling shorts do not exactly give you the most even and beautiful sunburn.) Although I was laying in the shadow the whole morning, comfortably in my sunbed under the straw umbrella, I was burned beyond recognition. My chest and ankles had suffered the most. My mother was right, you do get sunburned in the shadow. The beach is a peaceful place but for the annoying Vietnamese women who constantly are attempting to sell you various things as you are trying to relax and appreciate the surroundings. Daniel finally got so annoyed that he took the effort of making a sign that read "No, thanks". This way we did not have to say anything every two minutes someone approached us. We simply moved our eyes slowly towards the sign and nodded simultaneously. It worked perfectly.

Nha Trang offers a variety of activities. However, we were were focused on relaxing and sunbathing, and we were having a great time doing it. We have experienced and will have enough action later on. Nevertheless, we did go diving on our second day. Daniel is a scuba diver instructor which turned out perfectly for me since my last dive was more than ten years ago. I needed some assistance. We made two dives. Due to the fact that I had forgotten almost all about diving, the first dive was mainly painful and uncomfortable, but the the second one quiet the opposite. We swam through colourful corals and saw lots of fish, and I was happy to have had the opportunity to catch up on my diving skills.

After three days if no cycling it was time again to get back on the road. The next destination was Dai Lanh, about 85 kilometers north of Nha Trang. We were on our way just before 6:00, and 30 kilometers later we stopped for breakfast. We have learned how to select good spots and this time was no different. We have also developed an addiction to Vietnamese coffee. It is with no doubt the best coffee in the world. Its strong, concentrated and mocca flavour is to die for. To top it off, you add a bit of condensed milk and ice. A solid breakfast is essential when cycling, and before we knew it were where at Dai Lanh beach. When we checked in I got one of the stomach aches me and Daniel had developed the last few days from uncooked squid we had for dinner in Nha Trang. The pain was sharp and intense, and it felt like someone had cut my stomach open with a razor blade. The only cure was an available toilet seat. I started heading for our cement bungalow located 100 meters down at the beach. Walking in the fine, powder-like sand, dragging my bicycle with me was strenuous and slow. About half way the pain got more intense and the pressure unbearable. I knew I had only seconds before I needed to relieve myself. I started running. I won't make it, I thought to myself and horrible images entered my mind. Just outside the door of our dirty cement bungalow I dropped the bicycle, kicked in the door, took three quick, long steps towards the toilet, jumped onto the toilet seat, slid off because of my sweaty body, rebalanced and the rest is history.

Dai Lanh beach was a beautiful, remote, secluded place and its exceptionally fine sand and clear blue water made it worth stopping in this otherwise scary city. The next day we were happy to pedal to Song Cau, and leave the unfriendly people of Dai Lanh behind. After a morning swim and at about 6:30 we were on our way. Only after a half an hour I knew this day was going to be hell. I mean that literally. The sky was clear, the wind almost still, resulting in extremely high temperature. Normally the sweat on your body cools you down when cycling at an average 20 km/h, but when the wind feels like a hair blow dryer, it is to no use. After lunch I was exhausted, weak, but mostly over-heated. Every 20 kilometers we had to stop and I would get a bucket of ice, rap it in my scarf and rub my entire body until the ice had melted. This technique worked and I was feeling much better in the afternoon. However, by the time we reached Song Cau and covered 90 kilometers, including two mountain passes, we were drained out of energy, our legs hurt, stomachs in pain and ready to put the bicycles away for the day. My travel book (Lonely Planet) mentions that there are hotels in this small village, but there were no hotels to be found. We asked several locals, using our phrasebook, (you can forget English, and any way of gesturing sleeping and hotel) and all pointed north and showed ten plus five fingers. We were not at all up for an additional 15 kilometers at this point, but had no choice. We pushed on at a slow pace, not saying much, just excepting fact. The locals were right. 15 kilometers later we were finally there, and the hotel staff greeted us with big smiles, and dollar signs in their eyes. After dinner we passed out in our air-conditioned room at 20:15, proud and satisfied of our accomplishment, and not regretting any of the day's experiences.

The final stretch to Quy Nhon is only about 30 kilometers from Song Cau and we had already taken care of 15 kilometers the previous day. This route is not part of Highway 1, which we have been pedaling since we left Phang Rang, about 350 kilometers south. This road is a beautiful stretch along the mountain side facing the ocean. Although it is certainly a challenging route with its hilly terrain, it is stunningly beautiful. The mountains are to the left, the ocean to the right, and we were right in between, traveling on our own power, up and down the hills. It was a feeling all must experience.



  1. Did you re-balance on the floor, where “things” then became history, or did you make it up back on the seat? lol!.
    I just have the picture in mind from Cambodia when you had salmonella and I hear this scream from the toilet. I kicked up the door and there you were butt naked, on three “legs” (two hands and one heal) stretching over the hole in the ground with cramps in one of your legs…. What a sight!!

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