Tạm biệt (Goodbye) Vietnam

And just like that, it’s over! Seven weeks ago we arrived in Vietnam—excited about the road that lay ahead and slightly apprehensive about a country we were unfamiliar with. Having toured Thailand twice, we viewed Vietnam as its southeast Asian “cousin”. One we haven’t met, and one we wanted to know. The events of the past seven weeks will continue to swirl in our hearts and minds and eventually settle into its own place, forming an enduring memory.

The natural scenery in Vietnam was rich and stunning. Some of the greatest rewards were proportionate to effort—cycling up, and up, into elevations that could have been a prelude to even better. Bigger, beautiful lush green mountain ranges lay tantalizingly inland. We, however, chose a coastal route having no delusions about our ability or willingness to suffer. It was a little more work to tour Vietnam by bicycle.

Cuisine was unapologetically Vietnamese, but it’s of little national concern when economic reliance on tourism is only half that of Thailand. Local & fresh—vegetables, herbs, fruit, meat and seafood made up the menu and there was much to appreciate.

Early on, we slid into a slump where we second-guessed ourselves, asking ourselves a critical question, Why are we even here? All the creature comforts were just a plane, train or bus ride away…. But cycle tours are a treasure hunt and we were there to discover. No regrets! We were inspired. At times, frustrated. Frequently exhilarated. Always enriched.

A series of three flights will return us to our familiar life, and the comforts of home. We feel gratitude—for the opportunity to experience Vietnam in our favourite way—on two wheels.

Tạm biệt, Vietnam

Agent Orange

80 million litres of toxic chemicals
366 kg of dioxin
15 million tones of bombs dropped on Vietnam
35 million unexploded land mines continue to contaminate 20% of Vietnam’s land mass
To this day, 1,000 fatalities and 1,300 permanent injuries occur every year due to unexploded ordnances.

Visiting the War Remnants Museum was a sobering examination of the brutality of war, the atrocities humans are capable of, and the generational impact it leaves. It was extraordinarily hot, sticky and humid today and for some inexplicable reason the three floors of the museum are not air conditioned so it was a steam bath. Perhaps by design? To amplify our discomfort to a level of sympathetic suffering for what the Vietnamese have endured at the hands of the USA? The dioramas, visual depictions and graphic descriptions were sufficient to make our hearts hurt. A entire exhibition room displays the scarring, deformations and debilitating developmental conditions that Agent Orange has, and continues to wreak, on human bodies. War—nobody wins.

Since arriving in Vietnam we have connected with a number of two-wheeled or two-footed others who are roaming the country. We have come to know names-in-a-group-chat, exchanged tips & advice and shared small stories. Last night we had an informal meetup with those who also find themselves in Saigon.  Minus Dane, who is in Saigon but feeling under the weather, so we missed him. Assemble a group of like-minded tourists, the conversation feels like that of old friends.  It doesn’t take long for our uniquely shared issues to surface—food (Pho), laundry, underwear, odd menu translations, even stranger foods, trứng vịt lộn (Balut—a fertilized developing egg embryo that is boiled or steamed and eaten from the shell), riding “stinky”, and the joys of a peanut butter sandwich at just the right time.

It’s utterly, stinkin, sickeningly warm & humid here. We have checked out of our hotel and are in a holding pattern until our flight leaves at 0200h. There are logistics now—retrieving our boxed-up bikes from the shop, transporting all of our gear without the benefit of bikes anymore—and avoiding the planet surface outside with its crushing heat. We found an underground air-conditioned shopping centre with a food court and some cozy chairs where we will begin to anticipate the 36-hour transit home to Canada

Ben, Randy, Anita, Reign, Lukas, Miriam

Saigon—off the bike

The wheels have stopped rolling and changing scenery has slowed down. Our final week has been spent passing away time like we have an infinite supply. Shopping for practical items— towels, flip flops, chopsticks, shirts, a rain poncho. We are unsure what sort of tourist-on-foot activity to commit to, that will sufficiently punctuate the tail end of what has been more of an adventure than a vacation. Maybe it’s best we stick to what makes us happiest—exploring around the next corner, discovering hidden alleyways, seeing mundane daily life which to us, is anything but.

We took a double decker open air bus trip around the city at night, the evening breeze a welcome reprieve from the stifling daytime heat. As the bus passed under trees, and alongside structures close enough to de-limb reckless passengers wantonly hanging arms out, we marvelled at how much onus is on individuals to self-regulate for their own personal safety. Use your heads, people. Apply common sense.

It’s a noisy place. All of Vietnam is. If it’s not horns honking, it’s people yelling (albeit jovially). Should you find a quiet little spot to sip a cool drink they’ll crank up the music before you are done. Karaoke is everywhere. Loud, booming, uninvitedly reverberating into the depths of  your consciousness. Volume perhaps sufficient to pentrate hearing damage likely acquired from a lifetime of horn-honking. More than a few convenience stores have mega-sized speakers situated outside the entranceway, attempting to break one’s sound/sanity barrier. Occasionally while walking the street we become aware of a moment of peace. Tranquility. Only to be interrupted by a guy sauntering, singing into a microphone and blaring it to the world. We are grateful for our shielded, hidden away hotel room to which we can escape.

The relentless vendors! Holy shmoly! We now employ a modus operandi while dining—wear sunglasses (do not make eye contact). Look the other way (ignore). Say “No” (firmly). Never “No thank-you” (it invites negotiation.) Don’t smile. And when they stand in front of your dinner table trying to attract our attention….keep staring at that bird in the tree. The moment will pass.

Randy’s son Ben who resides in Osaka has joined us for a few days. With the natural energy and enthusiasm of youth, we’ll rely on his first-hand experiences to report on Saigon nightlife, which is sure to be lively.


Bzzzzzzzz. Let’s talk Cà Phê (Coffee)

It’s a coffee culture here, all over Vietnam. You can’t walk more than thirty seconds in any direction without seeing a ca phê (coffee) shop. We were all excited about the prospects before leaving Canada but found that our preferred style of coffee doesn’t align with theirs. Vietnamese coffee beans are special. Potent. Robusta beans. (Real people drink robusta bean coffee) It’s the thing to indulge in if you’re a coffee aficionado. Coffee is, by default, cold & iced unless you specify otherwise. When successful in conveying “hot” to the server you will be rewarded with a very small, heavily concentrated serious coffee. Serious enough that the caffeine overload hits fast and we are buzzzzzzzzing off the coffee. Enough so that two coffees of that nature delivers full-on heart palpitations. So we skip coffee shops, bought our own kettle and rely on 3-in-1 instant coffees (which, by the way are excellent!). Today however, we scored! We found the first coffee shop in six weeks where we can order up a good ole amateur full-sized (eight-ounces vs one-ounce) coffee. Down the hatch it goes!! buzzzzzzzzz. It’s loaded too! With big happy buzzy smiles we sit in little cafe chairs (kindergarten size, of course) at the side of the road, dilated pupils & all watching life go by.

Let’s also talk food freshness. Just about anything you might eat, anything you sink your teeth into, was likely either photosynthesizing, slithering, cock-a-doodling, oinking or barking less than 24 hours prior (sorry ‘bout the barking, but true!). We don’t see large grocery stores. Food comes from local Mom & Pop operations everywhere you look. There’s simply no need to rely on pre-packaged or processed foods.

Most Vietnamese are minuscule in stature and weight compared to us westerners. I bought a quick-dry shirt, (size X-large, due to my ginormous size) and it’s not particularly roomy. Do I have body dysmorphia? Maybe. Four Vietnamese and their pet dog (but only one westerner) can fit on a motorbike. We need to shop in the “big and fat” section. Randy is Amazon sized. I never lose him in a crowd. Maybe it’s the Pho! If we went on a Pho-three-times-a-day-diet we might also fit in. But sometimes we crave the comforts of kem (ice-cream). Two kems please, cuz we are big, and need two. Plus, it’s almost 41.5° (106.7°F) outside—a hot bowl of noodle soup ain’t going to cool us down.

‘Tis a wee bit warm here in Saigon

Late night Pho Bo (Beef Pho)

Hotel: 1 hour ($4-$5), Overnight ($10), Day ($19)

Saigon—a sensory extravaganza

Distance: 1.2km

Final distance: 1,999.2 km

Bikes are gone—our ride throughout Vietnam is complete. 1,999.2km. For the rounders out there, that’s 2,000km 😉 The bike shop will source out some appropriate sized boxes, disassemble the major components, deflate tires, and seal up our bikes for the flight home next Tuesday. So now we explore on foot. Too hot & uncomfortable to haul bags so we are staying in place for the remaining days.

Saigon is an assault on the senses, depending on where you are standing. Noisy, beautiful, dirty, sparkling, and cultural treasures everywhere.

Motorbikes are the way of life here. They serve as delivery services, family transportation, and also taxis. Proportionately there are more cars here in Saigon than we have seen anywhere else in Vietnam, but motorbikes still rule. It’s the fastest way to get around. Randy and I can technically both hop on the back of a single motorbike taxi but we are far too apprehensive about that. Dane, on the other hand, isn’t. We met up with him at Heart of Darkness craft beer pub for the final time. I’ll just have to take Randy’s word for it that the beer was amazing. I can report that my bottle of water was clear & cold. Dane made it back in one piece so his motorbike-taxi worked out

There is a constant barage of “Hello Madame, you want to buy?” and “Hello sir, you buy one more shirt?” Worse, are street shoe polishers who automatically try to polish Randy’s Keene sandals as soon as he stops moving. Ironically, they take one look at my own cheap flip-flops and leave me alone. In the Ben Thanh Market where vendors have stalls every three metres, the invitations to shop become repetitive.

In the morning while at the Park, we were spotted by a local Vietnamese English teacher who wisely approached us with “I’m not selling anything”. His only interest was talking and we had a wonderful, authentic conversation about traffic, people, Vietnamese culture among other topics. His name sounded like “Tee” but of course we can’t spell it.

It’s hot here. Oppressively hot, humid and sticky. It’s why locals siesta during the day. It’s common to see people sleeping in hammocks at work, laying on floors, bus drivers snoozing in cargo-holding areas of their rigs, and motorbike Grab drivers using their bikes like La-Z-Boys. Given the heat, don’t be surprised if you see Randy and Anita lazing about too!

Night time is when Saigon comes to life. Our hotel is near Bùi Viện Street which is reminiscent of Khao Sản Road in Bangkok (minus the cannabis vendors). We ventured over to take a looky at 7pm and things were only just get started. Blasting music, dancing girls hoping to provoke customers inside, all shades of purple red and yellow neon lights flashing and strobing. It’s clearly Party Time—but we’ll take a pass on that.

We are in Saigon. Let’s go shopping. Or eating. Or people watching (siesta later)!

Bye bye bicycles!

Sidewalk haircuts. Its a thing.


Randy, chatting it up with a cyclist (who speaks not a single word of English) he spotted from our 2nd floor hotel room.

They are here…but we haven’t actually seen one in use

No safety rope, no “plan b” if he loses his balance while working up on the third floor.

Just another typical intersection

Ferries, Mangroves, then the Wild Ride

Distance: 81km
View the stats on Strava (Vùng Tau to Saigon)

Total distance to date: 1,998 km

We slothed about in Vùng Tàu long enough, it was time to go. We woke up this morning ready—super-hydrated & rested up, three coffees (small ones), two yogurts and two Tropicana juices. We pre-booked our hotel in Saigon, not willing to leave anything to chance. We needed to have our attention one hundred percent focussed on the task at hand—getting our butts into the heart of Saigon in one piece with our sanity intact.

It began with a ferry ride. In Vietnam, rules & regulations seem more like suggestions. hints. inuendos. Rules of the road—ha ha ha! Ferry loading procedures—whatever. While seated inside of the ferry (where motorbikes and bicycles go wherever), I ventured outside to the bow where others were congregating. Snap a few pictures…feel for a moment like Kate Winslet on the Titanic…cooling myself  in the breeze… I return to the seating area and out of boredom decide to Google Translate the sign above the door “Going out is not allowed”. I look around—a dude is smoking a cigarette right in the motorcycle area underneath the “No Smoking” sign.  Approaching the dock, motorcycles fire up, rev their engines and start circling toward toward the door. Whadya mean wait until the boat stops moving??  And to top it all off, before the gate even opens the horn honking has begun!

After the 8 am ferry we had nothing but flat, beautifully paved, six lane divided road for hours with so little traffic we could ride side by side. Surrounded by the Can Giờ Mangrove Forest, the area is characterized by a wetland biosystem dominated by mangrove and many rare species, including 150 botanical species. Oh, how I wanted to pull out my Merlin Bird or Plant ID apps but we didn’t feel we had the luxury of time (plus Randy isn’t crazy about standing in the heat dripping sweat while I indulge) so we just lived in the moment enjoying the new sights and sounds of monkeys and tropical birds. We saw some pesky monkeys loitering at the side of the road and we could see them practically licking their monkey-lips at the prospect of some tourists they could mug. We sped up and blasted past fast. Not today, you monkey!

After feeling all Zen-like, we had ferry #2. Just a shorty. But on the other side begins the real trek. The final 20k into the city. Here’s the trick—hold onto your handlebars tight, scan left, scan right, twist your head this way, lean that way, and never look at the scenery. Flow like a fish in a school, and prepare for anything from any direction. Turn left with the bus cuz it protects you and the others at least from the oncoming motorbikes turning left on your green. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.

We made it to Saigon. Only 1.2km remains before we drop off our bikes at the bike shop to be boxed up for the flight home. Our hotel is located in an alley, literally. It’s too narrow for a car to drive through. The hotel is probably 25ft wide, as are the other dozen adjacent hotels. And if that’s not skinny enough there are teenier, tinier alleyways hosting a plethora of activity hidden in between those walls  Restaurants, hair salons, variety stores…so much to discover. We have nine days left to explore!

Vũng Tàu

The ferry, then up to the city’s edge

Saigon—a wild ride indeed!

Vũng Tàu—Wind and Rip Tides

Distance: 71km and 30km
Temperature (max): 36°C
View the stats on Strava (Bình Chai to Vùng Tau)
View the stats on Strava (Roaming around Vùng Tau)

Total distance to date: 1,917 km

We’ve almost accomplished The Mission—riding from Hanoi to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City). Having determined that we don’t need to cycle further into the Mekong Delta, we will spend three more nights in Vung Tau being sloths while we mentally prep for the final 75km ride into Saigon.  This requires loafing, poolside. Some snacking on potato chips. Getting our fill of green oranges. And fixing Randy’s brake cable.

Crunchy, grinding sounds have been causing him to baby his rear brake for several days. He brought a spare cable plus every tool imaginable—except the one necessary to cut it with. Google maps showed three bike shops in town so into the first one we rolled. Two people fully engaged in siesta-ing in hammocks were uninterested in helping. “No, no do,” along with a shake of the head was our cue to move along. Bike shop number two had a worker—but Google Translate informed us that “staff not here until 2:00”. (Likely another siesta situation) We carried on to shop #3. Two enthusiastic workers propped up the bike right on the sidewalk right away squeezing this, turning that and bing bang boom, 45 minutes later Randy had a newly installed cable. With a boatload of gratitude, he tried to establish how much is owed for the repair. …No no no. No money! They wouldn’t hear of it. Wouldn’t  accept any money. We feel it’s worth letting the world know that in Vùng Tau, Thành Bike is the best!

Vùng Tau—it’s a popular seaside resort and port city of half a million people. Big container ships float in and out of port, along with fishing boats, ferries, and other commercial seafaring vessels. You can find an amazing spectrum of fresh seafood.  It’s a Seafooders paradise, if willing to experiment with some culinary exploration. It’s windy—really windy. So windy, we didn’t see anyone at the beach other than a few rebels defying prominently displayed black riptide warning flags everywhere. White caps on the waves were threatening enough.  No ocean swimming for us. We’ll stick to our hotel pool, thank you.

Dane, who we met 1,300 kilometres ago, also accomplished his north to south Mission, and joined us for dinner last night along with a friend, Nic, who is exploring Southeast Asian countries in search of somewhere to settle. Both from the UK, Dane who is 67 and young at heart, really feels like he really “fits in,” here in Vietnam while Nic will continue to Thailand in search of that “just right” place.

Vietnamese people are wonderfully hospitable. The security guard watching over our bicycles spreads happiness and joy with his child-like “Hellooooo” and wildly waving hand every time he sees us, making us wish we had a GoPro strapped to our foreheads to capture it. One thing we have been consistently impressed with is how well hotel and guesthouse staff treat our bicycles—always locked indoors, security watching over them as though guarding bars of gold, always helping us to check air pressure and attempting to help affix our bags to them upon departure.

Streets unfortunately are not designed for walking here.  Not just in Vung Tau, but all over Vietnam. Sidewalks are virtually non-existent. Curbs are angled to facilitate motorbikes climbing up onto them from the road to park. There are always broken sections, gaps and holes to trip over or fall into. So, walkers join the bikes, motorbikes, & cars on the road. Honestly, sometimes, we just feel safer riding our bikes.

Our bicycles given safe harbour in underground parking at our hotel while security watches over them.



Shut the Front Door!

Distance: 50km
Temperature (max): 35.5°C
View the stats on Strava (Là Gì to Bình Chai)

Total distance to date: 1,816 km

We’ve slowed the pace considerably and are now dilly-dallying our way through. Less mileage, more ice cream while we decide if we will venture down to the Mekong Delta, or goof off on the coastal beaches of Vùng Tau.

When we departed this morning we expected small villages and were surprised by the beehive of activity encountered in La Gi. We squeezed through bustling markets swirling with people on foot, motorbikes, bicycles, crisscrossing, U-turning, halting in the middle of the road, zipping in, zipping out, riding against traffic, and bending and dodging every imaginable hazard. Everyone does their own thing, at whatever speed they fancy. Buses honk like they are having seizures, pushing through at wicked speeds, nevermind that there’s a dude hobbling down the middle of the traffic lane with crutches & one leg. The lady carrying dead chickens stops to chit chat with another & make tradesies. It’s a circus out there. The remainder of the day however was pleasant as the bulk of the bus traffic dwindled, having returned passengers back to their work week.

Upon arrival at our destination it’s a routine—launder stinky bike clothes, charge lights & navigational aids, drink water, shower, then research restaurant or other food options. Excited to see “Street Food” on Google maps we headed out for something other than Pho. Pseudo-pizza, and a hamburger. Better than fish eyeball soup! We dined in, affording us the opportunity to absorb the decor. A gigantic word-art adorned the main wall, likely chosen for its aesthetic appeal, without knowledge of English to know what the message was really saying. Funny how I only chose to eat half that pizza.

Our Guesthouse this evening is a family owned, newly constructed building—narrow, not unlike the surrounding houses. It’s common for families to leave their ground-floor front doors wide open in the evening enjoying family time. We waltzed home after diner, marvelling at the sights and sounds of Vietnamese families. Aha! There’s our Guesthouse, see the big red sign on top!  We round the corner and step into the open front door area. Hmm….it’s not quite how we remembered it. (You know….new hotel, new faces, new everything everyday—its hard to keep track) Slightly perplexed, we scan for the staircase, when the woman relaxing in the hammock laughs and points next door. She’s laughing—our guesthouse host overhears joins the laughter….ahhh , ok, got it! We were standing in the neighbours house! Such is the nature of our memory recall after so many days on the road.

Not sure I’d have chosen these words.

Chopsticks and Dodgeball

Distance: 57km
Temperature (max): 38.5°C
View the stats on Strava (Phần Thiết to Là Gì)

Total distance to date: 1,766 km

“Hello! What is your name?” asks Vietnamese child
“My name is Anita. What is your name?”
“My name is xxxxx”
“How old are you?”
[big long continuous smile….happy smile….long pause]
“I am fine, thank you”
[smile remains suspended, frozen in time]
“Bye Bye!” [insert enthusiastic wave]
“Bye bye!”

That’s the universal conversation with school children here in Vietnam. We surmise they have received schooling that conversations are only completed with “Bye bye!” and until that is delivered they continue to look at us with big toothy grins.

At family run stores when we stop to buy water or ice cream, children are often tasked with the business at hand. Simple transactions, but the look of pride on their faces upon completion warms our hearts.

People make contact with us in the most unexpected ways. While on a nice quiet road, a motorbike comes from behind and slows to keep pace with us.  First beside me—no English spoken—rather, gestures of support and enthusiasm and then an outstretched hand that I reached out and he gave a squeeze. Very pleased, he next moved up to ride alongside Randy and also extended the outstretched hand. People are not afraid to connect—whatever way they can and right across language barriers.

We planned on a short distance day but surprisingly the only hotel we considered was full on arrival. First time! We continued another 25km. The abandoned resorts we passed by outnumbered those still operating. There were stretches with opulent hotel villages that don’t look like Vietnam at all, alternating with much longer stretches where wealth & prosperity are absent. Gone. Vacated. Many hotels & homes looked like they might have been grand in their day, left now to the elements.

We are likely the only westerners in town. No English menus or signage to be found, but happy people everywhere watching, laughing, smiling at us as we walk the street looking for dinner. A lady was cooking up a pot of something roadside. Because we could see and identify the ingredients (and since she was the only gig open), we purchased a bowl of something-or-other and sat down at the kindergarten chairs to nourish ourselves. Talk about being the center of attention while you eat. All eyes on us! And no forks this time—we are deep into the Vietnamese way of eating in this town. Chopsticks & a spoon.

Much of our days are spent riding quiet roads, but city traffic is unavoidable. To best capture the feeling, try if you can, to imagine a video game—one of those dodge & avoid types where your job is to move forward, never stop, and get to the other side. Like dodgeball! But played on roads and sidewalks—and everyone’s got a ball. Whenever we reach the edge of town we breathe a sigh of relief.

Changing Landscapes of the South

Distance: 77km
Temperature (max): 35°C
View the stats on Strava (Phần Ráng to Phần Ri Của)

Distance: 68km
Temperature (max): 35°C
View the stats on Strava (Phần Ri Của tổ Phần Thiet)

Total distance to date: 1,709 km

Like watching a child grow, we aren’t sure exactly when it happened but the landscape has changed. The lush jungle greenery has given way to powdery sand, both white and red.  We don’t see as many rice paddies, but instead it’s dragon fruit and other unidentified crops. The few remaining “mountains” now look barren & brown and massive sand dunes buffer the coastline. We now see more sheep and goats than the water buffalo of the central & north regions. It’s very windy—endless wind mills spinning round ‘n round remind us. Fortunately the wind blows in our preferred direction, generally north to south. It’s hotter and sunnier. 35°C again today with relentless sun. We see more Catholic Churches. Pink, white and orange Bougainvillea are blooming like mad. There’s more evidence of tourism—resort towns offer a few foods within our comfort zone (not frogs & snails).

We discovered a real-life grocery store yesterday after our 77km ride. Like kids in a candy store, we we started throwing things into that basket—bread, peanut butter, jam, cheese slices, crackers, gummy candies, green oranges, orange juice, more wafer crackers, yogurt, and peanuts! It was PBJ sandwiches for dinner & we were in our happy food place, grateful for simple pleasures. (Note to self—don’t shop when hungry)

Much of our time spent riding, the salty, sandy coastline has been just a stones throw away. Sometimes we actually see it, but mostly we don’t. We become very aware there’s a beautiful beach yonder when a town’s street becomes congested with tourist buses, people sport big wide camera lenses, massage parlours line the streets, swimwear stores abound and restaurants advertise hamburgers. Mùi Né is just one of those places. Dane warned us. We passed right on through, no stopping till we reached Phân Thiet

We met Dane for lunch today, along with his lovely friend Gian. (Yeah, Dane!) He has been travelling the same trajectory as us and today we met up with him 42kms into our ride.  We went to a little hidden gem of a restaurant off the beaten track and caught up on all our adventures. We talked ferries, Mekong Delta, cycling in the heat, and road safety (that’s a whole separate topic). It was a very nice way to break up the day’s long hot ride.

Tonight we ventured into a Vietnamese food restaurant for beef noodles and spring rolls. Feeling pretty dextrous with the chopsticks and exercising etiquette, we worked at scooping & transferring big long wiggly noodles into our individual bowls.  I twisted & twirled. Randy pinched & raised high into the sky….apparently my technique passed muster because the girl quietly dropped off a fork for Randy, but not for me. 😆 We’re still newbs.

Lunch with Dane and Giang in Mũi Né

Our cute little hotel in Phần Rang

Harvesting rice

Kem. (Ice cream). One of the few words we have learned.

Power utility

Goats wander at will

The hills we see now have lost the lush greenery

The Paris Hotel we stayed in last night

Dragon fruit plantation

At typical small house. This one likely abandoned.

Bougainvillea is exploding everywhere and also grows wild at roadsides.

Our room tonight at the Windy Homestay in Phần Thiet

Shiny White Hotels, Dirty Grubby Us

Distance: 102km
Temperature (max): 36°C
View the stats on Strava (Nhà Trắng to Phan Rang)

Total distance to date: 1,564 km

The thermometer read hot, 36°C today but we barely noticed because we were sporting perma-smiles all day due to a strong tailwind, propelling us southward. We finished the day in a little city that has flown under our radar, Phần Rang. Our hotel is in a super cute neighborhood, surrounded by restaurants with big-people chairs (vs itty bitty plastic ones).

We always feel a wee bit guilty when we arrive at a hotel and wheel our grubby bikes onto the shimmering shiny floors of the lobby-parking-zone, leaving behind scuffs & dirt as evidence. But that’s how it’s done—guest’s bikes and motorbikes are parked indoors. It’s mildly embarrassing to check-in all sweaty, probably smelly (well, maybe Randy), but it’s how we travel and hotel proprietors are always gracious. Sometimes we wonder if they are secretly cringing at our presence in their little white Hotels.

In a country where very few own cars, we have observed that car owners keep them as shiny and polished as their glistening floors. People wash cars daily (or so it seems), on sidewalks, at the side of the road, gas stations—anywhere! That, along with horn honking, seems to be a national pastime.

Things aren’t always shiny & white. Oh, no no no…..we regularly see rats scooting the streets at night and they are as big as squirrels. We see giant cockroaches crittering their way across sidewalks though not as often. Giant is not an exaggeration—they are about 2-inches long. But we have made peace with the rodents. They are, afterall, just making their way through life. Now we just smile with amusement—as long as they stay outside—and so far they have.

Our hotel tonight is just 400VND which converts to about $22. Our room too is all polished and shiny, even the woodwork. Hotels are a bargain in Vietnam. Rarely have we been disappointed, and never have we paid more than about $52. We are probably averaging about $37 a night but we have been splurging on nicer places.

We rode through Cam Ranh Bay today, considered one of the most beautiful bays in Vietnam, located just 45 kilometers away from Nha Trang. All the big brand, fancy schmancy ultra luxurious hotels are there, far from the busy beach-city scene of Nhà Trắng. The airport located at the southern end once served as one of three aerial ports locations where United States military personnel entered or departed South Vietnam for their 12-month tour of duty during the Vietnam war. Despite the proliferation of ultra-lux hotels, there stood what might be yet another behemoth hotel project that seems to have stalled.

Our lovely hotel in Nhà Trang. It wasn’t wide, but it was tall and the room was spacious & grand.

Another large hotel that looks to be possibly abandoned—or at least on hiatus.

The shiny floors we feel guilty about messing up with our grubby bikes.

Touristing in Nhà Trang

We’ve been two-legged rather than two-wheeled tourists for a few days. Funny, most people want to do stuff—bus excursions, snorkelling, zip-lining. Not us. We succumbed to an overwhelming need to not do a gosh darn thing. Even too lazy to find lunch, we just sat on lounge chairs, overlooking the odd hunger pain in favour of watching big waves come crashing in with the tide. Sure, we bounced to and fro in the salty warm water a few times but it was so peaceful on the beach, we wanted to savour it. The honk, honk, honking of buses, trucks, cars & motorbikes of the past weeks, forgotten, the sun’s heat kept at bay by a beach umbrella.

One of the few times we did manage to lift our lazy bums up & outta those loungers we walked a bit to get massages. Heck, why not! $15 for 60 minutes. Impulsively, I also stopped to get a haircut, curious how the experience might compare to Randy’s elaborate coif experience a few weeks ago. Chop, chop, snip, snap, bing bang boom and I’m done in about 14 minutes and 30 seconds. I was scanning, prepared to defend myself in the event deep-ear-cleaning instruments came out—but they didn’t (thankfully).  Guess that’s a guy thing. Sure, the guy was pro and all (even if he did look a little gangsta/bouncer), but really? It was three times the price of Randy’s hour long extravaganza.

Just for amusement, while out and about we snapped a few pics of some signage that maybe lost a little in translation.