Saturday, December 8, 2012

Vietnam Tour: Day 5 (25th Aug) Bong Son to Quy Nhon

Extremely good! This was the one and only place where they put fried egg into the baguette. I was lucky i bought two, i usually save the other one for later. But it was soo good.
I started earliest this time, learning my lesson. I try to avoid riding at night. Biggest surprise when I tasted the egg in baguette. It certainly raised my expectations for banquettes elsewhere, they never came close.

It was rather cooling, and progress was quick. I only had to cover 90km and at my first pit stop I was already at 40km.

They were many random fountains, statues and some kind of shrines along the highway. Some look like they deserve more attention.
 Today saw me drafting a motorcycle towing a trailer. It was a pretty constant 35-40km/h until he stopped, than came a passing lorry that went 40km/h constant. It was pretty fun drafting the lorry and overtaking an entire school on bicycles (Seemed to me like that anyway). The afternoon sun was trying to fry me alive, so i took the opportunity to have my lunch.

I now miss Pho a lot, this was good, except for he weird vege... Very homely shop this

I believe some ancient building, didn't visit, but was a visual treat.

Some sort of milk tea dessert, i was like MILK TEA AHHHH. Satisfied my cravings for a bit. The shop owner tried desperately to communicate with me, but my Vietnamese for non-existent.
 I had passed by maybe 2 dessert shops that I really regretted passing. One because I saw a number of people enjoying the dessert (indicating probably good stuff), and two because it was so hot! I finally saw one, and doubled back to get some. I was not disappointed.

Arriving in the city, probably the biggest round about I have seen. Looking around for a cheap place to stay. Found unsecured wireless access, lucky me!
Immediately, you know you are entering the city when traffic sky rockets. A small town but really easy to navigate. I looked around, and generally... The small alleys and roads where there are hotels are the cheapest. The ones by the main road? Ouch.

After settling in, I went down to the beach..

Had to be the emptiest beach, but most crowded shore!

I hate toufu, I took m chances and randomly choose an item on the menu. It wasn't cheap and must worse meal ever (Not because it tasted bad, but I really don't like toufu). The prawns I ordered were decent though.
 I took the opportunity of the relatively short ride to rest early and prep myself for the next day.

Distance today: 85 km
Distance to date: 453km

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Vietnam Tour: Day 4 (24th Aug) Binh Son to Bong Son

Spent some time searching about a UNESCO site, called My Son... Apparently,  on google maps it was just about 15km or so away from my Hotel, so should I go check it out? I decided to do so.

Somewhere inside (fake) "My Son"

Some huge industrial complex

Unfortunately, when I arrived it was not the place. And I guess google maps got it wrong...

I did turn into a really small settlement, and it felt like a really peaceful community.

Oh well, U-turned and headed for Bong Son.

Transporting livestock... Rather inhumane... And if only I could replace this day's text for the smell there...
This might not seem like much, but this was the only hill I saw for kilometers! The agriculture made it especially scenic.
Small duck farm? These are plenty especially at the bank of rivers. It's always pleasant to look at them and take my mind of the road for a tad bit.
Simple lunch, great food when hungry.
First drink pit stop, this drink is alarmingly sweet! It scares me.
While drinking Sting, I sat down observing the teenagers lazying on the hammocks. I contemplated lying down on one, but the lady would probably have to wash it after i'm done.
Sugarcane + local salt(anti-cramps!), this is extremely addictive!

I think I must have not been very hungry, because this was a little to green for me. Didn't enjoy it...
An absolutely beautiful beach, I would have loved to stay a little longer.. But when the sun sets, the roads get bad! And unfortunately for this day, it rained too.
Rained and riding in the lane was way to scary.

So I just kept on the shoulders, it felt like I have been riding for at least an hour and I should have reached the town already but according to the maps, I had only made it half of the 30km to town. Damn. I suddenly had the urge to pee, and found myself at some bend in the road walked into the bushes and really really felt so damned relieved at the time. Riding at night in the rain was stressful.

Enough was enough, I was not going to search for the cheapest hotel. Just the nearest one I could find. As I was pulling into town, the heavens decided to open up on me more and I felt like I was really suffering. The mental game? Bring it on, make it even harder for me bro! Come at me bro!

I finally saw a hotel sign and went into the carpark/reception/showhouse front, super soaked and asked for a room. The first thing I did was look into the mirror with disbelief, water still dripping from my clothes; a small puddle in my room formed. I went to take a shower.

Some laundry later, I went down to ask where I could get some food (there was a stall opposite), but was told to go ahead to the local market (outside a school/hospital, can't remb). There I got a chinese bun! They say everything tastes better when you are hungry, riding makes me constantly hungry and I have always felt whatever I was eating tasted like the best I ever had. Such bliss!

It was juicy, warm and oh so good.

The room was a little creepy... There was even a comb on the the left side of the bed frame
 Spammed on uploading photos, work's getting me down so posts and coming in slower. In any case, ride safe!

It seems I may have mixed up today's events with yesterday (Day 3, Update 07/27/2013: edited accordingly.), I went to the fake My Son site early morning say 7+am, covered the 30km round trip went back to the hotel to pack up and continue to Bong Son after checking out. I remember little of the 110km I covered that day... But I guess this is what happens when you don't blog on the road/immediately after the trip.

What I did write on my iPhone notes app was that I finally started wearing long sleeves and that it proved effective. I got extremely disturbed from the tan I was getting, my hands looked like they were gonna be charred black by the Sun, my average speed is finally getting slow now... say 17km/h compared to 22km/h of the first 3 days. Till the next day!

Distance today: 110km
Distance to date: 368km

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Stolen Bike: On-One Scandal 29er

Hi all, please help to share this out as my friend had his bike STOLEN at Chai Chee/ Bedok area. This is a rare bike locally.

On-One Scandal 29er with Rockshox Reba and Fulcrum wheels.

Kindly contact Frankie @ 9448029 seven if you spotted one. Thank you!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Vietnam Tour: Day 3 (23rd Aug) Hoi An to Binh Son (Supposed to by Quang Ngai)

 Note: Pretty long post!

My friend recommended the beach in Hoi An, so why not catch the sunrise at the same time? I woke up at 5am-ish, took me a while to find the beach(about 4km from hotel). And by that time, the sun had already risen. But damn, the early mornings are the best!

Bustling with activity, it was quite nice to soak up the atmosphere.
Riding back to hotel, together with many locals and students.
"Complimentary" breakfast, pineapple pancake with honey and very delicious banana smoothie!
Went to Ancient part of town, the trademark bridge.
how many of you have done this?
market place

A Vietnamese women who spoke very good English brought me into this part of the "market" where she tried to sell me tailored textiles, I said I was only willing to send US$15 and she left me alone. Stay away from the overly-friendly, especially when it comes to shops/products! Oh, and at this point I remember the hotel staff constantly advertising a tailor shoe shop!

I had done a bit of research while having my dinner the night before, and I had actually missed an attraction in Danang called the Marble mountain(MM). After some thought, I decided to backtrack to check it out.

On the way back to Danang, no shade at all..

The ride there wasn't easy, I had set off pretty late and the Sun was already bearing me down. The headwind was pretty bad (or maybe inland breeze), breakfast insufficient and the desolateness of the road there was just exhausting. By the time I saw the Marble mountain itself I thought I was hallucinating. There is was, a sudden  pillar in an otherwise flat coastal stretch.

I was actually also looking for some food, but kept telling myself the next shop would be better, all the way till a lady on scooter came up beside me and started asking me where I'm going (MM), that it's just up ahead (I knew from me GPS), and to follow her in. I thought what the hell, a guide couldn't hurt.

Once I turned in, I was quickly led to park my bike just outside her shop, was told to go see MM and come back and get some souvenirs from her. Again I thought, why not! I can stop worrying about my bike and get souvenirs at the same time! I got my tickets and started the climb up.

marble stairs?

mtb clipless shoes + tired thighs = really slow climb!

After the first few sights, I was pretty thirsty from the ride here needed water. Unfortunately, there was a single shop up in MM and the price was at least double downstairs! With no choice I purchased a large bottle.

Some highlights from MM:
one of the many openings from inside caves

carved from the mountain?

i didn't dare to climb up this, no signs either...

one of the many pagodas on MM

A small opening where I thought I wouldn't be able to get through! Luckily I waited for others to climb first!
when  you reach the top, your realise the true definition of panoramic.

I got hungrier and hungrier, finally finished the MM and proceeded down the check out the souvenirs. I looked around for the cheapest, but found them really ugly (by the way, they sell jade stuffs). Looked somemore and found some nice laughing Buddha pendents, I took one and she kept asking me to buy more... Since I had two sisters... Ok... I offered a price and she (a little too) hastily agreed on it (should have stopped there). I wanted to leave already but each time she offered a more ridiculous price than the previous I knew I had to get out of there.

I tried using excuses that the other pendents were not up to my liking, so she kept on digging up more and more pendents to satisfy my likings, but still none was what I wanted, than she started taking my 2 that I chose and asked me to to show her what was my preference. Again and again she did that. I already paid her for the 2, and each time she checked she SHE would put the pendents into my bag. Alarm bells were ringing(mentally), and I immediately took them out to inspect. I found one of them was replaced and thought little of it, told her politely this is not what I want and put them(the correct ones) into my bag. This happened while I was eating, and she sat infront of me. really damn awkward.

pho! quite good, but I had to bargain... Touristy prices again..

This time she has asked her "Uncle" for reinforcements, at first she said there was all the stock she had, than suddenly more and more she had. Gave me some bullshit story that her family had been there for a hundred years and she can be trusted. I took a jade piece, I pushed hard on the display glass to verify it's authenticity. It was real jade, it cut the glass like a pen knife(not sure if good method to check). I insisted she didn't have the kind I liked, and took like ten new pieces out. Saying if I don't find one I liked, she could ask her uncle to make one immediately.

I was extremely agitated and wanted to get the hell out of the place. She grabbed my hand and brought me to a store opposite which was shuttered, opened it up to reveal another jade store with a lot more jade. She asked for my 2 jade pendants to again find out what I like, I browsed 1, than 2 more. I couldn't stand her lies any longer. Told her, "Look, I need to go now." My voice was a little raised and I asked for my pendents back, put it into my bag and left.

Little did I know, only until I was back in Singapore, opened the bag that contained the pendents that realised one pendent had a crack and was swapped by her cunning hands. Unbelievable. So beware ladies and gentlemen, people who are overly friendly are usually not as they seem.

Anyway, back with the journey.. It was past noon and I had to make about 100km, it was going to be long. I rode long, likely about 50+km before I took a break. I remember being out of water and pretty hungry. I was in some small town, and their market place was this open space infront of a petrol kiosk. I looked around for food and found a corner stall selling baguettes, I stopped by the side of road, one leg on the pavement(and the other on the pedals) unlike what I do in Singapore when I stop for traffic lights.

no idea what are the ingredients but always try to look for a point for ham to be included!

After my order, the lady side something and pointed to the petrol kiosk, and she repeated the same thing about 3 times. Until I finally got it, police! And that I was gestured to get off the road! haha oh well, I needed a break anyway. While consuming my fuel, she was asked if I wanted more. It looked like some dessert with lotus seeds. Mmm... Yummy! Cold and yummy. Than I went to the shophouse next to it and got some water. It was cheap here! It was a really good break, but I had to move before it got dark!

About an hour's ride later, it started drizzling. I took the opportunity to get some hot chow. If I didn't recall wrongly, it was the first time I had rice here. The equivalent of mixed-vegetables rice in Sg, and oh my god. The rice was good, reminded me of Thai/Brunei/Taiwan kinda rice.

Unfortunately, the skies grew angrier and angrier. It was really pouring, just think of the heaviest downpour you can imagine. Yet, there were still people riding their bicycles in the rain (river by this time), some with Ponchos and others without. I mean if these guys (and many ladies!) could do it in the storm, why not me? Although it did take me an hour of contemplation to start riding in the rain, while waiting I drank lots of ice cold Vietnam tea, watched a couple where the man sourced around for a poncho for his girl and just the many people that rode pass the shop.

This boy was playing with a piece of paper, for likely close to an hour he picked up it up, held it high, and let it go. He would than try his very best to catch the paper mid-flight, and he just kept doing it... Than to rope skipping, and back to the paper. Simple pleasures in life I suppose.
 When I started riding in the rain I immediately started shivering, my 1200 lumen front light was a full blast and I felt I needed to kick the pace up to build some heat. 26.. 28.. 30km/h I was riding, much of the road had pot holes filled with water, some shallow while others so deep, they hurt my wrists. I was actually overtaking most scooters as they cautiously maneuvered around holes as I blast pass them at full speed.

I eventually slowed down as I got tired and warmed up, I have hit the highway now, and when there wasn't any traffic I was the only light on the road. The first time riding at night, and I was doing it in the rain. I was riding at maybe 22km/h, and even though my light was at max; I couldn't see much ahead, many times I would see a pothole and ouch I hit a pothole(if you know what i mean). Once, while a trailer was overtaking me the shoulder disappeared! I was like "OH SHIT!" I very gradually applied the brakes, but was sliding all over the place on grass/gravel/rocks bits until I came to a stop. I had a breather. Some water. Some mental pep talk, then decided I had to ride slower.

Monkey see, monkey do the wise ones usually say. I realised I was the only one riding on the shoulder, it seems that at night riding in the lane is much safer choice. No potholes, no water pools and much smoother tarmac. The only thing keeping me away? Those damn trailers, and even the ones traveling in the opposite direction are scary; the headlights are positioned exactly right to blind you.

Update 07/27/2013:
The rains eventually stopped as a rode past one hotel, to tell myself to just ride a bit more. But the night riding was too scary and blinding for me to continue as I succumbed to my temptations as I saw from far a neon sign on the rooftop of a rather high (6 storeys?) hotel. Tried to bargain for a better price, but to no avail. So I nodded and went to my room.

Distance today: 127km
Distance to date: 285km