Friday, September 21, 2012

Vietnam Tour: Day 2 (22nd Aug) Hue to Hoi An

Today is the first day of some real cycling, looking forward to spending some time on the saddle.

Sadly, it didn't start off quite too well... I slept on a queen sized double deck top bunk in a big room with a barely working air-con. It was fine when the fan was on, but the fan stopped working after 12mn... More people checked in after that (I recall 10 other people in the same room), I tried hard to sleep but eventually woke up at 5+ and decidedly to get moving.. After gathering my stuff, i opened the door to see two ladies sleeping outside on beach chairs (definitely too hot inside). I forgot to take something and leave the door of the room ajar (to let some light in) to see the first guy sleeping ass naked.

Many rice fields but little hills on the way to HV pass.

Anyway, today was to be a day to climb the Hai Van pass. But before that, there were actually 2 more smaller 1km passes, so what are passes? Highway 1A is mostly flat since it follows the coast line (sea level) but inevitably there are some hills/mountains that stand in the way... And so you have to go over them. I don't know if Singapore has a 1km climb but the first one I hit was already rather demoralizing.

These are the highway's truckers! On one of the passes the road winds and just when I thought the truck was going to destroy the grey van on the right. (Grey van wanted to overtake on a blind corner, saw the truck but ended up out of his lane) Luckily he stopped...
Long and slow, I quickly realize that I have to slow down and just take it easy instead of the usual chiong up and coast down like some Malaysia rides I have done.

One of the passes I passed, some sort of viewing point where some ang mohs (to the right off picture, stopped to take pictures), pretty good view!
The incoming mountains threaten to swallow me whole..
On one of the passes, I was approached and asked to purchase some postcards, I didn't want any and he asked me where I was from and to give him some currency from Singapore to add to his collection (displayed to me in a photo album). Just for him to keep as a souvenir... I didn't want to give him any, seems like a scam to me... Gather enough of each currency and go to a money changer for some easy cash. But who knows?

So two passes later, I get to the beginning of Hai Van pass, almost immediately it was a 8-10% gradient (there were road signs there that said so) and I drop to granny and take it slow. I was pretty psyched, to see just how epic the climb was and was not disappointed..

I look back from where I came, where I had my lunch and to my right the open sea. Just 15mins of climbing and the view!
Roughly an 45mins of climbing and the top no where in sight... I'm running out of water and starting to take more breaks (I stop here admiring the long road I have climbed thus far.)

The going gets tough after an hour, the road itself was perfectly fine, mostly motorcycles and the occasional truck that carries oil. There is actually a tunnel that bypasses this pass but only vehicles with four wheels or greater can use it, and I guess for safety reasons, no oil! The agony seems prolonged due to riding at single digit speed, lack of water, the sun bearing down on me, no road side stalls, and just your mind wondering when it's going to end...

And it couldn't come sooner! After the final bend you could see stalls and vehicles parked, spurring me to push on!

Some ruins of a fort at the top, there were bullets holes in them!
Stalls!!! My salvation!! DRINKS!
Wah, the other side of the HV pass... Looks great! Danang here I come!
The panoramic view was so good, looks like some sort of bay.. Good stuff.
The way down was so quick, I was doing 40km/h most of the time, very cool wind too. Once down, I was thinking the original plan is to head for Danang and stay there... But Hoi An is less populated only about 30km more, I could stay one night at Danang, than another at Hoi An... But why not save a day for somewhere else (like HCMC or Tuy Hoa or Da Lat)... So head to Hoi An it is!

As I got closer to Danang, traffic was higher (probably why I don't like the cities), but luckily the road got wider. It got extremely dusty and felt polluted... I cycled on and on and was looking for some food... The problem was that on my right were railway tracks, which meant no stalls could operate! The stalls were all on the other side! And a huge divider was in the way... And going over would mean time lost! So I went on and on and on...

I felt like it was 2 hours before I finally saw an opening in the tracks and a food stall right in front of it! I pointed to whatever the others were having and sat down, my ass was hurting.

Turned out to be duck porridge! Nice and peppery too!

They had free Vietnam tea which I happily drank, it was so refreshing.... The meal was good! Some curious stares at myself and the bike.. And after applying sunblock, I was off again.

Curious, when the transported becomes part of the transport! Intriguing.
I soon, approach a junction where I turn left toward Hoi An and away from the highway.. The road gets more bumpy narrow but less crowded. Less than 20kms more, but it always seems the last kilometers are somehow always the longest.

A very large boat, in a very small river which is apparently a newly opened restaurant!
There was a nice country side feel on the way in, and once in the old town itself... Very calming... It was like Chinatown with the old shop houses and 2-feet walkways.... I struggle to find a cheap place to stay, settle for An Hoi Hotel (Cost twice the previous lodging! but all the rest I asked cost more!). Cleaned up, and headed out for dinner. I chose a placed called Sun Shine, but it was quite a long walk to get there... But according to reviews, it's worth it!

Cao lau noodles, overwhelming good sauce!
Fresh beer at 15cents! (2k)
Mouth watering spring rolls with crazy good sauce (good sauce seems abundant huh)
Some tea so ease the heavy sauces

Truly! Everything was delicious, and the cheaper accommodation was all here! Damn! 

I leave you with some sights of Hoi An!

Old town, seems like life here slows down a bit...

Colourful lights adorn the banks of the river.
The famous floating lanterns of Hoi An. It was a pretty sight!

For the google map out, click here.

Distance today: 132km
Distance to date: 158km

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Swimming for a good cause!

I'm pledging to swim 200 laps (10km) in a bid to raise $3000 for the Children's Cancer Foundation.

I'll swim 1 more lap for every additional $20 raised.

There's no minimum amt, but each & every contribution counts & your support is appreciated.
 The above as quoted by the Queen herself (Guess her favourite color!), inspiring many others to do more, to go further and train harder! Spot her easily as she towers above the average Singaporean guy (me included, pun intended). All the best Jamie!

For more details and to donate, click the link below!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Friday, September 14, 2012

Vietnam Tour: Day 1 (21st Aug) Singapore flight to HCMC flight to Hue into Town

I got to the budget terminal, Dad left and I felt quite alone. Excited but alone, wondering if anything might stop me, maybe the air ticket I bought was for the wrong day or something... Okay... Just take it as it comes!

Interestingly, odd-sized baggage is checked in via a different way, at the end of the counters via a conveyer belt...

The flight there was roughly 2 hours, and once there, I had 1hour 40mins to make my way to the next flight... A domestic flight to Hue, roughly the midpoint of North and South Vietnam. Well the reason for not going all the way to Hanoi was that my parents were a little worried about the recent unrests in Hanoi on the government acquiring land from farmers for use... (And when I came back, my parents forgotten about the unrests... Should have just went to Hanoi !!!)

Anyway, touchdown and a few uneasy questions for the Vietnam Airlines staff... They told me I had to go through immigration, collect my luggage and proceed to turn right once cleared... Hmm... Shouldn't be too difficult..

So once cleared immigration with the huge box, I walked out. Instantly attracting stares at the giant box... I turned right and saw signs to a Domestic Terminal... Oh man, a separate building eh? Okay, keep calm and carry on.

Once there I move to a Vietnam Airlines counter, told to move to another queue for odd-sized baggage and once it was my turn. I was told I had to get a new ticket! Oh my god... Turned out, I had to bring the credit card I used to pay for the ticket as evidence the card was mine... Gosh. Some 20 mins later, I get my new ticket (paid with cash, oh man, less cash to use.) I am back at the same counter with a new ticket and told to hurry and get to the gate... (Last call!) I panic a little and rush to the gate, only to be early...

On the plane, I was near the windows and just kept seeing rice fields upon rice fields... Wow...

Down to Hue, right after the collecting my bike, it was out the door, no more immigration (Domestic flight noob). Lots of people asking me to take their taxi while I just proceeded to a corner of the airport and started assembling my bike.

I took me about an hour, sweating and puffing, and attracting some attention as the only Vietnamese I know is "Chao" (Hello). While they throw questions to me, and the only way I respond is Hello!

My 15L bag strapped on to the seatpost rack and my backpack down, I get on the bike. Nervous as to whether all is working well... 50 metres down.... Seem alright.. Some whizzing going on though... Where is it coming from?

Whiizzzzzzz. Oh crap, the front hydraulic brake cable is rubbing against the tires. I quickly grab the cable away from the tires and stop in the shade to rectify the cabling... And off to Hue!

It was hottt! After what seemed like an hour, I had no water on me so I passed stall after stall of sugarcane vendors looking for one that had people seating, so I could point at whatever they were having!

It was soooo goood (5k/30 cents)! I got into town (Only about 15km from the airport), found a place to stay (Hue Backpackers Hostel, please stay someone else...), uploaded my stuff... Was told my bike would be safe at their carpark opposite the Hostel and went off for lunch and to visit the Forbidden City!

 iced coffee (heard fantastic things about this, but like nothing special...)

 banana pancake with honey (die die must try!)
 fried noodles (total about $6, which i later found out is expensive!)

really big flag pole!

 souvenir! looks like a real chain too!

After a rather long walk inside, I tried to look for a place to have dinner... According to the maps... It was not there... After struggling with the "Vietnam app", I looked at the address and found the road! The pin was in the wrong place! Oh well, "Hot Tuna" was the name of the restaurant. It was near my hostel! Cool!

 Hot Tuna (I was really hot after the long walk!, so settled for coke and beer! Great!)
Butter chicken! (Very good sauce, $8 dinner)

What could I ask for? It was an easy riding day, long walking day, not too sure about local food yet. I bought a bottle of big water, a small packet of what I thought to be orange yogurt juice thingy which turned out to taste like yakult (pleasant surprise!) and returned to have an early night...

End of day 1! Too many pictures? Let me know...

Distance today: 26km
Distance for Vietnam: 26km 

Friday, September 7, 2012

Vietnam Tour: Day 0

Due to certain national service commitments I had to postpone this trip a few times, and after getting the go ahead from Dad... I booked the tickets...

Just barely a week later, it's today. The day before the flight. I packed my 15L waterproof sack and realised I needed to carry more.

After a few quick searches, I settled for a Deuter Cross Air EXP 20. Rave reviews from both Amazon and CRC made up my mind.

I went to Velocity (Novena) to get a Merino Icebreaker Tech T Lite from X-boudaries, very pricey but wanted to give it a go... I first read about it on and than others. It best quality? Light, keeps you cool and odour resistant. They had quite a selection on Deuter bags as well, but not the particular model I wanted... I proceeded to Beach Rd, but the usual shop was closed...

So I looked around and ended up a Blk 1, just beside the usual Army's boy hangout, called S.K. it's the first shop so you can't miss it! After I quick shake down, I asked for a discount and was pleasantly pleased when they quoted me a price lower than from CRC! Sweet!

Boxed up my MTB following the instructions from this video:

With a new bag, shirt and my bike boxed up I loaded my bike into my dad's car (Love you Dad!) that night and anxiously tried to sleep for the flight tomorrow.

Thursday, September 6, 2012