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