Empty Hammocks, Cool Architecture, Wrinkled Fingers - This Time Tomorrow - CycleBlaze

December 11, 2016

Empty Hammocks, Cool Architecture, Wrinkled Fingers

Ca Na to Hoa Thu

Dear little friends,

You wake up in your Last Chance No-Tell Motel and pack up and just as you wheel the bike into the courtyard it starts to rain. Not just a drizzle, either. This is a moment to feel gratitude that the rain started now instead of when you were waking up and making a decision about whether to stay or go. You’re going. Of course, gratitude isn’t what we felt in the moment. Instead we put on our rain gear and went.

As it happens, my snazzy silver poncho got put on and taken off several times during the day. We left the magical town dedicated to fish sauce production (Bruce: “I like the smell.” Andrea: “‘Scuse me while I stop to puke, this reminds me of being pregnant.”) and rolled the hell out of there, rain or no. We followed AH1 for quite some time, stopping for Bun Bo Hue at a kind of tony place (for us) across from the ocean. This is where we saw the first Christmas decorations of the season. They must have been just put up because the rather slothful girls who worked there were hanging around it and taking selfies. Regardless, the Bun Bo Hue was excellent.

Christmas in Asia is heavy on tinsel.
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A loose cow contemplates her next meal.
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We have remarked on this enough, probably, but Vietnam is full steam ahead on development. Usually we see this manifested in broad ostentatious boulevards to nowhere or half-finished resorts but this time we passed a huge coal-fired power plant complex being built with a gargantuan artificial port probably visible from space that will receive coal shipped down from the north. WRONG IDEA, VIETNAM. Yes, it was raining and dim at present but the potential for solar and wind along an open ocean is huge. Dang.

Brand spankin' new generators and power lines.
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AH1 was its usual charming self and we were counting the miles before we could turn off of it, so much so that we turned off too soon and I was nearly creamed by a tractor as we all tried to avoid enormous potholes. However, my nerves have been tempered to titanium-strength steel here in Vietnam and on we went. When we finally figured out where we were and where we going and bought some banh mi to get there with, it turned into a pretty nice ride despite the rain.

Please tell me these potholes are temporary!
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Why didn't we stay at the Speedboat Hotel?
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A medium-low chance of forest fires, oh wait, wrong country.
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On a section along the heavily littered coast we stopped for coffee and to shake the rain off. I was tired of wearing wet sandals every day and I think they are starting to smell bad. The genteel Vietnamese tourists gave us a wide berth, although they did circle our parked bikes and point out all the features they found interesting. Then they got into their warm dry car and drove off while we struggled back into ponchos and jackets and I pulled on my very soggy gloves. My fingers are permanently wrinkled, seems like.

The long coastline road was very quiet and beautiful in a misty green way. Sadly the litter continued unabated and I’m not going to gloss over that. It is really terrible. We saw lots of holiday restaurants full of hammocks for people to escape the heat in if there were heat, but hammocks aren’t that fun in the rain so they all swung emptily and we kept on going.

Down a wet highway.
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Fishing boats
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Coracles
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A bay full of fishing boats.
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Hammocks awaiting their occupants.
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Bruce was noticing a lot of cool architecture in a town we got lost in. There was much stopping while he documented old colonial buildings in nearly pristine, non-touristic shape. Not only that but the modern buildings had jazzy little touches that had the mark of an imaginative local designer. We know that these houses are pretty utilitarian if not bleak inside but the art-deco, mid-century motifs give them a jauntiness that belie their humble utility. They seem hopeful, which if any one word sums up Vietnam to me, it’s hopeful.

In the town of Cool Houses.
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Clever detailing on humble houses.
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A cool old building and a cool old lady.
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More coolness.
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Each house was different.
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On some days we really get that “out there” feeling. When nothing is in English. When nothing is there that is not for use by locals, so fishing villages have markets and some food in the mornings but no discernible accommodation or restaurants open in the evening. Bruce stopped on a bridge where two waffle sellers were grilling their waffle irons over coals, one on each side of the street. Waffles are like siren calls to him, he can never resist them, so we waited as she whipped up several for him because to take from her cooling pile for the foreigner would never do. Eventually she finished up and then had to run across the bridge to her colleague to make change for the fifty-cent bill he gave her. That’s “out there”.

Bruce did not waffle around with this lady, but screeched to a halt.
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Once over the bridge we were really out there. There weren’t any restaurants. There were shacks along the beach. There were sandy streets in a quasi-town and us rolling up and down them because it had been a long wet day and we were tired. When I made a “sleeping” gesture to a local he pointed “go this way and then turn that way” and out of the blue, a brand-new Nha Nghi appeared, towering over its neighbors. It was like a miracle.

We need a collective noun for multiple coracles. Suggestions welcome.
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A flotilla of fishing boats.
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Doing the cycling version of trudging around sandy roads looking for a guesthouse. Things were looking bleak.
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But then it appeared.
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The rain was really coming down now. We stayed in and ate peanuts and a Clif bar and counted our blessings. Clothes, ponchos, gloves, and sandals were everywhere trying to dry, the shower was hot and lovely, and the dueling karaoke bars on either side of us could not further dampen our spirits. Karaoke is one thing but I hate to say it, these singers are without exception really terrible, so much so that I automatically give an “Ow-ow-oo” coyote howl when I hear it. But everybody gets up before sunrise in Vietnam so they don’t sing very late, and besides, after a day of riding nothing short of a jet plane landing on my head is going to keep me awake, certainly not the lonely howls of an “out there” town.

The view of "out there" from our Nha Nghi.
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Today's ride: 34 miles (55 km)
Total: 893 miles (1,437 km)

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