Nha Nghi to Nha Nghi on the Ho Chi Minh Highway - This Time Tomorrow - CycleBlaze

November 13, 2016

Nha Nghi to Nha Nghi on the Ho Chi Minh Highway

Cam Phong to Lam Son

Nha Nghi to Nha Nghi on the Ho Chi Minh Highway

Cam Phong to Lam Son 30 miles

November 13, 2016

Besides being the newest, nicest, cleanest and cheapest Nha Nghi we’ve stayed in thus far, the woman at the front desk told us she would send the keys back to the previous night’s Nha Nghi for us free of charge. I had inadvertently kept them in my pocket when we left and felt horrible about it when I discovered them. The owner of that Nha Nghi was the nicest guy and as a foreigner I hated I had set such a bad example. After much back and forth using Google Translate she understood that she would call the number on the keys and tell the man that we were really sorry and get his address. I was quite surprised that she didn’t want any money and wondered if that old rule still applied in regards to hotel keys. I remember when I was a kid that you could always drop them in the mail loose and they would be sent back to the hotel/motel free of charge. It now seems like such a very long time ago when life in America was more innocent, simple, uncomplicated and nice. Here in Vietnam it actually feels sort of like those days.

One of the nicest Nha Nghi guest houses ever for us.
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After we were relieved that the key problem had been solved and that we didn’t need to find a post office (I have yet to see one in this country but, with no signs in English whatsoever, maybe I don’t know a post office when I’m looking at one) we were on the road again. We didn’t get more than a few blocks when I saw a sign for noodle soup with chicken.

Strange to think but chicken in Vietnam is a luxury and not something the people normally eat (unlike any other S.E. Asian country I’ve ever been in). I’m not quite certain why this is so. I know that they rely heavily on seafood and because there are so many rivers and water ponds there is a huge thriving duck industry. And for some reason they eat more beef than anywhere I’ve been in Asia. Normal Vietnamese noodle soup is beef (bo) noodle soup.

The morning soup rush was finished when we pulled in but the woman cook was more than willing to ladle up for us. In Vietnamese she told us what the condiments were on the table. For one container she kept saying it was “cay, cay” and looked at me seriously. I nodded as if I understood. I thought I did understand. I knew it was chili paste, my favorite, but after I had scooped the second small spoonful into my bowl the woman came running over to stop me from adding more. “Cay! Cay!”, she screamed as if I was a dimwit. Well, OK, she didn’t scream but she was very serious and almost scolding. I’ve never had anyone stop me from adding anything to my soup before so I knew I was in for it.

The chicken noodle soup restaurant.
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Yes, my soup was on fire but then I for sure had to slurp up the entire bowlful. Then I used up most of her paper napkins but in the learning process I also learned a new word - cay. As we left the restaurant I was saying, “Cay! Cay!” while loosening my collar and fanning myself. This made her and all of her women friends laugh and maybe, just maybe think that I wasn’t crazy. Maybe. Self deprecation and laughter goes a long way everywhere in S.E. Asia and I’m the first to try it if it saves me a little face. After that we got out of there.

But we didn’t ride more than a block when I had to stop to take a photo of the key maker’s keys covered in dust hanging in a ring from his cute little key making stand. Of course just at that moment the key maker showed up for work, took one look at what I was doing and starting laughing. In my own country I usually can’t make people laugh but over here it’s so incredibly easy. He was laughing so hard that I started laughing and then since we were friends in laughter I held out my hand to shake his. As he shook with laughter and my hand he said, “American!” It wasn’t a question; he knew. No one ever understands us when we tell them we are Americans but he already knew! It’s just one big mystery, this bike trip. We ride only a few blocks and so much happens. And it’s all fun. The Vietnamese are fantastic people.

Locksmith's stand
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Another half a block and we were in the middle of a big bridge and again I had to stop to take a picture of the beautiful river. Of course just then suddenly we were surrounded by school kids on bikes. Where did they come from?! They, of course, couldn’t go past us without stopping to marvel at the two, (what you might think by their shocked looks), Martians. I’m really surprised at what a novelty we are here in Vietnam. But, I guess normal tourists just don’t take the route we do. Sometimes I wonder why we do.

Song Ma River
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Finally we started our day of riding. It was hot, quite hot, there was karst and more karst and lots of big hills in the distance that we didn’t have to climb and some that we did. Remember that hill that was so steep we could just barely push our bikes up? It was the day after our stay in Bac Son up north. There the sign indicated it was a 10% grade and I questioned that thinking it was much steeper. I’m no expert at judging angles but the hills we climbed today were much more easy and they too had 10% signs. I don’t really know which are right, if any. All I know is that we could pedal up the hills today without having to dismount.

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Slowly as we got further down the Ho Chi Minh Highway there were fewer trucks and buses. I must say, the drivers of the big rigs have been quite courteous to us. Probably the buses are the worst and come too close sometimes but the truck drivers have been great. The worst part is all the honking. It’s constant.

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What was odd to us was that this sign is pretty new. The government is still going with the old propaganda stuff even though I doubt many people pay much attention anymore.
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But the beauty of the countryside was constant as well. At one point there were a bunch of women under big umbrellas by the side of the road selling oranges. We have stopped to buy oranges just about every day and they have been of excellent quality. So, again we stopped and it was hard to choose buying from just one of the women but that’s what we had to do. I always pick out about six little oranges which is about a half a kilo in weight. The seller always throws in a couple more for good measure. This time the woman knew her numbers in English and she told me, “22,000 Dong” (exactly one dollar). Then, as I was sorting through my pocketful of crumpled up money she said, “21,000”, meaning that she didn’t have her numbers down perfectly yet.

What struck me was how honest she was. To realize she had told me the wrong price and to correct it even though 1000 Dong is a very small amount, is extremely honest. For years we had heard stories of the Vietnamese not being honest at all and sometimes not even giving back your change. We have found, for the most part, very wonderfully honest people all along the way. It just makes for a nicer trip when you don’t have to get all worked up about stuff like that. Even if it’s only small amounts of money you are being swindled out of it sets a bad tone and that’s not the way one wants to travel. We have had so little of it that it’s hardly worth mentioning. And the few times it has happened have been so strange and funny that I’m saving them for a separate future post.

A girl and her water buffalo
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The haze we had been experiencing turned to puffy white clouds. There was a slight south wind and it was hot and humid. We drank like camels and salty peanuts saved us. The landscape was lush green and beautiful. When we had only ridden 30 miles and were faced with the hotel before us or the unknown ahead, we opted to call it a day.

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Then began a thousand frustrations with the room we got. Every single thing had something wrong with it which took time to fix or forget. The woman had forgotten to give us the air conditioner remote so I went downstairs to get it. But it didn’t seem to work even with new batteries I tried. The TV, once I retrieved that remote, never worked - just static but it took me a long time just to get to that realization. The hot water heater was on the same circuit as the air conditioner we finally surmised and that circuit was controlled by the woman downstairs. Windows didn’t shut properly to keep mosquitoes out. We have not seen one screen on a window yet in Vietnam. I guess they just don’t believe in them. Windows therefore must be kept shut which is a drag if the air conditioner doesn’t work.

Our bathroom window.
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I was trying to lock the door and suddenly the lock fell apart in my hand and we were locked inside! I was getting so mad about it all that I wanted to move to another room but at the moment we were trapped. I was able to get a window open wide enough to climb. I tried for some time to get the door open with the key from the outside, which I was finally able to do. But it never locked again. We went to dinner with the door unlocked and that’s a first. I mean, most of our valuable stuff we always carry with us, but still, it was a little bit of a concern. We have become quite trusting of the Vietnamese, more so than just about anywhere we have ever been which is why we were able to leave with the door unlocked.

Forgetting about the problems of our room we rode our bikes along the small town’s main street until we found a restaurant. There the people treated us like royalty. We had no idea what we were going to eat there but the woman cook gave me a beer to drink and took Andrea by the arm to look over the possibilities for dinner with her. The woman told me to stay put with my beer. I was not to be involved in the decision. So funny but that was fine with me.

The two girls came up with a wonderful meal of fried greens, an omelette of sorts, a dish of miniature whole, in-the-shell, fresh-water shrimp and other small dishes including some pickled round things that strongly resembled ping pong balls. The man of the house came over and shook his head at those but gave a thumbs up for the beer. Then he poured two shots of rice whiskey. Andrea was not included and she was fine with that. He was very gracious. Just a welcoming shot for me and then he indicated he would leave us alone to eat our meal.

It was an indescribably wonderful warm experience eating in a family restaurant with the family right there. The man held and played with his baby the entire time. The food was exotic and tasty. We are in rural Vietnam and loving every experience. Poor quality locks, screenless windows or cold air and hot water beyond our control can’t dim our excitement.

lovebruce

Because the lock on the door broke and because we are such sound sleepers I rigged up a noise making system if anyone opened the door. The door is behind that curtain. The chair would fall and then the click stand would clatter but probably the most noise would come from that cup that I carefully balanced on the end of the click stand. Crazy. All I could think of was bumping the whole contraption in the middle of the night on my way to the bathroom.
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Today's ride: 30 miles (48 km)
Total: 341 miles (549 km)

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