Splurge Deferred - This Time Tomorrow - CycleBlaze

December 15, 2016

Splurge Deferred

Mui Ne Beach to La Gi

Mui Ne Beach to La Gi 48 miles

December 15, 2016

Splurge Deferred

Finally, a beautiful sunny morning. As we rode along all the many hotels and resorts on Mui Ne Beach we realized just how long the beach/tourist area was. They say it’s more than ten kilometers long but I guess what surprised us was that it got nicer and nicer as we went south, both the beach and the hotels. It didn’t matter because we couldn’t have afforded them and it still would have rained nearly the whole time we were there.

Mui Ne Beach
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Mui Ne Beach
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Mui Ne Beach
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Somewhere along that strip we stopped for our daily banh mi. It looked like an especially good one too. It was a husband - wife team. The husband was grilling pork and chicken which both looked good so we ordered one of each. The man seemed intrigued by us on our funny looking bikes. I told him we had ridden from Hanoi and he was so impressed that he started bowing to me as if to say he wasn’t worthy. A very nice couple.

Banh Mi husband and wife team in Mui Ne Beach.
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When we finally cleared from all the hotels we could see that the beach was gorgeous but at that point the road cut inland a little in order to go through the large bustling town of Phan Thiet. On the outskirts of town we both simultaneously saw a bike repair shop on a corner. We wheeled into that shop like it was nobody’s business because Andrea’s front brake was screwed up so badly that it didn’t work. Neither of us could fix it. (Next time we bring along a pliers.)

The repair guy had been having some tea with what looked like a good friend of his. When we pulled in the repair guy got quite nervous. We have seen this panicked look a lot even when we stop for coffee. Most people do not speak one word of English and they really don’t want to deal with us when it comes to trying to communicate. But the repair guy’s friend had total confidence in him and gave him courage.

We made it simple. No words needed. We showed him the problem and as I took a couple of quick photos of him and his friend behind urging him on, he had the brake working perfectly. I didn’t even get to see what he actually did! He sheepishly asked for the equivalent of 90 cents for his work. As we left I could see that he was more confident and I’ll bet he won’t get as panicked if other foreigners need work done. He was a good mechanic, no words needed.

Bike repair person and his friend who has total confidence he can fix Andrea's brake.
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Andrea also needed a zip tie to hold her bike computer on the handlebar. I’m not sure what happened to the one that was on there but the zip ties we had were not the right size. We stopped at a likely zip tie store (actually a spring store) in the center of town but they made the hand-wavering-around motion which means ‘no’. We hadn’t even gotten back on our bikes when I saw one lying on the street. It was the perfect size too! If we hadn’t stopped at that shop we never would have seen it lying there. Strange how things happen.

In the bustling town of Phan Thiet.
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In front of the spring store.
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Kids in Phan Thiet.
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Christmas decorations going up.
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The beach road south of Phan Thiet does not directly connect with the city for some reason and we had to do a squiggle around something or other in order to get on it. On Google Maps it looks straight forward but in reality that road that looked perfectly nice turned into Hell in a matter of feet. We should have turned around at that moment but we couldn’t believe that the rough quality of the road would continue so we doggedly kept at it. A little further on it turned into Double Hell. You’ve all heard of Double Happiness, well, this was the opposite. This road was harshing my normal calm. I couldn’t believe how bad it got. We were essentially riding on a rutted dirt road where everyone dumped their garbage. There are seemingly no dumps in Vietnam but instead it all gets tossed alongside roads. This one was the worst dump we had seen. And it went on and on. Finally, we had to cross a huge mud puddle and I refused because we had just spent a lot of time cleaning our bikes. I went around through tall weeds but it turned out to be an area where kids came to break bottles. I was literally pushing over an area of solid broken glass. Andrea wisely went through the water. It was awful and we were in such a remote and forbidding place that it even started to feel like we might be in danger. In two years there will probably be a big fancy resort there since it encompassed a lot of vacant land. Maybe it was an airport during the war. It had a bad vibe.

Horrible route.
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Finally we were on the ocean road and it was really nice. It was a smallish road with not a lot of traffic and lots of vegetation on either side of the road. Very green. There were resorts spread out and not jam-packed. Some were old and decrepit and even abandoned and some were quite upscale.

We stopped at a restaurant for a cold drink since it was quite hot and humid. It was a restaurant that had hundreds of items on the menu including a coffee ice cream shake which Andrea wanted. I got a mango shake. I noticed the most expensive thing on the menu was cobra for $40. We only wanted drinks because we were rather bravely planning to eat our banh mi there. Kind of poor taste to eat someone else’s food at a restaurant but it didn’t really matter. I sensed the owner had no respect for Americans at all. He was one of these rare Vietnamese who apparently loves Russians. He spoke fluent Russian too. There were a few Russians in the restaurant (two of them happily eating beet borscht!!). (We have not seen one beet in Vietnam so that was a mystery.) The whole experience being there and sort of shunned was a new one for us but we were happy with our shakes and we ate two of the best banh mi ever.

South of Phan Thiet
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Russian restaurant's menu
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Mango shake and a coffee/ice cream shake
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We left the Russian restaurant and got back on the beautiful road along the ocean. I thought I had had a strange feeling in that restaurant but then something terrible happened. Up ahead of us a little way a dog got hit by a car. The yelps of the dog were horrible. The guy driving the car didn’t stop or care. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he maybe tried to hit the dog. There was no excuse on a small road like that to hit a dog. I held back because I have a hard time dealing with injury. I am basically useless. Andrea went forward to try to help the dog.

The dog finally stopped yelping and crying but was sitting in the road. Andrea approached the dog slowly and then gently patted her head. I will never forget that sight; the dog sitting there wagging its tail. Someone cared, someone was showing love and it seemed for a moment to take away the pain the dog was feeling. It was obviously appreciative. But it’s hind legs were badly injured and it couldn’t walk. They were scraped and bleeding. One leg might have been dislocated or broken. The dog let Andrea pick it up and carry it to the side of the road.

There were two adults and one younger boy watching with no emotion. We don’t know whose dog it was. No one seemed to care. My heart was breaking. I knew that at best the dog would have a terrible limp. Worst is that the owners ate the dog. There are no veterinarians here, no way for us to help the dog. We could have completely ended our trip for the dog and I thought about it. But realistically it was an impossible situation. I simply will never forget how appreciative that little dog was when Andrea pet her head. That’s what breaks my heart. I’m so glad Andrea was able to do something. I was a mess, no better than the people watching how Andrea dealt with it.

Probably the most important thing was for the three people to see how a foreigner showed compassion for a dog. Most people in Vietnam (especially in the north) regard dogs as food no different from chickens, pigs, fish. Man’s so called best friend. It’s far from a dog-eat-dog world in Vietnam, we don’t feel that at all. But it’s a man-eat-dog place and that sickens me. I understand but don’t accept.

Andrea helping a sweet dog.
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A little further down the road I helped a scarab beetle off the road!

Then we were feeling like a splurge since we hadn’t gotten to splurge on a hotel on the famous Mui Ne Beach. I went into the lobby of a resort to inquire on the price of a room. No one was around but the prices were listed and I quickly left. It was a nice place but not worth it.

We stopped at another that was deep in the woods. It was quite a lot cheaper but the bungalow was musty smelling and did not have a view of the ocean. We liked the owner a lot but that wasn’t enough to keep us there.

We came to a brand new big tall beautiful hotel with a beautiful pool and a nice beach. All the vegetation had been removed which meant every room had a view. We spoke to the food and beverage manager (he spoke the most English) and he got the manager to drop the price quite a lot since they hadn’t even really opened yet. Breakfast was included but he said the kitchen was not stocked. He thought that if we could wait until 8AM he could arrange breakfast. He was super nice and someone brought out refreshing ice tea for us. We were so grungy that we didn’t even want to sit on the brand new sofa in the lobby area. But we declined the offer and put the rest of the ice from the ice tea into our water bottles! Boy do we have class!

Tropical Ocean's reception area.
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This may be the regret of the trip for me. I kind of wish I had splurged and just gone for the room. It wasn’t outrageously priced but all I could think about at the time was that the price would buy us both 50 breakfasts. When put in those kind of terms I think it’s too extravagant to waste money like that. But now I wish I had just gone for it. That pool looked awfully nice. No other guests! One of the very first to ever stay there! It would have been something to remember. Oh, I’ll remember all right. It was called Tropical Ocean.

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We asked at two other places but ended up with nothing so we kept riding. We rode through numerous dragon fruit farms and piles of dragon fruit for sale by the side of the road. We had never actually seen dragon fruit on the plant but there were many. Dragon fruit is such an interesting plant, it must be a succulent.

Dragon fruit
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Dragon fruit
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Huge bull with dragon fruit farm behind
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Then there was a swinging bridge, rice fields, a man wheeling dried eels, another place we asked about but was full, more dragon fruit, a lenticular cloud and then a town, La Gi which was on a terrible road and we were there at rush hour. It was a dusty mess and we took the first Nha Nghi we saw right on that dusty street.

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It had been quite an eventful day but it wasn’t over. We were tired and hungry. Venturing out for food in a place like that means that anything can happen. We walked on the edge of the dusty street and around the corner we came to an open air place that looked mostly like a beer place. Many young men, hard working laborers, were sitting at little tables and drinking beer from tall clear containers with spigots. Each of those things held probably two gallons of beer. I was extremely skeptical about food and I sure didn’t want to drink that much beer.

Then an older man at a table with two of his friends called us over. He said he was studying English and wanted to help us order some food. He was a very nice person but not a lot of help in ordering. We went to a table and sat for a while with no one willing to wait on us. Eventually the man’s two friends left and he came over to join us. We worked at the menu some more and then ordered some fish and a small keg of beer which he said was 1.5 liters of draft beer. He said it was “Japan black beer.”, but he meant it was German. It was really very good. I’ve never seen such a small keg of beer. The waitress brought us three small fish and a charcoal stove which she set next to me on the ground. I grilled as we talked to the man.

He said his daughter had married a foreigner and was living in Australia with him and he didn’t speak Vietnamese so he was going to learn English. He was quite serious too. He taught medicine but was not a doctor himself. We had a great time with him. He knew more English than he thought he did and we communicated quite well. He ordered three more little fish and I grilled them too. They were delicious little guys and he was a super nice person. He got a kick out of the fact that he was the student and we the teachers. In the end he insisted on paying the entire bill. Hospitality! We have seen a lot of it in Vietnam.

lovebruce

Truong Khanh in La Gi. Teacher of medicine - student of English.
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Today's ride: 48 miles (77 km)
Total: 971 miles (1,563 km)

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