The Frog in the Bathroom - This Time Tomorrow - CycleBlaze

December 17, 2016

The Frog in the Bathroom

Ho Tram Beach to Hiep Phuoc

Ho Tram Beach to Hiep Phuoc 48.5 miles

December 17, 2016

The Frog in the Bathroom

I felt a bit off when I woke but I didn’t think much about it. A person is due to feel off sometimes after what we have been doing. Plus, it had been hot for the last two days of riding and with no rain to cool us off I maybe hadn’t kept up with hydration and electrolyte replacement as well as I should have. I didn’t think anything was really wrong and we pushed off saying goodbye to the ocean. We don’t know when we will see the ocean again and it might not be until Cambodia.

Not seeing any banh mi stands we rode on. We had eaten muesli and mango in our bowls in our room so we were good for awhile but, of course, our first stop was for ice coffee. This particular coffee spot was run by a really nice woman who was also quite a gardener. In the back of her place she had lots of bonsai. She made us some great coffee and her accompanying ice tea was especially nice. Sometimes we get basic jasmine iced tea but sometimes it is something else that has a very delicate taste almost like a hint of vanilla or cigar, one or the other!

This coffee place had lots of enormous, heavy, UGLY, wood furniture which we lounged on uncomfortably. I have no idea why Asians make this stuff. It’s hard as iron and so heavy it’s immovable. It’s about the most uncomfortable furniture in existence and then they coat it with thick, glossy, marine varnish to make it even uglier I guess.

Outlandish furniture in the coffee shop.
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The worst part is that they are killing magnificent old growth trees to make this stuff. What a waste (in my opinion). I get angry about it because I have seen too much of it for too long. I remember when Thailand had huge old growth teak trees which they turned into this type of furniture and also large elephants and any number of animal knickknacks. By the ’80’s Thailand had no large teak trees left. That’s when they decided to made the decimated land into national parks. All the trees were gone so wouldn’t it be a good time to preserve it!!! Now it seems the same things are being done all through S.E. Asia. Thailand was just the first and one would think (maybe I’m too optimistic) that other countries would learn from Thailand’s mistakes.

Coffee shop with furniture weighing tons.
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The coffee shop owner's son.
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But the coffee and tea were a refreshing break from the heat. We were still on smallish roads but a little further on we turned west onto QL55, a little bit busier and larger. Either side, large and very green rice paddies stretched. Even on this larger road people were saying hello to us as they passed. I watched small, bright green kingfishers sitting on the wires above the rice. Entire families on motorbikes whisked past, the children as relaxed on the fast moving open-air vehicle as if they were on a comfy hard-as-a-rock sofa. Maybe that’s why all the beds at guest houses are rock hard, the Vietnamese have a very different idea of what comfortable is.

Surrounded by green rice fields I suddenly realized that we were approaching the 1000 mile mark of our trip in Vietnam. I switched my bike computer to the cumulative miles just in time, we were one mile away. A thousand miles is no big deal to most touring cyclists. People have much larger figures they can brag about but for us to put on 1000 miles in one scraggily little long country was a feat worthy of noting with a photo. Unfortunately the odometer looks like this; 10oo, not like this; 1000.

Nice road next to nice rice. Tasseling rice has a wonderful fragrance.
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Various stages of rice ripeness.
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1000 miles (so far) all in Vietnam.
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Things were getting busier and it suddenly got more populated and there were new, modern, clean buildings. There were full-fledged stop lights! Sidewalks. No trash lying around! We were in Phuoc Le a southeastern far out suburb of Saigon. For the first time of our entire trip it felt more like a modern, organized, and a bit more civilized, clean suburb.

We saw a Co-op Mart (big modern store) which we had to check out to see if they had muesli. We have found that all the muesli is from Germany or Switzerland and in the Co-op Mart there was nothing that wasn’t made in Vietnam. I really admire the Vietnamese for not selling out and buying imported goods. Millions more people can be employed if everything is made domestically. It’s a great policy for a small emerging country.

After coming out of the store with nothing we went around the corner to a nice looking lunch place and had bun bo hue. I should have known, though, to steer clear of the place because the owner was too enthusiastic about waving us in. I knew better but I was still in stunned amazement at the modernity of the entire area and thought that the soup would be good. It was the worst soup of the entire trip and also the most expensive! Disgusted, we rode on, still on QL55 which quickly turned into QL51.

Our plan was to stay on QL51 to skirt Saigon to the south and not go to Saigon at all. Saigon is not a place for bicycles. We were told by the man who bought us dinner last night not to ever say Ho Chi Minh City. He had always lived in South Vietnam and he said it will always be Saigon to anyone from the south. He showed us two identity cards, laughing, saying he had been a citizen of two countries in his life - South Vietnam and Vietnam. He was incredulous because he had never moved. He was also building a new house and he showed us a photo of the stairway. The treads were stone, as are all the stairs in this country, but they were of two colors - the colors of the South Vietnamese flag. He was truly a South Vietnamese and always would be. Wars can be won but do they really change people?

A sun shield keeping a shop cool.
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We rode and rode on QL51 and it got busier, hotter, more built up, noisier and dustier with every mile. The worst part was how on our toes we had to be at all times because there were motorbikes coming right at us on the shoulder all the time. There is a concrete barrier down the middle of QL51 which prevents people from turning so they have to go along the edge of the road the wrong way to get to where they want to be. It’s an insane system. It works, for the most part, if you are paying attention all the time but still, insane. The other problem was all the sand and stones on the shoulder which is never swept off. I think it’s worse now since the flooding left a lot of debris.

The odd thing was how many Catholic churches there are along QL51, all with huge nativity scenes. The nativity scenes are so strange here. I guess this is a sect of Catholicism that believes Jesus was born in a cave because all the scenes resemble either a cave or The Blob. It started to feel like Jesus Boulevard there were so many churches. Adjunct to the churches were stone carving places with twenty foot tall Jesus statues in process. I guess it’s no different than all the Buddha stone carving places I’ve seen in Burma, I just had never seen so many statues of Jesus being carved out of stone.

Nativity scene.
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Stone carving galore on Jesus Boulevard.
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That's one big baby!
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We've seen lots of tiny Santa outfits.
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Jesus blessing the nativity blob.
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As we rode on busy QL51 I felt worse and worse. I had a splitting headache I figured was from all the noise and commotion on the road. Honking was constant and some of the horns were ear splitting. It was awful. And I was also thinking a lot about my brother-in-law who had passed away exactly one year earlier. It was a bad day. We tried to make it better by stopping to have a couple of coconuts. I also finally was forced to buy a Vietnamese dust mask. But nothing helped. My head felt worse and worse and my body didn’t feel very well either. I didn’t know what was going on. I almost felt like I was getting the flu.

We made it to our turn off and that was even worse because it was a small, poor-condition road which was the only road leading to a large square industrial zone. We were going to ride directly through the zone. We knew it would be weird but it was rush hour and the road was solidly backed up with semi-trucks. It was quite the experience dodging huge trucks and mud puddles and motorbikes which all the workers ride.

When we got to an intersection just outside all the factories I couldn’t take it anymore. I told Andrea that I couldn’t go on and that we needed to find a Nha Nghi right away. It was one of the strangest places we have ever been. We didn’t feel in danger really but it was not the sort of place foreigners/tourists hang out. There were thousands of young people getting off their shifts riding motorbikes to their dorm-like apartments. Everyone was poor but there was loads of produce for sale on the street. People were all nice to us as we looked for a guest house. It didn’t take long to find one. It definitely felt like a prostitute hotel but at that point I didn’t care. I had to lie down.

The Nha Nghi we found just outside the industrial zone.
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Our room had no windows. The walls were deeply textured and were painted blue. The paint job suggested a larger TV once hung on the wall. The ceiling had a strange three dimensional design to it and there was a vinyl ‘L’ shaped couch we didn’t want to touch. The room was a pretty good size and it took the prize for the number of little soaps and toothbrushes (11 apiece). The best part was the frog in the bathroom. ‘Are frogs protectors? A good omen?’, I wondered and hoped.

The room we pretty much had to take.
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Soap and toothbrushes provided with the room.
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Once we had lugged all of our panniers up to the room all I wanted was 7-UP. I never ever drink soft drinks but all I could think about was having some cold refreshing 7-UP. Reluctantly we went back out to the street jammed with motorbikes to look for it and maybe a papaya and bananas. Reluctant because of the way I felt but also the way all the locks on the door had been broken. The door barely locked at all. It was a rough place but still I didn’t feel like we were necessarily in danger. Everyone has always seemed so nice.

We found all we were looking for on the street. We sat in the shop and each drank a 7-UP. I photographed and videoed some of the amazing motorbike action on the street. I wanted no dinner but only to get back to the room. Once there the chills started. Oh no, not again. I’ve had heat exhaustion or heat stroke three times in my life. I couldn’t believe a possible fourth time was coming on. I always said that I wouldn’t survive another episode.

My mother always gave me 7-UP when I was sick.
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Factory workers getting off their shift.
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Factory workers.
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It happens when the body’s thermostat quits working and it quits sweating which means that the body gets extremely overheated. It’s a process to get the body temperature down and often before that can be accomplished the person dies. I was spinning out of control with chills but my body was boiling up. It’s nearly impossible to get under a cold shower when you feel like you are freezing to death. The shaking and shivering I was experiencing was the worst of my life. I felt out of control. Andrea was there to help me though.


The frog in the bathroom.
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Today's ride: 48 miles (77 km)
Total: 1,051 miles (1,691 km)

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