To the East Vietnam Sea - This Time Tomorrow - CycleBlaze

November 15, 2016

To the East Vietnam Sea

Cong Lien to Hai Binh

To the East Vietnam Sea

Cong Lien to Hai Binh 23 Miles

November 15, 2016

We ate our breakfast in our room as we have the past few days. We had bought two big bags of muesli in Hanoi and to supplement it we always try to find a nice big ripe papaya the day before. Women lay them on little tables in front of their homes if they have too many and want to make a little bit of money. We’ve found them to be cheaper than in the market and, strangely, markets don’t always have papayas.

Our Nha Nghi for the night of the Super Moon.
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But we failed to find a papaya yesterday. We did buy a bunch of delicious bananas however; again, in front of someone’s house on a small table. A woman always comes out of her house when we stop and is always excited to be selling to such unusual customers. They always give us the local price too, I think it’s their way of showing appreciation that traveling by bicycle we are not normal tourists flying by on buses.

I was attempting to bungie cord the rather large bunch of bananas onto Andrea’s rear bike rack but the banana seller rushed over to do it the right way. Whenever a woman takes over I back off. They have been strapping things onto bikes and motorbikes all their lives. They are experts whereas I have trouble tying a knot.

So, today it was bananas cut into our bowls with muesli. No papaya, but that’s all right because the bananas are so flavorful.

I know, I know, this is a website for all things bike related but believe me, our breakfasts are integral to our cycling adventure. I never promised details on what road we turned right or left or the tightness of my spokes. I am interested in the details of life - bananas, papaya, mangoes.

So, as I was saying,..Last night, after we failed to find any dinner, we stopped at a tiny store to buy some little containers of soy milk to pour over our breakfast. There is no English on anything but somehow we figured out it was soy milk. I gave the young man a pretty large dong note. A pretty large dong note is the equivalent of a five dollar bill. As always, and this is even the case for a bill half as large, he went scurrying off to find change among his neighbors. I can’t tell you how often this happens. but this time I think it may have been cutting into this guy’s soccer match on TV because he seemed pretty bothered.

While he was gone I noticed the dust masks hanging in front of me. I had wanted one for days so I went through the selection and picked the one I wanted. When he finally returned he shoved the change into my hand and immediately disappeared leaving me standing there holding the dust mask. So much for that purchase.

What we hadn’t expected at all was that the soy milk we bought was strawberry flavored.

So, today’s breakfast consisted of bananas and muesli soaked in strawberry soy milk. It may sound like a bleak breakfast to most of you but after not much lunch and no dinner yesterday, it tasted pretty good. There was no limit on the number of bananas we wanted to cut onto our muesli to dilute the weird strawberry flavor. And Vietnamese bananas are a whole other fruit than the bananas we are used to in the States. Incredibly flavorful!

The other thing we do for breakfast in our room is to heat up water in our plastic travel cups to have a cup of coffee mix. A hold-over from when we were in Burma, we’ve grown to like it.

Recently harvested rice.
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We got on the road fairly early because we knew it would be another scorcher. There was mist hanging in the stagnant air. The atmosphere was strange feeling and few people were about. It was kind of eerily quiet. I figured it was residual rarefied strangeness from the rare Super Moon galavanting across the sky all night.

Amidst the strange feeling we came upon a cemetery. How appropriate! All of our attempts to visit cemeteries thus far have been thwarted but this time the gate was open and no one was around to ask us where we were from and it also didn’t seem like a little dump truck would pull up intending to dump its load right exactly where our bikes were parked.

The cemetery was fairly normal; cement tombs above ground, angled towards the east. The thing that stood out as different was the long rows of solid raised cement enclosures with many crosses and no names. I’m sure they were war dead, unknown war dead. But somehow they must have known they were Christian or they wouldn’t have been placed in a Christian cemetery. It was just sad to see the rows of graves. What a waste of human life.

Unknown soldiers
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Not far from the cemetery was a large church which was nearly completely renovated. We’ve seen many large churches and most have been newly painted beautifully. With such a small number of Christians in the country I can only conclude that the government is helping to fund the renovation of its old buildings especially if tourists are interested in them. I was interested in going inside of this church but the doors were locked.

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A roadside shrine
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We rode on through more still air. Then we were out of the hills and on a flat but terrible road through rice paddies. It was a road that was being left to deteriorate because a nice new road was being built not far parallel. Now we were heading directly at the East Vietnam Sea and sometimes got wafts of sea air. Like sailors out to sea for a long time sighting land, we hadn’t seen the sea in many months and were more excited with each salty whiff.

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Door to door salesperson
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We crossed the big mean highway, AH1, for the first time and it lived up to its reputation of having lots of buses and trucks driving too fast and a constant din of horns. But all we did was cross it because I had seen a tiny road/path on Google Maps that ran parallel to the sea only a block or two inland. It turned out to be not so much a road as the perfect bike trail. It took us for miles seemingly through back yards - a very personal trail. No cars or trucks and everyone was again amazed to see us.

For some reason Vietnamese do not understand, “America” when we say it and worse when we say, “Mi” which means ‘American’ in Vietnamese. So we resort to “Obama” which they ALL light up for. And, of course, that is immediately followed by “Obama eat bun cha in Hanoi.” And then laughter, smiles and thumbs up all around. Standing next to our bikes communicating as best we can we are silently proud that we have had such a person as our President. Obama has opened dialogue and friendship with all the peoples of S.E. Asia and it has meant a great deal to the average person. For the people of Laos, Burma and Vietnam, countries which had never seen a U.S. President visit, it has been absolutely huge.

When we finally got to a small town we prolonged sighting of the sea again by stopping for some coffee. Without any common language among us we had a great time with the group of people there at the coffee house. I just can’t tell you how wonderfully curious the Vietnamese are. There is no meanness, no anger (about the war), seemingly no jealousy (we are rich Americans after all). They have curiosity and smiles and seem to be thrilled to see us. They are always a real treat and when Andrea brings out her family photos they, too, act like family. Move over East Vietnam Sea, the Vietnamese people come first.

Finally, our curiosity getting the best of us, we did go down to have a look at the sea. There was an ugly seawall as we approached that was so tall we couldn’t see over it. Once we had scrambled to the top the mounds of trash on the beach appalled us. This beach is definitely not a tourist beach.

Arriving at the beach
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Maybe they were going to make an attempt to clean up the beach.
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Miniature shells
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At the end of the town was an inlet and the end of our road. Two women were quite insistent that we come and get into their boats in which they would row us across. They wanted us to hurry but I saw no reason to rush. They were a little too insistent and I should have guessed why. We asked the price and it wasn’t outrageous to us. The boats were too small to take us both with all our bags and two bikes. The women were thrilled about that. They kept urging us to quickly get in as if they had a plane to catch or something.

It was fun to be in their little boats and the women were happy and friendly. Halfway across I realized why they had been so anxious that we commit ourselves to their ferries. The big ferry was coming across with motorbikes on board. I’m sure we were paying ten times the rate of the real ferry. But our ferries were more authentic and colorful.

Ferry
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Bike thrown on, Andrea is ferried across
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The Vietnamese really cover up when outside.
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Ferry rower
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The harbor was about as colorful as any fishing village I have ever seen. There was a flurry of activity as boats were being off loaded of their catch. It seemed that squid was the catch of the day or of any day. Big beautiful squid were everywhere drying in the sun and being transported in big baskets. Hard working, mostly women, were all around us and, for once, paying little attention to us. They were busy and the scene was colorful.

Squid everywhere
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Squid drying
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The day was advancing and we wanted to find a guest house so we rode along the wharf avoiding workers and eventually found a guest house a block from the ocean. It was a really nice big new guest house and once again we were the only people there to rent a room.

Washing clothes in our room.
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The Creative Life TV
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Once we had had showers we had the maid wash our bikes. She wouldn’t let us do it because she wanted a little bit of money which was fine. Our bikes were quite muddy. We were all situated in our room when the maid came knocking all concerned about our eating dinner. She couldn’t explain but once she walked us at least a kilometer to the restaurant we realized it was probably the only restaurant. What was on the non-existent menu? Squid - whole squid - guts and all. We have definitely found our way to the sea.

Housekeeper washing our bikes for us
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Housekeeper's daughter
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Today's ride: 23 miles (37 km)
Total: 402 miles (647 km)

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