On the Road - Unchained Melody - CycleBlaze

November 30, 2023

On the Road

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On the Road

The sunrise through our gorgeous, albeit filthy, windows of room 214 at the Hung Vuong Hotel was spectacular.  The corner windows of the room make it a special room.  We didn't have a papaya to make our own breakfast because we wanted to hit the road early and not dilly dally with a papaya, muesli and milk.  Therefore we were on the road at precisely 6AM, along with thousands of the locals.  

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Ron SuchanekHoly smokes! Never gets old.
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2 months ago
This photo makes me laugh.
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Steve Miller/GrampiesNot quite symmetrical, though. Andrea needs her helmet off her head and hanging off the handlebars.
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2 months ago
Bill ShaneyfeltNew American Gothic?
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2 months ago

I have to say, the Vietnamese are early risers and the streets of Ben Tre were jammed and chaotic.  It seems most of the food consumed in a Vietnamese's day happens in the early morning too.   If the consuming doesn't happen then it is at least bought then.  We did as the Vietnamese do and had a banh mi seller make us two.  They went into Andrea's handlebar bag for future consumption (lunch).  Then we navigated the franticness of rush hour.  You wouldn't think it would be that bad in a small to medium sized town, but think again.  Vietnamese are industrious and they are on the move early every day.  

Leaving Ben Tre
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Once we were free of the rush, for the most part, we found a great bowl of pho from a really nice woman.  I always tend to put too much hot stuff in my bowl and the Vietnamese put out the wimpiest, thinnest napkins so, after wiping and blowing my nose repeatedly I had pieces of tissue plastered all over my face.  No photos, unfortunately.  The sunscreen helped in gluing the tissue.  But the soup was great and the chilies will help me not get a cold that has been threatening.  

Then there was ferry number one which was fun as ferries always are.  There are a lot of ferries in the delta region and we are hitting as many as we can in order to avoid big, huge, scary bridges.

Ferry number 1 had a nice upstairs.
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Further down the road we stopped at the wrong cafe.  We were well away from any towns and as we pulled in I could tell it was not the best place we could have chosen.  There were two customers drinking coffee but seemingly no owner.  I had to go next door to rouse someone who I thought could help.  Eventually we got iced coffee and it was good but when it came time to pay a younger woman appeared from somewhere, (we had never seen her before) and she proceeded to go on and on about how beautiful Andrea's white skin was.  On and on and then she told us what the bill was for the coffee.  I thought it was way too much but what do you do?  I always pay what the person wants and go on with my life.  It's sad when you know you are being taken because it puts a bad taste in your mouth when you already have such a great taste of coffee in your mouth.  You come away a bit dejected knowing that not everyone is going to be honest with the foreigners on vacation who, simply because they could fly halfway around the globe, must be filthy rich and a few extra Dong extracted from their pockets isn't going to matter to them.   And, they are right, but it still doesn't feel good.

I feel sad for them that they resort to such tactics but it does point out how lucky we are to be able to fly across the globe with our bicycles and ride down roads in Vietnam and nine times out of ten or better, we have wonderful interactions with the most lovely honest people who don't care if we are rich enough to travel this way. They are certainly the majority.  And who cares about skin that is white anyway?!

We stopped not all that long afterwards for a second iced coffee which, if there was any bitter residue left from our encounter at the first coffee place, was completely dispatched by the taste and price of our second iced coffee. 

Back on the road for not very long, and by the way it was beastly hot.  The heat index was 100 and it was only 9:30AM!  Heat radiating up from the asphalt actually made it much hotter than 100 and my head was hot.  I'm using a new helmet which is fluorescent greenish.  My old helmet was bright yellow and I'm now convinced that yellow radiates back more of the sun's rays because it was the cooler of the helmets.  The ventilation holes in each are very similar.  Anyway, the heat was the reason we were often stopping for cold drinks.  

Then we saw our first two cycle tourers on the opposite side of the road.  They risked their lives and came to our side which was so nice of them.  They were Adrian and Michelle from Switzerland.  They are on a four month trip and they started in Singapore.  I think they will fly home from Saigon in 22 days, just in time for Christmas I guess.  They were super nice and so fun to talk with.  They said the people of Malaysia were so kind and generous to them.  They were invited into homes repeatedly for meals and to stay overnight.  They couldn't say enough good things about the Malaysian people but Malaysia itself, they said, was much hotter than we were experiencing!  I can't imagine that.  

Michelle and Adrian from Switzerland.
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Adrian and Michelle told us that just 300 meters on they got a really nice orange juice and suggested we stop there too.  We left them and went straight to the place.  The group of what looked like owners and/or relatives of the juice place all chuckled the sort of chuckle that comes from just having served two foreigners on bikes.  I mean, it could be something that has never happened even once before so twice in the span of a half an hour, naturally would be amazing to them.  It's unfortunate that we all can't communicate these fun little things with each other but in context we knew what their chuckles were all about.   

We had an unbelievably delicious, large glass of freshly squeezed orange juice full of ice and I felt energized not only from the orange juice.  It always happens after talking with other cyclists doing more or less the same as we are.  There is a camaraderie that is not easily explainable to those who have never experienced it.  There is something about travel by bike out in the far ends of the world that puts people in the same mind set.  To be on the road.  There is a common element in our personalities, especially the cyclists who travel long distances through several or many countries. I talked to Andrea about how energized I felt from our encounter with the Swiss and Andrea totally agreed.  It's a unique feeling.

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And rambutans are unique too. One of the people at the juice place brought over a bunch of fresh rambutan still on their branches.  It's rambutan season we had noticed along the way and so nice that suddenly a bunch of them had been plopped down in front of us.  What was I saying about nine times out of ten or better, people are kind, generous and honest?  Rambutans have a wonderful subtle taste but the generosity tasted even better.  We left a big pile of husks on the table to show our gratitude!

Then there was the second ferry which was the biggest ferry across the widest channel yet.  Strangely, it was also the cheapest ferry.  All the ferries have been dirt cheap @ 12 cents per person but this big one was only 8 cents.  There are at least five main channels of the Mekong in the delta and this was a big one.

This was the biggest ferry we've been on yet.
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As we were entering Vinh Long I spotted a girl selling papayas by the side of the road and found that my disc brakes work really well.  Buying papayas on the road is my favorite way of buying them.  They are cheaper that way but I'd rather the household get the money directly instead of giving it to a vendor at the market.  I strapped on the papaya while the girl laughed at me the entire time.  I was so bungling it.  

Vinh Long seems like a nice town, bigger than I had imagined.  We splurged a bit and got one of the nicest rooms we have ever had.  It was downright fancy for us and really modern. The room was carpeted too!  We have never had a carpeted room in Asia outside of China where most rooms are carpeted but you wish they weren't because they are completely covered in dry spit!!  You basically keep your shoes on in a hotel room in China.  Sorry to tell that sad story. I hope you were not eating.  

Vinh Long
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Our fancy hotel in Vinh Long with a wrinkled bedcover.
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The main reason we splurged on the room was because it was a super hot day and we didn't ever think we would make it all the way to Vinh Long -33 miles.  The first half of the day I felt as if I was hauling hundreds of pounds of rocks, or, that my tires were flat, or, that my brakes were on.  Something was wrong.  I didn't want to think that I could actually be out of shape!  Me!!  No, never!! Actually when the surface of the road became smooth everything changed.  I had forgotten how the surface can drasticallyaffect travel by bike.  It had been so rough that I was thinking we were back in Myanmar but then it was smooth as Thailand's roads and my mental state improved considerably.  And, after many stops for various types of liquids we made it to Vinh Long.  

A great day on the road.  


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Today's ride: 33 miles (53 km)
Total: 100 miles (161 km)

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Jen RahnI did, in fact, have a mouthful of oatmeal when my eyes came upon the bit about spit-covered carpet.

I will choose to think about the unexpected rambutan. What a cool-looking fruit!

Certainly they will help you not get a cold!
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2 months ago
Ron SuchanekThe Swiss love to travel. Meeting other travelers is always a little surprising for me, although I don't know why. It's fairly common. I read about it in journals like this and have experienced it myself. It seems like I go into trips not expecting or wanting a lot of interaction, but end up having memorable interactions and some times long friendships.
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2 months ago