Rest Day in Ben Tre - Unchained Melody - CycleBlaze

November 29, 2023

Rest Day in Ben Tre

Rest Day in Ben Tre

Yes, you are right, yesterday was a rest day as well but Ben Tre is one of our favorite cities in Vietnam.  I think it's the main reason we have returned to the Mekong Delta 7 years later.  Although, it's kind of strange that we like it here so much because we can't find much in the way of restaurants and there aren't a great many sights to see.  When we were here in 2016 we could hitch an all-day ride on a coconut boat with all of our stuff including bikes, and end up at a town two channels of the Mekong away.  That wonderful thing doesn't exist anymore.  We don't know why. 

Our room had a great view of sunrises.
Heart 10 Comment 1
Ron SuchanekThat's a nice view to wake up to.
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2 months ago
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Getting back in the groove of papaya/muesli/banana breakfasts.
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Yeah, the food here in Ben Tre isn't all that great.  But, we did finally find our first banh mi of the trip.  We have seen hundreds of signs for banh mi at banh mi stands but we have always been too late.  Apparently, banh mi are a morning food and if you don't buy them by about 9AM you are out of luck.  We've found that to be true about a lot of foods here in Vietnam; specific times for availability.  And the Vietnamese don't seem to eat big dinners in the evening either.  Places that sell food usually shut down pretty early.  

We sure haven't had a hard time finding coffee though.  It's everywhere and anywhere we get it, it's great tasting, guaranteed. I don't know how they do it but it always has a rich chocolaty taste and one time I even thought I was detecting hints of really good Cuban tobacco leaf aroma! I've never been one for wine tastings but I could get into Vietnamese coffee tastings, fish sauce tastings too.  I know at the coast there is a fish sauce village and you can go to each manufacturer and taste their fish sauce.  It's maybe an acquired taste for Americans.

I'm doing my best to not get a cold - another reason we didn't do much today.  I don't do well with high heat and then freezing cold hotel rooms.  We don't keep our rooms freezing cold but, when we first enter our room after we have ridden in the heat for hours, we do want to cool down as quickly as possible.  That's when we kind of want them rather cold but my body doesn't like the extremes.  It's a wimpy cold and I'm sure I can defeat it before anything real takes hold.  

We did take a nice ride around town today.  I wanted to try out my new and improved rear rack and I must report that it is just perfect.  It feels stronger than before.  We rode all along the waterfront which is a canal connecting two major sections of the Mekong River.  It's quite affected by the tides.  We look at it flowing rapidly in one direction and later it's flowing rapidly in the opposite direction.  Our room is perfectly situated for great views of the many transport boats that use it.  They all look like pirate ships, mostly made of wood, old and well used.   

This is not one of the pirate boats.
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The waterfront has a really nice, wide promenade that extends for two miles in the direction we rode..  We didn't really know Ben Tre was so large.  While we were finally in a quiet place we tried to analyze the clunking sound coming from my bike.  It happens only when pedaling, not coasting.  We looked at everything and saw nothing.  Andrea has an app on her phone to check the tension of our belts.  That seemed fine.  It was a loud and unsettling sound.  The gears are all inside the hub and the belt shouldn't have anything wrong with it.  It's all so new.  We gave up and I resigned myself to the sound until we are somewhere where there is a really good bike shop.  

Near the market area of Ben Tre.
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Then we cut away from the waterfront and found the bustling center of town which we had never seen either.  That's where we finally found the banh mi sandwiches (crispy pork) which we ate at a lovely coffee shop that had a large area under trees in the back along a stream.  We talked about all the people we see all the time just hanging out at cafes.  They are the new Vietnamese middle class I believe.  But there was one guy alone in the corner by the stream who was chain smoking and looking very depressed.  He was right out of the Vietnamese soap operas that fill the local TV stations to the point where I have quit turning on the TVs in our hotel rooms.  The man looked like his wife had just left him this morning.  I was glad to see he was chugging water, tea and coffee but he sure looked like he might move on to whiskey later.  We weren't sitting there all that long but I bet he smoked ten cigarettes.  Of course we were forced to share some of his smoke which is why we weren't there all that long. The wind was from the east today.

I wanted to return to the man who fixed my rack to show him how well it was working but first I had to figure out some sort of insert replacement that go into the deely boppers that hook the Ortlieb pannier to the rack.  The rubber inserts went flying at some point the first day.  They are meant to dampen the jiggling of the hooks against the metal rack.  I always carry a bit of Velcro with industrial strength adhesive so I carefully cut little pieces of the soft side and inserted them. It was really hard to do but after I accomplished that,  I wanted to try them out on my new and improved rack and then ride down to see our guy.

He was super busy.  He was about to weld a part onto the rear end of a motorbike for someone and wouldn't even stop to admire his work on my rack.  I showed him, he looked briefly and smiled.  It was like he knew the rack was going to work and had already moved on.  He didn't need to see proof.  I was a bit sad about that because he really wasn't going to break away from his work and I was not going to get the photo I envisioned of him smiling and looking at his handiwork.  

OK, so the busy machinist is smiling but knowing he is not going to come over and check out my rack in action I am beginning to be disappointed.
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I also decided that I was not going to buy one of his little iron stools because it was just too early in our trip and we are too far away from Thailand where I've sent home lots of packages in the past, all of which have miraculously made it to my doorstep.  I don't trust other postal services in other countries in Asia.  But the Thai Post has proven itself over and over.  Of course it was super presumptive of me to think he would be willing to sell me his cute stool at all.  I've come across so many items like those stools in SE Asia that I have wanted to buy and bring home.  The makers of such objects have no idea they are creating a type of folk art - handmade unique beauties.  The machinist had also made a large hand truck from rebar and painted it a very cool cyan.  There have been times when I've been in Burma when I've wanted to buy every little teak stool and low table and fill containers to ship home before they bust them up for firewood and replace them all with plastic crap from China.  Yes, this is what they have been doing and it kills me.  But I let the iron stool go today and we moved on without bothering our hard working machinist too much.  I like to think that he was happy we came back to show him how well it was working but I kind of think he knew all along it was going to work perfectly.  When people are really good at what they do they don't need praise for their masterpieces.  They know they have done it as well as they could and that's good enough for them.

We rode around town some more and found some com binh dan.   Com binh dan stands are glassed-in cases with various sorts of cooked foods on display.  You point at what you want and the owner/chef will place it over a big pile of rice.  Like the banh mi, we had not yet had com binh dan.  Same sort of deal as the banh mi stands.  We have seen lots of com binh dan stands but it's always been the wrong time of day.  

We sat on little plastic chairs at a little plastic table squeezed in next to some bushes and ate our com tam.  I didn't tell Andrea until she was done eating that a large, very scruffy, rat had come out from under the bushes and sniffed up at our table.  Andrea was fortunately twisted the other way trying to find some napkins at that moment.  It would have been an unappetizing moment!  I scanned the bushes and I saw lots of movement under there.  That rat was not alone.  As I tried to put the rat image out of my mind we talked about how good the  com binh dan was but I also knew we both were secretly hoping we were not going to get sick from it.  The area we were eating was filthy and the two women selling the com binh dan were pretty shady as well but the main reason we might get sick is because we kind of knew that food had been sitting there in that glass case all day with no refrigeration.

The com binh dan women. The rats were under those bushes.
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So, it wasn't exactly a great day.  If this was the journal I was keeping when I was ten years old I would have written, "Nothing." for today.  Seriously, I did that a lot in my journal in 1963.  Now that 60 years have gone by, I feel I'm better at reporting on the day.  Or, instead of simply writing, "Nothing," I can now write ABOUT nothing.   I realize there is always something to say about nothing, er, I mean what happens on any given day.  Everyday is unique, everyday is interesting even if the man who fixed my rack didn't want to take the time to see it in action and we had to inhale second hand smoke while eating our first banh mi and I had to let go of the cutest little iron stool I've ever seen and I'm trying to not get a cold and I know you don't really want to read about all of this stuff because it's supposed to be a bike journal and we ate next to rats.  But you know what?  That clicking sound my bike was making went away!  That's not nothing!


Our lovely room in Ben Tre. Maybe this is why we like Ben Tre so much.
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Today's ride: 8 miles (13 km)
Total: 67 miles (108 km)

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Comment on this entry Comment 4
Bob DistelbergA journal entry about nothing. It kind of reminds me of a Seinfeld episode. :-)
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2 months ago
Rachael AndersonI hope you don’t get sick!
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2 months ago
Jen RahnNot nothing!

The eventual absence of a potentially concerning noise is a not nothing worth celebrating.

Thank you, always, for the attention to all that your 10-year-old self and so many others would file away in the Nothing Box.

Gratefulness truly is the lens through which you see - a gift that inspires me!
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2 months ago
Bruce LellmanTo Bob DistelbergYes, I hadn't thought of that but you are right!
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2 months ago