This is the house of bubbles - Unchained Melody - CycleBlaze

December 1, 2023

This is the house of bubbles

Vinh Long to Vap Lo

Dear little friends,

Our hotel room in Vinh Long was surprisingly posh. It had a rain shower and a fun water heater for coffee. These hot pots use nuclear fusion to heat water, it takes them about 40 seconds to have it boiling and looking ready to blow, but they always turn themselves off, it’s very exciting. The room had carpeting, too. That was so startling, I’m pretty sure I’ve never been in a carpeted hotel room in SE Asia before. Generally it’s tiled floors, walls, and sometimes ceilings too.

Anyway, we were very comfy and feeling uptown. We got up, Bruce did his papaya chores for our muesli brekkie, I fused up some water for coffee, Bruce filmed the nuclear fusion kettle. We are just so busy on these trips.

Boof at work.
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We had 15 miles to go to Sa Dec, a short day, and we weren’t in any hurry. We had discussed just blowing through Sa Dec and continuing on a few more miles, we had a Nha Nghi picked out in the hinterlands. You never know about these Nha Nghis until you’re right in front of them. Especially out in the country, some of them are actually Nha Tros, which are motels, all one level, by the hour, you get the picture. Some look very, very dank. Some are just fine. You won’t get a nuclear fusion kettle in a Nha Tro, just to clarify.

The Mekong Delta is a watery place. Canals, rivers, sections of the Mekong, they all traverse it this way and that. Looking at today’s profile on RideWithGPS we crossed at least 25 bridges today. We also passed two terrifying bridges but we didn’t have to take them, we’ve planned for no more terror bridges here in Vietnam. Of course we weren’t on one of the adorable canal roads today, we were trying to get from Point A to Point B/C/C.5. You can spend a lot of quality time in the Delta on canal roads but eventually you run into unbridged, unferried dead ends and we weren’t in the mood for that.

A terror bridge we didn't have to cross.
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So, busy-hustle road for us. There is something dramatic happening now. We are in better shape, we are more acclimated to the heat and humidity. We’re enjoying it more. It’s still pretty intense and of course I still sweat like a fresh sea sponge. We stopped at a wedding. A wedding at 7:30 am. The drunk uncle shook our hands over and over and a few of the guests took our photos. The bride was not amused. Everybody looked sharp except us, the sweat-drenched rats.

The happy uncle is on the left, we shook his hand several times.
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Our plan was, “Let’s stop somewhere before Sa Dec and decide if we’re going to stay in Sa Dec or blow it off.” Well, you need a shady spot and an icy drink for that sort of decision-making. You can’t swing a cat in Vietnam without hitting a coffee place so the choices are many. The Koi-Bonsai-Coffee House it was. 

Pulling in, we first noticed a table of military brass yukking it up in their starchy green uniforms. Then we noticed the coffee waitress looking kind of… I don’t know, not like the usual coffee waitresses we see. She had implants, for sure. And a tight low-cut top to highlight them and in case you hadn’t noticed them enough, there was some sort of flowery tattoo on one side of her upper chest. I feel pretty stupid noting this and commenting on this, she’s allowed to have her body look any way she wants it to, and she was shy with us like they all are, relieved that we could order our ca phe sua da, two, and she could scurry off. The military guys guffawed at us. We ignored them.

But what about the koi, you ask. Well, yes, there was an enormous tank toward the back with some koi in it, and also a fancy waterfall thingie. And the bonsai? Yep, there were the big gnarled bonsai that they do so well in Vietnam. And the coffee? Oh, the coffee was awesome. And they gave us ice to put in our water bottles. I’m not quite sure what to make of the waitress but it’s none of my business and we’d never get her story even if she was able to share it. We’re in a country where many young women have fewer choices in life. And same for the men.

We decided to see Sa Dec for ourselves and if we were intrigued then maybe stay. But the only intrigue was grabbing banh mi and riding into town more and then stopping for a sinh to (fruit shake) in a shady spot where we could eat our banh mi. It turns out the sinh to lady also sold banh mi. Well, that was awkward.

She was very sweet though and our orange sinh tos were brain-freeze freezimonious, painful almost. We need to cool our cores but leave our brains intact but we figured out how to not die while drinking orange fruit shakes. Mrs. Sinh To plopped down a plate of pork floss. That doesn’t happen every day, really. It’s delicious. I thought it tasted like fish but no, she went on her translation app to tell me exactly what it was. And this is what her phone told me it was: “This is the house of bubbles.”

We all just want to talk to each other.
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"This is the house of bubbles."
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Jen RahnWere I in that situation, I would want to respond with an enthusiastic "Yes! Very tasty!"

And I have no poker face, and probably could not suppress an instant Juju-like giggle fit.

How did you respond?
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2 months ago
Andrea BrownTo Jen RahnWe absolutely said, “Yes! Very tasty!” Which it was. I probably looked amused though.
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2 months ago

Translation apps are really wonderful because sometimes you can actually get some sort of gist and useful information and sometimes you get pure poetry that makes zero sense but is just delightful.

Emboldened by that important dialogue, she then wrote into her phone and showed me, “Watch out for hot ghosts.” I read that to Bruce but couldn’t keep my face from being delighted with that warning. I think I may have hurt her feelings. We decided she was maybe warning us about the danger of the heat so that’s not a warning to laugh at but I loved that phrase so much because I basically watch out for hot ghosts all day long, man.

Sinh tos on the right, banh mi on the left, and in the background another machinist bending metal into whimsical shapes.
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Then she brought out some bread and pork balls for us, so now we’re all pals and honestly, the generosity and friendliness sometimes overwhelms me. We had to leave before she started giving us her grandchildren.

Sa Dec was in the rear view mirror and suddenly we were on a magical road lined with tall trees, and full of plant nurseries. I drive a 32-year-old Honda. Never eat out in Portland, get my clothes at Goodwill and on sale on Amazon or the Columbia outlet. You know where my money goes besides $8 guesthouses in Vietnam? Yep. Plant nurseries. Riding this road was like maybe I had been hit by one of those buses and was now a hot ghost in her steambath leafy paradise.

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John SolemThose white teeth!
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2 months ago
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Ron SuchanekJust load those on top of the little metal stool.
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2 months ago

All the tropicals and more, specialty nurseries with bougainvillea, cacti, lantana, things I don’t know the name of, hibiscus. Things I try and fail to grow in Portland. I started wondering where in the yard I could put a greenhouse. I wanted two or three of everything.

Bruce said, “So as soon as we get back home it’ll be spring and we can plant these, right?” Hahahahah. Oh yeah, sure. Last year when we got back it was definitely not spring and we had a huge blizzard and wondered why we weren’t back in Asia riding down the Hot Ghost Road instead.

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Dang, it started getting hotter. The flowery paradise road ended and so did the shade and it was time to look for a Nha tro or nghi or someplace to get us out of the sun. Okay, one more sinh to, in a really sweet spot by the river with natural breezes and some cool boats going by. The boats all have eyes on the prow to keep them going in the right direction. That’s worth remembering.

Coffee filters drying in the sun.
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We saw a Nha Tro that advertised itself as a Nha Nghi but it was no Nha Nghi, and the befuddled lady there said, no, we couldn’t stay there. We flounced off to the next Nha Tro that advertised itself as a Nha Nghi and were welcomed in warmly, they let us bring our bikes into the room, there was a/c and a shower (unheated but Hot Ghosts don’t care) and a place to lay our heads in safety and comfort. 

Home Sweet Nha Tro.
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It was a fun day of riding. The heat is a real thing but there are other real things that we love and value and once we’re showered off and the clothes washed and rinsed and drying under the fan we sit and rest and think about all of that. And tomorrow there’s more.

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Jen RahnHow on Earth does one change sheets on that bed?
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2 months ago
Andrea BrownThe bigger question is: DO they change the sheets on that bed? But it was very clean.
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2 months ago

Today's ride: 30 miles (48 km)
Total: 130 miles (209 km)

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Comment on this entry Comment 8
Scott AndersonSo wonderful to read such a pair of upbeat posts from you two, Andrea. A few days back I was starting to have misgivings about having encouraged you to go.
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2 months ago
Andrea BrownTo Scott AndersonOooh. Remind me to blame you for anything I don’t like on this trip! Whew, that’s settled.
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2 months ago
Rachael AndersonTo Andrea BrownThat’s what I do!
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2 months ago
Andrea BrownTo Rachael AndersonWe’re laughing our heads off at that!
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2 months ago
Suzanne GibsonLoved this day, from the first to the last word! You are waking my dormannt longing for SE Asia, and if just for the fun Google Translator provides.
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2 months ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Andrea BrownDodie points out that "many a truth is said in jest". One of the most comfortable things about a longstanding relationship, be it friendship or marriage, is having someone to blame for things you don't like and knowing that there is still love even after that unfair attribution.
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2 months ago
Carolyn van Hoeve“Watch out for hot ghosts” is a keeper!
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2 months ago
Gregory GarceauI wonder if she was warning you about ghost peppers. I've heard those chilis are very hot.

"Our orange sinh tos were brain-freeze freezimonious . . . " I love it.
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2 months ago