D24: Thanh Mai to Lac Village - Tetchy Days in Vietnam - CycleBlaze

February 27, 2018

D24: Thanh Mai to Lac Village

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Three times now I've had breakfast the same place as where I had dinner the night before. I don't think there will be a fourth. Today, as with the last time, was especially frustrating as they made me a perfectly delicious dinner then, failing to have any new ideas on "what to cook for a foreigner", they served me the exact same thing again for breakfast. After all, it clearly worked once already. It was a very filling meal, it was very cheap, and they didn't even charge me when I assumed the water cooler was full of water and accidentally filled my bottle with rice wine (that was shortly thereafter disposed of). But, it was the exact same thing I had for dinner last night and I want to try all sorts of different yummy Vietnamese food rather than eating the same thing again and again and again and again.

I was passed on the road by the guy from Hanoi and his passenger from Australia on their way back from wherever they'd been going and invited to stop in at a nearby homestay who presumably were relatives of his. Got to talking with her and the Israeli man who was planning on spending the night at said homestay. It seems that the "walking wallet" attitude which drove Mike and I absolutely batshit crazy the last time I was in Vietnam is in fact still a prevalent part of travel in this country. Neither of them has been in the country very long and they've both been blatantly ripped off and overcharged multiple times.

I haven't. Not once. I mean there's been a few times where something cost more than I thought it should but not a crazy ridiculous amount more. Not telling me one price and then charging me another different. Not giving me the exact same services as a Vietnamese person only for twice the price.

Adults chasing children ahead
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My second night in Vietnam, in the town of Đầm Hà, I had two banh mi sandwiches and a pineapple for dinner. The sandwiches were VND 10,000 apiece and the pineapple VND 20,000. So, yeah, I knew the pineapple was probably more than it should have been. But, at the same time, I interrupted the pineapple seller's dinner, and she had to cut the spiky bits off for me, and once she'd already cut it, even if I had the words with which to speak to her, I wasn't exactly in a position to say "too expensive".

I also thought the hotel in Ba Chẽ was way more expensive than it had any right to be considering the amenities. But it was nearly Tet, and they were the only place open, and they ended up giving me dinner for free. Again, not in a position to be bothered or to say anything even if I had the necessary linguistic ability to be able to complain.

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So far, it's more or less consistently been like that since I entered Vietnam. Some things cost more than I would think is the correct price but there are good reasons to just pay that price. Other things cost less. Way less. I hand over a 100,000 dong note and get change, or not. I think I'm trying to hand over 100,000 but try to give them a 10,000 and, after a bunch of confused pantomiming, have people reaching into my wallet to take two 20,000 notes ... which seems extremely rude but which is also extremely effective. (The big 500,000 dong notes are in a separate location anyways.)

Contrast this with the last time I was in Vietnam where bus tickets miraculously doubled in price because "you are tall and use more fuel than a Vietnamese person" or the hotel room we looked at before paying was larger and cleaner and less musty smelling than the one they gave us the keys to on three different occasions.

I thought the country had changed. But it seems that, by exclusively biking, I've merely changed the way in which I interact with the country.

Stuck around for a lunch that I didn't eat because there was English language conversation with interesting people. Stayed longer still because there were kittens to play with. Finally left when it was getting close to 3pm. 

Don't Litter
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Not that I had much farther to go, mind you. I was only going to the touristy village full of stilt house homestays in Mai Châu. While in Mai Châu, I specifically plan to climb up to Chiều Cave which Mike and I visited in 2006 and get pictures of it to replace the ones we lost. It's a fairly steep climb and I'm not sure the stairs (which were already in poor shape 12 years ago) help. With 1190 stairs up and 1190 stairs back down again, I'll not be biking immediately after visiting the cave. I've agreed to meet Mark, the Israeli, at 10am tomorrow to go to the cave.

Other than finding but not climbing the stairs to the cave, I removed my front fender, broke my aux cable, bought a new aux cable, had two banh mi sandwiches, went for a 90 minute massage, and picked a place to stay in the village.

As with other places that I vaguely kind of sort of remember from 12 years ago, Lac Village is both more and less than it was. The trashy stickers from trashy trekking companies that thought it was okay to randomly deface the outside of people's houses because their tourist groups once stayed here, those are gone. On the other hand, the tourist kitsch shops that were just starting to become a thing in the empty space beneath the houses and between the stilts, those have come into full bloom.

The futon type mattresses on the floor of the stilt house are no harder than most of the beds I've slept on in Vietnam and, in fact, are softer than a number of the beds I slept on in China. I'm paying 150,000 dong per night with breakfast. It's not a private room (looks like it could sleep 20) but I'm the only person in my stilt house so that makes it as good as a private room.

The family mostly sleeps in one of the houses at the back though the grandmother has an actual off-the-floor bed in the concrete blockhouse built underneath the stilt house I'm in. A pleasant Canadian couple on a shockingly overpriced private tour (USD 110 per person per day) are staying in the smallest stilt house while their guide and driver are in a fourth building. 

I think the women in dresses are performers of some type but they might be tourists playing dress up
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Today's ride: 18 km (11 miles)
Total: 1,201 km (746 miles)

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