Hammocks and Highways.

I decided to have a rest day,  I liked the Tan Coc Homestay, it was relaxing and easy. I could order from the menu without too much effort, the staff were lovely and friendly and there was a hammock under a shady tree looking out over the rice fields.

The owner of the homestay was bewildered as to why I wasn’t cycling out to sight see. I explained to him that I had already been on a boat tour and was happy just to read a book, rest and eat a lot. To appease him I did jump on my bike and go for a ride around the village once it cooled down a little, he seemed happy with that and left me alone.

On my arrival at Tam Coc Homestay, I took a private room, the owner very excitedly informed me that he had bought new mattresses and they had arrived that day. He would change my mattress over immediately, it was a new soft mattress. Wonderful! Because so far every bed I have slept in in Vietnam was the equivalent of sleeping on the floor. Well if this was the soft mattress, I am sure glad I didn’t get to sleep on the old one! But the room was complete with mosquito nets and a fan so it was really pretty nice.

So I was up early, surprisingly since the backpackers decided that they would party till 2 and it was right outside my room, needless to say my alarm may have gone off at 6:00am and I might have just left it go on for a bit, oops, sorry about that.

So today was the day I tackled the dreaded Highway 1, notorious for it’s trucks, pollution, honking and crazy driving, I set off early, really to get the cooler weather because it doesn’t really matter what time of day it is, it’s just busy. Yep, it was everything I expected, but it was okay. There is a concrete barrier between the opposite sides, which is a good thing, it stops the crazy overtaking manoeuvres performed by the trucks and buses coming over onto the wrong side of the road. It doesn’t stop the cars and motorbikes riding the wrong way, or the trucks reversing. There was however a good shoulder on the road, and it was in good condition.

Having spoken to an American traveller who had just ridden a motorbike up from Ho Chi Minh, he said there was very little to see between Ninh Binh and Hue, I didn’t doubt him because I hadn’t heard anything different from that, so I decided I would just try and get to the turn off to the Phong Nha National park as quick as I can. There were no hills at all and with not a lot to look at there was only one way to deal with it, and that was get it done.

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It was a good ride, I had reached my planned destination of Thanh Hoa early after 60km’s and I still had plenty left in my legs, must have been the copious amounts of noodles and rice I have been eating.  I continued,  I thought another 20 or so kilometres would give me a shorter ride into Vinh on the 3rd day. I had done 85km when I spotted a massive travel stop. Yes! They sold ice cream.  I sat there for a while and I thought that if I could just get to within a 100km of Vinh I can get this ride done in 2 days instead of 3.

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I only had less than 20km’s to go. I haven’t listened to music once since I have been cycling, too much interesting stuff going on around me. So I thought to get the last 20km done I would listen to some music. As I am cruising along, I decide that I will break out into song, I was having a blast! I am possibly the worst singer I know, but it didn’t matter, nobody would even know what I was singing, never mind if I was in tune or not. And along came Zumi, a 25 year old Japanese guy came riding up behind me, god knows how long he had been behind me, but his English was good enough to know I am a shocking singer!

Zumi was lovely, he has been cycling since Shanghai, he works as a white water rafting guide and when he is in the off season he cycles! We rode together  just chatting for ages, the kilometres went by easily and I managed to complete my first 100km day, I was in Tinh Gia, where I planned to spend the night, we said our good byes and he continued.

Now finding a place to stay in Tinh Gia was a challenge, most of the Nha Ngia (guesthouses) looked pretty average. Because it’s the main road between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh, little guesthouses pop up everywhere, a number of them of dubious character, rooms being rented by the hour. So when I rode past this very opulent looking hotel, I thought I would just call in and see what the room rate is, $37 a night! Well I feel like a bit of indulgence and maybe $37 gets a softer mattress.

So I took a room, the girl at reception gave me my room key and sent me up in the lift to the third floor, except I thought she said top floor and off I went. When the lift door opened I was confused at the sight of the doors to the rooms, firstly I couldn’t see a number and secondly the doors had black padded/quilted looking doors with a weird one way window. Okay, this clearly isn’t my room, pretty sure they are the “massage suites” and yes the ones with the happy ending! Third floor it was, and yep, normal door, normal room and yes a hard bed!

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