Hello. I left you with the prospect of riding out of Ho Chi Minh City. Which I did. It took me 3 (slow) days before I was out of built up areas and could actually see something other than buildings from my saddle. I wasn’t feeling very energised after my time in HCM and was plodding along the unspectacular road. I was enjoying the company of the Vietnamese though; I spent a few nice nights in towns learning to play billiards and drinking with students and middle aged men.
The drinking culture here is a bit different. You don’t sip your drink but rather ever 5 minutes or so someone holds up their glass for a toast where you take a big gulp of the beer watered down (by ice). If they touch the bottom of the cup you drink the whole thing in one. If you are lucky (or lunlucky depending on your view) there will also be some local rice wine floating about to take a shot of every now and then. There are normally snacks floating around to pick at as well. And copious amounts of cigarettes. It is amazing how generous the guys are (there are never any women), whenever I have been in thesesituations they have absolutely refused any money for their hospitality.
Anyway, aside from drinking men under the table, I did do some riding too, which got better as I went along. However, I had a frustrating day when trying to take the road 14C, one I had been eyeng up on my map for a while. I left Dak Mil and rode 20km downhill on a small dirt road that skirted up the border alongside Cambodia, but was stopped at an army checkpoint and told I couldn’t go any further. After asking for a while one guy took my passport and went off on his moto to ask someone else but to no avail. They wouldn’t even accept a bribe to let me through because judging from their gestures, people had guns. So I rode back up the hill into the town and spent the afternoon assessing my options.
A couple of days later I bumped into Coco, a French guy who is in SE Asia during his university holidays. This is his first bicycle tour, he bought a bike in HCM and is riding to Ha Noi. Since we met we have been riding together except when his inner tube completely deteriorated and he had to hitch a ride to the next town where he bought some spare tubes and a pump (I was amazed he started without them). It’s been nice to have some company on the road and to share the inevitable strange experiences of travelling with. Since we met the road has been much nicer, lots of ups and downs giving rise to excellent views of the surrounding hills. We will probably ride together to Da Nang where I will extend my visa for another month, maybe even Ha Noi where I hope to meet my pal Chelle in the middle of August.
So that is all for now. We are taking a day off today because of heavy rain and to give our legs a little break. An afternoon of coffee and chess is on the agenda.
Ps. My photos and map have been updated