The Road to Nha Trang

Into the Hinterland

Quang Ngai

"Dry tomorrow," a few people told us the night before our ride to Quang Ngai which lay where the flooding had been most severe. But by now I had come to accept this comment as someone in being polite does not want to give you bad news. Of course it was raining in the morning. We spend more than few minutes clearing up confusion about a missing TV remote. Seems the "Long Life" brand remote is missing from Tim and Barbara's room and the staff is convinced we have it as the room is already been searched. Ironically, Tim adn Barbara don't even own a TV and never even switched on the one in thier room. Twenty minutes later the remote is found in a room drawer and we are free to leave. We set off with determination to ride in the wetness no matter what. Tree donned a tailored rain jacket and custom shoe covers cut from the extra plastic.

We rode through to Tam Ky - about half way - but after a long lunch some of decide the bus looks awfully warm and dry. However, Barbara presses on and a few hours later finishes the 75 miles - the longest ride of her life despite the potholes, rain wind and a seafood allergy that has partially closed one eye and swollen her lower lip. By now we know to expect Horst at the hotel, dried and waiting looking around for the massage parlor for a rubdown. We stay at a new hotel in Quang Ngai - a huge, state-financed behomith in which we are the only tourists. As in Hoi An, a large swimming pool outside mocks us beneath cool, overcast skies. What luxury from previous years when the group stayed at a small guesthouse where once a sink fell off the wall, the water Russian water heaters blew fuses, and the state radio blasted over megaphone next door at 6:30 in the morning. After an incredible dinner (which Ichibod found to be "the best in Vietnam") staffed by a man who I deemed "Vietnam's Number One Waiter" because of his habit of filling everyones bowl just a split second before they were about to, we limp back to our rooms for a deep slumber. Except for Debbie and Jim. It turns out their room is right above the karaoke lounges and after a few songs decide to switch rooms.

At dinner, Sinh says his friend has just driven up from Nha Trang - two days away on our planned itinerary - and it is sunny and warm. Everyone is thinking the same thing: let's skip riding from the hotel and shuttle up to the blessed dry roads and warmth. Except for Neil, who being from the Seattle area is used to riding wet. He wants to ride it and will depart early to meet us. It's raining the next morning and we wave an early goodbye to Neil. He has a one-hour start on us but makes excellent time and beats us on the 36-mile ride to Sa Huynh where we take a weather check. The coast here has been heavily eroded from the storms and several bungalows from the hotel we stop at have been claimed by the sea. There is no sign of sun and even Neil is now willing to ride in the bus. By group choice, we even decide to skip Qui Nhon and ride the bus the full 10 hours to Nha Trang - we want some sun! Sinh calls and changes our reservations and we climb into the bus for what will be one long ride.

Qui Nhon

When all hope is given up - strange things can happen. No sooner than we are about 10 miles up the road than the road looks very peculiar. It is dry. The first dry road we've seen in a week. There is a comment or two about this but no one really appears excited. Then Ichibod points out a patch of blue sky in the distance and a few more of us perk up. I ask the group if they want to ride but everyone seems complacent as if the sky will open up again any moment. We cannot comprehend dryness.

Debbie and Jim want to ride and begin lobbying Horst first asking what kind of champion would not want to ride on such a day? And Neil, freshly dried from this morning's peddle says he does too. David straddles the fence but finally says he's game. Although they are still in the minority I have the bus pull over pointing out that this is a cycling tour. We exit the bus to a strong, warm tailwind and now everyone want to ride!

A monster tailwind blows us to Qui Nhon in just a few hours and we are all smiles, and all dry. David, at over six foot six, is quite a sight to the more petite Vietnamese. But today flying past at 30 miles an hour on a bicycle would have been a sight for anyone. Barbara has just ridden the second longest day of her life. Neil has done just under a hundred in two differing climates (and looks it). Carol doesn't look like she's ridden at all but got in well before me.

Our hotel, the Seagull, overlooks the South China Sea. From our balcony you can see the surf pound the beach below, still heavy from the previous storm. But to the south you can see bright skies and it looks like the worst is over. The group just thinks I'm just being polite, but I know we'll need that sunscreen really soon. Our hotel boasts a stuffed tiger in the souvineer shop as well as one dollar boxer shorts of which I buy two having run out of clean drawers. Ichibod points out that there is another stuffed cat under the xerox machine in the hotel office and that they only keep one out to keep the price high... There is more heavy rainthat night, but the sound of the pounding surf just out from our hotel rooms makes for a soothing night's sleep. I swear I can feel the large waves nudge the earth and gently rock our beds. Sunrise the next morning brings a strange sight - the sun. There are clouds in the sky everyone is eager to hit the dry road and the group departs Qui Nhon together to ride up the beautiful Cu Mong Pass just a few miles south. However, our bus is delayed as the staff insists one room key has not been returned and there is confusion about unpaid Internet access time. We are held us up as the room is searched, but this time it is not found and we are let go promising to clear it up when we return on the next tour.

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This 16-day bicycling tour by twelve Americans and Canadians involved traveling the length of Vietnam, from Hanoi to Saigon, with plenty of time to stop and see the uniqueness of the cities and people along the way. Although cyclists ranged in ability from beginner to champion racer, all found a way to explore Vietnam at their own pace and in the best way possible -- as most locals do -- on two wheels.

This diary was written and updated each day during the trip as it happened during the tour according to the perspective of the author who makes no claims of accuracy to the events happening as described herein.

After a couple days exploring Hoi An it was time to move on -- we were prepared for anything falling from the sky. And it did. We spent most of the day in light rain.

Horst lays on it thick for a couple of Australians who wanted to know what the cape was all about. This is just before we headed out for our ride to Quang Ngai. The rain had just let up but we would get more later on.

This house was barely standing after a month of continual storms and flooding. The water level ahd just receded and nobody was occupying the house.

Too wet to ride -- or at least Ted thinks so. Meanwhile Horst is still one two wheels barreling up the road and when we arrive at the hotel there will be another victory salute. And Ted9 will be buying the beer. Dung keeps a look out for wayward cyclists from a dry vantage point. Although we could pass, in this area north of Quang Ngai recent flood damage was very evident. Neil not only decided to be the only one to ride in the rain the next morning, but he beat our bus to Sa Huynh Beach 36 miles up the road. That afternoon he would get back on the bike for another 50 miles after the sun broke and dry roads appeared.

Photographs by VeloAsia 1999 [More Photos]

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