Newsletter #6 22JAN07 – Vietnam
It’s been 1100 km since I left Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) on the 3rd of January ’07, and I’ve still got around 700 km to go until I reach Hanoi, the Vietnamese capital. I’ve been riding in headwind approx. 90% of the time in Vietnam which doesn’t suit me at all and it’s been one of the main reasons why I’ve sensed a lack of motivation for the last few weeks. The weather’s been pretty bad, rainshowers & clouds (mental and physical) on many days. Not my idea of tropical cycling though I know it’s all part of the sweet game of cycling.
I visited the Cat Tien National Park north of Ho Chi Minh City for a few days, and was lucky to see both playful monkeys in the canopy, hungry leeches on my foot and the odd rat in my wooden bungalow.
Most of the time I’ve been riding on Hwy #1, Vietnams monster pavement serpent that stretches for more than 1700 km from HCMC in the south to Hanoi in the north. The traffic is not as bad as expected, but the cacophonic horns from the container trucks that blow in the wind and in my ears all the time should be forbidden all together – as should all the kids that hang out on the roadside, apparently just waiting for the western cyclist to come by and then go “Hallooooo“, sometimes in the most obscure dialect ever heard. It may sound very innocent and just like “a local flavour” kind of thing, but to me it’s immensely frustrating and it totally destroys and interrupts any kind of flow of thought or mind creativity.
Cycling through Vietnam you do get a lot of attention all the time. Hwy 1 seems to be populated all the way down and you really don’t have any kind of privacy once you’re on the road. Even after 9½ months on the road I still find it very challenging to enjoy this lack of privacy and come to terms with this never-ending attention that just suck my energy giving me nothing back. After a long day of cycling I just want to shut the door to my hotel room, read a book, write my diary – or, more recently, watch the Australian Open (tennis, red.) in TV.
The good news is that the accomodation scene in Vietnam is beautiful. They have a concept here called a minihotel and it works out very fine with (normally) super clean, A/C, en-suite, cable-TV room for less than 6 USD. And the street food is wonderful, dirt cheap and readily available at virtually every street corner. I never have to think about the food and water supply situation…
It was a relief to read a letter from fellow cyclist Rob Lilwall the other day. The bicycle trip through Vietnam almost drove him mad because of the different obstacles along Hwy 1. Having just finished half of the stretch now I’m not quite there yet, but I surely did sense the terrible smell of insanity a few days ago
Days off in Dalat in the mountains, Nha Trang on the coast and now in lovely Hoi An all helped me not to go crazy. Having just had 2 proper conversations in English in 3 weeks doesn’t seem to be any remedy at all either! But just hanging out in Hoi An seems to revitalize me and I’m now ready for the “hallo”s again..Well, sort of…
Smile whenever you can and please do tell me how life seems on your side of the world!
I discovered that the stability I wanted is inseperable from a deep sense of tedium… Paulo Coelho – The Zahir