Friday, 31 January 2014

03/12/2013 - Mui Ne to Phuoc Buu

The road today was straight and smooth, passing increasingly quieter and smaller resorts as we made our way down the coast. The next big stop would be in Saigon (Ho Chi Min City) and we had 2 days cycling to get there. The tailwind we had enjoyed for the last few days was weak today but still in the right direction at least.

Barrelling along we spotted another fully loaded touring cyclist coming towards us and we all stopped for a chat. A friendly Spanish guy who had started in Europe (we think Turkey) and was going to cycle all the way to Asia, but flew from Iran in the end so he could spend more time in the 'paradise' as he called it of SE Asia. Too right!  Then a couple of minutes later one more cyclist appeared and then after another minute a second one (all wearing headphones?). The three were travelling together for a while after meeting on the road on the way up from Singapore. The two other guys were both French and were doing a sort of eco-tour on their bikes. They have a big trip planned taking in Asia, South America and Africa and climbing a mountain peak at each destination (of course flying between countries), whilst engaging other people and groups to sort of spread the eco-word as far as we could tell. They have a very nice website detailing their trip which makes this blog look like scribbled notes ( Similar comparisons could be drawn between our bikes. Their bikes were in the region of £3000 each and totally bespoke. Some budget. We chatted for a long time swapping stories and tips from our paths as we would now take the same route as they have done, and they would take ours. 

They had a plan to get to China before the 13th December as their Visas will expire then. Doing the maths they will not make it as it took us 14 cycling days to get to Mui Ne from Hanoi and we covered 590km in 4 of those days leaving Hanoi. Also they still have to get from Hanoi to China, and worst of all for them, the last week or so we have had a 20km tailwind pushing us along that they now have to head into. Lance Armstong would struggle to get there on time. I see a bus or train in their near future! 

The Spanish guy was interesting in that he didn't take any pictures at all, let alone write a blog. Nice way to do a trip.

We ended up after 128km in the small but busy town of Phuoc Buu. We didn't book anything but found a huge hotel in the middle of the town on the main road. It was a good price for a very nice big clean room but no breakfast. We headed out to find somewhere to eat and passed lots of places that had mini-barbeques set up at each table, but no-one was there yet so we had something in a plastic chair place accross the road. It was a very busy town and a few times we got slightly harassed by beggars and lotttery ticket women (why do they think we need a Vietnamese local lottery ticket?). The locals treat these people in a strange way. They do not look at them, speak to them or let them get in the way, but also never ask them to leave, so they can stand around you or at your table for minutes before they get bored and move on. It is a politeness thing but odd to see. We spoke with the girl in the little restaurant for a while as she had very good English but didn't get a chance to speak it very often. 

Then we paid up and found the market to get some drinks and snacks past the barbeque restaurants which looked and smelled great with lots of choices of meats and fish and shellfish. We headed back to our huge room that had two almost double sized beds with massive ornately carved hardwood headboards. These special berths had today just won top spot in our award category of 'Vietnamese Hotel Beds Most Likely to Induce Hip Dislocation'. We know they like a firm mattress over here but these were beyond a joke. We think they just put sheets over the plywood bed base, at most they slid a couple of towels in between. I was shuffling around on my bed when it sounded like something important inside had given way and I only just managed to jump off in time before a serious structural failure occurred. Shouldn’t have had that third bowl of rice maybe...

Route Link

The front of the Hotel

Reverse Swastika is sign of peace in Buddhism, here on headstones

Dragon fruit farms as far as you can see

They are cactuses grown on top of concrete poles

So the fruit hangs in the air

Vert l'horizon guys and Spanish dude
Rickety Bridge

01/12/2013 - 03/12/2013 - Mui Ne

Mui Ne as we got to know it is really just a strip of hotels ranging from cheap to 5-star all you can eat places fronting onto a few km's of golden sand famous for the conditions making it ideal for kiteboarding. The road behind the hotels stretches for the length of the beach with shops selling all the beachwear and equipment you could imagine, restaurants loaded to the gunnels with fresh seafood and the odd jewellery and trinket shop to lure in the Russian ladies. The small town of Mui Ne itself lies at the Northern end of the strip and is still primarily a fishing village.

I was hoping to dip a toe in the water and take a Kiteboarding lesson but the cost was prohibitively expensive, at least £300 to get the first lesson that actually had you surfing, not just practising with the kite on the beach or in the water. You can do it in Europe for less than that.

The beach was good for swimming in the morning with calmer water behind rolling waves that crashed onto the sand and were fun to struggle past. There were a handful of optimistic local surfers out in the mornings too. The wind picked up each day at around 1pm providing the wind required for kiteboarding and consequently really rough seas. It was very entertaining to watch the kiteboarder's tricks and wipe-outs but also less sporty tourists getting dunked and dragged by the waves as they tried to get past the waves or to take the posing holiday snap in the water. One evening a couple came into the restaurant beside our hotel and took the table next to the steps to the beach which plainly had wet sand below it. It was only a matter of time before one particularly huge wave made it past the wall and over them both, violently smashing their food and wine onto the floor and the wife’s lap and putting the guys fag out just as he was lighting it. Hilarious and at least the guy had a laugh about it too. I reckon the staff put that table there on purpose.

We had a bit of beach time over the couple of days and I considered renting out a surfboard for a morning, but in the end decided not to bother as the breaks were just too short and even the good guys were hardly getting any time stood up at all. I decided to save my next attempt for somewhere more popular for actual surfing, somewhere with a beginners wave that I can flounder around on without an audience hopefully.

We tried a few different places to eat but did have 3 or 4 meals in the awesome plastic chair restaurant next door, there was loads of good cheap food to to choose from. One other roadside restaurant that did seafood from a shack had a whole skinned alligator over the coals. We did not see anyone trying it and it was still complete at the end of the night as we walked past.

The hotel was good and we did consider taking a fourth night (so we would have a third full day in the sunshine), but decided to press on as there are better beaches coming up but also the 'scene' of Mui Ne was wearing a bit thin. I.e. for every 1 well meaning kiteboarder or surfer, there are 5 image obsessed twatpackers who wear the clothes and sunglasses and talk total rubbish - constantly judging each other and conversing through pretences. So many guys with 'unique' tattoos and beards that 3 out of 5 could pass for the same person in a line up no problem. Farcical. Or maybe I am just getting old?

Beach fruit lady cutting us up a mango

Du-duh, du-duh

duh-duh-duh-duh, duh-duh-duh-duh


This bit on the third lesson!

Sweetcorn guy had a tiny monkey

Tiny but good

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

30/11/2014 - Phan Rang to Mui Ne

Today was a very memorable cycle. We started off on the main road but would later head pretty much off-road en-route to Mui Ne - the famous windsurfing spot of Asia. We had a couple of days off planned (again) and looked forward to a few beach days and maybe even trying the sport itself if it was within budget.

The weather was good and the route kept throwing nice little surprises at us. We passed a great floatilla of hundreds of fishing boats in one lagoon harbour, and watched from the road bridge as the locals got about in coracles between the big boats. Later the coastal path became all headland and outcrops of rock and the wind picked up. Then as we turned off the main road to plot a straighter route to Mui Ne, the whole place went Gobi Desert on us. Strange inland freshwater lagoons separated from the sea by towering sand dunes that would not look out of place in Dubai or Egypt. Very odd. It was hot though and J was suffering from the heat today, needing an impromptu wee sit down beside the sand dunes at one point before we could find a place in the shade to replenish with cold Pepsi. She was fine though, just heat tired.

We also passed the older American guys from yesterday on their shiny racers earlier on in the day, and shared the road with them for a few km's as they chased us down after we overtook with a smile. There was not much chatting just polite hellos before we left them at the top of a hill and didn't see them again. Hope they enjoy the next 200km stage they said they will do before getting the flight to Thailand to continue cycling. Horses for courses.

Before reaching Mui Ne town on the way to the long stretch of mostly resort occupied beach where our accommodation was we saw another great dune which was being climbed by tourists, alongside another ostrich riding place and a load of restaurants. We didn't stop in the slightly rough looking town but passed by needing a drink. We eventually stopped 6km shy of the backpackers hotel (not actually a hostel) and had a drink whilst I watched a coracle struggling past with a quite large outboard on it. Fascinating how they think that would work. I have never seen more splashing for such little forward effort.

Hotel (Mui Ne Backpakers Hostel) was great and run by a Australian guy who was privately schooled near Aberystwyth and spoke fluent Welsh to shame my rusty patter Cymraeg! The rough seas were packed in the afternoon with the kite boarders and it was good to watch. We had a walk and a drink on the beach and sat on the loungers of the hotel right at the sea edge. Luckily for us there was also a plastic chair Vietnamese restaurant almost next door that did all our favourite stuff, so we ate there. Prices were a bit inflated due to the tourist tax but food was spot on.

Route Link

Boat soup

Coracles, like big washing up basins

How to make one work

Mmmm salty breeze

Rough but OK

Seemed like Mexico

Random looming dunes

About 100m back from the sea - fruit orchards

Big freshwater lake

Poor Ostrich, Ok for 50kg, not for 90kg people.

J got a bit hazy around about now

We have been trying to find out what these trees are for weeks

On to Mui Ne

View from Hotel loungers


The butterflies are getting bigger