HCMC Dining Guide

Sunday, February 12, 2012

H2H Day 10: Remembrance

We've now covered 800km since leaving Hanoi, thanks to a 100km ride from Dong Hoi to Cam Lo today. Dong Hoi was a very pleasant city, where we stayed on the breezy beach and were even able to get some Western food at a hotel restaurant.  We got breakfast near a little park and headed out towards Cam Lo.
I didn't take any pictures on the road today, since there wasn't really anything new scenery-wise. Fortunately we seem to have finally left the wet weather behind, as today was the second completely dry day in a row, though the sky is still fully overcast. We probably won't have any clear days until we get south of the mountains below Hue.

We were back on the HCM Highway, and there was practically nothing in the way of food along the way. I was on my own and wanted to stop for lunch about 50km into the ride, and the distance markers said there was a town approaching. Sadly, the "town" turned out to be nothing more than a couple of shacks, so I kept going, hoping the town that was 17km away would be more substantial. It was, and we all gradually pulled in and had a great rice lunch after riding for 70km straight without any sustenance.
After resting for a bit we all mounted up and rode 10km further down the road to the Nghia Trang Liet Sy Truong Son, a massive cemetery holding the remains of thousands of Vietnamese soldiers who fought in the American War. We're approaching the former DMZ, and this part of the country witnessed some of the fiercest fighting of the conflict. Brutal battles such as Hamburger Hill and Khe San took place not very far from here.

Row after row of headstones greeted us on the well-kept grounds. Some had fresh flowers and incense placed in front of them, while others looked more neglected. Plaques with thousands of names engraved on them stood to the side, and the atmosphere was quite poignant.

It also felt rather surreal walking among the tombs of the dead, knowing that these young men had been killed by American helicopter gunships, bombers, and bullets. Every country focuses on its soldiers who die in combat, while largely ignoring those who perish on the other side. Seeing first-hand that these deceased combatants have families, just like their counterparts in the U.S., definitely made me think.

We lit some of our own joss sticks and paid our respects to the dead, acknowledging that war is terrible for all involved, no matter which side you are on.

A short while after getting back on the highway we hit a steep descent, and right as I reached the bottom at high speed, a cow bolted into the road in obvious panic right in front of me. My blood ran cold, and I had absolutely no idea which direction the beast was going next. I swerved left, hoping it wouldn't run me over, and fortunately it turned right, allowing me to pass safely. This is just one of many examples of how quickly what is happening in front of you can change on the roads here.

We had taken our time at the cemetery, and it was already late afternoon by the time we arrived in Cam Lo, a town none of us were looking forward to staying in. Phong, who did this ride last year, described it as "a truck stop full of AIDS and dead hookers". I wasn't particularly pleased at the prospect of sleeping in a room full of blood-stained bedsheets with body parts stuffed into the walls since I have an open wound on my left leg, but this place is nowhere near as greasy as expected. Though I am currently listening to the caterwauling of some truly awful karaoke being sung at the cafe next to the hotel, and I did just find a dead centipede on my covers. This is a small price to pay though, for tomorrow we reach Hue, where we will have the first of our two rest days. Hooray for a decent hotel, Indian food, and pizza!

ALSO: If you haven't donated to H2H yet and would like to support our cause, please visit: http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/michaeltatarski/bikeride. We've raised almost $35,000 for poor children this year.

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