HCMC Dining Guide

Thursday, February 9, 2012

H2H Day 5: Wedding Crashers

Day five was a 92km journey from Tinh Gia to Do Luong, our longest day yet. About 60% of the ride was on Highway 1, which consisted of little other than mostly good road surface and honking large vehicles. It was yet another morning of intermittent drizzle and solid overcast. Apparently the entire northern half of the country is blanketed in an impenetrable cloud cover. We stopped for lunch at the crossroads with the next road we would be taking, and as always we attracted a bit of a crowd.
As we were finishing up lunch I asked to use the place's bathroom...which turned out to be interesting. I opened the door and found an area that looked more like a tiny petting zoo. There was a chicken, a pig, and three piglets. I ended up pissing on top of a pile of animal shit.

 After taking off after lunch I put some distance between myself and the rest of the group before Phong caught up to me, and we cranked out the remaining 40-odd kilometers fairly quickly. Do Luong was our second town that lacked a paved main road, so we were soon covered in mud. On our way to the hotel we passed a tent hosting a wedding with techno blasting out of it. We found the hotel, helped a few others find the place, and then decided to see if we could crash the wedding.

On the way we passed Tom S., Johnny and Quinn, and we rolled up just as the wedding appeared to be finishing up. Still, within seconds, group pictures were being taken and a table full of amazing food appeared. The wedding guests were dressed in suits and dresses, and we were covered in mud-stained cycling gear. The contrast was striking, but no one seemed to care. We were clearly seen as an auspicious sign for the newlyweds.

Chris, Tin, and Tom O. arrived just as the shots of noxious rice wine began to be poured, and things got a little out of hand from there. The woman in the purple jacket pictured below spoke English, and she went up to us one by one saying "One more, with me!" about seven times. The alcohol was potent, and we were attempting to stuff our faces as fast as possible in order to soak up the alcohol after our long ride. The best man was also pouring us shot after shot, and at one point a guy who actually lives in Saigon sat down and started talking to us.

the groom and bride
At some point the music was turned back on, and we all started drunkenly dancing in a circle with a couple of Vietnamese guys. It was raucous, to say the least. After about 10 minutes of that an older woman poured the remaining rice wine on the floor, which we took as a sign that we had worn out our welcome. The best man (who is in the brown jacket in the below picture) then invited us to his house, which was just down the street, to continue drinking.
one last group shot!
We had probably taken at least 10 shots each by now, in less than an hour, so we were quite drunk. We walked our bikes to the best man's lovely house and sat down. He then presented us with a 17 year-old bottle of Ballantine's whiskey, which must have cost a fortune. We started taking more shots. 
 The man didn't speak any English, so he communicated to us through the translations of Tin and Phong, who are both Vietnamese-American, and he said he was very happy to have met us, and wished us good luck and the best of health on our ride and in the future. We gushed our thanks at his gracious hospitality, and goofed around with Duc An, his nephew - the best-dressed kid in Vietnam.

checking out my iPod
After a few hours of intense drinking, we decided it was time to go back to the hotel. Not before Quinn went for a spin on a local bike though:

the neighborhood
To be honest, riding our bikes the kilometer or two back to the hotel from the house wasn't a good idea. Tom O. fell over while trying to pull his bike out of the porch; Johnny crashed into a log in the alley; and I fell in the street just down from the hotel, cutting open the area below my left knee and bruising my hip. Still, these injuries were completely worth it. We had experienced something special and completely spontaneous, and seen the astonishing hospitality that the Vietnamese people exhibit to complete strangers. The seven of us fully expected to be hurting the next day, but none of us cared. Day five was fairly uneventful in terms of riding, but certainly not in terms of cultural immersion. Next up: a LONG day six.

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