HCMC Dining Guide

Saturday, February 11, 2012

H2H Day 8: Into the hills

The eighth day of the ride was another short one: 55km from Huong Khe to Dong Le. The morning was the wettest since leaving Hanoi, and the first hour or so of riding was just miserable.

The misery was only exacerbated when I was nearly pasted by a motorbike: I was cruising at around 30kph when the driver of the moto in front of me indicated with her arm that she wanted to turn left. She was already going quite slow and I didn't want to brake, for two reasons: I would lose my momentum, and my brakes were barely working; so I started moving to the oncoming lane to go around, since there was no traffic in sight. I thought the passenger on the moto was looking right at me, but as I moved left they started turning across. I still wasn't braking, since I assumed they would realize I was still coming and stop, but they just kept inching across the road, leaving me with a shrinking amount of space to squeeze by. I was about to run off the left side of the road when I started shouting OI! OI! OI! and somehow managed to slip by the moto with no more than a couple of inches to spare between my right leg and their front tire guard. I turned around and called the women "FUCKING IDIOTS!", but they just looked shocked at the fact that someone was passing them. Sometimes the obliviousness of drivers here is astounding.

I continued on, a bit shaken, trying to work out in my mind how the physics would have worked out if I had actually hit the moto, and none of the results were pretty. The scenery was quite pretty though, sadly the fairly heavy drizzle made me nervous about taking me camera out, so I didn't.

About halfway in we turned off the HCM Highway and onto Highway 15, which was fantastic. The sky finally started to dry up, allowing us to start getting some pictures.
on the way to Dong Le
the road followed the national railway for a while
The surroundings on this road were even more beautiful, and eventually we hit a fairly steep and lengthy hill. At one point the right lane was completely covered in mud, and a big truck just happened to coming down the left side, forcing all of us off of our bikes. Going down the opposite side of the hill was a bit hairy, again since my brakes were terrible and I was on thin tires on a wet road surface. I made it to the bottom safe and sound though, and began riding through small villages over gently rolling terrain.

The people of these villages were extremely surprised to see foreigners coming through their neighborhood, and the reactions they registered ranged from shocked to awed, dumbfounded, befuddled, and excited. Some children shouted greetings while others stared in obvious confusion; men shouted what I guess were greetings;  teenagers asked "What's your name?", as if I had time to respond at riding speed; and one woman even said "Welcome to Vietnam," under the impression that we had just gotten off Flight 417 to The Middle of Nowhere earlier that day.

The scenery on this day was the best we had seen yet: misty hills, farmland, lush forests, and the railway slicing through it all not far from the road.

We pulled into Dong Le after a pretty easy ride and settled in. This town was full of VERY curious locals: a large crowd of children gathered as we cleaned our bikes in the hotel parking lot, and when I went to try to get some food the women serving it simply stared at me and laughed for a few minutes. I do enjoy greeting kids and all of that stuff, but feeling like a zoo animal does get annoying sometimes. I'm also frustrated by the fact that my Vietnamese is so limited, since no one in these places speaks any English. Smiling and nodding your head can only go so far.
arrival in Dong Le
This turned out to be a pretty good day, not counting the wet morning and the near-serious-injury incident, and after a good dinner I was ready to tackle day nine, a much longer ride.

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