HCMC Dining Guide

Saturday, February 11, 2012

H2H Day 9: Epic Nature

Day nine, a 96km ride from Dong Le to Dong Hoi, was an absolutely fantastic one: completely dry (though still cloudy), and it featured by far the most astonishing scenery yet. We're currently in the narrowest part of Vietnam, approaching Hue, and the geography is jaw-dropping: mountains, karsts, rock formations, rivers, farmland. The first 50ish kilometers were on Highway 12, and for the better part of an hour I struggled to decide when to stop and take pictures and when to keep going. My tired mind can't find words to adequately describe the scenes at the moment, so I'll let a few pictures do the talking:

After taking in the surroundings I arrived at the intersection of Highways 12 and 1 a little bit after Tom S., and we waited for the others to arrive for lunch. I had com tam, one of my favorite kinds of street food back in Saigon and something we hadn't seen until today. The food in the north is far different from the area I live in, and our meals on the first couple of days were fairly grim. These past few days have seen a marked improvement in food quality and variety, but we're all missing our southern favorites right now. Things will keep getting better as we continue.
The weather had warmed up considerably from the previous day, and I decided to take off the long-sleeve UnderArmor shirt I've been wearing under my cycling jersey ever day. We merged onto noisy Highway 1 and headed out for the remaining 48km. I found a higher gear that I thought had stopped working and was able to really get moving; averaging about 33kph (just over 20mph). I felt good, and the kilometers were dropping away quickly. I then passed the first distance marker for Ho Chi Minh City, a psychological boost and a tangible sign of our progress.
I blew through the remaining distance to Dong Hoi and caught up with Phong just outside of the city. We pulled up to a well-stocked supermarket just after 1pm to get some supplies (aka booze and snacks) and waited for everyone else. Like many businesses in Vietnam, the store had a speaker system set up outside, and once the staff noticed us gathering outside they decided to start blasting ABBA and a bunch of other awful music from the 80's. For some unknown reason ABBA is massively popular here, much to my chagrin, but I sucked it up and joined in on an impromptu dance party:

Unsurprisingly, the sight of a bunch of white people in spandex dancing attracted some attention.
"WTF are those Westerners doing?"
Phong then decided to climb on top of our lead support van to really get things going, but the drivers were not pleased and told him to get off.
After dancing/cool-down stretching to a few songs, we rode the remaining short distance to our hotel and cleaned up. We've now covered exactly 700km (435 miles), and are just two riding days away from our first rest day, in Hue, which is sure to be full of Western food and heavy drinking.

My body is holding up well. My slow pace during the first two days had me concerned, but after discovering that it was bike problems that were holding me back, and then solving these problems, I've been flying. I expected to be one of the fastest cyclists, and I have been these past few days. (Not that it's a competition...but come on, it kinda is.) All of my joints, tendons, and ligaments feel fine. My knees are pain-free, something that can't be said for everyone else, and I can tell that I'm getting stronger on the bike. The only physical issue is the wound on my left leg that I got in the post-wedding haze of day five: trying to keep it clean on these dirty roads has been a hell of a task, but I think it's starting to heal. Knock on wood, this clean bill of health will remain untarnished as we move forward.


  1. Sounds like you're having quite the adventure! I enjoy riding your posts. Btw, I might start a bike taxi job in New Orleans. Minus the crazy drivers, I think you would like doing it if you ever wanted to make some spare cash. Good luck with the rest of the journey!

    -your sis

  2. That sounds cool, definitely may take part next time I'm home. I think I can handle crazy drivers anywhere after living in Saigon.