Day 175 to 183 Vietnam

* Day 175
Mau Chau to Lang Kahm
28 miles

Gary;
We spent the morning in the resort uploading the blog and trying to work out a plan for the day there were 4 options:

cycle down the valley which was a flatter route by far, but one of the locals told us it was a bad road
Also at the end of this valley we could cycle towards the Lao border if we took a right turn (this would mean we would leave Vietnam about a week before our visa expired) – we rejected this as we both wanted to spend a little longer in Vietnam
cycle back up the 2700ft mountain we had cycled the previous day, safer option as we knew we would find places to stay – rejected because we had already done this route.
cycle over the nature reserve up a 3400ft mountain, we had been advised by a local that there was a home stay up there, but when I quizzed him on the route his track contradicted my maps position of the homestay. also when you plot on plotaroute.com the downhill looked to be excessively steep

Ginette surprisingly wanted to climb the big mountain now I know she loves hills, whereas I wanted to cycle down the valley and take in the beautiful views this route should offer – after a lot of discussion and indecision, We agreed that the valley road would be the best option.

Ginette – I admit I like the sense of achievement you get from climbing a mountain but my decision to climb the mountain was based on the fact the local had said the valley road was a ‘terrible road’

Ginette – Whilst we were on the computer a young girl of about 10 years of age was trying desperately to keep her baby brother quiet, she wasn’t having much success and was getting increasingly irritated with him, on several occasions shouting and showing him her raised hand. It was quite distressing to watch as there was nothing we could do to help, the baby would have probably screamed more had we tried to entertain him. Fortunately the girls mother eventually came out and took the baby away but not before giving the girl a piece of her mind for failing to keep him quiet. The girl was distraught, we felt very unsettled by the whole situation but for the family this was clearly normal behaviour.

Ginette;
We will never know what it was like to cycle the mountain road but the valley road was atrocious. It was one of the worse roads we have cycled on, for most of the day there was no road (see the pictures) and the views were rubbish, on one side of us was a cut out mountain range and on the other a very dirty brown river. The road was so bad at one point Gary had to cycle my bike through the muddy puddles, I have cleats on my shoes and with all the muddy riding they were getting harder and harder to release and I had visions of me toppling over in the middle of one of the puddles it would have made a great photo but as I thought we were camping I was being extra careful.

Fortunately it was not as hot as the previous day and we supported each other through what could have been a really challenging day, especially as we were unable to book any accommodation on line.

It was hard to feel too down hearted for long because we passed so many cheerful people, especially children who laughed and shouted Xin Chou or hello as we passed. We have tried to take some pictures of the children along the route but they are very bashful and either hide their faces or run away. Babies just stare at us or cry and hide their faces

Gary; So yes the views were crap, the road matched this as it was crap as well. Ginette however was wonderful, I could see she was not enjoying this route but she didn’t moan she just buckled down to the challenge. We picked up some beers and extra water at what we thought would be our last break before we tried to find somewhere to camp (When you research camping in Vietnam
it is not recommended so we were we a little wary of this option but prepared for it anyway). just before dusk we starting asking around with our best imitation of sleeping with hands clasped to together and head down and this gesture seemed to work in a response of just 6Km down the road.

Ginette – Gary was pleased with his sign language skills and thinks he could now get by with the national hand signals for sleep, drink, food and sex – I don’t need to tell you which signs he would use for all of these but I don’t think he will get very far.

Gary
We eventually found a great little homestay / hotel that was not shown on any maps. We had a nice clean room, hot shower and beer in the room. Dinner was rice, beef with a vegetable that looked like apple slices, some other veggie like spinach and an omelette, pretty much a luxury considering the route we had travelled. The bill for food, room and breakfast was £10.80.

Ginette – I would have paid double this amount easily we even had air conditioning. Our host was especially nice she had a Vietnamese/English translation book and tried really hard to make conversation with us. She also had two children who entertained us whilst we waited for dinner, they tried to copy what we said and we copied the few words we recognised, it tickled them that we knew ‘oi giou oi’ which roughly means ‘oh my god’ and is pronounced oi zoi oi.
Day 176
Lang Kahm to
Thach Quang
48 miles

We both slept relatively well (Gary; even though the beds are really hard with a 1” thick mattress) and had the standard noodle breakfast. The family were lovely and were keen to have some photos with us before we left. Unbeknown to us they invited some friends from the village so we had a small group of people waiting to greet us with their cameras. They were really sweet and allowed us to take their photos in return.

I found the morning hard going, I was tired and it felt a bit like a work day where you can’t wait for the day to end, fortunately as the day went on my energy levels improved.

Gary; As we we left within view of the homestay I crashed in a muddy rut of water and one of the front panniers fell off in the puddle. The road conditions improved as the day went on.

We passed lots of villages today all of them are very similar to each other, they contain shops and garages and restaurants on either side of the road. The buildings look like the shells of garages some of the bigger towns have accommodation upstairs but in the smaller towns these premises convert back into peoples homes.

Yesterday we saw lots of logging of bamboo it was unclear what it was being used for we saw it in lorries, one lorry got stuck in a rut and nearly tipped over because of the weight of his load and in the rivers. Today I noticed a number of the buildings have bamboo structures which are covered with corrugated steel, so it could have been logged for new buildings?

Again the day was made easier but the cheerful calls from the villagers as we passed by, the children are wonderful and will run down to meet us and if they’ve got bikes will try and catch up with us.

The scenery was amazing, it really is like going back in time, with farmers and locals drying their crops on the side of the road and using sieves in the fields. We have taken some pictures which will hopefully capture the feel of harvest time in Vietnam better than we can describe in words. What made it more magical which you will not get from the pictures is the sound of music playing as we go from village to village to our untrained ears it sounds very chinese but is soothing and sets a great background sound to the views.

Due to the heat we had plenty of rest breaks at one of them Gary noticed a man and woman weighing grubs, I asked if these were being used for fishing but it was clear they were for eating – another good reason to be a veggie in Vietnam.

Gary; later in another cafe break these same grubs were for sale on the food shelf with all the other goods, yum yum. I saw some snakes being fried in a pan as well, and at first thought they were just noodles it was close I nearly asked for them until I realised what it was.

In the afternoon we got to cycle on the infamous Ho Chi Minh highway which was much quieter than we expected.

As we approached our final village we stopped for a much needed water break, Gary had the shakes and although I felt better than I had in the morning I was ready for a break. As we sat drinking our water we were surrounding by boys and their bikes. They were really interested in our bikes and before long they were joined by a local man. Gary tried to explain to them by using the maps where we were going and they were totally engrossed and looked suitably impressed.

Our hotel was fairly basic but contained all we needed and for £8 was OK for a night.

Gary; I feel like we should have loads to write about today as it has been a really nice ride, great scenery and really friendly people but there are only so many ways you can describe this, I could have stopped at every turn to take another photo as the views changed so quickly.

Day 177

Slept really badly, the vietnamese beds are really hard, it is like sleeping on a noisy wooden floor and the sheet/bed cover they provide is only big enough for one (well it is when you sleep like I do). Poor Gary slept with his clothes on and fearing he was being eaten alive put socks on his hands and an additional jumper around his neck. All we had to keep us cool was a small ceiling fan which just seemed to circulate the air. I’m not into feng shui but I am sure having a big mirror on the wall next to the bed is not good for you, as our bed was next to the mirror there was no escaping it.

No breakfast at this hotel, probably just as well, we agreed to cycle for an hour and stop on route.

The morning ride was enjoyable on fairly good roads, I enjoyed the scenery and caught up on a number of podcasts.

We stopped early for lunch at 10.00am and entered a carnivores den, dead chickens and snakes were laid out on the counter and the smell was awful. I couldn’t stand being in the room and waited outside whilst Gary ordered. The owner recognising I was a veggie kindly allowed us to eat in their dining area but to do this he had to wake his teenage son who was asleep on one of the benches.

The road conditions after lunch deteriorated and although the scenery became more interesting you needed all of your concentration to stay on your bike. Through one village we picked up a convoy of children riding their bikes home from school, they were really sweet, trying to outrace us. The path had wheat laid out for drying and young boy was so surprised to see us that he forgot to look where he was going and rode straight into a pile of wheat and fell off his bike. A similar thing had happened in the morning with a lady riding her bike on the opposite of the road perhaps we ought to come with a hazzard warning

It felt kind of inevitable when mid afternoon I got a puncture on a rubbly path. As we were taking the bike apart a woman on her motorbike stopped to assist, she was really concerned about us working in the heat of the sun. She shooed me to a tree and almost pushed me down the bank to the shaded area. Once she was happy I was protected she rode off and then returned a few minutes later with two big leaves one for me and one that I could hold over Gary to protect him. The people here are lovely and really thoughtful.

As we’ve cycled along over the last few days a number we have received lots of thumbs ups and encouragement what is unusual for us is receiving the victory sign and this has been a constant since we started cycling in Vietnam.

About 10 miles outside of our final destination we came across a tourist area offering boat trips up the river and into some caves. As we were ahead of schedule and had planned on doing a trip locally we stopped and had a pleasant paddle up the water. I think Gary found it hard sitting in a boat that he didn’t have to paddle. The trip was much longer than we had planned for and it was really hot even with the umbrellas the lady rower had kindly provided us with. We seem to be out of season again because although it was a beautiful area with were the only boat on the water.

As we got off the boat my stomach started having small cramps that gradually got worse as we neared our hotel. Several times I thought we might need to stop to find me a bush but fortunately I made it to the hotel. I’d eaten and drank the same as Gary all day so I don’t know what caused it perhaps it was smelling all that awful meat at lunchtime lol.

On our way out to dinner we stopped at a shop for some mosquito repellent, the shop didn’t sell it but they were keen to help, so one of the staff members shot off on her motorbike to go and get some from another store. She returned with what looked like cream for mosquitos bites rather than a repellant. One of the other shop assistants/managers had a smart phone and used the translation button to try and assist us. He asked me to speak into the phone which I did but was surprised when the translation came back as ‘stop f***ing biting’ Gary and I burst out laughing, I was so embarrassed I don’t know whether they understood the translation but they were also in fits of giggles. Eventually Gary was able to get the translator to work and the woman again jumped on her bike to go and get some repellent. How is that for customer service? in addition when we paid for the repellent she gave us several bags of gummy sweets.

We’d both had enough of noodles so were pleased to find a restaurant that sold burgers and chips. We both had a salmon burger and 2 beers each for the equivalent of £8.00, expensive for this area but worth it.

29th September
Day 178
Ninh Binh to Sam Son
48 miles

We both had a much better nights sleep and had a leisurely breakfast before setting off for the coast.

A pretty flat day on a main road, I was really pleased I had lots of podcasts and music to listen to. I’m not sure how Gary copes on these long days with no music.

Although the flat roads are easy riding they’re hard on the body, we both ended the day feeling a little saddle sore and spent the day trying to get comfortable on the bikes.
Gary; the road at times had a double lane dual carriage way and separated on either side by trees and bushes another road on dual carriageway following the same direction, so a huge width road but we felt pretty safe all day. the people are less inclined to greet you on these busy routes so no shouts of hello from the locals today.

It was another hot day and at virtually every stop we were offered a beer, we were very good and resisted but as soon as we were showered and changed headed to the bar. Which is more than can be said for the locals including lorry drivers who seemed happy to partake in a beer or two.

Gary; we had a lovely lunch stop today, and that use of the word lovely includes tofu! but todays green stuff, tofu and rice was full added flavours which is something that is usually missing from the food here, and all for less than £3 including drinks.

Ginette – it was a very good veggie meal

We’ve got a rest day tomorrow so we have booked into a fairly decent hotel by the sea in Sam Son. Our room is ok and comes complete with a blind between the main bedroom and the bathroom just in case we have a fettish for watching each other on the loo or in the shower??

Gary; I have already played a game of naked flash with the blinds.

We are right on the beach but at 4.00pm rather than going for a swim we opted to hit the bar, I checked the temp at 9.30 while cycling and it was 40 degrees, so we had, had enough sun for one day. This resort town looked geared up to cater for the masses but it was really quiet which suited us fine.

After a couple of beers we went for a little siesta and woke slightly hungry and need of some fresh air. Unfortunately when we ventured out we found our hotel was having a party for staff only and all other restaurants and bars only spoke Vietnamese, which would have been OK if wanted more beer or noodles but we didn’t want either of these and didn’t understand the menus to ask for anything else. We ended up back at our hotel room with a pot noodle and a beer from the mini bar.
My birthday
Day 179
Sam Son
Rest day

I woke in tears I’d dreamt it was Christmas morning and we hadn’t bought any pressies for the kids, they’d woken very excited and were looking forward to their normal pile of pressies and instead all we were giving them was some money in an envelope. In my dream I realised how disappointed they’d be and how much I looked forward to seeing their faces light up when they opened their pressies.

It was my birthday and I think the dream was a timely reminder that it was not all about me and that others can (if I let them) enjoy my day too.

For years I have hated my birthday and recently I learnt this was because my sister died a week before my 5th birthday and naturally everyone was upset so we didn’t celebrate it that year. I have no clear memories of this time but sub consciously I have not celebrated since that day.

I had decided that this year would be different, my aim was to get through the day without crying and to enjoy it with Gary, although iI could feel he was walking around on egg shells all day. I couldn’t blame him he’d had 30 years of me being a miserable cow on my birthday.

Lazy morning in the hotel followed by lunch in one of the local restaurants, the town was like a ghost town apart from a couple of locals we were the only people around.

In the afternoon we took a walk on the beach it was fairly empty as you can see from the pictures put we did see some old men in the very shallow sea with their fluorescent life jackets and two girls walking down the beach in their face masks and anoraks.

The evening was a bit of a disappointment our restaurant had a limited menu and we didn’t fancy noodles or rice so ended up ordering chips in the room, which came with chopsticks naturally.

Gary; this place looks like a big sea side resort, it has the beach with sea thats looks just like the UK i.e. not very blue, it has a large promenade, dual carriageway approach road. However we must be well out of season as its like a ghost town, we rattled around with the place not to ourselves as there were others around but as the place is so big it felt like we were on our own. I do believe we were the only guests in our hotel, with all the staff to serve us but no service to offer.

1st October
Day 180
Sam Son to
30 miles

Slept well and set off fairly early. We only had a short day and arrived at our accommodation at 1.00pm

The terrain was really flat and for the most part on a surfaced road. The last 5 miles was on an unsurfaced road which was being re-surfaced .

The towns are all starting to look the same so we’re pleased we’re now heading for the Lao border.

A lot of the villagers in this area are selling heavy ornate wooden furniture and we’ve noticed that some of the houses and homestay have large wooden doors and frames. We were not sure where the wood was coming from so we looked this up on the internet and it wood appear that there is a lot illegal logging both here in Vietnam and in Laos.

As we passed through one town today we saw a police officer stop a young lady on her bike and ask to see her papers, although we have seen a number of police officers with their truncheons in clear view we haven’t seen them do more than try and direct traffic.

We stopped early for lunch, after several failed attempts, at our first stop we may have stopped in someone’s house – we’re not sure but it was clear we wouldn’t be offered anything more than a beer, at our second stop they were not serving vegetarian meals fortunately the restaurant next door was able to feed us. We have a very limited understanding of vietnamese so we’ve translated vegetables no meat including chicken onto a piece of paper which seems to work but has led to a very limited diet and unfortunately for Gary this often means he is offered the same dish. At the table next to us was a group of men perhaps 10 of them, they were very noisy and had ordered beer by the crate along with what looked like a bottle of vodka so that they could have shots. They were all in work clothes we can only hope they’d finished for the day.

Once we’d checked in and changed we headed down to the bar to use the internet and to have a drink and were ‘entertained’ by the sound of very bad karaoke, a young child who was fascinated but a little scared of us and a big argument between the locals. We couldn’t understand what was happening but it was clear to see it was alcohol induced, after lots of angry words they all seemed to jump on scooters and ride off. Not long after a group of women started having a ding dong. Never a dull moment…
I think I preferred it in Java where drink was not so easy to obtain.

We went out for dinner but ended up eating in the local market, two teenager girls were drafted in to improve their English and to help us. It was a very limited choice we could have rice noodles or rice noodles with egg. It was good to see this dish made from scratch. Gary asked if we could try a fried dish which looked like a battered scallop we tried it but we’re still not sure what it was other than it was veggie. The girls were aged 14 and 15 and a basic understanding of English so we could share names and where we were from but not a lot else.

We didn’t fancy visiting the Karioake bar on site so had an early evening, we both of books on the go and we’d bought some snacks from a local store so we were content

Gary; Good deed of the day. We have seen several motorbikes with trailers, they load these trailers with all sorts and drag them overloaded behind the motorbike. On one of the tracks a small mound of dirt had been placed in the way to stop the traffic, well only the cars as all the bikes ignore the road block, I had to help one of these bikes with laden trailers get over the mound as he was stuck fast.
2nd October
Day 181

We cycled 52 miles, around the Ben En National park, back onto the Ho Chi Minh highway and South.

Gary; I am reading a book called “The Martian” its a survival story and is pretty good, last night it featured heavily in my dreams as I saved the man on Mars.

We had breakfast in a local cafe, Gary has been eating a lot of veggie meals and was quiet excited that their was a meat option but was a little disappointed when he bit into his snack site meat parcel to find it was a mini beef burger. It would seem going out for breakfast in Vietnam is the norm as every time we’ve stopped the restaurants have been busy.

It was a very undulating day on the bike in the afternoon the climbs were 10% but very short.

It was an enjoyable day, easy going and although it was over cast it was warm and we managed to avoid the little bit of rain that fell about lunch time.

The highlights from the day include seeing lots of children on their bikes, they’re so happy, many of them riding along in groups and holding hands. They’re little faces light up when they see us and they ride towards us, even when they’re on the opposite side of the road, shout hello, wave and give us the victory sign.
Gary; A motorbike passed us with the passenger carrying a wire fence between him and the driver. We reckon he was a prisoner being transported and had to carry his own bars.

At one point in the afternoon we’d stopped to take some pictures of the landscape when two boys on a motorcycle stopped on the opposite of the road, one of the boys was carrying a gun, we were naturally curious so stayed to watch what they were doing. The boy with the gun , jumped off the bike and quietly ran across the road and took aim and fired at the tree, he missed but it looked like he was trying to shoot a dove. He looked disappointed got back on the bike and headed in the direction of the birds.

We stopped for a drink midday on what looked like a building site, we didn’t stop for long but we had a short conversation with one of the workers who had lived in Birmingham for 3 years. Is English was poor but better than our Vietnamese. There appears to be a lot of building, excavation work in Vietnam but it is difficult to see what they’re building. When we were in Sam Son (by the sea) it was like some mad men had been let loose with some diggers as the roads, pavements and central reservation had been dug up but in a really haphazard fashion.

We arrived at a hotel (not our planned hotel but another one not on any maps or search engines) at about 3.00pm. We had a large room with wifi, bathroom and air conditioning for approx £6.

Same old routine changed went in search of beer and somewhere to look at the internet and do our diaries. We found a bar across the road and had a couple of danish beers chilled by a bucket of ice. There were a couple of puppies in the bar which took a liking to us so we had a little play, it was nice to see them as we’ve seen a lot of puppies being transported on our travels in wicker baskets on motorbikes. We’re not sure where they’re going but with Vietnams history regarding dog meet we don’t dwell on it.
Gary; Sweet puppies, I mentioned to Ginette she should choose which one she was having for dinner (see tomorrows diary entry for more doggy tales).

We’d eaten well during the day so only needed a snack in the evening. Gary kindly agreed to cycle up to the village (less than a mile a way). He came back with a couple of chilled beers (small stubby cans), chocolate marshmallow biscuits, orange biscuits and bread so we could make cheese sandwiches. It sounds very basic but we had a lovely picnic, the simply pleasures in life.
3rd October
Day 182
56 miles

We were up nice and early and headed across the road for breakfast, we had expected noodles but these didn’t appear to be on offer. Thee was a dish which looked like a very dry porridge which I didn’t fancy. Fortunately we were able to order some rice noodle rolls, mixture of garden leaves and bean sprouts and spring onions – very light but surprisingly filling. We reflected at the end of the day how laid back we had become about hygiene standards, at this particular ‘restaurant’ we could see flies on the uncooked food, the side and floors were dirty and as soon as the owner turned away 3 cats jumped on the side yuk. A cyclist lives on his/her belly and it is amazing what you will eat when you’re hungry, the secret is not to over think it.

Gary; This breakfast dish was a true Rabbit type veggie meal, the Mint and Basil were still on the branches and piled high on a plate, I felt like I was cleaning up the back garden by eating my way through it.

As we set off after breakfast we were treated to an unusual sight, aluminium cans were being spread across the road and a lorry was driving and reversing over them to flatten them. This was on a public road used by other cars. In other areas we’ve seen people on the street breaking the cans down to sell on. Others walk the streets finding cans and plastic bottles to recycle. There’s a lot of poverty in South East Asia and as there’s no state support people will do whatever they can to earn money for food. It is quite distressing to see children and very old people walking the streets and searching bins for cans and bottles to recycle.

It was a wet day, the first we’ve had to cycle in for a long time, but it was warm and we didn’t feel the need to put on an additional base layer until our first stop. At our first stop we were given the customary glass of Indian tea and we ordered two coffees. The coffees came as iced coffee which I have developed a liking for but Gary wasn’t keen at all, even after he put two packets of sugar in his.

We did get some strange looks cycling in the rain, one man even stopped to offer us a plastic coat. Other than the suncream getting in my eyes (which I’d optimistically put on in the morning), I enjoyed cycling in the rain, even though we were wet through.

Through out the day we saw several men on bikes with guns, we’re not sure if they’ve been out and about the whole time we’ve been in Vietnam and we didn’t notice them until yesterday or whether the weather tempted them out – perhaps it is easier to kill certain animals during the rain. We definitely saw more animals including snakes, goats, ox (some people were walking them on leashes as if they were dogs) lots of chicken and stray dogs.

On the subject of dogs, stop reading now if you like them…
As we cycled passed one house we noticed that two dogs had been killed and were being prepared for the pot. They were lying on the floor, clearly dead, with two people plucking their fur. I found it really distressing, it is the closest I’ve come to vomiting at a sight like that. I felt quite tearful but Gary took it in his stride (Told you Yesterday there would be more doggy tales).

It was another undulating days which made it easy riding even though some of the hills were 10% they didn’t go on for long. The landscape was really pretty and green but we did not that there was a lot more fly tipping, rubbish thrown down grass banks and on the side of the road.

We stopped for lunch in a bakery and had some lovely bread and cake, the Vietnamese make lovely bread they must have learnt how to do this whilst they were ruled by the French. We could have stayed there all afternoon yum yum

We agreed to stop at the 56 mile mark in a big town, there were several hotels to choose from, we rejected the first, for a number of reasons including the fact the owner only had on his shorts and vest and appeared totally uninterested in business, the room he showed us was dirty and small. The second one we viewed was not a lot better but the owner was a little more enthusiastic and his daughter was sweet and helped with the translation on her iPad. He wanted more money than we’d paid for the previous few nights, we haggled but to no avail so agreed to look at the other hotels. We looked at one other which had a shared toilet and mattresses on the floor and agreed to eat humble pie and go back to the more expensive one. It cost us about £7 for the night. Silly really but we have been encouraged to haggle and been informed the locals expect it. Fortunately the owner was really sweet and helpful and we were soon settled in our room.

We were both hungry so set off for some food, we found a cafe and ordered a mix veg dish, chips and a chicken dish. It was great not to have noodles or rice. However we were a little surprised to receive a dish containing a raw root vegetable chopped and covered in sugar and chillies, another dish containing fried parsnips (at least we think they were parsnips, but we were not sure but they weren’t chips) and a tofu like pasta dish. It was all a little but spice but at least it was something a little different.

Gary; The dish looked like fried chicken on the bloody menu, but all I got was more dam rabbit food, I might have to start eating the dog!

Walking past the many hairdressers (there must be one every 5th shop here) you could see men and women having acupuncture on their faces, all them needles in your face did not look like fun to me.

Over a beer we reflected on how many sights we now take for granted including the number of people on one bike; children driving motorbikes (some look no older than 10); the amount of goods carried on bikes both cycles and motorbikes loads carried on bikes,; women wearing pyjamas as normal day wear; women checking each others hair for head lice; people washing in the streets and the general dirtiness both in the restaurants and hotels. One thing we don’t take for granted and can’t comment on enough is how friendly the children are, you see them through out the day on their bikes. Apparently the basic education system here only provides for 1/2 a day’s tuition so we see children coming and going to school at all times of the day. In addition when they’re not in school they’re helping out on farms or in restaurants and hotels. They look really chilled and happy since being in Vietnam I’ve only seen one child taking a selfie it is very refreshing. Although they do have phones and iPads they don’t seem to be attached to them in the same way as we are in the UK.

Day 183
4th October

We were woken this morning at 5.30am by the sound of music and a lady giving announcements on a megaphone. Intrigued I looked this up on the internet and apparently Vietnam is split up into wards and each ward functions independently. The ward we’re in uses the megaphones to tell people to wake up, they also put out announcements in the afternoon to tell people to clean the streets and provide information about the ward an announcement goes out late at night to tell people to go home to bed. Apparently they were installed many years ago to provide updates to the war, government decisions etc, people were very poor and relied on the speakers for media information. We had expected to see more of this type of behaviour as we’re in a communist country but by and large most of what we have seen reflects a country with capitalist values for example there seems to be a big disparity between those that have money and those that don’t. In rural areas we have seen real poverty whilst at the same time we’ve seen people driving new cars. A new car in Vietnam costs 3 times the amount we pay because to own a car you have to pay the government a huge amount of tax. Although we have seen poor run down villagers the poverty does not appear to be on the same scale we saw in India.

The Vietnamese have complained about the loudspeakers and apparently the issue has been discussed at length in the local press. In one region in Hanoi between New Year and right through to February one ward played Abba’s ‘Happy New Year’ song every morning, it drove one woman bonkers as the speaker was right out side of her apartment, so she cut the wires but was promptly reported to the authorities by her law abiding neighbours.

We had breakfast in a local bakers this morning, the town was really noisy with cards hooting and people all around even the shops were open which was a little surprising as it was a Sunday and only 8.30am.

It was a warm day, up to 40c so perhaps too warm at times but an improvement on the rain the previous day.

The first half of the day was very pretty we stopped several times to take photos. which included a picture of two men working a water buffalo to plough the fields, water buffalo wading into the water and crossing the road. It is a strange sight to be cycling along and have a water buffalo amble up the side of an embankment.

We were passed by a number of motorbikes with dead calfs thrown over the back seats we did have time to photo these, probably just as well as it was not a pretty sight.

Gary; At one point a bike went by with loads of green stuff so i took chase I am now starting to consider this my dinner.

Ginette – He jests, if he chased every motorbike with food (dinner) on it we would never make it to our hotel.

We stopped mid morning for a drink, it should have been a quick pit stop but the local women got very excited and at one point held my hand and wouldn’t let me go. They couldn’t speak any English so it was difficult but fun to try and have a conversation. They pointed to several parts of my body but other than the fact that I’m cycling without any cover from the sun it was hard to know what they were saying. At one point they seem to be making reference to children, one of the women had two daughters, we tried to communicate we had two children but we’re not sure they understood. They got really excited one Gary asked if we could take a picture and we’re sure we would still be there now if we’d not said our good byes.

The rest of the day was uneventful, except from being smacked on my arse by some cheeky teenager on a motorbike with two of his friends! As they shot off laughing I gave them a hand signal needless to say it was not the victory sign.

We stopped 6 miles from our final destination for a drink and played with a little puppy it was hard not to think about the fact that many of the puppies are being breed for the food market.
Gary; this one looked really tasty.

We arrived at our hotel/cabin at 3.30ish, it was in a holiday complex known for it’s hot springs, but unfortunately it was a little run down. The cabins could have done with a touch of paint, the showers, sprinkled rather than sprayed, the water was brown and smelt of sulphur and the bed was lumpy. Our photos probably make it look lovely and for less than £10 it’s not too bad.