Vietnam is 1 hour earlier, hence dawn breaks early. So wake up call was at 5 a.m. and ride-off time scheduled at 6 a.m. Day 1 would certainly be a day to look forward for. We came so far to see a fraction of Vietnam on our bicycles. For the next 5 days, we would be kids enjoying what adults sometimes referred to us as "unconscious old men", aka "orang tua tak sedar diri".
This day's ride from BIEN HOA would see us heading south towards the coast. We would pass a town BA RIA along the way and end it somewhere along a beachfront. On subsequent days ahead, it would be a coastal ride for most of the way.
Original planning indicated a distance of 76 kms but we actually covered 92 kms, additional kms to burn additional calories.
Here is the GEDEBE team, proudly displaying themselves in red jerseys. Ride in style I suppose is their motto, and why not. I pray that none of them would bump into any angry buffalo that would immediately raised the heart-beats and cadence of these "unconscious old men" in red! Ha...ha....
What about the non-GEDEBEs? Well, the three of us were a motley of non-uniformed cyclists but we sure blend very well with this fun-loving GEDEBES.
|Minus 1 Gedebe who was busy searching for his Heart Rate Monitor|
and soon we headed out into the cool early morning joining the traffic that was already building up rather quickly.
The moment we hit the road, we had to make very quick adjustments. For a start, the Viets drive in the opposite direction. We got to get used to riding on the right side of the road. So, right is right and left is wrong! Confused??
Next, Viets love to horn - loud and musical. For no apparent reason, the horn would blare, often long and wavy sound that continuously rattles the ear drums. It was certainly not music to our ears. As if that was not enough, we had to deal with the dusts. Parts of the road were under construction. So it was a combo of dust & sound.
And soon, most of us became masked
|Olmo with mask brought from home|
|Ride Leader Pak Wan also all masked up|
Next, I termed this ride as the dash of the brave. Motorcycles would appear in all directions. They came from the front, they came from the left and they came from the right. Extra caution was the order. But in all fairness, I did not come across any accidents and there were no Mat Rempits.
Anyway, this is what cycle-touring is all about. One gets to experience the reality of the moment, sharing with the locals, though just for fleeting seconds, their daily routines and their laughter and smiles. These are experiences that money cannot buy.
Breakfast was not part of the package for the night stay. Ms "Siti" Linh, our guide, ever so efficient was already scouting for a good place for breakfast and at 7:21 am, we had our first stop for breakfast.
The colonization of Vietnam by the French made the Vietnamese loaf-loving people. Vietnamese love baguettes and everywhere you find them selling baguettes. That was no surprise. But what surprised us was the small serving of coffee.
|One miserly serving of coffee|
And there was also what one of the cyclists, Kamat termed as "patient coffee". It was brewed coffee, served in a special container where you wait for the concentrated coffee to drip down to into the cup. The wait, at least to Kamat, was agonizing. Hence Kamat always ordered the "impatient coffee".
Noise, as I said earlier is something the Viets had grown accustomed to. At this breakfast stop, there was a mobile Karaoke, and a gentleman was crooning away and moved within the crowds for donations - one simple Viet earning an honest living.
And unfortunately there was no Jeffry Din's minus one in his collection. Otherwise I would gladly volunteer and bring some rain to wet off the dust from the road!
We moved on and as the sun hots up, it was time for another break. No karaoke this time but coconuts to quench our thirst.
Another surprise awaited us. We discovered that hammocks are standard fittings in way-side stalls, big or small. Viets love to relax in hammocks.
Well....actually Malaysians loved it too
|Oh...what a feeling|
When we clocked 60 kms, we were already in the town of BA RIA and ready for lunch. BA RIA is quite a big town, clean and well maintained.
|Entrance to the town of Ba Ria|
Again Siti Linh did not disappoint us. She brought us to a seafood restaurant situated besides a river. With an outdoor setting plus the cool breeze coming from the river, the seafood galore we were about to have would be a near climax of the day.
Though it was seafood, Viets love vegetables. I have never seen nor ate so much veges in a week. I am generally not a vege guy. However, with the varieties of sambals and pastes that came with the assortments of veges, I actually enjoyed the veges.
|Veges, Veges everywhere.|
Vietnamese Tea as standard menu, free flowing
The seafood was lovely and fresh. Vietnamese iced tea is standard on the menu, free-flow. The ambience was right, so was the company and the stomachs were ready. So everything got wiped-clean very fast. Cost was VND 800,000, roughly RM120.00 for 9 pax (RM13 per head). What a bargain.
When the stomach is full, every other part of the anatomy became equally heavy. The eye-lids became heavy. The neck sagged down and the bum just refused to get up. But up we must. It was time to hit the road again. We would have another 20 - 30 odd kilometres of pedalling to do.
Meanwhile Siti Linh went first to look for a suitable place to stay for the night. Pak Wan's instruction to Siti was to book a hotel near the beach, about US$30 a room max, twin-sharing. Were we heading for the right direction? Dat Do was our destination and it showed only 9 kms.
That would be easy meat, even on full stomach. As we kept cycling in the direction of the signboard, it was getting obvious that we were not anywhere near our destination. By this time, the wind was noticeably strong, much stronger than what we were accustomed to back home.
A call from Siti Linh confirmed the hotel for the night. It would be THUY DUONG RESORT. Keying in the hotel name in his Blackberry Google Map, Hamdan got the direction corrected and we were soon taking a short cut through the padifields towards the hotel.
Zul, the tourer with an eye for good subjects captured this lady carbo-loading; She was probably amused at 8 unconscious old man in over-dressed attire, in the blistering sun. Well Pak Wan, we have our motto "NO HELMET NO RIDE". This lady too has hers - "NO TUDUNG SAJI, NO RIDE". But she was one ahead - CHICKEN FEET, STILL RIDE!!
|"My helmet offers better protection from the sun and who needs shoes "|
The wind got stronger and stronger. Cycling became harder and harder. We were obviously heading towards the coast but the coast was still nowhere in sight. Another break for a drink and we continued on. Soon we came to Phuoc Hai town and the welcoming coastline on our left. Our final destination would have been some where in sight but we saw no resort. Language was a major barrier and we soon got a lady talking to our Ms Siti Linh on the phone, telling Ms Siti our location.
Within 10 mins the van came and we were soon cycling to the resort, about 3 kms down the road. What a resort !
At night we would have another sea-food dinner before retiring early for the ride on the following day.
This day's ride was generally flat. The challenges were at the start of the ride from Bien Hoa where the road was under construction. The vehicles thinned out as we rode further and further away from Ho Chi Minh. Wind was a factor we need to take into consideration for the days ahead.
Max temperature recorded was 36 degree C and my average speed was 17.6 kph. Total Ride time was 5 hours on a distance of 92 kms.