Thursday, March 24, 2011

A TOUR OF SOUTH VIETNAM - Day 4 (The Longest Day)

2 March 2011 - PHAN RI CUA TO CAM RANH

We were now into Day 4. Last night we checked in to a small hotel, AN VIEN. It's a no frills, a clean queen-sized bed, air-conditioning and shower and clean toilet. No food outlet and no breakfast. We dined the usual sea-food not far from the hotel. Though no breakfast, the caretaker arranged for breakfast - the usual baguette and coffee. I had a sachet of mushroom soup and a Nescafe 3-in-one, compliment of my room-mate Hj Khailani. Hj Khailani had been very prepared for his maiden tour and I had been very fortunate to have him as my buddy! So, "terima kasih daun keladi".

On almost all my journeys,  my bike was never my bed-mate. This time, at the request of the caretaker, the bikes slept with us! Someone must have impressed upon her that these bikes could be traded for a 3-month free stay in her simple lodge!

On my journeys, and on some very rare occasions, the cost of the bike became a subject matter. I usually refrain from satisfying the query, playing down its value. There were curiosity (and honesty) in the question though.

The breakfast by the corridor 
This day would be the longest day of the ride. We would be swinging inland, away from the sea. But if we hoped for a reprieve from the strong winds, we would be utterly disappointed. Swinging inland meant we would also be passing several towns along the way.

One can note from the map above that the hinterland in this region are hilly. DA LAT on the upper left corner of the map is a hill resort. DA LAT could be scheduled for another time, another tour. 

So, there we were with the usual group pose before the start of our journey. Of-course we were not sure what lies ahead. That's the beauty of touring in foreign lands - there are mysteries and new experiences to savor.

So, for most parts of the journey, we would have the mountains in our view. At some stretches, we  appeared riding into the mountains, and wondering whether there would be steep climbs awaiting us. At other stretches, the mountains appeared on our left and on our right. 

Some stretches were relatively flat and to a certain extent, monotonous. One of the tuarers, Shuhaimi loved to take pictures of signages. Shuhami could not actually qualify as a "tuarer". He is a bit young, unlike his buddy Mede - if you know what I mean!

Hamdan (Mede) in Blue
Shuhaimi in Red
I recalled cycling with Shuhaimi when he took this shot.  I too wondered what it actually meant.

And when this shot below was taken, we had the following comments:

Dzul - Boy chasing girl
ARZ - School kids very eager to go to school

But this one below has got to be the best.

Wan Sabri : If you had accident, you will be buried here !!

I leave this signage below to the readers' imagination. Thanks Shuhaimi for being a signboard photographer. It's your niche and specialty.

Getting back on the road, this is also a region of cultivation. Amidst the mountains, there are masses of flat land, mainly planted with padi. I may have mentioned earlier in my blog about the uniqueness of this new experience of the Vietnamese padi cultivation.

One other place where I saw a similar landscape was on my cycle tour of the Minangkabau land in Sumatera, but not as pronounced. The two-tone color of the padi-fields could only mean one thing. Padi cultivation could be a year-round affair. This two-tone color also broke the monotony of the landscape.

Then, what about grapes? Yes, grapes in this hot climate? I did not pluck any and so I have no comment. Ah..."sour grape" la tu!

There was a comparatively nice lay-bye along the route and a stop there was timely. Somehow I failed to see any hammocks. This would be one of the modern stops, in comparison to the small cafes that dotted the highway.

Before reaching the town of Phan Rang, I came across this board at a road inter-section. I don't know what it meant but it certainly was loud enough to tell us who ruled the country. However, apart from such boards, one would not realize that once upon a time, Vietnam was not what it was today. What it was then, to my mind, actually toughened up its citizens. The war would have taken its toll. Deprived and destroyed, the Vietnamese rebounced to be a strong economic force. By the way, I have yet to see a FAT Vietnamese. What does that tells us?

Moving on, we were pleasantly surprised to come across a Mosque. This was before Phan Rang town. The surrounding areas were cultivated padi lands. Would have been nice to spend a night here and get to know the Muslims in this area. Again, we had a long day ahead and a committed schedule. So we moved on.

We also came across a ruins, uncertain though of its significance.

If one travelled on the Plus Highway, somewhere around Alor Gajah, one would see a wind-sock by the highway, indicating a cross-wind. In a car, one may not necessarily be over cautious about this. One is in the comfort of air-conditioning and music.

On a bike, a cross-wind is a cross-wind. And the winds were strong. And we experienced this. A lorry that overtook us would create a tail-wind that could suck us towards the lorry. This did not pose much danger, but it was an experience.

But when you see wind turbines as you cycled through, what does that tell you? We were both glad and disappointed when we stopped to photograph these turbines. Glad that the wind had not picked up when we reached this place. Disappointed that we could not witness these giant turbines rotate. I would have loved to capture these turbines rotating, on video. 

I did however saw one turbine slowly rotating when we stopped for carbo-loading. It signalled that the wind was picking up. Picking up it did and we were literally pedalling against the strong wind as the days grew longer and the muscles grew weaker.

So while Malaysia is planning for a nuclear powered electricity, Vietnam has free source of generation - very eco-friendly too!

At one stage, I was feeling very exhausted. We stopped at a petrol kiosk and the backup van was there too. I decided to take some rest in the van to proceed forward. The rest continued on. The 9km rest in the van re-energized me and allowed me the opportunity to stop up ahead and video our brave tuarers ploughing into the winds.

While waiting for the tuarers, I was also able to capture several shots of the locals coming down from the mountain slopes carrying bales on their backs and firewoods in the baskets.

We plodded on against the wind into the darkness towards our final destination. The strong wind and the setting sun chilled the air as we made our way into Cam Ranh. Ms Siti Linh caught us by surprise on a motorbike when we were not sure of the junction to take. She guided us to the hotel but she too, being new to Cam Ranh, was momentarily lost. But what's 2 to 3 kilometres extra when we knew a shower and clean bed would be waiting for us. 

We arrived at the hotel at 7pm (8 pm Malaysian time). 

Dinner was at a fancy restaurant - aptly named Windmill Restaurant. Looks like we never had enough of the "winds". But when it was makan time, we were not out of wind.

We clocked 125 kms and we were on the saddle for 6 hrs 17 mins. Indeed the longest day.

We looked forward to tomorrow, the final day ride into Nha Trang, the coastal city reputed to have the best beach in Vietnam.  It would be a reward, with an excellent panaroma as we cycled unhurriedly to our final destination.

1 comment:

Ordinary Superhero said...

The signage says....if u need loans, please see our friendly (vietnamese) ah long!