two people ina waterfall

28/2/15: Thanh My to Kham Duc

60km, av. 15.2km/hr, max 48.8km/hr, time on bikes: 3hr 57 mins

As the heat intensifies, our starts are getting earlier… but still not that early. Today we’re on the road by about 9.15am. The sun breaks through the low cloud around 9.35, so at least we beat it by 20 minutes!

The heat today is hard work, but the roads and scenery are fantastic. The first 35km or so are some of the finest we’ve rode so far, with a beautiful, well built, undulating road (Route 14, the infamous Ho Chi Minh Trail) following the river valley as it twists and turns, with barely a house to be seen, just a valley filled with lush tropical vegetation and the sound of birdsong. There’s even a moment when there isn’t a single electricity pylon in sight!

We lunch (crackers and a pineapple found on the road yesterday) at a beautiful roadside waterfall – not sure if it has a name but you can’t miss it – where the temptation is too great to not stand under its cooling waters. It’s soooo refreshing!

The remaining 25km are much harder, as the heat and the gradient increases. It’s not killer, but there are several 10% stretches, and the 30c heat is pretty intense (although we know it’s gonna get hotter!) We take it easy, with plenty of rest, rehydration and shade breaks, and arrive in the town of Khan Duc at about 4pm.

Khan Duc is also bigger than we expected (maybe all these hills are making us think we are still in Laos?!?) and there are loads of guesthouses, although the rooms we see aren’t great. Obviously, word gets out that there are two frazzled-looking cyclists looking for a place to stay, as a glamorous looking woman from the big Be Chau Giang hotel rides up on a moped and asks us to follow her. They have cheap rooms for 150,000 VND which are a cut above what we’ve had for this price previously, so we go for it. There’s even shower gel and shampoo, and towels that are bigger than face cloths! Plus, the mattress is *almost* comfy… we’ll sleep well tonight and we need to – tomorrow is the Big One…

** PS. Today was also our first (and last) anniversary as a couple together. I forgot it, Rachel didn’t, and I was in the dog-house all of the following day if I remember rightly; so there are some good memories mixed with some not-so-good memories on this day and 1st March 2015. I’ll always be sorry about this. **

two men making the peace sign

27/2/15: Hoi An to Thanh My

63.9km, av 18.6km, max 47.4km, time on bikes: 3hr 25 mins

As we’re having breakfast at a street cafe near our hotel, we witness our first accident. Two motorbikes going in the same direction collide and both drivers fall off.

They aren’t going especially fast but it still looks pretty nasty, although the two people involved are able to get up and brush themselves down with only grazes and, no doubt, bruises. Given the speed and randomness of the driving here, the only surprise is that we haven’t seen anything like this sooner. Since motorbikes regularly carry two adults and two kids, all with no helmets on, there must be many much worse accidents.

So it’s not the best start to the day, for them or for us, but by 10.15 am we’re loaded with freshly made baguettes and are on our way out of Hoi An.

Due to a lack of information about the route to Kham Duc (Phuoc Son) via Ha Lam and Route 14e, specifically the accommodation options en-route, we decide to take the more travelled Route 608, 609, 14b, via Ai Nghia and Thuong Duc, overnighting at Thanh My.

The ride out of Hoi An is fantastic, with flat roads through rice fields, passing under Route 1 along the way. At this stage we’re averaging over 20km/hr for the first time (20.1km/hr, to be precise!) and making great progress, despite the heat.

We eat our baguette and crisps lunch down a seemingly deserted dirt track off the main road, but within minutes these two guys (pictured) have appeared. ¬†As you can see, they are fascinated by our bikes and cycle helmets. It’s all good fun though!

Our speedy progress can’t last but, even as we begin to slow in the heat after lunch, and as a few small hills begin to appear, we still make it to our overnight stop at Thanh My in good time.

Thanh My is bigger than we expected, with at least 7 or 8 guesthouses to choose from. Once we’ve woken up the teenager at the front desk from his afternoon nap, we take a very clean but minimal room (ie: no furniture apart from a bed!) for 150,000 VND in the newest looking guesthouse in town. The bed is as hard as a piece of wood, but we’re tired enough not to care.

Finding food in this town is a bit more challenging though… it involves a walk along the main drag in darkness, as dogs bark and people cook food but as usual it’s often hard to tell if it’s a restaurant or just someone’s front room. We eventually find something to eat; it’s not the greatest meal in the world, but tonight, it will do.