9 January 2012
I cobble together a breakfast from my guesthouse's confused menu, do a bit of basic bike maintenance, and roll out.
I stay on a small coast road all day, aside from a few kilometres on QL1 through Phan Thiet. As it's through a sizeable town, the challenges are different from out on the highway proper - traffic lights, crossroads, people riding every which way.
There are no pedestrians in Vietnam, everyone rides a bike, or more likely, a motorbike. Consequently, the pavements are uneven, cluttered and unwalkable, which perpetuates the status quo.
After Phan Thiet, more small road. It's dotted with resorts, but there seems to be little tourist traffic. Many of the resorts are under construction, disused or decaying. It's clear noone's run the numbers - or maybe everyone's hoping for some magical change that overnight grows Vietnam's tourism industry to the size of Thailand's. Visa on arrival for foreigners would be a start. Discouraging widespread overcharging would be a good second step.
At one point I know there's a small road that'll cut off a corner and save me a couple of kilometres. I pop down it, only to find they're repairing the bridge and I can't get through. Dogs start to come out, barking. Back the way I came. I'm able to read the words for 'bridge', 'construction' and 'ahead' - is a sign, even in Vietnamese, too much to ask?
The unexpected detour's not a complete waste, as I finally realise what all these weird plants are. I'm surrounded by dragonfruit plantations. The plants are trained up concrete posts around a metre high and a couple of metres apart. They're a cactus or succulent, with thick swollen limbs that are triangular in section with small spikes clustered intermittently along the edges. The plant bursts off the top of its post in a big green mop. The flowers are yellow, and the fruits the familiar purple ovoids with green folds on the outside. With such a flamboyant appearance, it's a pity they taste so bland. As the forthcoming Chinese / Vietnamese new year is the year of the dragon, I expect crop volumes are especially high this year.
Back on track, it's a steady grind to La Gi. A helpful street sign confirms I've taken the right road into town, and I find my planned hotel easily. The town's clearly seen few foreigners in recent years, as people are unsure how to behave. Animal noises and 'oy' seem to be popular choices. The high number of churches and Christian symbols suggests they've seen foreigners back in the day though.
81km, 21.8km/h, 3hr43min, 3779km