15 January 2012
Sore throat this morning. I make a mental note to have a few soothing cold ones if it persists.
Big route decision to make today. The boring low-risk option is to get back onto QL1 and grind along it all day. The creative option is to go island hopping. I decide to make the final call on it as I roll out.
There wasn't really much of a decision to make. Having seen the massive bridge at sunset yesterday, I was pretty sure I wanted to ride over it, and thus over the Mekong distributary it crosses.
There are nine major Mekong channels in the delta, known colloquially as the nine dragons. Not sure if I'm counting them correctly, but it seems I crossed four today - the first on the aforementioned My Tho bridge, two by ferry, and the fourth on the Can Tho bridge.
After the first bridge, I take a right onto the tiny 883 road. Most of it isn't surfaced, its small bridges are wide enough for a narrow car or a couple of motorbikes, and are usually made of wooden planks chucked unevenly onto a metal frame. Some sections of the road are sand - pure kryptonite for my skinny tyres. I nearly bail at one point, just managing to get unclipped before I hit the deck.
After a right turn onto 884, which is surfaced, and with just over an hour and a half on the clock, I arrive at the Tan Phu ferry, 32km from My Tho. It seems I've just missed a ferry as it's quiet when I arrive and I have to wait 30 minutes for the next boat. I munch my second baguette of the day here. The ferry crossing, on a classic roll-on-roll-off carrying a single BMW and a bunch of motorbikes, takes a matter of minutes.
A couple more kilometres on 834, then a right onto QL57, followed by a fast wind-assisted cruise and I'm at ferry number two. This is the Dinh Khao ferry, at 50km down. This one's a bit busier, with a truck or two and a swarm of bikes. Each ferry ride costs 2000d for a push bike - about 6 pence.
This ferry serves Vinh Long, a sizeable provincial town, but conveniently drops passengers on the outskirts, meaning I don't have to fight through downtown traffic. I track around the town on a ring road, and then join QL1. There's about 30km remaining to Can Tho, meaning my ferry and bridge shenanigans has saved me 10km or so, plus a bunch of highway hassle.
I spot a restaurant with a massive guy turning massive legs of chicken on a massive half-drum barbecue. Lunch. Rice with thin pork chops that seem to have been brushed with honey as they were grilled. Good stuff.
The rest of the ride's a boring grind down the highway, save for the mountainous Can Tho suspension bridge. Out east, dark clouds are dumping streaks of rain on the delta. The suspension bridge cables are dumping dark streaks of shadow on the tarmac. I'm dumping power onto the pedals, hoping to avoid a dousing. It works out: the skies open just as I walk into my hotel room.
I have time to stroll around Can Tho a little before night falls. I help a Vietnamese couple take a photo, stroll through the pre-Tet street market mayhem, slurp down a coconut and take some photos of the river. Foreign tourists are greater in number than I'd expected, though there seems to be little tourist infrastructure. Like in Saigon, I get the feeling that the traffic situation - namely motorbikes relentlessly zipping in every direction at all times of day and night - is a massive hindrance to any hopes for further tourism development.
My throat is still sore, but it's not getting any worse, and I'm yet to show any other symptoms. A trio of cold beers help wash down a filling pizza. Ok, you got me, there was also a coffee, a mango shake and a banana pancake with chocolate ice cream on the pile. Gotta get my calories in.
96km, 22.2km/h, 4hr17min, 4123km