1 January 2012
Three days off the bike getting fat and now it's time to get going again. I'm going to head for the coastal resort of Nha Trang along highway 1 (QL1). It'll take five days.
For the first time on the trip so far, I woke up really wondering where I was. My dreams were tangled with routes, places, guesthouses, the half light made the room look unfamiliar, and it took me a good few minutes to wake up enough to realise I was still in Hoi An.
Today the target is Quang Ngai, supposedly a rather uninteresting concrete pile. It's 120km away, so an early start would have been a good idea. Instead it takes me a couple of hours to get myself together and have a decent breakfast.
My rear shifter has frozen up, my bike having been parked in the rain the past few days. I've chosen a breakfast place with tables outside, so I clean and oil the cable while they get my food ready.
I also hit the ATM across the street for some funds - my cash Chinese yuan haven't been accepted for exchange here. It seems euros are accepted everywhere without problem, so I take it that the objection to yuan is political rather than pragmatic. China was the last country to invade Vietnam, in 1979. The Vietnamese army, experienced on the battlefield after dealing with the US, sent the Chinese packing within days.
It turns out that an early start wasn't really necessary anyway. There's 10km of small roads before I link up to QL1, then it's a straight shot south. It's wet when I depart, but it eases off when I join the highway. Surface is good, there's a steady tailwind, and I can cruise in the high twenties. Today, QL1 has a decent shoulder that's usually rideable. Traffic is busy but not enough to annoy.
After 40km I reach Tam Ky, and pull over to check the route - it seems the highway splits, one option through town, the other a bypass. I take the slightly longer bypass.
After 75km, I pull off the road to guzzle some water and stretch. As it's been dry for a few hours, I decide to give my bike a bit of a clean. When the sandy mud is dry, it brushes off easily. A Westerner on a motorbike pulls over to check I've got no mechanical problems. I'm grateful that someone's thinking that way rather than yelling and staring like everyone else.
A few kilometres back on the road and it starts to rain again. Fortunately, it's a short shower and things don't get too mucky. I keep up the high cruising speed, and before long I'm in Quang Ngai. A hotel with a big indoor parking space catches my eye and I pull in.
After tracking down a restaurant, I get a couple of dishes and a beer. Another foreigner walks in - the same guy who'd pulled over on the motorbike earlier. We sit and chat and have a few beers. He goes by the name Hudson, and is doing a series of motorbike trips around the region. His fried noodles look good so I order one of those too - got to keep the calories coming in.
I've broken through the 3000km barrier today, and I think it's the highest average speed yet. It feels like I'll be in Saigon in no time.
120km, 27.3km/h, 4hr23min, 3016km