Have you followed this whole journey from the beginning? Follow this link to find all the episodes of our Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City – Vietnam Cycle Tour.
Day 19 – December 19th: Thanh Hoa to Hoang Mai: 66 km.
Sharyn didn’t sleep too well overnight. She needed to prop her arm up with a pillow and had to try to sleep on her back. This caused her a fair bit of pain, which worried me as we were on the move again and would be doing this almost daily.
I got away at 8.15 am, after brushing Sharyn’s hair and putting it clumsily into a ponytail. First time for everything!
Getting through the city was easy enough. All the big trucks and buses are diverted around the city on a ring road. The highway began again about 8kms below the city. I rode for the first hour without stopping, covering 15 km, and maintained that speed for the rest of the day.
For all the trucks on the road, the buses are way crazier. They travel at break-neck speed and take huge risks, gambling with the lives of their passengers. You never get used to the adrenaline rush as one flies past you seemingly inches away, blowing its air horns at full blast. I’m learning to keep calm and ignore it, just like the locals, but it doesn’t come naturally.
Sharyn was waiting for me at the Muong Thanh Grand Hotel in Hoang Mai when I arrived. She had taken a taxi in Thanh Hoa to the highway, where the driver flagged down a bus for her. People were very helpful as they assisted with her bags, but it was a Sleeper Bus (a laydown version of a regular bus used for overnight journeys) which meant she had to struggle into the bed compartment using only her left arm. Fortunately, the driver let her take the front bed, which made it easier to get in and out. The bus cost her 100,000VND, took an hour and a half, and dropped her on the side of the very busy highway across from our hotel.
The hotel is a four-star place (barely) and has a cocktail bar and restaurant. So we decided to stay in and eat. Let’s say the restaurant was convenient!
Day 20 – December 20th: Hoang Mai to Dien Chau: 41.5 km.
We went down for the breakfast buffet, which was included in the cost of the room. This meant I got a bit of a slow start, not leaving until 10.30 am.
After 6 km on the highway, I turned into a small lane between shops and onto some rather rough backroads. A tiny old lady pushing a cart saw me checking my GPS and started pointing and shouting directions (I think she was most insistent). I couldn’t understand her but was sure I was on the correct road.
Much like before, out here, small hamlets lay adrift in vast, water-filled rice paddies. Bridges crossed the network of irrigation canals that fed them, and roads were all set up high on levee banks. It was a dull old day again, and I was beginning to miss the sunshine and blue skies. Everything looks so much better when the sun shines.
I constantly had to check RidewithGPS as there were so many turns to the route. It was sending me down small lanes through the villages instead of a more obvious, direct route. I didn’t mind so much, but it was taking so much longer, and some of the lanes it was sending me down didn’t exist. More than once, it’d say, “in 50m, turn left,” and there’d be no left turn. I’d have to stop often and double-check my bearings.
Stopping for any amount of time here was also problematic. As soon as I stayed in one place for more than a minute, dogs would appear out of nowhere and begin barking at me, getting nearer and nearer. As soon as one dog started, it’d attract others, and packs of dogs are a big problem! So I’d have to choose a place to stop very carefully, but it seemed everyone owned a dog out here, not to mention the plethora of skinny-looking strays.
On the outskirts of Dien Chau, I crossed a river with a large fleet of fishing boats moored up parallel to each other like cars parked along the street at home. Apart from the trawlers and their huge nets, there were squid boats adorned with dozens of light bulbs that hung off of poles jutting out of the sides of the boats. Nearly all of the boats in the fleet were painted the same blue color as if it was a stipulation to get a license here.
The back road into town was surprisingly rough as guts, as well as being a bit chaotic. I shook and bounced my way through an army of school kids on bicycles and electric bikes. None of them wore helmets, as you don’t need to for these bikes. You don’t need a license, either!
I found Sharyn waiting out the front of the hotel. We had booked a room in another Muong Thanh hotel as it was on the right side of town to ride out of tomorrow, as well as their beds were somewhat more comfortable for Sharyn to sleep in.
I made the security guard put the bike in his office and put the cable lock through both wheels for extra peace of mind. He was very amused!
Want to know what happened next? Read on: The Coast At Last!