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Day 33– January 2nd: Vinh Linh to Hai Lang: 56kms
I stirred at 6.45 am and checked the clock on my phone. It had been a quiet night, thankfully, and I’d slept OK. Unfortunately, my riding clothes were still wet. It was cold in the room. I shivered when I got out from under the bedclothes.
In the tiny bathroom, there was no washbasin or mirror, nowhere to wash your hands once you’d used the toilet. I used some of my drinking water to clean up and put my wet riding clothes back on. There was no need to hang around, so I took my panniers downstairs to the shed and got my bike packed, and headed out. The old couple were nowhere to be seen. I figured they’d be happy to see the back of me.
Just down the road, I discovered a trendy, new cafe was open. It was staffed by three young people who got me a coffee and understood some English. The hot coffee felt good and warmed me up a bit. One of the staff followed me out the front to my bike when I was leaving. He was impressed that I would ride all the way back to Saigon, even that I’d come from Hanoi.
My bike was covered in mud from yesterday, and he offered to hose it down for me. It was a good idea, so I wheeled it around to the back of the cafe, and he handed me a large hose. The jet of water that came out surprised me and nearly knocked me off my feet, but the bike was clean in no time at all.
I got back out on the highway. It was busy this morning. The rain had stopped, but it was cold, and there was still a lot of water lying on the sides of the road. Everything was sodden and muddy. There was no choice but to ride on the highway today unless I fancied getting bogged.
I arrived in the busy town of Dong Ha; it’s a pretty big place. After crossing a bridge, I hit the center of town and looked for something to eat, even just a Banh Mi (baguette), but there was very little open, and what I could find didn’t appeal very much to me at all. I stopped for coffee on the south side of town, having to chase someone up to get served. Once again, they looked very surprised to see a foreigner in these parts and looked at me with suspicion.
I moved on, feeling a little hungry by now. Not long after, I passed through the town of Quang Tri, and once again, there was very little open. It seemed quite strange to me, especially coming from Saigon, where nothing ever closes!
The last ten kilometers into Hai Lang were directly alongside the railway line and gun-barrel straight. A young local guy came up beside me on this scooter to practice his English for a while; it was a welcome distraction from the unchanging highway. When I turned off into Hai Lang, I thought for a minute he might follow me to my hotel. Thankfully, he bid me farewell and kept riding.
The Khach San Eco Hotel (Khach San means hotel) was a big step up from last night. It was modern and clean, had hot water and a big tv, and best of all; it had a hairdryer. I went straight to work drying my riding clothes which were still pretty damp. The owner might get a shock when he gets his next electricity bill! At 250,000VND, it was a pretty nice deal. Even the bed, which was firm, was OK to use without my camping mattress.
Once I was cleaned up and my clothes were dry, I headed back across a bridge to a Pho place I’d passed on the way in. Being Saturday, it was rockin’ rolling, and all the guys were pretty drunk. The customers were very amused to see me, and the waitress asked me to sit at a table in the middle of it all. Everyone stared and waited for me to sit down. Because I had my bike, I elected to sit at a table near the door, though, where I could lean my bike next to me.
One by one, three or four of the guys from various tables came over, sat down, and began to talk with me. By now, I was used to being ignored, so this caught me by surprise a little bit, but it was nice to be in friendly company once more, even if they were pissed. Once the men had been over to check me out and report back to their tables, the kid’s curiosity got the better of them, and they, too, came over for question time. Unfortunately, their English was as bad as my Vietnamese, so a few games of Rock/Paper/Scissors kept them happy. They were really cute.
It was really a late lunch/early dinner, so when I got back to the hotel, I took the bike out the front and gave it another clean to get the mud off of it. You’d think I had been off-road all day, judging by the amount that was on it.
Read on to see what happened next: Hue to Go.