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Day 58– January 27th: Tuy Hòa

We had a thoroughly deserved sleep-in this morning before Quoc sent a taxi around to pick us up. It took us to his cafe on the other side of town. Coincidently, it was the same way I’d ride out tomorrow, so I’d get a good look at the route.

The Chon Cafe makes up the street front to Quoc’s family home and backs onto a lush garden with lots of ferns, shade, and even a fish pond. It’s a smart and stylish space for some peace and quiet. Quoc showed us his cafe and then took us through his family home, where we met his mum. She was busily chopping up and cooking steak for us for lunch. It smelled awesome!

The rear courtyard of Quoc’s Chon Cafe is complete with a fish pond.
A visual assault on the senses!

As we all sat and ate this huge meal, Quoc’s brother joined us at the table as well. They both run their architectural practice out of an office above the cafe. He also spoke a little English, which eased the load on Quoc a bit.

A decorative nook in Quoc’s Chon Cafe.
Quoc’s mum presented us with an enormous lunch platter.

After our late lunch, Quoc ordered a taxi for us to take us back to the hotel. I told Quoc I had to pass by the cafe in the morning on my way south, so I’d drop in for a coffee with him one more time.

A memorable meal with Quoc, his gorgeous mum, and his brother.

Back at the hotel, we decided to go back to The Swan, where we met the rather young owner, an English lad who had recently lost his dad, although we didn’t know this at the time. I felt like giving him a few pointers about how to run a bar instead of a drop-in center for local youth, but it’s none of my business, I guess. I felt a bit sorry for him already; he cut a very lonely figure to me.

After our big steak lunch, we walked to the end of the block to Funkyzone, a seafood restaurant. It was empty besides us, so the staff were pretty attentive and happy to have something to do. We sat out on the footpath and feasted on shells, squid, and oysters while we watched the park across the road get torn up and renovated. We’re easily amused nowadays!

Assorted Shellfish for dinner at The Funkyzone!

Day 59– January 28th: Tuy Hòa to Vạn Ninh: 67kms

Sharyn went looking for her regular Phở for breakfast.
Sharyn did a little exploring while I set off on the bike once more.

Sharyn had arranged a car to pick her up around 11 am and take her to Van Ninh, a fishing village along the coast about 70kms away. I got away at 8 am, dropping by the Chon Cafe as promised. Quoc was not there yet, but his mum was, and she sat me down in a nice chair near the counter at the front of the shop and got me a black coffee.

When Quoc arrived, we sat and talked for half an hour, and he told me about his friend at the Swan Pub. We both felt like he needed some guidance or a mentor or something. Someone to go to to work things out.

I called into Chon Cafe on my way out of Tuy Hòa to say goodbye to Quoc and his mum.

When it was time to go, I agreed to pose for numerous photos out the front of the cafe with my fully loaded bike. Quoc even took it for a ride to see how it felt. It must have been strange for him; it certainly was the first time I got on it fully loaded!

The road to Quoc’s cafe also led me to the highway just out of town. With a good tailwind, I clocked myself at 22kms/hr, the fastest I’d been on the flat this trip. At the 25km mark, I turned off the highway onto the Old Highway. I had done my homework and found a tunnel on the map ahead of me. The Old Highway is still in use, but only by small, local traffic as it’s a 6km steep and winding road. The sign at the beginning of the climb warned of an 8% grade, although it actually looked more than that. Once again, I stopped and rested, taking in some water.

Rice fields flank the southern outskirts of Tuy Hòa.
Hand fertilizing the rice.

There were plenty of women riding down past me with all kinds of stuff for the market; they zoomed past without even a glance. Maybe they were running late. As I climbed, each switchback seemed to get wider and steeper than the last, but with a few stops to rest and admire the view, I finally arrived at the top of the range and took some time to gather myself before the swift ride down.

Looking back north to Tuy Hòa from the tunnel bypass road.
Taking a break as I climb the tunnel bypass road.
Descending on the other side of the pass.

I did manage to stop to admire the sweeping views along a wide bay, remembering why I was doing this in the first place. I picked up the highway again at Đại Lãnh, down along the bay. The beach here is quite clean, and I was surprised to see no development whatsoever. Just after the village, I turned onto another peninsular and began another long, 6% climb. About 200m up the climb, a guy on a scooter pulled up alongside me and said something; I didn’t catch it but figured he was just being friendly. I smiled and said hello. At that, he dropped back a little bit, put his foot on my rear pannier, and gunned his bike. I immediately started rocketing up the hill, shouting out to him, “No, no!!!” It was all I could do to control the bike. He looked somewhat surprised that I didn’t want any help, gave me a puzzled look, and tore away, shaking his head. I wasn’t quite sure what to think. I hope I didn’t offend him. He was just trying to help.

A whole fleet of fishing boats moored in the bay on the other side of the mountain pass.
I came down off the mountain past beautiful Đại Lãnh beach.

About 5kms later, the peninsula opened back out again. I got off the highway onto the DT651C, a much smaller, local road in much need of some TLC. At a small village where the road turns south, I stopped at the local roadside market and bought half a dozen oranges. I moved up the road to the edge of town and peeled the first one. I was a bit dehydrated, and the juice was a welcome change from the now lukewarm water in my bottles.

Rice paper drying in the sun on the side of the road.

The coast road here is a dead straight 15kms to Vạn Ninh, our stop for the night. It’s a lumpy, bumpy stinky affair with loads of household rubbish mounting up and overlapping the road almost everywhere along it. I’m sure they have some kind of garbage collection service, but today wasn’t the day, unfortunately!

By the time I eventually reached Vạn Ninh, I was pretty tired and had a sore bum courtesy of the DT651C. Using Google Maps,  I took the first opportunity to cut down through some narrow lanes to the esplanade, much to the surprise of the locals!

A seawall has replaced the beach here in Vạn Ninh.

On the water’s edge, grotty seafront shacks lined the beach, and the smell of rotting fish permeated the air. Much of the beach here had been replaced by a sea wall robbing the place of any chance it had of appearing on postcards.

Arriving in Vạn Ninh.

Fortunately, our hotel, the Cocosea, was a complete contrast to the shorefront dwellings that surrounded it. I gave the two girls at reception an orange each, and they gladly let me put my bike under the stairs, out of sight.

Later on, we wandered down to the Bắc Vân Phong seafood restaurant for dinner and a couple of beers. To say that the staff and patrons were not accustomed to foreigners would be an understatement! To their credit, though, we did get fed and enjoyed a couple of beers.

Still heading south: A 24-Year Wait Ends