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Day 68– February 6th: Ca Na to Phan Rí Cửa: 43kms
I beat the alarm this morning and was up and about by 6.30 am. By 7 am, the restaurant was open for breakfast, and we managed to negotiate some banh mi opla and some pho.
By 9.30 am, the highway was pretty busy with lots of buses. I had to go back down to the break in the barrier and carefully cross back over the road. Surprisingly, I was pushing into another headwind, but only for about ten kilometers, and then I turned south again, and it eased up.
After about 20 km, I turned off the highway at Lien Huong and onto some quiet back streets. In fact, the place looked like it was almost deserted. I think most people were staying inside, avoiding the harsh sun which was baking the place today.
Once again, there was lots of rubbish on the sides of the road, and stray dogs just ripped apart any plastic bags they could find looking for food. Meanwhile, the strong sun and the pungent odor just made my job even harder. Thankfully, it was a short day today!
The road took a sharp right at Bai Bien Beach and followed the water. This stretch here along the coast was covered with trees, and the shade was most welcome. It is a very pretty part of the coast with small seafood restaurants scattered amongst the coconut palms, although none were open just yet.
Out on the water, the huge local fishing fleet consisted of hundreds of blue boats all moored together. Men worked earnestly in the sun repairing fishing nets or working on their boats.
The trees and the sand finished abruptly, and Phan Rí Cửa appeared as if out of nowhere. Our hotel for the night, The Flora, was on the same coast road I’d been on for several kilometers now, so it was easy to find. The hotel is fairly new and modern, and our room was really nice and clean, pretty good for only 350K VND. The young girls at reception also let me keep my bike inside, chained to the staircase in the lobby.
While I rested, Sharyn went for lunch. More tired than hungry at the time, I sorted something for myself later from the nearby Co-Op Mart. After dark, we headed out for a walk to check out the place. A couple of blocks over, towards the beach, was a street full of smart-looking cafes and restaurants, and they were packed. Oddly enough, it was mainly younger people out tonight, always with a handful of friends.
We had done a little research and found a place that allegedly sold craft beer. It seemed a long shot in this remote, mostly rustic seaside town, but we figured we had nothing to lose. It wasn’t long before we found the Beer Up restaurant, and, much to the surprise of the staff, we were sitting down enjoying the remainder of their limited stock of craft beers. Sharyn even got to try a Pho Beer from up north, which actually wasn’t too bad.
Pretty happy with ourselves and our luck, we ordered some baby squid and shells and then wandered slowly back home, enjoying the cool night air.
Day 69– February 7th: Phan Rí Cửa to Mũi Né: 57kms
While I rode out of town through the busy market area and over a long bridge, Sharyn negotiated a ride to Mũi Né with the young receptionist’s boyfriend – in an old blue tip truck. For 350K VND (the same price as the room for the night – go figure!), she actually got to sit in the front in some kind of comfort and not in the back, which she was sure to confirm first!
Out over another bridge, I rode, stopping to take some photos of the local fishing fleet moored along the river’s banks. It was hot already, and there was no shade to speak of. To make matters worse, I began a long, straight 6% climb of about 2kms which really had me working. By the time I reached the top, I was almost exhausted. It just seemed to go on and on. It looked easy enough from the bottom, but this climb was very deceptive and caught me a little by surprise.
Oddly enough, there was no wind today to assist me in a place that’s renowned for its wind. Kitesurfers from all over the world flock here to ride the wind and waves, so I was more than a little surprised. Also gone are the hills of the peninsulas. From here on down, the mountains will drop back out of sight to be replaced with sand dunes and wide-open beaches.
From the top of the hill, I was surrounded by white, sandy dunes on either side. It was a stark contrast to where I’d been throughout the ride, but nice to see something different at the same time.
Yellow-flowering trees lined the roadside, and every now and then, locals would pull up in front of a particularly well-laden one and get a selfie with it. It was nearly always young boys taking photos of their girlfriends; very cute!
I was surprised again to ride around a large, blue lake sitting at the foot of even larger white sand dunes. As I stopped just before another long climb, I could see people over on the dunes in 4x4s driving up and down them. It looked like fun, barring the fact there were so many of them. It seems the Tet holidays have started early and are in full swing down here.
At the top of the climb was a T-junction and a small cafe on one corner. Dehydrated, I pulled over, leaned the bike against the wall, and asked for a drink. The owner, an older guy, didn’t look very pleased to see me at all. He gave me my drink, I paid him, and he left. So, I just sat and rested in the shade of his cafe all by myself, wondering whether he was concerned at all if I’d steal anything.
Having rested and rehydrated, I continued on, only to discover the hill wasn’t done with just yet. I knew this would be the highest climb today, but I thought it ended at the intersection. Oh well, it is what it is! On these long climbs, I drop my mask below my chin so that I’m not rebreathing bad air. I began doing this a couple of weeks ago and found it helped a lot. It also helps you to get more air into your lungs. Once at the top, I can put the mask back in place and continue on.
After another couple of kilometers, I found myself looking at a long descent all the way to the beachfront. There was still little shade, but the breeze blowing over me as I free-wheeled down made me forget the heat and struggle of the climb.
I turned west at the outskirts of tiny Ap Thien Ái and rode around a bypass road avoiding the town. I had plenty of water now and no desire for local traffic. This road took me out along the beach, the dunes turning from white to reddish-brown.
Traffic was beginning to pick up as I passed a long line of older resorts, many left abandoned and dilapidated. I finally found some shade to rest in under some trees and had something to eat. I didn’t hang around long as there were heaps of rubbish strewn around between the trees, and it stunk.
Soon after, the road turned west once more and arched around a sweeping bay. At the end of the bay was today’s final surprise, a short, sharp, and very steep (10%) hill that led off the beach and up into the town of Mũi Né. It took me two bites of the cherry, but I soon found myself at the turnoff. Our hotel isn’t located in Mũi Né town, though. There’s a long strip of resorts and restaurants that stretch out for about 12 km after the town. This whole area is referred to as Mũi Né, not just the town. As the Tien Dat Resort is located at the other end of the strip, I still had about ten kilometers to ride.
On the other end of town, the road follows along the beach past the enormous local fishing fleet. I had to stop and get a photo. Fortunately, the esplanade is lined with coconut palms all the way along the coast, and I was able to find some shade to stop in to get my picture.
The main road along the coast was busy with holiday traffic and isn’t in very good repair. I was very happy to finally arrive at the resort, where Sharyn had talked the receptionist into giving us an upgrade. After all, we were the only ones staying there! We were given a nice room with a balcony facing the street, which was a good place to keep the bike, but it would have been nice to get an oceanfront room with a view out over the water, especially since no one was here!
Nonetheless, the bed was comfortable, and the place was clean and quiet. I had a well-earned rest and shower; then, we headed down the road to Joe’s Cafe for sunset and a few craft beers. Joe himself came over and welcomed us and had a drink with us. We told him we’d be here for the next nine nights, so he’d probably get to see quite a bit of us as he was only about 100m down the road from our room.
Once the sun had set, we moved inside to listen to the house band play. The Bohemian Basterds, a rock’n’roll duo, were actually pretty good, so we stuck around longer than we had anticipated. After all, we had nowhere to go tomorrow.
See what happens next during: The Last Days of TET