Wednesday, 15 July 2009

SOUTH CHINA SEA COASTING
















Since leaving Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) Leana and I headed for the SE coast of Vietnam, from where I posted my previous report in Mui Ne. Up to that point we were slightly disappointed in the environment (scenery and people) which was not quite what we'd expected. The countryside seemed relatively arid for this part of the world, and we were cycling through endless large towns in heavy traffic. However, since moving Northwards along the coast, things have improved. The road alternates between the coast and the nearby plains, and the switch between the two usually involves some sort of pass (hills!). At the coast we regularly find ourselves high up on the slopes, looking out over turquoise bays with boats and islands in the distance. We also cycled past stretches of isolated beach and picturesque fishing villages. On the plains we mostly found ourselves surrounded by emerald-green rice paddies, set against a backdrop of the mountains to the West. The peasants under their traditional grass hats were all around, tending the rice, herding buffalo, or drying crops on the paved shoulder of the road. Large flocks of ducks galavant in the channels amongst the rice paddies (of course they'll end up on the dinner table, but they don't know it yet). There were also a number of cities along the way, and we stayed over in Nha Trang as well as Quy Nhon (attractive places with beaches, islands, and surrounding hills). There are many monuments (mostly related to war), and we also saw a number of the surviving ancient Cham Towers. One of the war memorials which we did visit is the Son Mai site, in memory of hundreds of villagers massacred by US troop on 16 March 1968. We managed to find cheap accommodation close to the beach a few times, where it's a pleasure taking a dip in the warm tropical waters. One complaint which I do have is that locals behave as though every foreigner has bags full of dollars with which he is eager to part. It's even difficult to find basic foodstuffs in the markets at a reasonable price, and in touristy areas this situation can be painfully taxing. Currently we are in the touristy town of Hoi An, which has a historic old quarter and various Chinese Temples (photo). We have been here for a few days now, as Leana is struggling to shake a bout of flu. Daily distances cycled since Mui Ne have been:- Ca Na 131 km; Nha Trang 140 km; Tuy Hoa 130 km; Quy Nhon 102 km; Sa Huynh 118 km; Mai Khe Beach 79 km; Vinh Dien 125 km; and Hoi An 21 km. My total distance cycled since leaving Cape Town at the start of this journey is 43 484 km.

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