31. RIDING VIETNAM. 1770 MILES. PART 2.
Hoi An turned out to be one of my favourite places in Vietnam, L's too. I'd booked us into a quaint place called Petunia Gardens which was the family home of a lovely lady who managed the home stay for her parents, because they didn't speak a word of English. It was refreshing to explore Hoi An which is a small, picturesque, pedestrianised city with hundreds of old timber colonial buildings butted together on winding streets adorned with plants, flowers and hanging lanterns. We happened to arrive on the day of a festival (we seem to be good at doing this) and at night, lanterns on gondolas offering rides down the river, twinkled across the city.
There was a small workshop opposite the boat builder selling carvings and wooden gift ware. We ended up spending quite a lot of time here because without revealing his profession, L managed had to get the chap to give him a carving 'lesson'. I wasn't sure what he said to his colleague but the chap seemed quite impressed with L's woodworking skills and later offered him a job!..Alas it wasn't meant to be.
From Kon Tum we headed back to the beaches staying a night at Quy Nhon. Our daily routine was to fill up the wave machines with a full tank of fuel each morning before setting off and generally this would see us through to the following day. 100,000 Dong would fill both bikes which equated to around £3.30. Our route for the next couple of days was coastal and so we continued south to Nha Trang where it seemed, the entire population of Moscow were presently holidaying. We spent more time here looking for a post office than doing anything else, which was fine because Nha Trang isn't really the type of place I'd ordinarily go to. It's a built up city which feels like a tourist trap and is seemingly full of Russians. On a side note and rather bizarrely...If you're a fan of spit roasted crocodile then you'll find yourself right at home here!
A few hours inland from Nha Trang is Dalat with it's interesting French colonial architecture. The mountain road between was being heavily repaired after some mega landslides, so perhaps not such a good route in the rainy season. With its cooler mountain temperature we found ourselves back in trousers and jumpers. We stayed in a newly built hostel situated on a hillside at the end of a rubble track, with a huge communal balcony overlooking the city. Other good views of Dalat were had when we stopped by the 'Crazy House' which functions as a quirky hotel and because of it's crazy architecture, also attracts curious day visitors like ourselves.
The mountain pass I mentioned earlier, which for us turned out a far better ride than the Hai Van pass, was south of Dalat on road QL28B. Unfortunately this was also the road where the phone holder on my bike decided to break and whilst in my care, L's phone fell dramatically into the road, where it broke into its component parts and was then ran over by a chap on the moped behind me. L who was riding in front hadn't noticed this, nor me stop, collect and quickly re assemble the remnants of his phone. This mishap had added a few more screen cracks to the previous ones which were a continual reminder of the time before our travels, when I'd accidentally dropped his phone and then stood on it. The new battery L had bought before our trip was now looking a bit scuffed around the edges but it wasn't leaking and remarkably the phone still powered up. There was no way around confessing to L about what had just happened...
We continued riding on towards the glimmering sea ending up in the coastal outskirts of Phan Thiet. We'd been looking forward to the ($14) garden lodge I'd booked but upon arrival we were bombarded by a nauseating smell from inside the room. It turned out the owners had just been sprucing up the rooms and had repainted all the wood work. It looked super fresh but we were starting to get headaches (not so super fresh) so instead we stayed in a room at a place a few doors down, saving a few dollars on the price. There did happen to be a nice little Mexican restaurant near our accommodation so later on both L and I over indulged in Mexican food, (we'd been craving this for a while) and spent about 4x the amount we usually would.
Our last home stay before tomorrows ride into Ho Chi Minh city, was in Ho Coc, again not far from the beach. Here we met 3 backpackers heading north on 3 Chinese knock off Honda Wins (125cc common backpackers motorcycle). Unluckily for them they were already having engine problems... our wave machines may not have looked the biz, but we were both quite relieved at having had no issues (other than the flat tyre.) Astonishingly it was recommended we get the oil changed on the wave machines every 1000km! That had meant 2 oil changes on our trip which we thought a little excessive but with a back street mechanic on every corner and genuine Honda dealerships not hard to stumble across, it didn't cause any problems or delays during our trip. Unlike in the U.K when you book in for a service and you get told the appointment is 2 weeks on a Thursday, in Vietnam you just turn up and can expect to have whatever the problem, fixed, and to be able to drive away within 10 minutes. There's no waiting around, they're ultra efficient.
Around 10 million people live in HCM and there's around 8 million motorbikes! I don't think I'll ever again experience traffic like this, nor would I want to! After a handful of chaotic wrong turns we managed to arrive at our hostel, slightly stressed but still in one piece and after dumping our bags we continued onto the rental office to return the bikes. Depositing the wave machines and receiving 'I survived Vietnam traffic' T shirts, marked the end of a chapter for a part of our Vietnam travels, but we weren't leaving the country just yet... The 23rd Dec was my birthday and we had an early morning date with a floating market in the Mekong Delta...