Day 51.  Friday 24th February. Camping Hai Linh to Cua Lo. 108km

Today is the first anniversary of the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine by Russia. A whole year of this terrible war.  It therefore seems frivolous to be talking about our travels today. I will record the day but our thoughts are with all Ukrainians and a hope for peace.

We woke to the sound of the waves and soon were in the rhythm of packing up our camp.  It was cool and cloudy and remained so for most of the day. Our first 6km were through the small rural lanes but then we had a 25km stretch on QL1. Unfortunately today there were no river ferries so it was back to having to cross some rivers on the main roads. It wasn’t quite as bad first thing in the morning compared to yesterday afternoon but was still pretty unpleasant.  However, needs must and ploughed on at a pace.  At one point it started raining and for the first time on the trip we put on our rain jackets – although it only lasted a few minutes.

A stop to buy oranges.

At last we turned off the main road and were back on small roads passing through small villages.  However, the road surface was pretty bad for much of the time so it was hard work on the legs and slow going at times. The scenery was not very inspiring and we were finding the usual yelling by school children had become annoying rather than charming! All in all I was feeling tired and a little gloomy!

David – very briefly – in his rain jacket for the first time!

We had done about 70km by 1ish so we weren’t doing badly. I spotted a sign for tea/coffee and we decided we were in need of a proper stop and sit down. We laughed as we entered as it turned out to be the side entrance to the  lobby of the Diamond Palace hotel – which we had seen on the map earlier and laughed at the time that we could stay there. It was something of a monstrosity with lots of fake marble. Tea?  No tea.  Cappuccino?  No Cappuccino.  In spite of the extensive menu they only had plain coffee. We decided to risk it, even though the coffee we had had in the last couple of days was almost undrinkable.  Here though the Diamond Palace came good and the coffee was delicious.  Not only that it packed an incredible caffeine punch which had us whizzing along and in much better spirits when we set off again! Suddenly the scenery seemed more interesting and life on a trike seemed better again.

One of the amazing things about Vietnam – or at least what we have seen so far – is how populated it is and how every available space is cultivated. Even small patches of ground in front of houses is often planted with a few vegetables, lettuces and herbs. We passed a huge variety of vegetable fields, lots of rice as always, and a number of fish farms.  We were often running along side the sea but could rarely see it as there were banks holding it at bay.  The glimpses on this cloudy day were of slate grey seas, more reminiscent of the UK!  It felt like time for some sunshine again.

Traditional Vietnam meets modern Vietnam – unaccompanied bullocks on a brand new road bridge!

There was a small range of hills before the final bay of our destination. Our small road wound around the edge of the hills, by the sea, and we were spared climbing.  However, the road was in the process of being widened. Luckily it was reasonably far advanced so although there was no paving yet and some parts were very bumpy, most of it was smooth and hard packed.  In fact the rollers were out rolling the road and we could ride where they had just flattened.  In the developed world, the road would have been closed, but here the traffic was allowed to navigate the half completed road.  To be fair, it was only a handful of motorbikes and us!  We just weaved around the road works and the tractors and no one seemed too fussed.

One final short section of the QL1 to cross a bridge and we were turning to the seaside resort of Cua Lo. This was also somewhat of a dissapointment. It was a large concrete town that was very much out of season and mostly closed.  The hotel we had booked had done a good job on its photos (and probably fake reviews) as it was gloomy and rather grimy.  But after 108km we were too tired to try and find somewhere else.  At least it turned out to have a great hot shower. 

Fishing boats awash with colour

So not every day on a lengthy trip can be a fantastic day and I would say that this one was not one of our best – but not the worst and at least we found out that the Diamond Palace hotel does great coffee.  We need something like that regularly peppering our route and we will be happy!

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