Not everyday works out as planned when traveling and today was an immensely frustrating day. But something good or interesting always happens. It may be a small thing but one that lodges in the memory. Read on to find out what happened this evening.
Back to first thing this morning. We got a good start from our little motel and the sun was actually shining. However any good feeling was short lived as we were soon on a busy chaotic road. The next section took us across a peninsular which was a huge commercial centre with huge belching factories. The road was crammed with lorries and was in poor condition and not very wide so passing pretty close. It was one of the few times I have felt scared of the traffic. The pollution was terrible and soon my head was swimming – but had to keep peddling to get out of it.
Luckily we turned off onto a quiet road after not too long. Vietnam is full of enormous roads with very little traffic on. So we were on a large dual carriageway but this time with no traffic. As often also happens the road building stops and the huge road turns into a small road. In this case a small road that then turned into a track and then into what was hardly more than a muddy path. This twisted and turned a but and then suddenly we were back on a tarmac road again – this time virtually empty and the overall effect was as if there was a no through road, at least for anything other than motorbikes or bikes/trikes. We were now off the peninsular and into nice countryside and my head bagan to clear.
We were making our way to the Son My memorial. This is a memorial park commemorating the My Lai massacre in the Vietnam war when 500 civilians were brutally massacred by US soldiers in Son My and Tu Cung hamlet (My Lai). It was a terrible event for which only one soldier was found guilty of murder. He served 3 days in prison before Nixon commuted the sentence to house arrest, and he was later pardoned. We got to Son My and peddaled around unable to find the memorial park. There was some closed rusty gates where it was marked on google maps and we thought it must be closed. Later I found out that the googlemaps location was wrong – with the location marker but not where it should have been. There were no signs in the town and it was all very frustrating.
In the meantime my rear mudguard finally gave up the ghost. It had been held together by a variety of electrical tape, welding (which then failed on a tough set of bumpy roads), wire and cable ties. It has lasted like this for hundreds of Kms but a final spoke sheared and so David had to remove it – not as simple as it sounds. The mudguard was duly dispatched in a rubbish bin.
Having solved that problem I had also developed a ‘squeak’ on my front wheel. We pressed on for a while but the squeak got worse and worse in spite of David’s best endeavors. Our route bypassed the city of Quang Ngai but we decided to turn towards the city as we were only about 10km away to find a bike shop. We found one ‘recommended’ on google and the guys there spent ages trying to fix it. The squeak had gone but I was left with a problem with one of the brakes. They directed us on to another shop, which took one look and said they could not do anything. We failed to find anywhere else that purported to repair bikes so in the end we decided it was an issue that I could live with.
By now we had wasted hours and were off our planned route. We hadn’t eaten so resorted to a KFC at a large shopping complex. We wanted to make up some distance before the end of the day so decided our only option was to tank down the QL1 (the main highway). It was 3.45 by the time we left and it starts to get dusky around 5.30 so we did our quickest 30km of the trip so far. The road wasn’t too bad in the end and has the advantage of a good shoulder and road surface when outside the towns. One section bypassed a town and could almost be said to be quiet. We rolled up to the small hotel we had been aiming for, about 1 Km off the main road, as the sun was going down.
All in all the whole day had been frustrating and we were about 35km short of where we planned to be – and not at a beach resort but a nondescript little town somewhere along the QL1. Rather than mither all evening in the hotel room, we popped next door for a drink and this turned into the memorable event of the day.
The heavens had opened just as we were leaving so we ran through the door. It turned out to be little more than a shed/shack that was full of men who had clearly got through a significant part of a crate of beer already and the remnants of a meal. There was much hilarity at the two of us bursting through the doors. This was not the usual haunt for tourists or indeed for women – other than teh hard pressed woman who was serving! We were all sat on small red plastic chairs. The men were all very good natured and much use was made of googletranslate albeit the beer they had drunk may have made understanding the output less than clear! There was a lot of ‘what is your name’ ‘where are you from’, in fact repeated probably 20 times! David managed to explain to one of the younger ones about our cycling trip on google translate. They brought over to us a plate of pineapple and some peanuts and tried to ply us with more beer (which we successfully declined, mindful of a day’s cycling the next day).
Suddenly they all got up, said copious goodbyes to us (and “see you again” which we doubted) and left having finished their meal and drinks. When we went to pay we were told that they had paid for our drinks! We found the whole event very funny and it rounded off a frustrating day with laughter.
1 thought on “Day 58: Friday 3 March: Binh Thanh to Duc Lan, south of Quang Ngai: 90km – mostly flat (but some hills)”
That’s disappointing that the My Lai memorial site is so difficult to find. I hope this is not an indication of waning interest in this horrible and shameful episode of the “American war” in Vietnam.