Day 61: 5 March: Dam Tra O Lake to Bai Xep. 87km and 500m of climbing

Today was mainly an A to B day with not a great deal of interest on the way, although we ended up at a lovely hotel right on the beach with waves crashing outside our window. 

We packed up as the sun rose over the lake and were soon on our way back towards the coast. We turned south through a few villages then took a route down a peninsula which we thought would be pretty, although there was little on the map. We were wrong about the road being pretty and right about there being very little on the road, which was largely an empty sandy spit of land. We chugged along a minor road feeling pleased that the wind was still behind us. 

Before we left the homestay, we had a dog guarding our cycling shoes.

We then had one of those bizarre Vietnam experiences when, in the middle of nowhere, the road turned into a smart dual carriageway. It looked newly built with some care planting up the central reservation but there was no traffic apart from a few motorbikes and the road seemed to come from nowhere and go nowhere. We have had this before but usually after a short while the road reverts back to something minor or we turn onto a new road. This thought went through our minds but the road confounded us by going on for kilometer after kilometer. The road surface was good, the wind pushing us along and legs going like metronomes, so we ate up the kilometers at a good rate. 

We crossed a bridge at the end of a peninsula and thought things would change. The road got marginally more interesting but the dual carriageway persisted. Now were were between the sea and some high hills. The clouds over the hills were black and dumping down rain as the moist sea air hit them but luckily we stayed dry.

Finally after 40km we reached a larger town, at Cat Tien, and we stopped for coffee. Although advertised as ‘espresso’ we were brought the usual Vietnamese coffee with the blob of condensed milk in the bottom. It was OK, as long as you don’t think of it as “coffee” (as we understood the term). What we did not realise at first was  is that the town of Cat Tien is the place with the largest sitting Buddha is South East Asia. Building started in 2009 and was only completed in 2017. There are 600 steps up to the Buddha but we decided to sit at the bottom and drink coffee and gaze up to the Buddha instead. I suspect that earlier in the trip we would have been more enthusiastic and tackled the steps!

Whilst we were in the coffee shop we noticed that a group of about 10 men of all ages (some quite young) in the back of the cafe were sitting, listening intently to the noises made by about 10 or a dozen songbirds who were all in relatively small cages, which were hung up at head height.  At regular intervals, a man would get up from his chair and move a cage from one hanging place to another, beside a bird.  At the time we did not understand what we were seeing but a little research later showed that songbirds are kept by about one third of Vietnamese families, and there is a tradition that they bring good luck and prevent men from descending into vices such as alcoholism or gambling.  The men bring the birds together to show them to friends and, in particular, to allow them to learn songs from other birds.  So what we were seeing was cages being moved so that a bird who only had a limited repertoire was moved next to (and hopefully learned from) a bird that had a wider range of songs. This was not a display for Western tourists (who may well have views on wild birds being kept in small cages) but was a tradition being carried on which we happened to stumble across.  

Back on the dual carriageway again down another sand peninsular. One side had wind turbines (the only ones we have seen). On the other side we saw lots of cranes to start with, and then later on a grand entrance to ‘Nhon Hoi New City’ but little evidence of anything there. Another project that does not seem to have got off the ground although perhaps they are starting to build again now – there are some very swanky signboards and websites showing mock ups of what the city will look like and enticing investors. 

At the end of this peninsular we crossed a 3km bridge over to the city of Quy Nhon. I had scoffed at David at breakfast that we would be there by lunchtime, pointing out that it was 70km, but I had to eat my words as we had covered ground so quickly. Quy Nhon seemed pleasant with tree lined avenues and parks. We did some shopping and had a picnic lunch on the promenade overlooking the sea.

We only had 12 more km to go – but this included a very steep climb out of the city then ups and downs across headlands but we rolled into the tiny village of Bai Xep. Almost literally rolled as the small road dropped precipitously then turned into some narrow alleyways. We struggled to find our hotel, Haven Vietnam, as it looked as if the alleyway dropped into the sea but a sharp turn took us into the hotel which was perched on the rocks over a small sandy bay. We have a lovely room with waves crashing outside – I hope they lull us to sleep tonight!

The rocks in the foreground and the light ships in the bay – getting ready for an evening’s fishing.

5 thoughts on “Day 61: 5 March: Dam Tra O Lake to Bai Xep. 87km and 500m of climbing

  1. What a strange road. Quy Nhon was home to NZ’s longest-serving presence in Vietnam from 1963 to 1975. A military/civilian medical unit staffed with three surgeons, a physician, an anesthetist, a laboratory technician, six nurses and a maintenance officer. It treated civilian war and accident casualties from the surrounding area, and trained Vietnamese medics and nurses in all aspects of modern hospital medicine. Rather amazingly it continued to operate until March 1975, when it was evacuated to Saigon a few days before Quy Nhon was occupied by North Vietnamese forces and a month before Saigon ‘fell’. Pleasingly, training continues to be sponsored in Quy Nhon by the New Zealand Viet Nam Health Trust.

      1. I was there, briefly, visiting the medical unit in 1972. Guarantee to have changed in ….. 50 years! 😮

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