Day 10 – Hoi An to Hue – 175KM

23 04 2012

The combination of a cool room and excellent massage allowed me to sleep very well. In fact the best nights sleep yet in Vietnam. I still need ear plugs and an eye shade though. For some reason the majority of hotels in Vietnam don’t come with curtains, and I don’t sleep too well in a noisy and bright room.

I am sure you know the breakfast routine by now…beef Pho with lashings of chilli and basil. A wonderful start to any day, and so much more interesting than a standard Western style cereal. Again breakfast is such an international topic, and varies so much you wouldn’t believe . Anyways….I digress.

Leaving Hoi An, we rode National Highway 1 towards Da Nang. This route took us north to Hue, and followed the route set by Top Gear’s Vietnam Special. The roads here were perfect, I could almost have bent down and kissed them. Compared to the previous days road quality…this was bliss. Two lane highways, coated perfectly…a dream come true. I could be forgiving for waxing lyrically about the road surface, was it not for the view. You could be mistaken for thinking that you were cruising along the beach side road in San Tropez. Palm trees lining the road, white sandy beaches. Simply beautiful, and I felt so privileged to be able to ride there.

Da Nang took us towards Son Trap. Son Trap is a huge Pagoda and Buddhist temple, with a huge statue looking out towards the sea. The sun was shining, and it was an awe inspiring sight. Whilst exploring the temple I took the opportunity for a brief meditation, refreshing and satisfying. I even received a smile and nod from a Buddhist monk there.

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Rat Bike had developed a more serious issue apart from a bent front and rear wheel and no brakes. I had been wondering why my crotch had been smelling of petrol (gasoline) all week. I had simply put it down to me being hot stuff…I thank you šŸ˜‰ ! Nope…Rat Bike’s stomach was leaking it’s corrosive contents all over my nether regions. So we made into the crazy traffic of Da Nang in order to make Rat Bike live again. Toan led me to a back street, where I found a group of guys laying down and/or eating. Confidence was not forthcoming. However, Rat Bike’s front wheel was replaced, brakes were cleaned and even the speedo cable replaced. So, not only could I now travel in a straight line, I could tell how fast in that straight line I was going and have the confidence to stop ! The petrol tank wasn’t repaired today, but will be tomorrow (I hope).

Toan had promised me a great ride (ahem). He delivered his promises. Ladies and gentlemen…I give you the Hai Van Pass. This wondrous road stretches up and down the mountain sideĀ  with hairpin bends galore. This road is a bikers dream, as emphasized by Top Gear. However it isn’t a road that you can speed up and down, as fuel tankers race up and down it. Mixed with the poor conditions and endemic herds of cattle…progress is slow.

However…it is a labour of love and worth every effort..the smile on my face racing up and down these crazy bends couldn’t be erased.

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I stopped to take a picture of Lan Co Beach on the road, and even got hassled by a tout on the side of a friggin’ mountain !

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We pushed on towards Hue on National Highway 1. The road was busy, but the riding was still enjoyable. What made it more beautiful was green rice paddies flanking either side of the road, combined with hundreds of kids on pedal cycles making their way home. The boys in their white shirts and ties, and girls in their traditional white Ho Dai dresses. It was amazing and a really inspiring sight. I could see Monet sitting on the roadside painting this scene.

Continuing on National Highway 1 we reached the Phu Loc district War Memorial. Climbing the hundreds of steps towards the towering memorial, it was a sobering thought as to why this had been built. I was the only person up there, panting and sweating but thinking about the circumstances and people that each of the headstones represented. What lives and families had destroyed by these gravestones ? The memorial itself wasn’t in great condition, but I think that this was fitting. To being a British adage into the equation..’Lest we forget‘.

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We reached the ancient Vietnam capital of Hue after a long and arse-numbing journey. I really do fear that my backside will be carved by Rat Bike, and never return to it’s shape !

First impressions of Hue are that it’s a very cosmopolitan city. I also noticed that young lovers aren’t afraid to show their affection for each other…canoodling and holding each other. However it is very busy, which made riding rather challenging especially in the dark. Checking into the back alley ‘Impressions Hotel’, first impressions were not great. A grotty back alley backpacker hotel with a grim ‘Prison Style’ room en suite with dirty bathroom. Llama Rating…to be avoided.

Despite the grotty hotel I have enjoyed my evening in Hue. Toan took me to an illegal drinking den near the Perfume River…quite the experience. Suffice to say…my head may hurt in the morning !

OK…Things I Have Seen Carried On a Motorbike today :

1. 4 Metre Piece of wood – luckily lengthways
2. Husband, wife, two children – Wife battering husband with rolled up newspaper and encouraging the largest child to do the same

Tomorrow – Hue to A Luoi

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