Annie’s Birthday and the Russian Connection

International relations bode well as we’ve been spending time taking on the eastern bloc in the form of a friendly couple from St Petersburg. On the eve of Annie’s Birthday Sergei beat us at whist with his ice cold stare…then they sung happy birthday in Russian, so in return Annie rolled off a number from Oklahoma – bringing the house down in standard fashion.

There seems to be a big Russian presence here – the historic communist/socialist links remain strong. Our warm showers host, Kate, is originally from Odessa, Ukraine, but studied and lived in Moscow. We’ve been welcomed into her group of Russian friends and had the chance to join in their sunset yoga classes. Interesting folk, very serene.

Here’s out mosquito net/tent set up in their flat:

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AC seems to have given Annie a head cold, so we’ve been off the bike for another day today, but did some excellent pottering about and planning.

It’s an early start tomorrow for the onward trip to Cambodia, first up is an early morning cycle to the SUPERDONG ferry (amazing.) then a run up to the border towards Kep on the other side.

Cambodia awaits.

Elbows in the Road

So it was bound to happen at some point and yes, while on our way to the west coast of Phu Quoc, we came off the bike. 

We were on a sandy track working our way up to the main road and we started to skid. We were probably going slightly too fast. 

We are both fine – just a few bruises and we both left pieces of our elbows in the road… The medical kit came in handy!  

One of Altura back panniers also took a beating but held up well.

We took the next day to relax off the bike and Annie had a nice birthday on the beach.  

Having had a day of sun, sea and sand we’re both ready to move on so today we head to the main town Duong Dang to meet and stay with another cycle tourer Kateryna who is the only person on the island registered on warmshowers.com

Egg Surprise, Wild Camping and a tribute to David Bowie

January 13th 2016

This afternoon we reached Phu Quoc island after our two day, 130km cycle from Long Xuyen. 

It has been a great couple of days and we are settling into a good rhythm, managing more miles in less time. It has been completely flat the whole way which has been perfect for this first week – it’ll be interesting to see how we get on with some slopes, although this might not be for some time.

Our bums are still sore – on the second day we even tried the double shorts tactic.

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We’ve enjoyed a ‘varied diet’ including liver & kidney. During one lunchtime we enthusiastically pointed at what we thought were harmless eggs but they turned out to be fertilised, semi-formed ducklings… Paddy’s even had feathers, a head and a beak! He was encouraged to have a taste but the response I got back was ‘over my dead body’.

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Most importantly we saw through our plan to camp on the eve of the second day. Before our trip, we had read a couple of blogs which said camping was difficult or even impossible in Vietnam.

Due to the Delta area being intensley irrigated and farmed, finding a camping spot was a little tricky at first. Finally we passed a small patch of forest next to the road which turned out to be pretty perfect. The only slight irritation were the red fire ants but long socks and our helinox chairs soon sorted us out.

WE ARE SO GLAD WE BROUGHT THE CHAIRS!!!

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It was good shopping for supplies and cooking our own dinner and breakfast. The Optimus stove has been great.

  
It was way too hot to sleep under the fly sheet but we were still protected from the mozzies without it and enjoyed the added bonus of star gazing before falling asleep. We both had minor irrational panics during the night – convinced we were going to be eaten (!?) or discovered – other than that we slept soundly until dawn. 🙂

  
After camping we set off for Ha Tien and on the way we were passed out by the Tour of Vietnam bike race (that’s not it’s official name but it’ essentially what it is). We got a lot of attention from the race photographers and friendly support crew.

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Finally we rolled into town around 2pm and enjoyed a few beers and a good night sleep.

We logged onto Wi-Fi for the first time in two days and read the news about David Bowie. Devastated. What an artist. We enjoyed watching videos and interviews of him over our beers.

We’re writing this on the ferry to the paradise island of Phu Coc where we’ll celebrate Annie’s birthday tomorrow.

Rest Day

Today (January 10th 2016) we enjoyed our planned rest day in Long Xuyen, arriving at around 11am after 30 or so km.

We found the ferry crossings easily. They both run regular trips and the first just outside Cao Lahn was free for cyclists.

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Long Xuyen is a large town which always means higher prices but we’ve found a reasonable hotel near the ferry dock which has a parking bay inside where we can leave the tandem.

We spent the afternoon having a long lunch, watching the cargo ships going up and down the river.

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Annie made a new friend who was obsessed with taking selfies… She showed us how to peel and eat this fruit which is called Bong Sem – it’s good for helping with sleep apparently. You peel the acorn like seeds which are known as Hat Sem.

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We have both been struck by how friendly and helpful the people of Vietnam have been so far. With it comes a no nonsense attitude which is great.

Two 70km days ahead which should see us through to Ha Tien.

We were treated to a dragon dance practice session by the river while walking home.

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Cao Lanh

We had a good day yesterday with a nice tail wind, some scenic roads and a nice river town called ‘My An’ – so we had to stop there for a while!  

The country is flat as a pancake and we even got into top gear at one point! We stopped along the way to start to re-learn how to use our DSLR.

  
  
We arrived in Cao Lanh at 3pm then shower, 4 small beers with some friendly Vietnamese, fried noodles, an episode of ‘ the west wing’, asleep by 9.30, alarm at 5.30….

Tomorrow’s challenge is less cycling and 2 river crossings by ferry.

Our Position
10.456N,105.635E

Tanh Hoa – 100km on

Well here we are! A hairy ride through HCMC, a few wrong turns, 5 road side wees, 2 huge bowls of Pho and many smiles and waves later we have completed our first day on our tandem.

We made it, even if the German chocolate biscuits that Gina (our warm showers host) gave us for the journey didn’t…

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We think we did a 100km in total and we’ve stopped overnight at a sleepy town called Tanh Hoa. Our position
10.658degN,106.181W

It seems we are the only foreigners here – one of the joys of arriving by bike – but we are acutely aware we need to improve our basic Vietnamese quickly.

My bum (Annie) is more than feeling the 7 hours in the saddle although Ben’s bikers balm is working it’s magic.

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Our hotel is basic but clean. We feel the bed spread pretty much sums it up…

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Paddy is physically in pretty good shape although mentally exhausted from navigating through the road traffic. Dad will be pleased to know that his suggestion to fit a handlebar mirror was a good one and we would encourage other cycle tourers to think about getting one too. The Mekong Delta is heavily populated resulting in quite a lot of traffic and it’s really useful to know if there are large vehicles coming up behind us. The Vietnamese are not aggressive drivers but they do like to overtake wherever possible, we can use the mirror to slow down/speed up so we’re never  near 2 trucks passing each other. We also wished we had bought pollution masks as the roads in HCMC and other towns can be truly nasty.

The bike performed well – we have a slightly warped disk break (a result from the flight) which we have fixed but need to keep an eye on.