Friday, November 29, 2002

Tuy Hoa

Friends: To the victors, evidently, go the better roads. The northern part of the one thousand mile long Highway 1 connecting Hanoi and Saigon was smooth and wide and clear sailing, but the southern sector has had only a few short stretches of the quality of the north. All too much of it is under construction and in great need of repaving. We had been warned by three different travelers who had bused the southern section of the road that it would be virtually unbikeable. They said they barely survived the bus ride.

None of these people were bicyclists, so I knew enough not to take their warnings too seriously, though they did rattle Laurie a bit. She's learning though not to pay attention. Back in Laos a veteran traveler went on and on trying to talk us out of bicycling a stretch of road through the mountains. She had been in a bus accident the day before and was convinced it would be suicide to bike such a road with all its blind and steep turns. I've heard such stories over and over and know they are grotesquely exaggerated. She had Laurie alarmed though and inclined to take a bus, but Laurie trusted my experience and was willing to bike it. It was indeed a strenuous ride, but not dangerous in the least.

One of those who told us it would be impossible to bike the southern part of Highway 1 was one of the older Australians we met on our trip to Halong Bay. He asked Laurie, with total bewilderment, why she would want to bicycle around Southeast Asia. It was as simple as she likes to ride her bike, though she could go on ad infinitum on the many reasons, as I could too. The roads have indeed been rough, but rarely do they reduce our speed to under ten miles per hour. We had also been warned that there was more traffic in the south than the north. That may be true when we close in on Saigon, but so far there is a lot less traffic, both motorized and unmotorized. We still get blasted by horns, but not every 30 seconds as it was in the north. Our only complaint is the rain. It turns out we chose the rainiest month to bicycle this part of Vietnam. If we had known we wouldn't be here, though we both agree that we are happy that we didn't know. Lonely Planet's Southeast Asia book does say the rainy season ends in October. But its Vietnam book mentions time after time in each blurb on the various beach towns we have been passing through that November is the wettest month.

Its not the first contradiction we have discovered in the Lonely Planet books, the so-called traveler's bible. The bike specific Lonely Planet book for Southeast Asia continually contradicts its all-travelers Vietnam book. And I'll resist ranting about the many inaccuracies in Lonely Planet's road atlas. It continually underestimates the mileage between towns, sometimes by as many as 50 kilometers, as if someone messed up between kilometers and miles when determining the distances. We want our money back.

We are assured that in another 100 miles we will escape the rain, and most assuredly when we turn in land to go to Saigon. That won't be soon enough, especially for Laurie who had a flat tire spate herself today in the rain, though only a pair, half of the four I suffered the other day. She's also spewing venom on a regular basis at the bike mechanic who talked her out of putting on a rear fender. She and her gear are a mess after a day of rain. A fender would have made a huge difference.

Later, George

No comments: