Wednesday, 28 July 2010
Pedal Off to China Beach
We are over a crisis!
Couple of days ago - after the rainy Monday- we were up bright and early to take a couple of bikes out for a day exploring further afield. Within approx 10 seconds of mounting up Pants had to recall the little man because the front tyre of his steed was flat. The guy dealt with this simply by pumping what was clearly a slow puncture up and sending us off again.
We set off and after about 10 mins cycling, just going over a bridge to Cam Nam Island my pedal flew off into the traffic. Not just the foot rest bit but the whole arm of the pedal. We were not impressed with the fact that the 10 mins to this point equatated to about 20mins walking back pushing the bikes, turning the hot and humid air blue with curses on the whole of Vietnam and its people. We were so angry - especially because both bikes were in a rotten state anyway - with the seat on Simon's bike wobbly and the breaks useless. We tried to stay calm as we explained (forcibly) to the hoteliers the danger of sending unwitting tourists off on such unmaintained vehicles. Really seriously inconvenient if something happened 25km away on some far out country red road or worse - injurous to the rider in heavy traffic.
We spent the rest of the day walking in the heat. Wandered to Cam Nam island and found a bar (named as a highlight place in the bloody Lonely Planet) called Gecko Bar- crap! Great setting and all but food was crap and I bought some cigs which were musty too... Grr.
By the end of the day we were both over heated and miserably venting spleen on Vietnam. As we walked back into the hotel Si went to the travel agent bloke and said "We need to get out of now. The hotel, the town, Vietnam -we hate it!"
We decided we couldn't deal with any more po faced service at the town bars or restaurants and so nipped to the hotel foodery where Si had a set menu in which everything was garnished with shrimp and I unenthusiastically chose Seafood spaghetti which I didn't think they could mess up.. WRONG! It was a disgusting pink colour swimming in condensed milk and tasting like rice pudding with shrimp in it!! You may say well it is western food and they may not be able to cook that- SO WHY'S IT ON THE BLOODY MENU!!!
We talked long and hard about our experience of the place and thought about bailing to Thailand, Cambodia, home! It was a rock bottom kind of evening. Basically Hoi An- very pretty though it is - is sort of two trade town (tailoring and tourism- and the tailoring is for the tourists) They hit the hay around 10pm so they can get up early and make as much money as they can from tourists- usually this involves shortchanging the people who do patronise their places. We have definitely over stayed their welcome here.
I can't remember which of the guys in the Magic Sponge guesthouse warned us- but they were right- you won't get the genuine response from people in Vietnam. It seems correct by our reckoning- people often serve you with real po faces and then short change you. They are making money from tourism but put nothing into it- they are essentially being spoiled by the tourist money (money for nothing!)
Anyway...rant over! Yesterday morning we felt a bit better about things and decided to try for bikes again. I think our "forcible" chat with them the day before sunk in because the bike man made a big deal of showing us the bikes saying "very good bike" So off we went- we cycled to China Beach the capital of GI R&R during the "American War" 70 miles of uninterupted golden sand as far as the eyes can see, fringed with coconut trees. Mountainous island shadows along the horizon and very very few people.
Devoid of beach gear, Pants stripped down to his shreddies. Girls you should have seen him - boy was I proud! His farmer's tan on lower arms and legs and his glistening white torso, set off by the white sand. He galloped down to the sea periodically hitching his old brown cotton boxers to prevent another full moon festival breaking out.
Meanwhile I sat under a coconut tree in long trousers and shirt with tilley hat pulled low over my beach sullen face reading and growling at the touts. (it was like being a grumpy 15 year old at Durdle Door all over again!!) After Pants had played in the water a few times and come running back each time happier and happier - we wandered to a beach side restaurant and ate freshly grilled crab and squid.
Met a Russian guy who regaled us with some strange gurgling story about vodka before leaping off to run around the beach in a giant hamster ball. All this bliss eventually drew to an inevitable close as thunder grumbled and the sky bruised. We leapt aboard our iron ponies and headed back to Hoi An amidst the mopeds and the carts and rickshaws. I got bumped in the back wheel about five times by moped drivers. We made it back just as the rains really began to lash down.
Today is our final full day in Hoi An (hooray!) We've decided to keep on keeping on in the hope that Vietnam will redeem itself or suffer the consequences of our scathing reviews goddamnit! Seriously though, a few days ago, I was beginning to think I too could grow to love the smell of Napalm in the mornings!!! (heh heh- we never promised political correctness here!)
:-) Missing home and everyone.. Hope everyone's well..