Day 4, Yen Cat to Tan Ky, 91km.
We spent the night of day 3 in Yen Cat and chanced upon around a hundred children all practicing Taekwondo in the middle of town. So, we showed up to see their spectacle, and instead became the centre of attention (absolutely fine with me). Some of the children were shy and preferred to watch from a distance, but the majority swooped in, asked questions, confidently chatted away to us, and, took selfies.
My bike has suffered slightly from the distance covered so far, and so I spent the whole of day 4 stuck in second gear. But, it was a blessing in disguise. Despite day 4 being the longest yet, with a total distance of 91km, I enjoyed taking in the views at a slower pace. After around the 50km mark, the undulating hills flattened out to a plain of rice paddies, stretching up into mountains behind. The landscape reminded me of a Mediterranean scene, joined by red roofs and Catholic churches. But the scene soon became distinctly Vietnamese after spotting ladies in ‘non la’ (conical hats) tending to their crops and motorbikes whizzing past leaving billows of dust in their wake.
The roads throughout day 4 were pretty smooth, but there was a strip in the middle undergoing roadworks. As I made my way past the men at work, I couldn’t help but notice their striped gear and thought “What a cracking set of uniforms.”, only for it to be revealed to me over lunch, that they were in fact, local convicts serving their time out on the HCM highway. No crimes of fashion there.
I’ve always been a ‘nouc dua’ (coconut water) advocate since living in Saigon, but the world of ‘nouc mia’ (sugarcane juice) has been passed on to me since starting the ride. It is unbelievable that purely natural ingredients can produce such a sweet elixir, as long as you catch them before they shove ten tablespoons of sugar in it too…
Our day 4 destination was Tan Ky, and it proved to be a pleasant little town with a good row of ‘bia hoi’ joints as well as a perfectly placed bridge overlooking the valley. Whilst out for a drink, an old fella took a particular shining to Damo's thighs and provided a good 10 minutes of unbridled fondling (see picture below). We avoided the accommodation from last year due to ghost stories and a superstitious support team, but ended up in quite a comfortable hotel on the edge of town, without any evidence of a haunting.
Day 4 has been my favourite yet. That may change as the ride goes on, but the countryside of the North Central Coast has been fantastic so far.