13th FEBRUARY 2019
I’m downstairs for breakfast at 8.30am, just as Lin has requested. She’s just about to leave for work, but has left me all the ingredients for a beef noodle soup on the kitchen table. All I have to do is put my ingredients into a bowl and pour boiling water over them. Even with this simple task she doesn’t depart until she’s happy that I know what I’m doing. This will be the first time that I’ve (knowingly) drunk Vietnamese tap water on this trip, although I’m not overly worried at this point as Lin’s tap does have a filter attachment.
In the morning I go to meet an Aussie bloke named Lee, a fellow cycle tourer from the Warmshowers website. He isn’t able to host cyclists as his apartment is too small, so instead we catch up for a coffee across the road from where he lives. He’s a big lad for a cyclist and, in his own words, ‘likes to have only slightly more cycling days than rest days’ when touring. He also tells me that he doesn’t enjoy hills or exerting himself too much, yet he still managed a 1,000km trip down the coast from Da Nang to Ho Chi Minh City. This is the same route I’ll be taking so I load up on information as well as a couple of coconut iced coffees. He’s an interesting guy too, having worked as a teacher in Vietnam for the past seventeen years. Currently he teaches foreign applicants how to pass their English Language exam as part of the Australian citizenship process. He does all this via Skype whilst living in Da Nang, and hasn’t taught in a classroom for three years now. His next big cycle trip will be from Athens to Croatia, so I’m able to pass on tips from my European cycle, while he clues me up about what to expect in Southern Vietnam.
I’m back at the Homestay around mid-day, with the intention of cycling out to see the massive white Lady Buddha statue just along the coast. However, after getting back I start to feel a bit weird and weak, like my stomach is playing up. I begin to wonder if this is a result of Lin’s tap water this morning, or maybe even the ice in my coconut coffees. Part of me wants to go and lie down for an hour, but then I’d probably fall asleep and miss seeing the Lady Buddha statue and pagoda if I did. So, even though I’m feeling slightly crap, I know I should make the effort.
The Lady Buddha statue is 8km from my Homestay, but it’s huge, white form is visible on a hill to my left as soon as I reach the seafront. I’m dawdling along painfully slowly though, feeling faint and with my stomach churning like a washing machine. I carry on to the end of the beach, past seafood restaurants and a flotilla of small fishing boats at the sheltered North end of the bay. The road then twists along the rocky coastline of the Son Tra Peninsula, with a handful of hot climbs that I struggle up sluggishly in my delicate state. I’m not sure if my perspiration is down to cold sweats or the baking heat. At the top I leave my bike with the car park attendant and walk round the Linh Ung pagoda first. Architecturally it’s all curved roofs and dragon sculptures, giving the impression it has stood here for centuries, when in fact it was only completed in 2010.
All the while I’m moving round the pagoda grounds I keep catching glimpses of the giant Lady Buddha statue a little further up the hill. I make my way towards it, staying in the shade as much as I can, before reaching the level ground of the temple complex. The colossal statue in the centre is an impressive sixty-seven metres high, making it the tallest Buddha statue in Vietnam. This gleaming white hunk of marble stands overlooking Da Nang Bay and is meant to help protect sailors and fishermen in the waters below. There are seventeen floors inside the statue, each one representing a different Buddha, but that’s a climb too far for me with the way I’m feeling today. I content myself with ground-level temples and the amazing views over Da Nang city, before retrieving my bike and freewheeling back downhill. On the way back I start to feel a bit better too, as if I’ve managed to walk off that slight feeling of nausea. I stop at a Plastic Chair Cafe beside a lake, where a seat and a couple of Banh Mi seems to bring me back to normal. As suddenly as I felt shit this lunchtime, I feel better just as quickly now.
I take a walk across the river and into Da Nang city in the late afternoon as I need to get a couple of spare inner tubes. My current spares sit at the bottom of my panniers each day, virtually forgotten about, so it took me a while to realise that two were actually the wrong size. It’s lucky I’ve not needed them thus far, as I’m sure twenty-six inch inner tubes won’t fit twenty-eight inch wheels. Darkness has fallen by the time I get the spares and have some dinner, so I make my way back via the illuminated Dragon Bridge. I’d seen this quirky-looking crossing from the next bridge on the river as I walked into town, so made a point of walking over it on my way back. The dragon is quite a sight, spanning the entire bridge, with three long humps in the middle like a Loch Ness monster. There’s a tail on the city side and an enormous dragon head on the other, all brilliantly lit up at night and changing colours from golden to green to blue. The dragon is also programmed to breathe fire and spray water, but apparently only on weekend nights. I’m here slap bang in the middle of the week, unfortunately.
After crossing the bridge I walk along the riverside, passing restaurants, food stalls and a gigantic carp-dragon fountain spraying a tumbling arc of water into the river. When I get back to the Homestay the kids are in the lounge. Michael is studying again, while Cherry has come out of her shell completely, showing off that she knows her colours in English and that she can count up to ten. She’ll probably be fluent before she’s in high school with all the English speaking guests they get at the Homestay. I sit chatting with the family for a while, with Lin constantly feeding me biscuits and water, Michael studying and Cherry high-fiving me at every opportunity. They’re a lovely bunch so I’m not fussed about having a late night, especially as I’ve only got a 25km ride down the coast to Hoi An tomorrow.