2nd MARCH 2019
Not long after I wake I feel the urgent need to go for a poo. The split second I sit down an absolute torrent cascades out of my arse ! It sounds like I’m taking a piss, which is understandable given that it’s all liquid that’s flowing out. Jesus. I just sit there groaning for a few minutes while waiting to make sure that it’s safe to stand up again. My first thought is to book myself in for an extra night here to let my stomach settle, but Tuy Phong isn’t the prettiest or most interesting town. Plus I’ve already booked myself into a beachside place about 60km further South, so if I can just make it there today I’ll be able to have a Rest Day tomorrow.
The old receptionist lady kindly gives me two bottles of chilled water when I check out, before I make my way back up to the QL1A road for the first part of today’s journey. I stop for my standard breakfast of two Banh Mi, although I have to almost choke them down as I’ve really got no appetite. Their spiciness and unidentifiable meats probably means they’re not the best option in my condition either. Back on the main road I’m being pushed along by a strong tailwind again, and I start thinking about what could have given me the shits. Truthfully, it could have been anything, but I can’t help thinking it was that funny tasting water from Vinh Hy two days ago. Although both bottles were definitely sealed, they did taste horribly stale. Who knows ?
I stay on the QL1A road for the first hour or so today, with the kilometres passing by in a blur. At one point I think I might even reach my destination before check-in again. However, this speedy progress is destined to change very shortly.
Turning off the main road, I ride through a small town, over a river bridge and join a smaller road that follows the coast. It looks like one of those roads that have been constructed with the promise of new resorts being built in the future. The road surface is beautifully smooth and the borders uniformly landscaped, with one tree having been planted every ten metres or so. My first action on this road is a two kilometre slog up a steady hill, in what is now blazing sunshine. This uphill is relatively easy though, as the higher I climb up the slope, the stronger the breeze that pushes me along. It’s when I reach the top that things start to go pear-shaped. I relax and freewheel down the other side, but start to feel head-spinningly dizzy almost immediately. It feels like I could black out and lose consciousness at any second. I have visions of me waking up in a tangled and grazed heap on the road, so slow down to almost a crawl on the descent.
Carrying on I feel pretty light-headed and groggy, and need to stop under one of the planted trees for a break and to collect myself. The problem is that there’s not really any settlements on this road, so I’ve not much choice but to keep going until I reach my accommodation. After five minutes I get back on the bike, but still feel weak and wobbly. Strangely, going uphill seems to be alright, as I’m pedalling and keeping myself moving. It’s when I go downhill afterwards that I begin to feel really crap. About another 5km along the road I pass a dirt track with a cutting and a shady tree overhanging it. It looks so inviting and it’s becoming obvious that I need to stop for a while.
I push my bike through roadside sand to the cutting, rest it on the ground and sit under the shade of the leafy tree. I’m sitting there trying to chill and recover, when I hear a sudden expulsion of air from my front tyre. It has literally just popped while the bike was lying on its side ! Christ, that’s all I need when I feel so rubbish. I upend my bike, get the tyre off and find that a patch on my inner tube has popped upwards on one side to let all the air escape. Fuck Sake. I change inner tubes while sitting cross-legged under the tree, with the tyre feeling frying pan hot while I reattach it. If this second inner tube punctures I think I’m just going to hitch to my hotel. That’s the way I’m feeling now. A quick check on Google maps tells me I’m only halfway through today’s cycle, with about 30km still to be covered. This is going to be a real struggle with the way I’m feeling. The fact that there’s not a cloud in the sky isn’t going to help matters either.
I take an age just sitting there and trying to motivate myself to move. I’ve just about persuaded myself to get going when I feel my arse telling me that I need to evacuate my bowels again. It feels like it could happen immediately, so I’ve no option but to down my shorts and crap right there in the cutting. I say ‘crap’ but it’s almost entirely liquid. It looks like the pale, yellowy colour of urine, mixed with the occasional soft blob of something a little more solid. I’m definitely not well. I’ve also just realised that I need to wipe my arse. I choose the t-shirt that I wear least and have to sacrifice that, simply throwing it away when I’m finished. I’ve got the cold sweats now too, so procrastinate a bit longer. I really need to get moving though, if for no other reason than to get away from the mess I’ve just left on the ground.
Slowly I push my bike through the sand and back to the roadside. Despite feeling awful, I somehow still remember to check my tyres for any spiky burrs that might have attached themselves in the undergrowth. Oddly, I feel alright for the first little while, a bit like when you throw up and feel much better afterwards. Inevitably this feeling doesn’t last too long, with me slogging over undulating roads in an increasingly sandy terrain. Massive sand dunes are the main tourist draw in this part of Vietnam, but I honestly couldn’t care less at the moment. I just want to get where I’m going. There must be only 20km to go now, over more steady slopes where I plod slowly upwards and feel unsettlingly dizzy on the way down. At the top of one hill I join a smaller road and, tantalizingly, can see my final destination further down the coast. Thinking positively, it’s mostly downhill from here with the wind behind me, but in this horrible reality I know it’s still going to be a chore.
Freewheeling down this final slope I feel awful. There’s lots of tall, mature trees at the roadside now, but I don’t stop as most have picnicking families or motorcyclists under their shade. I carry on down the hill, feeling increasingly dizzy as I’m rolling along. By the bottom I’ve slowed almost to walking pace, even though it would have been a lovely downhill. I feel absolutely rotten. There’s a paint shop on a roundabout, where I just prop my bike up against the wall and sit on their front steps in the shade. I feel so very weak. Luckily no staff tell me to move on, so I sit there staring into space and taking small sips of water every now and then. After fifteen minutes I start to feel a bit more human and carry on once again. There must be only 10km to go now. One final effort, then I can relax and have a day off tomorrow.
There’s a slope up from the roundabout, then a big downhill to the shore. I suddenly realise that I feel fine on this downhill, so the rest stop might have done the trick. The wind pushes me along a coastline that is now much easier to ride in the cooler shade of late afternoon. At one point today I thought I might get here before check in. Now I’m just happy to have arrived.
The Song Hien Hotel has a bit of an odd set up. There’s a restaurant on the beach side of the road, with the hotel on the opposite side. I try to check in at the hotel side, only to be told that this building is only used as overflow when it gets extremely busy. I’ll be staying above the beachside restaurant instead, which is just what the doctor would have ordered after today. My bike goes in the back of a huge reception area alongside a handful of motorbikes, although I still chain it to a table anyway to be on the safe side. I trudge slowly up to the first floor, shower and lie under the fan for a while. I’ve made it ! Now I can relax after what has been a pretty rough day.
In the evening I head downstairs for some food, choosing a bland plain omelette and rice. My plan is to bung myself up with rice over the next few days and also get stuck into my Imodium tablets. Once I finish my food I meet the other hotel guests, although I quickly find out that they’re more long-term residents than guests. Fifty-something Australians Mark and Jo originally checked in here for a week, but that was one year ago. They used to own a bar on the island of Koh Samui in Thailand but ‘needed to get out’ after running it for ten years. Their friend, Nina, is a Norwegian psychiatric nurse who also lived on Koh Samui and has known Mark and Jo for twelve years. There’s also Sam, a laid back German martial artist, who has lived in Vietnam for a few years and calls this hotel home. And finally Max, an affable, smiling Swiss guy who’s married to Hien, the daughter of the hotel owners.
They are quite an eclectic bunch of expats, but are extremely friendly and welcome me in. I get to thinking that this place is a bit like Hotel California, where guests check in but can never leave. Aussie Mark pours me a very large whisky and coke, which I accept, even though it’s something I’d never normally drink. The alcohol will either send my guts into meltdown or kill all the bugs that have taken up residence in there. It’s nice to relax and chat nonsense after the day I’ve had, even though I drink a lot more whisky than is sensible for the condition of my guts. I call it quits about 10.00pm and retire upstairs, before what will be a definite Rest Day tomorrow.