Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Mui Ne, the end of the East Sea coast for now.

Written (to start at least) from a lovely tropical garden outside the doorway of my guesthouse about 3 km from Mui Ne town, toward Phan Thiet, through which we will pass tomorrow.  It's the afternoon of the 27th of March, 2017 and this will be the end of our southbound run down the East Sea coast from Halong Bay in the North.  The bike has run 2800 km since we've started, but that counts every little ride along the way, most of which were "there and back" rides (so double the distance) and some were simply diversions from the straight and narrow.  We're really about 1250 or 1300 km of highway travel in any one direction, so there's been some serious sight seeing along the way.  From here we could continue on pleasant small roads along the coast to La Gi and Vung Tau, but it's time to start making some serious decisions, and I'm still dithering.
My Mui Ne guesthouse for many years.


But how we got here. . .it was almost easy actually.  The first leg was Quy Nhon to Nha Trang.  When I was young and full of beans that wasn't a particularly long day's ride, but at this point, it will do nicely, enough after all.  There was the small matter of the big camera's repair scheduled for completion at 11:00 which shaped the morning in Quy Nhon.  After standard packing (about 15 minutes if everything is spread out all over the room) after packing, I was out for a splendid breakfast egg sandwich. . .some of everything as well as two eggs stuffed into a baguette.  She just kept smushing it down until she got it all in.  Good sturdy bread crust or we'd have had a blowout.  There was time to write up the diary in a very modern coffee shop with real chairs and tables and every day Vietnamese prices (I've learned to look for coffee shops away from the tourist zones. . .noodles and sandwiches too for that matter.)

Anyway, the camera was ready with its lens retraction mechanism fully functional and its optics all spruced up when I turned up to claim it at 10;45. It's a major excavation down to the little printed circuit board that had failed, so most of the camera is available to be dusted off when you start to put it back together. . .no dust spots on the sensor.  Parted from half of a week's travel budget and still sighing, I pointed us out of town to the south along the coast and we were gone.  This is another of those really lovely rides, frequent seascapes to dream about later, enough back and forth along the sweeping curves to keep interest high, mountains to the right, cliffs and ocean to the left, just a lovely ride.  There's a lot of variety in the day, some riding through flat rice fields, but usually with rugged, brushy mountains close by on on one side or the other.  About a hundred km from Nha Trang you climb right up into the hills and ride along a cliff top road that, on those rare occasions you get to travel it alone, is just stunning.  This trip the heavy truck traffic, climbing hard up to the cliff top level over and over,  mixed with lots of buses and cars, everyone pushing and shoving (though mostly staying in line and alive), there wasn't a lot of time to be gazing out to sea.  I only pulled off to the side once and tried not to flinch while I took my photos with four wheeled death snarling and honking by, at my elbow.  Ingenious local people have run pipes up the mountainside to pick up water from the several streams that drain off the heights, and hooked the pipes to hoses and offer to wash the trucks and pigs as they come by.  That would be fine except they also let the nozzles spray straight in the air when they're not working. . .what else do you do with all that water??  but the fine mist carries all along the road and messes up your face shield and glasses.  Darn.

I had to get off the road a ways to see what the coast looks like. . .just past Cam Ranh a few km.

This thumb of rock stands at the peak of the hill and you can see it for miles coming southbound.  

Traffic passing within inches of my hip pocket while I focus the camera. . .nerve wracking, but what an island!!  Almost to Dai Lanh, southbound

The clifftop ride ends abruptly when you drop down into the little town of Dai Lanh.  This is a town with some severe limits, the ocean on one side is non-negotiable, and there's very little room between the ocean and the highway. . .and even less between the highway and the Railway. . .and the railway is right at the steep side of the mountains.  So it's a long skinny string bean of a town,albeit with a number of quite good little restaurants along the way and several guest houses now (only one the only time I've stayed here, years ago), but the town is more than just worth visiting at least once in a life time.  If nothing else, the restaurants and the beach make a good combination.  This trip we slipped into the port district (there wasn't a port district when we first came here, but now they have a very respectable port dock jutting out into the bay and a lot of fishing boats load ice and unload fish here these days.  The big surprise this year is that they're replacing the old port sea wall with one very much like what is being installed at Xuan Hai back up the coast.  They've had a hardened seafront for several years. . .the harbor is an anchorage, not a beach-launch site, so a hardened shoreline has less of an impact on the fishermen's lifestyle, but there have always been a lot of small homes and shops too close to the tide line.  Perhaps the new sea wall will make a difference for them.  At the moment it's a gosh-awful mess, but that's construction.
Sitting on the end of the port dock at Dai Lanh

Look at that tented storage area on top of the cabin. . .haven't seen that before, but I think it must be just a warm weather-fair weather thing. . .

The pagoda in Dai Lanh. . .still under construction last trip, in business now!

Seawall construction in Dai Lanh. . .precast units locked together with cast in place concrete.  The berm on the right is just the beach sand dug up to make a coffer to work behind. . .ocean on the other side.

From Dai Lanh on into Nha Trang it's pretty plain riding until you're about 18 km from the city, when there's a choice to get off the highway and take the cliff top and water front ride the rest of the way into the city. . .I never do anything else any more (I might not even remember how the old, main entrance works any more), this is spectacularly pretty riding and a pleasant un-winding after what seems like a long day on the road these days.
Rolling down the highway, rice wherever it will work, mountains otherwise (steep and scrubby mostly)

Nha Trang is of course famous for sea food restaurants. . .these are fresh off the boat.



Somewhere near Nha Trang there's a black and tan billy goat with a grin.

My favorite hotel room from years past was actually available, a corner room with a window and a balcony sort of walkway outside. . .so that was easily settled.  The price is up to $12.50 USD now, but that's still fine for such a pleasant place, only half a block from the beach and direct access to little Russia just a block or so away.  Little Russia. . .my name. . .but a real place.  Or maybe it's just that I don't know my way around Nha Trang well enough and if I did I'd know that Nha Trang is really just a suburb of. . .er. . .somewhere in Russia.  Almost every shop sign or window dressing is at least Russian-Vietnamese. . .and might include English too.   There are Vodka shops with every brand on earth, , ,and whiskey too of course.  There are shops selling all the "American" sports clothes brands, Nike, North Face and so forth all made in Viet Nam. . .with big Russian tags.  There are big, good looking blonde kids (guys and gals) outside most of the restaurants and boutiques, handing out Russian flyers and reassuring the visitors that this is the real place.  I had one short but funny conversation with a pretty young blonde lady, not in Russian or English, but we both had a little Vietnamese.  Good grief.  She was handing out flyers for an Indian restaurant, that looked good until I read the right hand side of the menu.  Nha Trang is no doubt the Russian vacation capital of.. . .well... .Viet Nam for sure, and maybe the whole world.  If I understand correctly, a Russian person can step onto a plane in frozen snowy Moscow and get off it at Cam Ranh (just down the coast 28 km, a regional airport), change into a bikini and hit the beach without delay or a visa or. . .not bad.

Nha Trang also has a vigorous and gorgeous fishing fleet but I've spent weeks over the years here and have a really complete photo collection.  For this trip, Nha Trang was just a fun overnight stop, strolling through Little Russia, trying local noodles and a fruit dessert they called "Thai" che. . .mostly just cut up fruit with some coconut shreds, some sweetener and some ice. . .very nice, but I like Hue che better. . .

One big treat was another ramble through the incredible  silk embroidery gallery whence came the wallpaper on my computer at work. . .the place is full of simply stunning images, often back lit and with hidden meaning behind the silk fabric. . .you have to look twice most of the time.




Probably the biggest treat though was meeting Semen, an 11-year old kid from Russia, traveling with his grandmother and her friend. . .about whom much could be said.  She has a body shape much like mine (er, let's just say, "abundant"), though feminine, a grand sun tan, and a collection of bikinis.  Awesome.  But Semen was a treat.  His English is still a little limited and he is very precise about his use of vocabulary and sentence structure. . .and he's a darned thoughtful young man.  We broke the ice that evening after supper and had a longer conversation in the morning while saying goodbye (and promising to write) so we'll perhaps become pen pals--or whatever the right term is for people who write these days. . .no pens involved of course.
Semen--a really bright 11-year old from Russia.

But that was it for Nha Trang this year. . .a really good but double priced bowl of noodles and beef, and a glass of coffee and two iced teas to write the diary over . .just four blocks from the beach, and safely into a Vietnamese neighborhood. . .with no other tourists immediately obvious.  And thus to the highway.  The road out of Nha Trang is a little hard to find the first time, but the signage is actually pretty good if you know that "San Bay Cam Ranh" means "Cam Ranh Airport". . .and then, if you're paying attention you're lead by the nose onto a cliff top road (they do those a lot) 28 km straight to the airport, and 5 km later right onto QL-1 and you're on your way south.  A kid could do it, especially if he has a phone.

There's a town called Ca Na along the way to Mui Ne and Phan Thiet where I've found the harbor in the past but not the town. . .don't ask, I can be pretty dense at times.  Anyway, if you stick strictly to the highway Ca Na consists of a dozen nuoc mam factories (dense?  the aroma is dense!), one gas station and a little later, a beach front resort (too upscale for me I think).  The harbor is actually a large dredged basin and the town is on the far side of the basin, away from the highway.  It's also a complete maze of tiny streets, though none of them seem to dead end at stairs, which has happened to me elsewhere.  Anyway, having seen there was in fact a town there on G. Earth, I was determined to explore it, and having entered it and wiggled my way to the beach, I even managed to find my way out again. . .but it wasn't pretty.  There's also a brand new cliff top road (they do these really well, and there are more every year to explore) running back north, way above the ocean, which was whipped white this particular day, strong northerly winds for the past few days have raised a big sea just offshore.  But the important thing about Ca Na this year was the flat tire just leaving town.  No kidding.  Oh well, the bike can pull herself along if I walk alongside and feather the clutch, so we don't ruin tire and rim, and a local gentleman walked along with us, offering continuous encouragement by miming pumping up a tire and pointing ahead.  It was about a km UP the highway out of town, and plenty hot, but the tire got fixed (two little sharp pieces of wire???) for $1.50 USD, and the coffee while I watched was $.75. . .and my local guide asked for a dollar.  Pretty easy solution really. . .I carry everything I need to do the job, but it's a lot of work and I'm not well practiced, so, if needs be, I can probably fix my own flat tire in the middle of nowhere, but I don't look forward to doing it!
On the new cliff top road near Ca Na. . .new vistas!!

To make nuoc mam you need fish and salt.  Here's your salt, the fish are out there.

Making sea salt. . .evaporation ponds and sunshine.  That and a lot of raking and shoveling to collect the white crystals off the bottom of the ponds later.  Acres and Acres of ponds.

The road from the fishboat harbor. . .back to the highway at the end.
After a 1 km push. . .a tire patch man and a glass of iced coffee.  H'mm.  Better him than me!

Almost to the coast near Mui Ne.  Battering cross wind (no, you can't see it, but trust me)


the ride from the Ca Na to Mui Ne only requires that you pay attention to how far you've gone and whether or not there are large sand dunes close by on your left.  Not the first dunes, but the second (depending on what you call a large sand dune) will be red, and there will be a good blue and white highway sign on your right, indicating Mui Ne 40 odd km away to your left.  If you miss that then you'll end up riding clear into Phan Thiet on QL1 and having to backtrack on the Mui Ne road, a lot of extra riding, and you'll miss all the wonderful beach front riding along the coast.  However, on a day like this you'd also miss the horrendous crosswind for the first leg, from the highway in to the beach, about 15 km, and positively harsh cross wind. . .no wonder our gas mileage had been so good out on the highway where it was a straight tail wind most of the time!!

Mui Ne is one of three places I've run off with the hotel room key in the past.  In one instance I doubled back the same day and spent another night in the same room, after apologies.  Another key I eventually ended up discarding, there was no identifying information on it and I'd not written down even the name of the hotel.  In Mui Ne, I carried off a key with a tag and the little guest house's name on it. . .no address. . .but back in Hanoi weeks later I wrapped it up and took it to the post office addressed to the Name and something like "3 km south of Mui Ne Town" for an address.  The post office took it and by golly delivered it.  And thus I became facebook friends with the young daughter of the house.  She has since gone off to college (so I missed her on two trips through) and gotten married and had a baby (he's five and a half now) and moved back to Mui Ne to help with the guest house and start her own boutique. . .and is doing very well, thank you!  So it'd been 7 years at least since I rode off with the key and we'd not met in the inbetween, but when I rode up and settled the bike, she spotted me as I took off my helmet.  The bald headed beard is pretty memorable apparently.  Anyway, it was a fun reunion, with lots of visiting and filling in history.

Messing around Mui Ne I revisited all my favorite spots (this is a favorite spot, period) and found things more or less in order.  There's been a lot more construction between Mui Ne and Phan Thiet, so there are very few easy accesses to the 23 km long beach unless you're staying in a beachfront hotel (my guesthouse is across the street from the beach).  There's another new beach front highway too, extending the run all the way from Mui Ne back north to Phan Ri Cua, which isn't right on the main highway, so I've never bothered with it. . .too much of a rush to get to Mui Ne.  The new ride through the dunes (no cliff tops here, but great dunes) is pretty sand spectacular, and the little town at the harbor is just fine. . .tight but not tiny streets, good lunch (okay, it was too big, but really good, and late in the day, so I was starved and ate it all and then wondered if that had been really wise.) and for me at least, a great find. . .yet another species of small fishing boat I'd not seen before.  I haven't been here to chronicle the history, but it seems likely this is the product of the local factory making round and almost round one-man fiberglass fishing boats.  The new species is much much bigger, not 7 or 8 feet in diameter, but more like 18' long and 9' wide. . .a big sturdy boat, with a diesel engine and a lot of real timber structure.. .and molded over a basket. . .impressive.  So we have some new boat photos to archive.  They won't make it into the book, it's already in the hands of the translators and layout people, but I'll spread them around.

So two days passed in Mui Ne and the surrounding countryside. . .a good time, enough riding, a good visit to my local mechanic to tweak the clutch and throttle adjustments and oil the chain, lovely noodles in the market in the evening (Mui Ne market in the evening is the place to eat!! your choice of too much good food, and the smiles are big and the prices are right.).  And then the decision:
Getting a small fishing boat ashore. . .getting the axle under the boat is the trick.  After that it's just horsepower to rush up over the sand.

Sunset at Mui Ne
Traditional wooden fishing boats (though a lot of them are coated with fiberglass these days)

Sand pines??  They look a little pine-ish, but no.

Phan Ri Cua. . .harbor taxi a lot like in Phan Thiet, run by ladies, using huge single sculling oars.  Slow and ugly (the boats.  )

A new species of fishing boat, molded up town somewhere and finished up here on the river bank.  Phan Ri Cua


And it's going to get a brand new China diesel!  Not a rebuilt!!  These power everything here, rock crushers, compressors, table saws. . .and fishing boats.  If I got it right, the boat, complete with motor and running gear, ready to go fishing will be just a bit over $5000 USD.  Impressive.

The decision that's needed: To continue south into the delta, a decision that implies a full day of terribly hard dense highway congestion into and past Saigon. . .followed on the return trip by another day just as bad.. . .probably the worst consistent traffic anywhere in country, and it's basically unavoidable if you want to get to the Delta.  Or not.  When I'm home I miss Viet Nam. When I'm here in country, I'm homesick for Seattle (well, not its weather).  When I'm along the East Sea I miss the mountains in the west and of course, vice versa.  There were reasons to continue into the Delta this year, but it would have to have been a very short visit. . .and I decided to do it, loaded up, and rode into and through Phan Thiet (just barely glancing at one of my favorite big harbors) and out onto the highway headed into the City.  I lasted about ten kilometers I guess, maybe a bit more.  The noise and stink and crush of the traffic (still just outside Phan Thiet, not even close to the City yet) was awful.  So I stopped the horse, dug out the map, checked out the alternatives again, and did a big U turn across all four lanes of the highway, headed back north to the junction with QL 28, and thence across the mountains over to the western edge of the country at Gia Nghia. So much for the delta!

It was  a lovely ride with one caveat. . .QL 28 doesn't really go anywhere important for quite a ways, so it has almost no traffic (wow!) and is pretty narrow at first, running through upland farm and garden countryside.  It climbs quickly as you head west, and narrows too, passes into forested land and steepens and narrows again and again, making a really tortuous path up into the mountains, and "path" becomes almost the right word.  It's paved the whole way except where it's stripped back for repairs (which are a bit tough, big rock, not yet compacted into the craters) but the scenery just gets better as you climb and the sky was blue with puffy white clouds.  Before we reached the summit (which wasn't all that clear really) the road was quite narrow and partly broken and I was starting to have visions of a really hard crossing, but it never got that bad and beyond the summit, clearly on the down slope, it widened out again to be a perfectly nice country road into Di Linh.
Eastern QL-28, an hour or so from Phan Thiet

Road narrows a lot as you climb toward the summit, rough stretches under repairs, which are rougher still!  Eastern QL 28 before the summit. . .before Di Linh

Coffee in abundant bloom


Di Linh sits at the junction of QL 20 and QL 28.  QL 20 is the main road from Saigon to Da Lat, so it's IMPORTANT.  And, as it turns out, once past Di Linh, QL 28 takes on a different role in life, it's the supply and support route for the big power house in this part of the world. . .and roads to power houses here are well taken care of.  This edition of QL 28 is high, wide, and handsome. . .easy riding through pretty mountainsides with the big lake reaching up into the canyons all around.  Made for a photographer who rides motorbikes!
Western QL 28, past Di Linh, headed toward Gia Nghia, the powerhouse is still a long ways ahead, that's a really big lake!

A hardscrabble farm no doubt, but coffee growing nicely.  This was jungle country when I was a kid.


To put a road through the mountains you have to make road cuts. . .and sometimes the uphill slope doesn't approve.  Water control and slope armoring are extensive, but weren't enough here.

The afternoon continued hot and the white puffy clouds began to look a little black and purple in places and about 30 km from Gia Nghia we found the first rain. . .great big drops whacking into the pavement and the face shield. . .easy decision, stop and change into rain clothes!  And so from a puffy cloud morning to a hard rain shower, we had a variety in the day, but we rode out of the rain before we got to town (though the streets were still running water).  I thought I knew where I was going in Gia Nghia, I spent a pleasant night here some years back, but that time I arrived on QL 14 (the main north-south road through this part of the world) and this time, arriving from the East, I couldn't find the old neighborhood.  Odd.  I wonder where it's moved to??  No matter, it's a big town and there are lots of good hotels. . .I liked the second one I looked at very well. . .coffee shop next door, a whole street of rice and noodle restaurants just beyond, and. . .a real desk in my room.  Wow.


Friday, March 24, 2017

Inchworm to Hoi An and on to Quy Nhon, avoiding obvious solutions


Begun from Sa Huynh, about 110 km short of Quy Nhon.  March 22, 2017, but continued in Quy Nhon on the 24th and finally finished on the 25th.
The weather the past few days has been superb, as long as you didn't mind the headwind.  It's been around 15-20 kn out of the south, or sometimes with a bit of east to it. . .gusty, mostly just a pesky sort of head wind, though now and then a gust hit the bike hard enough to make her stagger a bit and snatch her breath.  By and large, she just wants a lot of extra petrol to keep up the pace. The sky has been as clear as I've ever seen it in this latitude, bright blue above and only a little hazy off into the distance.

The route.  We've avoided some obvious choices.  Heck, the only obvious choice for this whole leg of the trip is straight down QL-1, the main drag of Viet Nam.  We've done that a number of times and it is still the obvious choice if you're trying to cover distance.  If you're more interested in scenery and sentimental value, there might be other possibilities.

So, quickly, where we went:  From Hue, not too early in the morning, we took the road out to the island at Thuan An, more or less 13 km directly eastward, away from the obvious route, and from Thuan An town we followed old QL49B, the narrow road the whole 40-odd km length of the island, and then another ten km almost the wrong direction around the end of the inland sea and back to the highway.  That would have been 3 sides of a square, but since we were right there and maybe not coming back, we finally explored the road that goes the other way (away from the highway, along the beach, through some lovely countryside) to its end at a very very flat ocean beach, at low tide.  That was by accident but the sea was so far from the shore it was a major hike through the sand.  As such a remote dead end the beach had little of the usual clutter of popular beach spots, the opposite really.  Someone had tried to build a nice canopy for a beachfront restaurant just a little too close to the water, and the footings for the offshore columns had washed out.  Very sad.  It was sort of lonely there on the beach, I was all by myself with the ghost of the restaurant and a few beached small boats. . .but it was beautiful anyway, sand, sea, rocks, and anchored fishing boats.  My sort of place really.
Too close to a little stream, which shifted just a ways it seems.  And that was that.  It looks like they never even got to serve a can of beer.

Hot sun, blue sky, south wind, sand, sea, boats and rocks. . .gee.  The end of a little road I've known about for years.  It used to be terribly rough and slippery muddy so I never got here until today.

A kayak paddle works really well with these little woven bamboo canoes.  The tide needs to rise a couple of feet to float her off though.

Up close--the gap that makes the island an island.  It's casually used by good sized boats, so the bar is not worse that others along this coast. . .and actually, the ebb is probably lighter here than at the northern outlet, which gets most of the river flow,  But that's just a guess.

The end of the land on the mainland side

It's common for a larger boat to carry several round baskets out to sea to fish, but this is the first time I've seen bamboo canoes carried the same way. . .looks perfectly reasonable, and the little canoes often fish alongshore in the ocean anyway.  There were two loads like this within five minutes of each other.

That amounted to eating the frosting off the cake I guess, starting the day with some of the nicest places, but really, the whole day was pretty delightful.  I stopped for lunch at the lagoon-side seafood restaurant in Lang Co where I've enjoyed a number of good lunches (the best with the staff sitting all together between lunch and dinner rush a few years back).  If you ever pass that way, it's called "Sao Bien 1" (google says that means "starfish". . .might be, though they don't serve starfish that I know of and I wouldn't be surprised to find a more poetic translation somewhere. . .maybe Star of the Sea??). If you look closely, you'll see that the sign out on the highway is in Lao script as well as Vietnamese, which is a dead giveaway.  Go all the way to the back and sit on the deck over the bay under the shade.  You might have to wait while the staff handles a busload of Vietnamese ladies. . .but it could be worse.
They delayed my lunch half an hour I suppose, but they were a kick to watch and listen to , a whole bus load, at least three generations, no particular moderation in manner or speech. . .not quite rowdy mind you, but. . .

It finally came. . .seafood fried rice.  but no shrimp.  Darn.

After lunch   we rode quickly through Lang Co town and up the mountainside across Hai Van pass.  This has been the scene of my near death twice (trucks passing or broken down and being passed on curves), the worst fog I've ever ridden in, only very few feet of visibility, and most normally, a hazy teasing sort of passage, with the distance almost hidden and what might be wonderful views obscured by fog, cloud and rain.  This time it was clear, completely brightly clear overhead and only a little hazy off in the far distance.  From the summit, the coast far north of Lang Co was clear and the whole city of Da Nang (goodness it's grown) stood out to the south like I've never seen it.
I've never seen Da Nang so clearly from the summit. . .just far enough down hill to get the power lines out of view, Hai Van Pass.

Looking back to the north from just below the summit.  That's hard work for the little horse with me and 50 pounds of stuff, but she plows right up in 3rd gear.

Looking back north past Lang Co. . .a long ways.

And so down into Da Nang, through it without mis-step (I do love gps cell phones) and on to Hoi An.  I had visiting to do there and did it, mostly saying good bye to people I've known for years, but also to the town which has changed so enormously.  There were a few tailor shops ten years ago, mostly focusing on silk for ladies and suits for men.  And there was a major boatyard building beautiful fishing vessels right on the edge of town.  Now the whole world comes here to buy tailored clothes and there are tailor shops shoulder to shoulder for blocks, with very little room left for restaurants, bakeries, coffee shops and bars. Now silk is just a side line. . .since so many people come from Europe, Japan, Korea, and the States, cold country, there's just as much wool as silk and leather and cotton too. My goodness.  Oh.  And the boatyard is long since gone, condominiums and hotels now. I can hardly imagine a finer place for people watching though.  Just trying to identify the language you're hearing is great fun, and the variety of people on view is incomparable.
Years ago I watched a major kids kung fu demonstration in this school yard.  That was fun, but this crowd of little kids was even livelier.

A very narrow coffee shop, about to open in the old quarter, Hoi An

With all the retail at street level, you have to look up to enjoy the architecture.  "Ancient Town", Hoi An

We used to come for the architecture. . .now. . .the tailors.  The restaurants are still fine though.

Change??  Even the iconic little ferry boats running across the river to Kim Bong are gone now, replaced by a shiny new (galvanized steel) motorbike-only bridge across to the island.  What a surprise!  It's funny, no doubt a huge convenience to the considerable population of Kim Bong who know their way around, but for me, who was always happy to be delivered to the ferry landing (since that's also where the three boat yards were) it was a whole new challenge, coming in from the wrong end of the island and trying to find my way back to where the ferry used to come.  Managed though, with a little help.
It's a motorbike only bridge.  You could probably squeeze the smallest sort of car between the hand rails, but the spans are a little saggy just under dead weight, I don't think I'd like to see a big live load on it.

From Hoi An in times past I've regarded Quy Nhon as a reasonable destination.  Since it seems like a faster trip now with the better highway, why is it that it seems longer than I really want to ride?  Well, it does, so from Hoi An, we took the new, not-quite-direct road to Tam Ky, stopping now and then to peek over the sand dune to the sea.  At one turnoff we found two little sand and sea restaurants, one completely full and the one next door almost empty.  The Victoria Resort (think very big and very expensive) had mounted a major sidecar expedition.  There were seven or eight Ural sidecar rigs, ex-Russian military and later Vietnamese police bikes, all painted up with Victoria's white and red colors. . .and a big mini bus to carry the wives who had more sense.  I drank a Red Cow in the empty place  and then we were onward on QL-1,  When the time came, I was perfectly happy to stop in Sa Huynh (and yes, it does have that final "h". . .maybe I can remember now) and to heck with riding on another 120 km to Quy Nhon.
Just part of the cavalcade.  The sensible folks came in the air conditioned mini bus.  The sidecar drivers drank soda pop at their own table.  

There's a hidden boat yard at Sa Huynh (you can't see it from the highway) that must be setting production records for fishing boat building the past three years (that I know of).  This year they "only" have 10 or 11 boats under construction, from the earliest stage to almost ready to launch.  That, and there are almost that many older boats up for bottom work and paint.  It's a hugely busy place and they've evolved some very interesting production techniques to streamline what is essentially 18th or 19th century wooden ship building, with a little help from electricity.
Half built in the background, just starting in front of us.  The yard has had 10 or 11 boats under construction, with big crews of men, every time I've stopped the past several years.  

Sunset at Sa Huynh, riding back across the bridge.  Clearance under the bridge keeps many boats with any tophamper below the bridge, only low profiles can get under routinely,

Working late, transplanting just a few more bundles.  This is traditionally ladies' work, for their more delicate handling of the little plants?  Men can do it too though.



I took an upstairs (up 29 stairs to be exact) room in the Ha Lan Hotel, one of the older hotels at the south end of town, but with recent work, it's really quite nice, and has a good walkway across the little stream and on to the beach.  I walked out onto the very dark beach after supper and watched the fishing boats light up the night offshore.  It's hard to gauge how far out they are from their lights. . .most were fairly close in (maybe a mile or two off) and a few were clearly out on the horizon, several miles out.  There were something between 38 and 40 boats in sight in the arc of visibility from my view point. . .the range is to account for double counting or merging two boats together when I counted.  It was, in any event, a lot of fishing boats and a lot of wattage!
Fishing boats offshore a ways, when I was standing on a very dark beach (just a sliver of a moon at sunset),

With Quy Nhon only three hours at most down the road, I was in  no hurry to leave Sa Huynh.  Breakfast was an outside-the-schoolyard egg sandwich.  The lady had a stack of pre-fried eggs at least three inches thick, ready to stuff in baguettes.  With a little pate, some hot sauce and a little cilantro with a slice or two of cucumber, she could hand over a ready-to-wear sandwich in about forty seconds.  Those kids could grab breakfast and run for their first class and make it standing up.  I've had better sandwiches elsewhere, farther from the school yard, but it wasn't bad and I carried it down the road a ways to a really lovely little coffee house with a long shady front yard.  The coffee shop was close by the harbor, so I parked the bike and went walking and pestering boat builders, though they don't seem to mind.  They were getting set to launch a just-rebuilt dragger from La Gi (a fair ways from home) and I watched them get ready, but they had to wait for the tide (that's a really big deep boat) and the tide was in no rush, so we were on the road again before noon.
Sunrise at the Sa Huynh beach, standing in my own footprints from last night.

She's from La Gi, a long ways south of here, but must have gotten a good price for her new work. . .she's now a fiberglass boat.  With a certain amount of wood for structural purposes of course.  Ready to go when the tide serves.

A GI surplus deuce and a half (2.5 ton truck).  Rigged with a logging arch like this they were already popular among Vietnamese loggers when I was a kid.  This is a real survivor, handling logs and timbers around the shipyard, and today, slated to push the big dragger on down the ways

We hardly stopped in Quy Nhon. . .checked into the hotel and got rid of the heavy bag. . .and ran off another 18 km south to Xuan Hai, scene of my most glorious surf boat photographs.  And now it's time for a requiem I suppose, the end of that particular grace and perfection.  In 2013 there were more than 53 of the boats working, as well as perhaps that many woven baskets and about that many plastic tubs. . .more or less.  In 2015 it was down to only 30 or so of the surf boats and a whole lot more of the plastic tubs, with a few real baskets hanging on too.  This year there were 7 afloat and 2 more on the beach that look serviceable. . .and ten or more that are being used as gear storage. . .piled full of nets. . .or simply dragged off to one side and left to die.  Though they're wonderfully shaped to handle the surf, and often nicely painted (helps with photographs), they're not really well made structurally, and left without care for a year or two they quickly start to come apart.  The end is very near indeed.  The fiberglass tubs have conquered the world. . .or at least the local surf boat fleet.  This wouldn't be so sad if they were the equal of the old boats, but they're far from it.  The fishermen understand that clearly enough. . .in times past they worked the traditional surf boats without life jackets and did fine.  They wear life jackets in the plastic tubs now if they're going anywhere.  But that's another story.
Plastic tubs and precast revetment.  The old ways are over at Xuan Hai.

Work in progress.  To be truthful, I'd have bid on the job in a heartbeat, but it wasn't really General's strong suit.

Time to fuel up and grease the rig.  Note the fuel barrel siphoning from the bucket.  Yes.  While standing in the water.  Love it!

Okay, they're cute.  But that's all the scenery I could get once they arrived.

My point exactly.

Fooled them for a second and got this shot. . .she was the best looking of the whole fleet in 2013, and still getting her basketry re-sealed, so it's not all over yet.  But she is getting lonely, with nobody to visit with on the beach but plastic tubs.  What do they know??

Late afternoon, headed back to Quy Nhon for the night.

So we used up that day and made it back to the hotel for supper and a quick walk down along the new promenade above the beach before bed.  There were even more and brighter lights offshore here in Quy Nhon than there were at Sa Huynh, but some of them were small freighters anchored out.  The big ship berths are very busy now in Quy Nhon and ships have to lie on the hook offshore waiting a turn at the dock.  But still, it was about seventy fishing boats in sight at once.

Which brings us almost up to date.  Today in Quy Nhon the bike got a little fussing over and I got a lesson in clutch adjustment. . .I've pestered the same mechanic several years now  and he sees me coming with a smile.  Today was no charge, and I'd just changed her oil yesterday in Sa Huynh, so there wasn't even that for him to do.  So we took our better clutch and rode over across the long new bridge to the south end of the long rocky peninsula that encloses the big inland sea just north of the city.  It's a strange place, originally very isolated before the bridge, with minimal roads, no farm land to speak of (sand, and not much water, covered with scrub brush), but now it's been scalped and graded and roads built on a rigid grid with drainage and utilities. . .all waiting for the industries of the world to relocate there.  There's an Australian feed company mixing pig and chicken feed in a nice looking factory all by itself in the sand, but not much else, and the whole peninsula was scalped. . .look on google earth, it probably shows from space!  As may be, they left the very edge of the land alone, it was too steep and rocky for their grading, so now you can ride to Nhon Hai at the southern tip of the peninsula pretty easily and it's worth the ride. . .a tiny fishing harbor  hiding behind a couple of islands and some small rocks, but still getting a breaking surge in from the open ocean at times.  In winter it's almost un-usable, only boats small enough to haul up the beach, but this is fair weather season and the bay is full of fishing boats.  The town is two streets basically, the waterfront, and one other one, but it has a school yard full of kids and two different pagodas. . .and (drum roll) this year there's a sign up for a home-stay.  Actually, high speed tour boats (fiberglass monstrosities with big outboards) have brought tourists in the past, landing them right on the beach to walk up and down for a while, perhaps drinking a coffee at one of the (three!) coffee shops.  I like the place a lot, not least for the old fashioned rowing boats they still use around the bay.
In the good weather fleet at Nhon Hai. . .in rough seasons there'll be very few boats in the bay.  This is a normal bit of work every day, transferring the net into the offshore boat from the basket.  

About as elegant as a structure gets, everything reduced to the lightest workable component, and the absolute minimum of stressed fastenings.  Mostly these days they;re being built with blue plastic barrel segments or sheet metal, but to the same design.  This is about the largest of the rowing class, she's big enough she could have had a motor if wanted.

A lovely spot, but not easy to photograph.  The high rugged hills behind town aren't visible from the beach, and you can only glimpse the harbor from the road through a veil of trees.  You need to be there to feel the whole impact.

Er. . .speaking of impact. . .

Riding to Nhon Ly, a few kilometers up the eastern shore is a lot easier now.  In the past I've turned back more than once, rather than try to ride through the drifted sand across the little road into town.  The local people of course came and went anyway, but it wasn't pretty to watch and I didn't want to bend the bike just to get there.  That's changed.  There's now a major Mega Resort on the beach approach to the town.  Besides hiring anyone who wanted a job, the developers made a really nice new approach road (running by their zoo and one of their artificial lakes) and they hire local help to keep it swept clean.  What the heck.  Nhon Ly was always a stunning location, with a rocky dramatic spine reaching out into the sea, but it was hard to get to and I'd doubt there was a lot to do in town if you weren't a fisherman or married to one.  The resort may be a perfectly good thing.  But it's big!

Views of the ragged rocks at Nhon Ly.  Not a good beach for boating.


This isn't part of the new resort really, but the developers put in a good parking lot and built really nice access walks to get you down toward the water without breaking your leg.  I'm generally nervous about mega resorts, but this one seems to have inflicted rather more good than harm on the surface.  We'll see about the water table and the sewage problems later. . .or some one will.

This is what the town is like, away from the main drags.  Do not nose your bike into one of these streets unless you like to push it backwards to get out.

Right above the harbor, looking out over the sea, Quan Am of the fishermen.

Very interesting. . .this is a precast revetment under the new riprap.  People used to drag boats up on it between tides (though I don't know how!).  Apparently the reflected wave dynamics made an unsatisfactory near shore environment and they've placed heavy riprap (and some garbage) to break up the wave reflection.  The original configuration shows farther down the bay.  This is a slightly different design from the one being installed at Xuan Hai, but very similar in concept.  Such an installation once locked in place by cast in place concrete, is a major demolition project, requiring much more powerful machinery than what was used in original construction.  Engineers everywhere seem to assume that when the machine is needed somebody will build it.  Gee.

There were three more shipyards in the day and a trip to find a camera repair shop, but I'd guess you've seen enough boat yard photos for one day.  I'll see you again somewhere down the road.