It turns out there are hills in Vietnam

Fields and hills.
Fields and hills.

We chose Vietnam for a cycling holiday because it is flat. So a series of hills as we rode along the coast today came as a  bit of a shock to the system.

The day began with a three-hour bus trip South to avoid an unpleasant motorway section. Even that distance made an immediate difference to the countryside. Down this way the rice fields are green with growth rather than muddy in preparation for planting. The flat valley bottoms do not recede to the horizon, but are book-ended by rising hills. The people are just as happy to see us and wave at our passing.

It was the tail-end of the morning’s ride that took us up the hills, and in all honesty they weren’t so bad. Basically we were riding along the coast and following the contours so there were three long sloping hills. Even though riding up them was a bit of an effort, riding down the other side when you could see for miles, and so be sure there was no traffic, was a sheer joy. It felt more like flying than riding. Down near the bottom though it did become apparent that traffic was not the only hazard when some of us had to make emergency manoeuvres to avoid wandering cows.

The views from the coastal road were hazy but lovely. The China Sea is very rough, but there were fishing boats moored beyond the breakers.

There are signs of it being Christmas day here in Vietnam but they are sparse and unusual. At one point on a back road I thought we’d seen a Christmas celebration. We were confronted by a convoy of open trucks filled with people waving flags and on the top of the second truck’s cabin sat an old, old man who looked like a cross between Santa Claus and Ho Chi Minh. It was only later that we found out that it was actually a funeral procession. I still don’t know what the old man was doing up there, although for a fleeting moment I did wonder if he was the deceased.

The later part of the day involved a ride on a long bridge over a lagoon. In a rather surreal scene, there was a flock of concrete penguins making their way into the water beside the beginning of the bridge. Finally we navigated the prodigiously busy streets of Quy Nhon to our hotel and a swim in the pool.

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