There were three different routes to get to Nha Trang. As soon as the paved road turned to sand, giant ruts and bumps, and general off-roading through orchards, I knew we had chosen wrong. We were too far to turn around, so we continued on and prayed it would be over soon. The sand was a vibrant red-orange, and it collected in deep piles that threatened to tip the bike over. The tractors that passed us seemed to have no problem with the ruts, but when you only have two wheels (that are not meant for off-roading), each rut threatened to snap the suspension or worse. The sun was beating down on us, making it even harder to concentrate on every inch of the trail to avoid falling over or damaging the bike. The trail went on for kilometer after kilometer of these conditions, past farm houses, crops, and small towns. In some parts, it would switch to pavement for about 100 meters and we would celebrate that we were through. Just as we got our hopes up, the dirt road would come right back, mocking us.
FINALLY, and I’m not exaggerating, we pulled out of the last bit of sand–no falls–and stopped for lunch and to assess our condition. My fender had snapped right off after hitting a few ruts pretty hard. Other than that, the bikes survived, and so did we, every inch of us covered in a thick film of red-orange dust.
A cold beverage, some delicious com ga, and a look at the map revived my spirits, knowing we would be on a major road for the rest of the drive. For most of our lunch stops, it’s in rural areas of Vietnam, so I’ve gotten used to the fact that a squatty potty is the only option out here. I asked a woman where the restaurant’s toilet was and she sent me out the back door and into the back yard. I saw a small path that led to an outhouse structure, but then two vicious dogs barked and snapped at me. One was testing every inch of his metal chain, straining to get at me, and the other had some extra room on his chain as he watched me wearily. I scrambled back up the slope to the restaurant and decided to hold it.
Compared to this morning’s progress, we were flying past large towns and up steep mountains. We stopped for a cold drink at a roadside shop and were joined by the owner and his chubby baby boy. We played with the baby and communicated with the father by writing numbers on a piece of paper and gesturing. It was amazing we could establish our age, nationality, and destination without really using any words.
The last bit of driving through construction zones and dense traffic was somewhat unpleasant, but seeing the palm trees and the beach as we pulled into Nha Trang made it all worthwhile. Massive hotels lined the beachfront road–Sheraton, Novotel, Vinpearl, and countless others towered above us. The beach was filled with westerners and Vietnamese soaking up the sun next to tiki hut bars and lounge chairs. We did not stay in one of the famous hotels, but chose a more modest one, still with a sea view and beach access directly across the street.
After settling in, we cruised around on the bike in search of dinner. So many of the store signs were writing in Russian to accommodate the huge number of Russian tourists. We found out there used to be a military base here in the area, and it remained a cheap destination for Russians to fly to. We even had several Russians attempt to speak to us because there were so many.
To accomodate both of our tastes, we went to a Mexican restaurant for a nacho appetizer, and then dined at a Vietnamese cafeteria for the main course. Nha Trang’s streets were alive with neon lights and tourists bustling along from bar to bar. The nightlife here is supposed to be top notch, but after our long drive, we just wanted to stay in and get a good nights sleep. I guess this is what happens when you graduate from college and become a real adult ?