We left the ugly ugly city of Dong Ha early the following morning in pursuit of a Vietnamese SIM card for our phone. We tried having two of the many stores that say they have SIM cards for iPhones attempt to set ours up; without success, we headed to one of the official cell phone provider offices.
So off we went. While I set up my phone in the office, Brant roamed the street for food. And what he came back with would change our lives… a banh mi sandwich. A fresh baguette topped with pickled cabbage, fresh cilantro and cucumber, chili sauces, scrambled eggs, and barbecued meat. A cyclist's breakfast dream come true…
This was our first food experience in Vietnam that truly opened our eyes to the culinary wonders of Vietnam, just a simple little sandwich, but a perfect introduction to all that she has to offer.
We mowed a few sandwiches, and with the power of Google maps in our hand we headed south to Hue via an incredible side road weaving us through small beach villages. We had been warned of the misery of HWY 1, and had heard of an alternative road, and with our little smarty phone, we were able to get off the beaten path.
Most of the city's accommodation is across the river. We found a guesthouse down a quiet alleyway for a great price. We showered up and headed out to find some food. Along our twenty minute walk to a restaurant across town, countless "moto-taxi" and cycle taxi drivers tried to sell us marijuana. One guy followed us for blocks. But eventually we lost our stalkers and ate in peace.
The following day we decided to take a rest and explore the ruins of the Imperial City.
On our way across town, we ran into Raphael the happy cyclist. He proceeded to ask us where we were staying. The night before, he had apparently slept on the stretch of grass next to one of the busiest roads in the city, in his tent. Once again, just a touch off... But I have to say I envy his relaxed demeanor. I couldn't sleep in a busy strip of city park in any bustling metropolis, let alone in VIETNAM!
After talking with Raphael and eating a nice plate of fried rice, we strolled into the great walls of The Imperial City, a beautiful place full of complex history. The old city functioned as the seat of Vietnamese government through French Colonialism. Much of it was destroyed by American bombs during the TET offensive in 1968. Wondering what it would have looked like before the war is a sad thought. It must have been magic (not that you would have been able to see it in its imperial heyday!).
That afternoon we made it to a beach town before the grade, found a place to sleep, and immediately jumped into the Pacific Ocean. She was perfect, welcoming and warm, but still refreshing, and such a treat.
Our bicycles attracted other passing motorists to join the table. He had toured South America and wanted to see who owned the Rohloffs (he and his wife have a Rohloff tandem and LOVE it). In good company we shared stories and laughs.