I’m writing this from my cheap hotel bed after a long, tough, 180km week. Today is a rest day and I intend to do nothing but lie down and eat as much food as possible. Although I did notice the bar downstairs sells strongbow cider!
The days have almost rolled into one this week. Lots of highway runs, too much rain and grim hotels. When planning my trip I looked carefully at the weather to avoid the rainy season, as well as it being too cold. However, this week I have been joined by a typhoon that’s travelling up the country into Hong Kong. On the plus side, it means the weather has been a lot cooler, I’ve even had to wear my long sleeved t-shirt in the evenings! However, it means that I’ve been running through puddles, muddy fields and driving rain for much of the day and my poor feet aren’t liking being in wet socks and shoes for up to 8 hours a day. I’m hoping my rest day today will give them a chance to really dry out as well as my running gear, which hasn’t been properly dry all week either.
Despite the pretty horrible weather, my spirits are still high and I’m pleased to report that my fitness has returned and I am feeling strong! On a rare sunshiny moment I stumbled across the most wonderful coffee shop I’ve ever been in. It was called ‘Happy Cottage’ and if you ever happen to be in Ha Thinh I thougherly recomend a visit. As well as brightly colored lanterns and flowing water falls, there were Santa’s in blossom trees! I may have stumbled into the cafe but I definately skipped out.
A few days into my rainy week, I re-entered Mordor type scenery. This time I was navigating around huge steel works. After the fishing industry in this province was devastated by an accident that poisoned the sea, steel is now the main industry. Due to low employment opportunities, many people from this region choose to leave for work elsewhere. Often this means venturing abroad and sadly sometimes into unexpected jobs or situations. The lack of younger Vietnamese people is noticeable when running through towns and villages in this part of the country.
On Friday morning as I was trudging up a steep hill to pass through a mountain range, I noticed a figure hunched over a pedal bike at the side of the road. On closer inspection, I realised he was a westerner, the first I’ve seen since leaving Hanoi (apart from my visitors). I’m usually pretty shy when it comes to talking to strangers but I couldn’t pass up the oppertunity to have an actual conversation! (My Vietnamese is vaguely improving but I’m definately not at conversation level!) As it turns out, Kelly from Canada, is cycling around the world for Canadian Cancer Society and has been following a very similar route to me, although covering somewhat more ground each day! As his bike needed some attention, we spent the rest of the day chatting, drinking coffee and pushing the bike to a highway hotel. I found out that he too, is sometimes surviving on chocopies! You can follow Kelly’s epic round the world adventure here: https://tatarynk.com/
At the weekend, I was joined by BIS power couple, Sarah and Ian Battersby. After managing to find me at a road side Pho shack, we left the highway behind us and set off into the local villages before arriving at the beach. The sea was wild and reminded us of being back in the UK. Fortunately, the rain held out for most of the day as we navigated a pretty huge 33k. This was Ian’s longest ever run, almost double what he has done before and he absolutely smashed it! Sarah was supposed to be tapering for the marathon next weekend…
At 11am after a couple of hours of running, Sarah produced three pain au Chocolat’s which we ate with our coffees. What an absolute treat! It was lovely to be able to catch up with Saigon life whilst running through paddy fields with buffalo’s wandering around us. At lunch time, whilst crouched under a highway bridge, sheltering from the rain, Sarah once again delighted us by producing cream cheese bagels from her bag! I miss processed carbs so much!!! After about 8 hours on our feet, I found yet another highway hotel and waved Sarah and Ian goodbye as they jumped onto a bus back to Dong Hoi. It was an utter delight to spend the day with them and give them an experience of what I’m doing.
I had intended to stay at Nhat Le Beach, just north of Dong Hoi, for my rest day but due to being off season it was a total ghost town that seems to be being ruled by stray dogs. I quickly decided to run straight through and am now in Dong Hoi City. It is also very quiet and the rain and wind is rattling my window but I know there is a pasta bar just around the corner!
As always, thank you so much for reading this. Please donate as little or as much as you can. My trip is 100% self funded and every penny, cent, dong will go towards helping young people go to school, be fed, have a safe place to sleep or be reunited with their families. Together, we really can make a difference to the lives of people here in Vietnam.
Love Naomi (aka Nam)