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Blog 107 Pleicu to Buon Ma Thuot

11th January

On a bicycle it’s like riding across a sea of space rarely stepping on to shore. It’s slow. The distance I can cover on my motorbike in a day takes a week by bicycle, and when you do get there, it's possible you might have missed something because whoever you wanted to meet is no longer there. The slowness of bicycling

If you wanted to change course and steer the rudder to somewhere else, speed would be an aberration unless using Albert Einstein's theory of relativity, under which I could travel at near the speed of light and experience only the passage of a few years but would return to find centuries had passed on Earth and I no longer had to ride to Pnomn Penh and then across Cambodia to Bangkok. Sounds good on paper.

Good Morning Vietnam

Popular understanding of Vietnam includes the disastrous Vietnam War and Robin Williams's 1987 film , "Good Morning, Vietnam " satirising the period as an American war comedy. Written by Mitch Markowitz and directed by Barry Levinson, set in Saigon in 1965, during the Vietnam War, the film stars comic genius Williams as a radio DJ on Armed Forces Radio Service, who proves hugely popular with the troops, but infuriates his superiors with what they call his "irreverent tendency". The story is loosely based on the experiences of AFRS radio DJ Adrian Cronauer.

Of course it's heresy to say that South East Asia is devoid of culture to an Anglophile passing through with such a rudimentary knowledge of the local language that he cannot even say 'hello'., but, temples, religions, kind people and beaches apart, what is it we travellers come here to see?

Highway riding is all about passing by places few tourists go.

I thought about this, how riding across a succession of long undulating climbs across the Central Highlands of Vietnam could be made interesting. Across a series of contiguous plateaus though one of the largest coffee growing centres in the world I saw bowls fastened to the base of rows of Java Olive trees collecting the sap - it's fernebnted into a beverage.

It was a ride that was pleasant enough and at 44kms to go I turned right onto a two lane back road suddenly descending down a long straight descent building my speed to 57kph then 58, 59 before dropping back to a steady 25. It's here where it gets interesting.

On a bicycle you have fewer options in traffic because you have minimal control, instead holding an opportunity to fine tune your judgement, when to speed though the danger, when to shrink yourself small, to slow, to rest then race down the hills on a clear road with nothing in your safety space and the valley dropping off to rice paddies, then the plains then to mountains just a morning's ride away.

The Yok Don national park through I'm riding is rich in bird species, with the typical being black-headed woodpeckers, red-breasted parakeets, Indian rollers, small minivets, common myna, crested tree-swifts, and rare waterbirds like white-winged ducks, giant ibis or woolly-necked storks. I didn't see a single bird, I heard the odd cluck of something sounding as if it had been down in the sap bowl but my day was at street level.

Street Level Adventure

Yet where are the libraries? The book shops. Cinemas. Anything to suggest a history not associated with a temple, a religion or life before the advent of the mobile telephone.

To my right a truck comes past, one wobble now and it’s over, this journey, my life. I’m slowing as he accelerates and in front of me I can ride up the hill at a safe speed where slowing up the hill I hear frogs, a bird calling, no traffic, quietly pedalling I go through the process of living and at the top of the incline I see hammocks slung between trees in a small shaded copse with hessian sacks stitched together for a roof where I take a cold drink and sit on chair, and sleep.

Map of the Day

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