DAY 74 – The best laid plans of mice and men, often go awry. We had planned a route leaving HCMC towards Ba Ria, a town about 90km towards the south east. Unfortunately the two options we had prepared were both unavailable, one being tunnel with no bicycles allowed, and the other being a ferry that existed on Google Maps but not in reality.
Unsure of how to proceed, we passed the dock from where hydrofoils set off to Vung Tao, a coastal town a little further on the Ba Ria. We made an impulse decision to buy a ticket, so twenty minutes and US$30 later, we were on board an waiting to set off towards the coast.
The journey, although a little bumpy, turned out to be uneventful and we docked about 90 minutes later in Vung Tau, a seaside resort for Vietnamese tourists. Our guide said there wasn’t much to do in the town, and after 3 days off the bike we were keen to get moving, so decided not to hang around and set off towards Long Hai, with the intention of reaching La Gi that day.
About 7km out of town, Yami told me she felt that she had a problem with her rear wheel, so we stopped to investigate. I initially suspected she had a puncture, however on closer inspection, the rim on the rear wheel had split along the side – a much more serious problem requiring a replacement part.
We slowly cycled back to town, luckily without inflicting any further damage, and began the task of searching for a bicycle shop. Being the first day of the Tet festival, a lot of shops and businesses had closed for the weekend, however we tracked down two bicycle shops open for business.
We asked if they had a rim, which they did, however the rims they had available all were built for 36 spokes, whereas Yami’s wheel only had 32. This meant that we would have to not only replace the rim, but also the spokes and hub too.
We approached both shops, one of which had better quality components for about 1.4m Dong (about US$70), and the other had basic components for about 900k Dong (about US$45). Our only other option would be to return to HCMC and visit a better bike shop, but with the Tet festival, we were not even sure they would be open, let alone if they would have the parts.
We decided not to waste any more time, and felt the wheel with the better quality components would be the wiser choice. Both shops knew our predicament, and refused to lower their prices so, after a lot of unsuccessful attempts at haggling and a two hour wait, we got a new wheel. Both drained and completely demotivated after the mornings events, we decided to call it quits for the day and checked into a hotel for 200,000 Dong (about US$10).
We ate a little and checked out the beach front, itself a seedy and dingy place, with a mix of local tourists and foreigners drinking beers in the plethora of ‘massage’ parlours/bars. The town had begun gearing up for a big weekend, and a carnival mood filled the air. In no mood to party, we ate before returning to the hotel for the evening, ready for a fresh start in the morning.