Sunday, 23 April 2017

Day 70: beating the rain

Round the world on board
Day 70: The day I beat the rain.
Vietnam : Vinh Tan to Cam Ranh (then bus to Nha trang)
Distance : 93.85 km
Time on board : 5 hours 57 mins
Average speed: 16.3 km/h

Ascent: 174 m Descent : 161 m
Cumulative distance : 3223 km

In past few days, Been waking up earlier at 5 am. This is because sun rises at 5.30 am in Vietnam, much earlier than Cambodia. And the sun set just before 6 pm. That roughly gives me 12 hours of daylight to skate.

Had my leftover banh mi from last night for breakfast and left at 6.47 am. Vinh Tan has a major power plant, probably powering the southern Vietnam I supposed. Hence, lots of heavy vehicle passing by. Shortly, pass the coastline of CA Na, should have camped there last night. Stop for awhile to admire the sea view and listen to sound of crashing waves.

Since I started early nowadays, I covered more mileage before lunch. I usually tried to cover as much distance before lunch, about 50 km, so after lunch, I can chill and go slow amidst the afternoon sun. By then I only need to skate another 30-40 km. By 4 pm, I already reach my destination.

Today at lunch, I already covered 55 km. Could have done more but I was starving. Hence I stopped by a hammock cafe, or the Vietnamese called it Cafe Vong. You can get drinks, food and Wi-Fi and chill at their hammock. That is real Hanging out. Had a sumptuous meal for just 25,000 dong which I would gladly paid 30,000 dong. Egg, pork chop, rice and a soup, all for these around 1.30 USD. What a satisfying meal. To sweeten the deal, they had hammock for me to take a nap. Planning to nap there till 2 pm since I got only 30 km left to Cam Ranh. My nap was abruptly awakened by the sound of thunder. Shit. At 1.30 pm, refill my water and quickly skate before the rain arrives.

Good thing about incoming storm is that it is accompanied by tailwind, pushing me faster. Is like God pushing me. Furthermore, the sun was blocked by the clouds, cooling the temperature down. Cooler temperature means I consume less water and exert less energy skating, hence no breaks. I skated 30 km straight at 18 km/ h without any break, exception of a pee break.

By 3 pm, I reached Cam Ranh just before the rain arrives. Was planning to camp tonight, with incoming rain, I put off my plan and search for guesthouse. When the rain started, somehow all the guesthouse increased their price, seeing that I looked desperate. Generally, Vietnamese are friendly and have encountered many kind moments. But somehow when doing business with them, I have to be careful. They are rather scheming, I would say as compared to the simple Cambodian. Probably Vietnamese is closely related to Chinese race, known for our money making skills. I know cos I am of Chinese ethnicity. Nowhere to stay and with rain, just in time, I spotted a bus station, heading to Nha Trang 50 km away, which is supposed to be my tomorrow destination. By right, it should take a half day by noon to reach nha trang, 50 km and take half day off to chill at nha trang beach. Since I got a bus now, so I managed to get extra half day off, adding up to a day. Tomorrow rest day to chill by the Nha Trang beach.

1250 km more to Hanoi

Friday, 21 April 2017

Day 69: Country Road, take me home

Round the world on board
Day 69: Country Road, Take me home
Vietnam: Mui Ne to Vinh Tan
Distance : 89.5 km
Time on board : 5 hour 55
Average speed : 15.1 km/h

Ascent : 479m Descent : 447m

Cumulative distance : 3075.9 km

Country roads, take me home
To the place where I belong:
West Virginia, mountain momma,
Take me home, country roads.

This song by John Denver resonate in my mind, I keep singing it when I am skating long stretch of rolling hills, roads with ocean and mountain view. Road of emptiness, just me and country road. Singapore is still home where my family and friends are, but the country roads is where my heart belongs to.

Today skate one of the most gorgeous stretch of road from Mui ne. Happen to pass by fishing market where hordes of bowl shaped boats on the coastline fished and gathered on the shore to sell their fishes.

Passing desert - like sand dunes, south China sea on my left. Mountains in front. Even the uphill doesn't terrify me anymore. With view like this, I just calmly skate up the hill with stead. Everyday is a beautiful day cos I am still breathing. Tomorrow I might lose my money and whatever. But as long you have your family and friends, everyday is still a wonderful day. Go to bed and when you wake up in the morning, that is an awesome day already.

Been skating through desert-like roads with ocean view without any signs of towns, I continue pushing paddling for 30 km without any breaks until I spotted sugar cane stall. Then another 20 odd km of nothingness. Just the country road and me, and traffic of course. Until I finally arrived at a town for lunch.

Lunch place is also a stop for buses traveling from Saigon to Hanoi. They have sleeping bus where your seat is a bed. Traveling from Saigon to Hanoi takes more than a day on bus. That is how far I am going to skate. Therefore, my lunch place is too noisy to take my routine lunch nap. I continued skating on, enduring the 1pm sun. Coupled with hills, it drain my energy. The uphill seem never ending, when you are done, hill keep on appearing. I passed by an empty shack and took my nap. The nap energies me again.

Without any breaks, I got to Vinh Tan. Since guesthouse are really cheap here, 5 USD on average for fan room. It is really pointless to camp here. The guesthouse I asked quoted me 120,000 dong. But it is still early, hence I went to look around to see any cheaper guesthouse. Apparently, either the rest only have air conditioning room, which cost way more or they charge too much for a fan room. I decided to go back to first guesthouse that I looked. The lady appeared pissed and want to charge me 180,000 dong, increase of 60,000 dong. Well,i can choose to camp, saving my budget but instead, I also want to contribute to local economy. Since the Vietnamese want to do business this way, I didn't want to support them then. I love camping on my hammock. Hence I decided to camp, packed some banh mi, Vietnam sandwich and ready to move. Happened to find another guesthouse. At first, they quoted me 150,000 dong but read the Vietnamese translated sign on my backpack that I am skating around the world, in Vietnam now. They offered me 120,000 dong, the price I was willing to pay. Therefore, no camping. Maybe tomorrow I will Camp, as I can't find any guesthouse in Cam Rang on google map.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Day 67: Dilemma of Choices

Round the world on board
Day 67: The dilemma of choices
Vietnam: Long Kahn to Thuan nam
Distance : 81.83 km
Time on board : 5 hours 22 mins
Ascent : 258 m
Descent : 367 m
Average speed: 15.2 km/h

Cumulative distance : 2941.6 km

Throughout my journey, I faced lots of choices. Example, choosing which food stop to patronise. Every hour or 15-20km, I will stop for breaks. Everytime, I face the dilemma of which one to choose. Sometime, I encounter a stall, but I haven't reach targeted mileage or target time for pit stop. Hence I would skate on further. By then, I am middle of nowhere, no stalls for me. By then, it is too far to backtrack. My point is that we encountered lots of choices in life. Talking about love, you found a suitable partner, the dilemma is whether do you want to settle for it, wait on for someone better, whom might not appear at all. Then if you settle, another more suitable partner might come along. That is the dilemma. I say sometimes, if you found a choice that makes you happy, just seize the opportunity and go for it. Not to worry about what if there is other choices that makes you happier. Happy is happy. Happier is happy. You might not get 2nd chance. That is my philosophy I always think during my skate. Do I settle for the food here now, or skate on to find cheaper better food.

Got a good night rest, thanks to kind Vietnamese lady who paid for my hotel stay. Really getting spoilt by their kindness. Skated 3km for breakfast, another dilemma of choices. Finally, got back into route 1, once I am sure that I am on the right track, settled for breakfast. I was craving for banh mi, Vietnam sandwich, instead I ordered bun thit muong, some sort of noodles. The owner and everyone Chatted with me in Vietnamese, luckily a customer who speak English, translated for us.

Moving on, I realise actually, I am in mountains, hills. No wonder I am having a torrid time skating up from Flat Saigon. Now, rolling hills aren't so steep. I can push up with respectable speed and downhill aren't so steep that I have to keep braking. I can skate down all the way without having to brake, resulting in high average speed.

At lunch, I asked for Bun Rieu, noodles soup. I assume the lady understood my pronunciation, instead she cooked a porridge. Too late. Next time, I should take pictures of Vietnam food and show them to make sure my order is right. Now irksome part. I understand Vietnamese people are curious and friendly, but you don't simply take someone's longboard and play without seeking permission. They could just gesture to me that they want to try. They just simply took my board without asking. The eatery is next to the road, and they never skate before, could have lost control and push my board into incoming traffic. Usually, I would take a nap during lunch to seek refuge from the scorching sun. The guys pestered me to demonstrate to them how to skate. After skating 55km already, I just need a recharge. Pissed, I cut short my break and skate on.

My translated sign on backpack really works. People have better understanding of what I am doing, keep giving me the thumbs up. Those motorcyclist who could speak English, would slow down to chat with me. I truly welcome these interactions as it boosted my Morales. I am here to interact with locals.

A motorcyclist with a backpack on his motorcycle pulled over to chat with me. He happened to be from Manchester, travelling from Saigon to Hanoi. Treated me to drinks. He is going to mui ne today, which it is my destination tomorrow. Will meet him in Mui Ne.

Reached my destination and got a fan room for 120,000 dong or 5.5 USD

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Day 66: Renewed faith in humanity and Christ

Round the world on board
Day 66: Renewed faith in humanity and Christ
Vietnam: Saigon to Long Khan
Distance: 73km
Time on board: 5 hours 17m
Average speed: 13.8 km/h
Ascent: 431 m
Descent: 256m

Cumulative distance: 2859.8 km

As portrayed in media, the world seem a depressing place to live. That is why I embark on this gruelling voyage, mainly to seek out humanity in all of us. Despite the recent depressing news on Syria, brutality of United Airline, I still believed in humanity. Today, I was right.

After spending 5 days in Saigon, catching up with my Vietnamese friends, making new friends, and most importantly, attending Church for Easter celebration, it is time to yank myself out of here. Saigon central hostel, which I stayed in last 5 days, is worth its 5 USD per night. Clean room and hearty breakfast. I highly recommended it if you travelled to Saigon.

Left hostel after breakfast (bread, eggs, fruits). Immediately was overwhelmed by notorious hordes of Saigon motorcycles. Accidentally, followed the road into an expressway tunnel, forbidden to cyclists. The police immediately stopped me before I entered the tunnel. I showed them the sign on backpack, saying Skateboarding around the world, now in Vietnam. From Singapore- Saigon - Hanoi. Translated in Vietnamese by my friends. It really works, they directed me to the road where I can skate on. Skated on with the traffic dancing around me. First hour, I only managed to skate 12 km, and still not out of Saigon.

Now the most frustrating moment of the day. As usual, I stopped for Sugarcane juice. Sugarcane juice normally cost 5000 dong, in Saigon tourist place, it may cost 7000 dong. But this guy took my 10,000 dong, not returning my change that I would expected. 10,000 dong sugarcane juice is totally ripoff. He thought I am foreigner, easy to cheat. I demanded that he returned my change. He only returned 2000 dong, which mean sugarcane cost 8000 dong, still ripoff. Even tourist areas, it only cost 7000 dong. I didnt want to argue further on, took my change. I was damn pissed. Vietnamese people like to scam. Sorry to my Vietnamese friends, you guys are still awesome. I keep reminding myself that extra 3000 dong is only USD 10 cents. It doesn't matter to my budget actually, that 3000 dong may mean a lot to him, could feed his family. I guess I just let it pass. However, the extra 3000 dong eats into my sugarcane budget set aside daily. 1 poor sugarcane owner had to miss my business.

Moving on, I just continued skating all the way till lunch time without stopping for hourly sugarcane breaks. Hated to be pissed some more by potential scheming sugarcane stalls. By 50 km at 12.18 pm , I spotted a stall advertising rice with fried pork for 20,000 dong which is 0.9 USD. Had my sugarcane juice at 5000 dong finally. Satisfied by my cheap yet good meal for 25,000 dong, slightly more than 1 USD.

Plan to skate 90km, however Vietnam is not flat land, like Cambodia. In Cambodia, I can easily skate 100km on completely flat smooth road. This time, in Vietnam, I had to scale down my planned mileage as it is mostly rolling hills. It takes 3 times the effort to push up, therefore it takes a toll on me, I was starting to slow down.

At 70 km in Long Kahn, spotted dark clouds looming and felt droplets on me, definitely not my sweat. Had to stop here for the night, rather pushing another 20km through rain. Perhaps it was god's will that he wants me to stop. As the rain starts to get heavier, I passed by a Catholic church, decided to seek shelter and ask if they could accommodate me for a night. Before that, I entered the church to pray, asking lord for guidance. Went around the church , looking for people. Understand that they wouldn't understand English. Therefore, I prepared a paper, translated into Vietnamese by my friends again which wrote I am skateboarding around the world, seeking permission to camp here. I handed the paper to a crowd. They directed me to an office. Apparently, the priest wasn't here today and they couldn't make the decision to let me camp without the priest's approval. Just as things looked like it was going down south, the local who explained the situation in English, handed me an envelope containing 50,000 dong, roughly 2.5 USD. And things started to get better. As the rain had stopped, I decided to head out to search for Nha Nghi, Vietnamese guesthouse run by families. The lady whom I passed the paper to, signalled me to follow her. I assumed she is inviting me to her home to stay. Apparently, she drove me to a hotel, assuming that she just wanted to give me to find accommodation.

The most touching moment arrives. As I asked the price , the lady paid for my room, I was utterly stunned by her generosity. She could have invited me to her home, even a simple backyard will suffice. I just need a tiny area with access to water. I am easily satisfied and contended. Or she could drove me to a cheap guesthouse. No, she paid for an air-conditioning room which could easily costs more than 10 USD. That amount means a great deal to the Vietnamese, given their average monthly wage is $200. I realised that she and the guy who handed me money, are the angels that I prayed for. My faith in Catholic is further strengthened as well in humanity. Despite atrocities committed by us, there are lots of angels in the world, that is why i embark on this journey to experience the humanity in all of us. This world doesn't seem that gloomy after all.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Day 61: Xin Chao! Ho Ho Ho Chi Minh

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Day 61: Xin Chao! Ho Ho Ho Chi Minh
Vietnam: Moc Bai to Ho Chi Minh
Distance: 70.5 km
Time on board: 4 hours 47 mins
Avg speed: 14.7km/h
Cumulative distance: 2786.7 km
Good morning Saigon! Great start today, finally back on smooth road. Following the QL22 or AH1 to Ho Chi Minh city. If Cambodia is cheap, wait til you arrive in Vietnam. A bowl of noodles cost 20k dong, which is $0.90 USD and Sugarcane juice only cost 5000 dong or $0.22 USD. Cheaper than Cambodia. I am already loving Vietnam.
Only pet peeve about Vietnam is the incessant horning by both motorcyclists and drivers. It is once said that you can get rich by just selling horns. Maybe Vietnamese are horny, pardon my pun haha. Not only I have to wear my Totobobo filter mask but also ear plugs. The horning just gets on my nerve. Way worse than Cambodia, Thailand and Malaysia combined. They horn at everything.
At the 47 km, found a pho bo (Vietnam beef noodles), and the stall owner is Catholic as well. Good thing I stopped for lunch.
Approaching Ho Chi Minh city, the traffic gradually increased. Hordes, legions of motorcycles swarming past me. Sometimes 3-4 motorcycles heading towards me in the opposite direction. Scary shit. Last 20km is the most stressed skate since johor bahru, Malaysia and Bangkok. Had to take break at a sugarcane stall with hammock. They have hammock cafes. This is really hanging out' Instead of chilling at beach, I chilled at the road side, counting motorcycles zooming pass by. In a minute, literally thousand of motorcycles zooming past. Continued on, navigating my way on, had to stop each junction to make sure I am on the right track. Couple of Vietnamese motorists chatting with me while riding and many slowed down to video me skating. Now I understand why the French cycle tourers I met in Cambodia wanted to take the other border and bypass ho chi Minh, because it is truly stressful experience.
The secret of skating in Vietnam is just to skate in a straight line, no pumping or whatever. Let the motorcycles do the waltz around you.
Finally arrived at Notre Dame cathedral, my favorite spot in Ho Chi Minh. Will be resting for the weekend to attend Easter mass.
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Sunday, 19 March 2017

Epic Road Trip photo

Presenting my favorite photo in Malaysia leg. Taken by uncle KC, an amazing cycle​ photographer along the Mersing route, east Malaysia coast

What was I thinking at that moment?

WTF, not another hill.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Day 32: The final demise of my board and phone

Day 32: The final demise of my board and phone
Thailand : Ao Yai-i to bang Saphan Noi
Distance : 40km
Time on board: 2 hour 43 m
Cumulative distance : 1728.2 km
Woke up early to catch sunrise at Ao yai-i. Walked to the edge to catch the egg yolked sun while i had my cheese biscuit. This is the one of the moment why i wanted to tour on longboard. Beside the locals living here, how many foreigners managed to catch sunrise here. Probably only me, there were no accomodation for tourist around, unless you bring a tent.
As you already know my board already delamed on day 5, i managed to salvage by chopping it. I understand it will be a short while before it delams again, but i am hoping for it to last me to bangkok where i can wait for my family to visit me and bring my spare. Also, not only my board having issue, my ruggear phone us breaking down too. Though advertised as drop proof, water proof, but the screen cracked when i dropped it in malaysia. So called impact proof phone. Now it is giving me problems. Now will just buy a cheap android phone, even when it is spoilt, it is still cheap. No complaints.
28 km into the day, i can feel the board flexing and scrapping the floor. The most of stress on board come on rear. When i push mongo, i put all my weight on the centre. Probably also due to flex of the torsion tail i think might be a factor as well.
I am just 350 km away from Bangkok, so close yet so far. I can probably still continue if i only push on my goofy leg.
Hitchhike a ride to nearest train station Bang Saphan noi, only to realise there is no train to Hua hin. Then i took another bus ride to the bigger town bang saphan yai and the 2pm train is full. Therefore i must wait hours till 9 pm train. Now here i am, spending time in beach writing this journal.
But the journey doesn't end here. Waiting for my family to visit me in Bangkok and bring my spare board. Mean while i will spend my days in the beach of hua hin and roaming the streets of bangkok. Well skating 1700 km for a month, i deserve a good recharge.
I guess it says 370 km to Bangkok

Most Beautiful Sunrise in Thailand

Final Resting place of my board. RIP and thank you for carrying me

The kind Green Pickup who i hitchhiked when my board broke.