Saigon and the Temple

Sunday, December 24

I’m here at 5am. The sisters chanted the sutra this morning at 4:20, but I was already awake. I welcomed the ringing of the bells and the calm rhythm of their voices in the next room into the solitude of my morning watch. The prayer only lasted about ten minutes. Now I can hear roosters welcoming the morning in their own way outside our walls.

Our host, Lientho (“Lee-en-tah”), is a thirty-something Buddhist nun who is the friend of a friend from Hope Church in Michigan. She has given us the “Master Suite” (her master is visiting the US and her room is available) and so we have a private bathroom and air conditioning! Read more

to the store…

It began as a quick walk to the store, just up the sandy alleyway that leads from Phi Kite School to the main road, past the rows of freshly planted onions. It was already dark, and we had already eaten. All we needed was a few personal items, and then to bed.
When we stepped down off the road into the florescent light of the doorway we noticed a group of six young men gathered around a small plastic table laid with some appetizers. Funny, we didn’t think this was a restaurant… (perhaps a common refrain in Vietnam). We looked at each other in a small moment of shock–they likely didn’t expect two foreigners to appear out of the night in their small convenience shop. But in an instant there were smiles and “xin chao’s” and straight away an invitation to join them. I hesitated, but then decided I’d just wait for Kallie by sitting with the guys for moment. Read more

The Long Walk

Twice I made the long walk. Both times for me it happened when I was playing in the bigger waves, 400 meters out. The first time I was on our Cabrinha Switchblade 7m. The winds were strong and the day was waning, but there was still enough light on the water to kite–almost glowing. I tried a to launch off a ramp of a wave and got turned around in mid air, accidentally diving my kite into the water as I followed. Smack! Splash! When I got my bearings and tried to relaunch, the kite bucked wildly in the wind and I could see it was losing air. “Time for self-rescue,” I thought. I pulled the safety loop and wound up my lines. When I got to the kite it was mostly deflated. I folded it up the best I could and with my board in one hand and the kite in the other, turned toward the shore, now with lights twinkling. It probably took me most of ten minutes to go 400 meters, and when I neared shore I saw a dark figure was coming out to meet me. It was Kallie. “Hey, you okay?” I was fine; it was good to be met in the dusk and water by my wife. Read more

The Lagoon

The lagoon at Phi Kite School north of Phan Rang fills and empties with the tide each day. Early in the morning when the tide is low fisherfolk, crabbers, and wading birds go out on the wet sands and in tide pools for their catch. The lagoon stretches about 300 meters out to the break water, where waves begin to gather and froth.

On a sunny day as the tide comes in the blue water reflects mottled patches of white sand, coral, and dark sea weed three feet beneath the flat surface–a kite boarder’s dream. Because the water is only waist deep, beginners can stand easily if the kite goes down. Nearing the edge of the breakwater, small lines of waves maybe a foot high roll into the flat water area, creating small ramps for jumping potential. Between slick areas the ramps gradually grow in size. Farther out the waves curl and crash between swells, beautiful for wave riding. Read more

week 4 – Back North by Bus

When you’re playing with wind, you have to be flexible.

After spending the previous afternoon in disagreement about what to do next (Kallie wanted to go back north, I wasn’t ready to abandon our bicycle plans just yet), we decided to look into our possibilities of going back to Phan Rang. For me, it had to be a pretty sweet deal in order to justify going back the way we’d come. Kallie contacted Phi Kite School and they agreed to barter photos for lodging, and our motorcycle friends said they were still there and we could still use their extra motorcycle. Pretty sweet deal: free lodging, free transportation. Especially since the forecast for wind where we were headed farther south than Mui Ne was light and unpredictable due to what looked like a forming tropical storm farther east. (Not to worry–we’d keep an eye on it–the path of the storm was headed south of Vietnam; it would bring big winds farther north, however.) Read more

week 3 – Mui Ne: The Strip

Sunday – Tuesday, Mui Ne

Because of my prejudice against high tourist destinations, I had to practice having a beginner’s mind about Mui Ne. This small town sits on a peninsula that reaches into Vietnam’s East Sea (aka South China Sea) and marks one end of a bay that provides beautiful beaches to dozens and dozens of resort hotels and all their attending restaurants and shops. This strip is accessed by a single coastal road between water and red desert sand dunes that stretches for at least 10 km (6 miles)–which is the farthest I traveled on our bike. The farther I went, the more polished and grand the accommodations seemed. Read more

Kallie attempts to nap in what little shade she can find
Kallie attempts to nap in what little shade she can find

Sun and Sand

Saturday, Phan Ri Cu’a to Mui Ne, 8:00am-1:30pm, 55km 

When we pushed out of the coastal town of Phan Ri Cu’a the sun was already a quarter high in the sky, and burning without a cloud in sight. We were grateful for sunscreen and again, the tailwind pushing, pushing. This stretch of the coastal highway is one of Vietnam’s driest spots, and is famous for beautiful sand dunes overlooking Lotus Lake. The road was a brand new, double wide divided highway with very little traffic, and we cruised averaging 20 kph (12 mph) on the gentle but increasing up and down grades. The closer we got to the dunes the harder the climbs became.

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Bad Juju

Friday, Ca Na to Phan Ri Cu’a, 6:30am – 1:00pm, 55 km

When it happened I was kiteboarding pretty well on the 9m, managing some wind gusts and ocean rollers. I took a pass back toward shore and noticed Kallie had come to the edge of the water. Since the shore break was pretty big, I turned back to avoid slipping into the crashing wave, and when I finally turned toward Kallie again she was waving me down. So I rode all the way in. 

“This guy says we need to leave.” She eyed the man in the orange shirt walking away down the beach.

“What? Why?” I asked, puzzled.

“I don’t know,” she replied, “He just kept speaking Vietnamese, but it was pretty clear he wanted us to wind up the lines and get out of here.”

We wound up the lines and prepared to leave. I kept looking at him, now several hundred meters off, meandering back toward the row of ocean side Vietnamese hotels we’d stopped at an hour before. I wanted to ask him why?

“Bad juju,” Kallie said. “I’ve got all this bad juju now, I don’t know what to do with it.”

“I’m sorry you had to deal with that,” I replied, knowing how it sucks to be told to leave in a foreign language and not being able to find out the reason.

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Finally Cycling

Wednesday, Phan Rang to Ca Na, 8:30am – 2:30pm, 57 km

We finally packed up all our gear on the bicycle and left Phan Rang, not without some hugs and pictures at Solarvina Hotel with the friendly family staff who has taken such good care of us.

It felt good to finally be on the road, and the 25 mph tail wind helped propel us southward. In our first kilometer we had to stop and check the phone map, since trying to stay too close to the coast had brought us into a bustling little neighborhood. We had veered too far south already and had to get back to cross the bridge and be on the main road. The main road turned out to be a divided highway, two lanes in either direction, that was mostly deserted. The wind sang softly through the street lamp poles as it carried us past the remains of the city, wading birds, and delta crop land and towards sand dunes and bouldery mountains. Halfway up one of our first moderate inclines we lost all torque, and looked down to see a broken chain. At 9am the sun was strong, so we pulled the tandem off into a little shade and got to work. In no time I had taken out the bent link and reattached the chain with enough to make it work in all gears. It’s messy work and I was frustrated with this setback, but I felt like in the end it wasn’t much, as long as it didn’t happen again. But it did.

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Eating Fish Runs Out

So far google translate has been a helpful app to have on my phone as we negotiate with little to no Vietnamese language. We’ve learned the basic numbers and a few greetings and phrases–hello, excuse me, thank you, how much…but often these aren’t enough. So, in the absence of a Vietnamese English speaker, we turn to google translate. On several occasions we’ve used the speaking function, where one person speaks into the phone in their language and google translate speaks out loud the translation in the other language. Sunday afternoon we had a basic conversation in this fashion while sipping Pepsi and Number 1 soda, iced in cups. 

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