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Downhill Day

Sunday 14th December

Miles: 35   Climbing: 1430ft

I really expected to wake up hurting all over this morning but I felt surprisingly ok. I also got to see my accommodation in the light and it is stunning.

After checking accommodation options along the route I decide that it’s a bit too far to make it to the border in one day so decided do it in 2 short days instead. And with this heat and after yesterday I think a couple of short days are not such a bad idea. I booked a night in a homestay about 40 miles away. I’ve not stayed in a homestay before so I’m curious to know what it’s like.

I headed downstairs for breakfast where, again the waitress just brought me food without me ordering. It was pretty good food too. After breakfast I took my bike down to the lake for a clean before taking a look at the gears that decided not to work suddenly late last night. Luckily all that was needed was a good clean and a bit of grease and the gears were working again. It’s a good thing too as I’m useless at fixing anything more complicated than a flat tyre.

When I start to pack everything back onto my bike the two young ladies who run the hostel start pleading with me to stay longer as well as hugging me and posing for photos with me. They have apparently been looking up things they want to say to me in English and either it didn’t translate very well or I was misunderstanding their friendliness but I’m pretty sure that one of them was flirting with me.

Despite a lot of protests I did leave and enjoyed a good bit of downhill to start the day.

I also managed to overcome something that I’ve struggled with since arriving in Vietnam. Being stared at. I’m not talking about just sometimes, it’s all the time, everywhere I go, by lots of people. It’s made me feel quite uncomfortable at times. Today I tried a new tactic. Usually if someone stared at me I would just ignore them. If someone smiled I would smile back and if someone said hello I would say hello back. Today someone stared a proper open mouthed stare at me so I smiled at them and they couldn’t help but smile back. I started trying this out on everyone who stared and, sure enough, it works almost every time. Suddenly I’m not being stared at as much and I’m surrounded by smiling people. I can’t believe how long it’s taken me to figure this out but it makes the rest of the day much more enjoyable.

Later on I pass a school. I’m now very far away from any tourist areas and I’m well away from any main roads and the chances are that most of these kids have probably never seen a westerner in the flesh before. And it shows. There were hundreds of children spilling out of the school gates, shouting hello, running up to me and trying to get a high five. Some of them were on bicycles and rode with me for a while. Im really starting to feel like a celebrity here.

I arrived at my homestay and was welcomed by the daughter of the family, who spoke very good English. She showed me to possibly the best dormitory I have ever stayed in and once I was settled in a clean other guests stared to arrive. There was an American, a Canadian and a Kiwi. There was also an American couple staying in another room and they are of Vietnamese heritage and spoke fluent Vietnamese.

We were all invited to have dinner with the family, which is normal for a homestay, and all of us accepted. Dinner was served outside and was kind of buffet style. Each member of the family appeared to have different roles in the dinner serving. One person made sure there was always rice in our bowls, another couple of them were constantly adding more delicious food to our bowl, one was explaining what everything was, another was refilling our shot glasses with “happy water” and the grandma made sure we drank it all.

After that there was copious amounts of tea and biscuits. I learnt that you cannot refuse food or drink in Vietnam.

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