Knives Out

By Jane Mountain | February 28, 2014

10,704 km so far.

There are knives in my belly.

Not literal knives, you understand. But they might as well be, for the pain I’m feeling. It’s safe to say that I now know what it’s like to be shived. While riding a bike. Up a mountain.

OK, let’s start at the beginning.

The Preamble

This morning I was feeling good. I’d slept away most of the day yesterday, and had a solid 10 hours last night. Breakfast tasted yummy and stayed down well. I was ready to roll.

The legs were feeling a tiny bit weak, but that’s to be expected after my role as Victim No. 2 in When Garlic Attacks. The morning was glorious, as most mornings have been lately.

Hot, but not too hot. The road was smooth and relatively hill free.

Lunch was a veggie bowl of pho with tofu, and we ate in the company of the town’s best English speaker. The matron at the restaurant even got out a giant floor fan for us, to make sure we were cool enough.

When it came time to leave, around 12:30pm, she told us to wait and have a nap in her restaurant, that it was too hot to go now.

“Pshaw,” we said, and carried on.

We knew we weren’t carrying on far, since the cafe with the best coffee in Vietnam, according to a fellow cyclist, was just up the road.

It’s true too. Stephen declared it the best he’s had here. But, not being a fan of the Vietnamese ultra dark and thick brew, it still didn’t rate for him on a worldwide scale.

I had mine with sweet condensed milk, as you do in these parts, so I couldn’t taste the coffee anyway. If you’re headed this way, Sinh To is on the way out of Muang Ang, headed towards Dien Bien on the left side of the road. Look for the brown wooden house with the impressive carved furniture.

Lion's head armrest at Sinh To in Muang Ang.

Lion’s head armrest at Sinh To in Muang Ang.

Stephen’s note: I tried to buy beans from them, which they had for sale, but sadly they only had fresh, green ones, and I have no way of roasting them on the go.

Feeling great, we set off up the big climb of the day, which is not big at all compared to every other day on this stretch.

Belly’s Gonna Get Ya

Just a few hundred meters up the hill, knives knives knives.

“Oh, I’m having a little cramp from lunch,” I thought. “It’ll pass.”

Pass it did not.

As the pain increased, my pace decreased, and soon I was going so slowly as to not be moving at all. That is, I stopped at the roadside for a rest and to scream obscenities into the ether.

“It’ll pass while I rest,” I thought.

Pass it did not.

Stephen was a ways ahead of me now, waiting in a shady spot, so I caught up to him and told him I had to take a break. We sat at the roadside waiting for my pain to subside.

Pain, pain, go away.

Pain, pain, go away.

Subside it did not.

We sat some more. No subsidence occurred.

More obscenities emerged from my mouth as I cursed the unfairness of it all.

Why me? Why now? Why God why?

Anyway, eventually we had to move on. Stephen kindly loaded all the bags onto his bike (so nice!) and I gritted my teeth as we made our way up the hill. For those of you riding this route, it’s a short and not very steep one, quite simple really. If you don’t have knives in your belly, that is.

“The pain will pass once we get to the top,” I thought.

Pass it did not.

View from the top of today's pass, near Dien Bien Phu.

View from the top of today’s pass, near Dien Bien Phu.

Fortunately, we were almost to Dien Bien Phu, our destination for the night, and the rest of the ride was mostly downhill.

Unfortunately, there were lots of school children making their way home from school. They all wanted to exchange hellos and smiles. I barely managed a faint grimace for most of them. Sorry school kids of the region! It’s not you, it’s me.

Not far out of town, Stephen met a new friend in the form of scooter-driving English-speaking Nguyễn Duy Anh. He accompanied us all the way to town, and I’m afraid I was not too friendly to him. I hope he forgives me, since, you know, knives.

Forks Over Knives

We took the first guesthouse we looked at, since I just wanted to get into the room and lie down. The first guesthouse is almost never a good choice, and this one was no exception. Well, it has a bed and a roof, so there’s that to recommend it.

About five minutes after I lay down on the bed, it was like the knives had never existed. Aside from a little nausea, I felt OK again.

We sought out the vegan restaurant in town (yup, Dien Bien Phu has a vegan restaurant!). Yen Nih is on the 279 just northeast of the main roundabout across from the intersection of Trưởng Ching. Even if you’re not a veggie, it’s got great food and makes a nice change from the standard Vietnamese offerings, though they have those too. Plus, one of the women who runs it speaks perfect English. We had a nice conversation with her about being vegan in Vietnam.

Even the local vegans have trouble going out to eat, she assured us. People often think they are being cheap if they order vegetarian food, that they don’t want to spend money on meat. Or else, they don’t have any food to offer, and the family ends up eating eggs. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

In my state of belly badness, it was nice to feel sure there were no animals in my food tonight. I ate sparingly anyway, just to be safe.

We shall see what misery tomorrow brings.

Soundtrack: Rocket Juice & The Moon, Rocket Juice & The Moon | Liam Finn, FOMO  

Want to see the route map? View it on Ride With GPS.

Hi, I’m Jane, founder and chief blogger on My Five Acres. I’ve lived in six countries and have camped, biked, trekked, kayaked, and explored in 50! At My Five Acres, our mission is to inspire you to live your most adventurous life and help you to travel more and more mindfully.

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