Sunday, January 19, 2014

Ablutions Thwarted

Ablutions Thwarted

Saturday January 18th
As a 1st world, middle class, Westerner the mechanics and resources for the daily ablution rituals are taken for granted. Not so for where we've been traveling in North Vietnam.

The differences became abundantly clear as we were readying to leave Hoi An for Quang Ngai. I spent over half of my already short night (still have not transitioned to full night sleeping because of the 14 hrs difference from home) in the bathroom with either a vicious case of food allergy/intolerance or tourista, so called Delhi Belly by the UK/Aussies.

Today would be a challenged day for me: a key undergarment was not to be found, the one lost yesterday at the local laundry across from the hotel; I lost track of my iPhone, but there was not time to go back to search the room in Hoi An or retrieve my suitcase from the packed luggage van. The best I could hope for was to use my iPad when I got to the next hotel to use the "Find My Phone" app; it was steadily raining Seattle style, temperature in the mid 50's, not bad by many peoples' standards, but when you're sick with something, it takes it's toll; and the predictably unpredictable roads which would quite regularly degrade into muddy slick-pack (not to be confused with hard-pack) allowing for a mud bath by passing scooters, trucks, and tour busses.

I had to call it quits to my ride for the day after lunch. 26 miles was all I could pedal tour today.

Our destination today was Quang Ngai after a visit to the museum at My Lai. More on both of those in a separate post.

Oh, the good news is I found my iPhone when I arrived at our Quang Ngai hotel. Amidst my semi delirium I had put it in a most atypical spot in my suitcase.

While my gut seemed to have quieted over night in Qanq Ngai, I was feverish and full of whole body shakes on the van as we all drove about 50 miles from our hotel in Quang Ngai to the ride start. Our guide thought we might need to be hospital bound, but some helpful pharma from fellow riders and a bottle of Revive, an all natural energy drink that might become my new best friend from Amazon, I began to bounce back. I was able to ride 36 miles from lunch on into Quy Nhon. This afternoon I was not in desperate search of the nearest squat hole, I mainly just felt like I had been run over by a tour bus while lying in a mud hole. That said, and despite the continuing rain, being on the bike was restorative.

I was highly motivated to ride the full day on Sunday the 19th, just because: because I wanted to, because there were several hills I was looking forward to, because I missed getting to ride the hills the day before because of my sickness; and because we would be riding into Nah Trang, a big city,
and we would have a day off the bike on Monday to explore. I already knew I would opt out of exploring and opt in to trying to recover some gut health and energy and catch up on blogging our journey.

I did, indeed, accomplish all of those things, except I had some more adventures of the ablution kind. After lunch I was in need, even a porcelain squat hole should have been most welcome, but how to find? Luc, our Vietnamese tour guide, was helping me zero in on a feasible place as we moved through the hamlets. The first home we stopped at the family was more than willing to offer me what they had, but they only had the resources for peeing, not what I needed. That resource was a large bowl that we might use to make enough fruit salad for a large wedding. Not going to work. The second house, wide open to the street. We entered, announced ourselves, but no one was home. The third house invited me in to their room with a modern toilet that can be flushed, not bucket flushed, and an actual wash bowl for hand washing.

Interesting, no place has any resources for drying your hands. Air dry only.

On a somewhat related note, there is virtually no use of disposable products in any place we've been so far: no to-go cups, no paper/plastic plates/eating utensils, most often no toilet paper. I've been carrying my own, double wrapped on my bike because of the rainy conditions. I definitely give the Vietnamese credit for their green stance on this one. Not sure if it is intentional or just that the option has not yet manifested itself. We've seen only a couple of US franchises (Subway and KFC) in Hanoi. I'm told there is a McDonald's in Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) and that there  is one Starbucks in HCMC, too. A plus or a minus? I'll let you decide.

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