Saigon to Vung Tau by scooter.
This morning I rode through sunshine, through traffic, through fields of ducks and then I rode through a monsoonal rainstorm. Now I sit here in Vung Tau sipping a coffee while I look at the waves from the South China Sea crashing against the busy Vung Tau "back beach".
I headed out of Saigon mid-morning. My copy North Face backpack neatly packed and nestled between my knees in my bike’s luggage rack. I may have looked like your Nanna riding a nanna bike but I felt like an easyrider. My journey out of Saigon was heralded by flowing flags and banners. Alternating symbols, first a star then a hammer & sickle on identical blood red backgrounds. Yesterday was the anniversary of the liberation of Saigon and today was May 1st – no doubt the real reason for the banners. I chose to look upon them as my very own honour guard of communist symbolism as I rode down to the beaches of Vung Tau.
The ride out of Saigon was relatively uneventful and I chose to put on some 90′s rock tunes on my iPod as I rode out. Turning onto the road to Vung Tau (highway 51a) I stopped to buy a baguette and iced-green tea. The smiling Chi (older woman but not too old) who in retrospect I think I should have called a Ba (a woman a fair bit, maybe mother’s age old) consented, smilingly, to me taking a photo of her and her streetside, freshly baked Banh Mi.
A few miles further just beyond Bein Hoa I found myself visiting Dairy World. Or at least that’s what I think it was with it’s massive cow statues, and mentions of Bo Sua (Beef/Cow milk). I rode in through Dairy world, stopped off to buy a drink and some freshly baked little doughy things stamped with the decidedly English word “egg”. Quiet delicious and a nice little break on my journey.
From there I zoomed off. In my earphones the 4 Non-Blondes sang to me and asked me "what’s going on now" as, on the sidelines, a panorama opened up. To my left misty covered mountains, to my right fields of white ducks, rice paddies and buffalos standing sentry duty on the banks of sodden, muddy coloured rice paddies.
My trusty Yamaha purred between my thighs, my iPod picked another great tune, the wind kept me cool, the rush of air over the handlebars and onto my face kept me smiling. I found myself singing out loud as I enjoyed the visceral rush of riding and the screensaver scenery around me. I don’t know what my fellow riders on the road thought but I was having a ball riding and singing.
And then the clouds rolled in. The air began to thicken and the small pockets of blue left in the sky began to close up. As one the traffic around me began to speed up as if our combined horsepower alone could keep the rain at bay. ’twas not to be and the first drops started breaking. I pulled over to a nearby stall and bought a poncho. Pulling it on my head the baby blue poncho did much to enhance my easyrider cool. Off I rode into the storm the tunes still playing and me still singing.
Within minutes the wind began to pickup and soon the rain was falling hard, fast and needle sharp. I slowed my bike to a crawl and still the rain hurtled into my face at breakneck speed like kamikaze pilots eager to inflict damage. Just prior to my face turning into steak tartare I pulled over to a garage and waited with 50 or so fellow riders. After 20 minutes or so the rain seemed to ease and I, knowing Vung Tau was still 50km’s away was keen to get on with it. I rode back into the needles and rode and rode and rode. When the rain eased I sped up and when it came thundering down I slowed to a crawl but I kept going. My smile slowly turned to a grimace but through it all I was finding a perverse joy. Here I was riding a bike through the rice paddies and buffalos of Vietnam while doing battle with the monsoon, how could I not be enjoying this.
On I rode and eventually I arrived at the outskirts of Vung Tau. My poncho had not served it’s purpose, ripped up by the wind, rain had soaked through and then, just to make sure I really was wet the gods had sent truckers and fellow bikers to ride through massive wake producing puddles just as I was riding past them. On four separate occasions I was engulfed by a wave of water taller than me and my bike. You’d think my sense of humour was being tested ;-)
In Vung Tau I drove through the rain, saw a likely hotel with great views of the ocean and likely to have room service, hot coffee and hot water. So here I am at Sammy hotel drinking my ca phe sua nong while the hot water runs in my bath. I’ll go out again when the rains die down. What a long, wet, enjoyable ride that was.