Motorcycling Through Saigon

The last few days have been a lot of hurried riding from the crashing water of waves on the ocean into the onslaught of thunderstorms.  I raced through the last curving coastal roads following sand dunes, stopped for a pleasant lunch with some cows overlooking the sea, and curved inland as the sky dropped buckets.  The land near the coast is said to be the best for growing green dragon fruit, the beautiful pink and green fruit with a white fleshy center full of black kiwi like seeds.

Dragonfruit grow like some weird hybrid of dreadlocked palm tree-cactus. And here I thought pineapples grew funny. Can you spot the spiky pink and green fruit?

Now that I’m riding alone, I do not ride all that much per day.  It takes a good bit of energy out of me and I’d rather be able to walk around and enjoy the rest of my day.  That means I don’t usually take my meals on the road as I’m only riding for a few hours.  On the road to Saigon I made an exception as I found Banh Bao vendors lined up ten deep.  These are meat filled steamed wheat buns that I usually spot on the back of motorbike vendors that I can’t get the attention of, so I’ve been craving them for a while.  Back in San Francisco I had multiple friends who were on Atkins like wheat free diets to lose weight.  I don’t think I could do it, I can’t imagine giving up breads, cakes, and noodles.

Google Maps has been serving me pretty well as I travel.  I don’t think I’ve broken out the paper map once while on the road.  It certainly isn’t up to date enough sometimes though and has some issues.  This time it told me there was a bridge across the river.  I sat in a horde of bikes and cars, wondering what was taking so long.  This must be the world’s slowest drawbridge ever.  Ah, no it is a ferry.  How the heck do you confuse the two of those on a map?!  On the upside the ferry is fast and pleasant.

Finally, I arrived in Ho Chi Minh City (ye olde Saigon, renamed after the war).  I do not intend to explore just yet, I will have to return to Saigon to sell my motorbike to another backpacker.  It is a huge city, with close to ten million residents spread out over a huge area criss crossed by a huge network of roads.   That part feels like home.  When I was 16, I was a rather aggressive driver.  I raced into every opening I could for the thrill of driving, convinced that everyone else should do the same and we’d all go faster.  As I’ve aged I’ve mellowed out my driving a good bit, but little did I know my teenage driving dreams were how the Vietnamese drive.  I’m not convinced it makes anyone go faster.  Combined with the rain, the millions of not-grid like roads made me a rather more lost than usual.  I think I spent at least an hour looping through Saigon’s many streets.

Actually in Saigon I met up with a few Vietnamese Couchsurfers who were a rather friendly bunch with great English skills.  After my flakey and cult experiences, it is nice to know that some cities in Asia have healthy Couchsurfing communities.  I left in the morning and moved further south to explore the Mekong Delta.  I have made it though, i’ve finished the Hanoi to Saigon ride.  I’ll be back Saigon, I’ll be back to eat your delicious secrets.


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