First Motorbike Trip – Back to the Mekong!
After my friend Arjun unfortunately had to delay his trip to come join me in Vietnam, I was left with my two friends, Deepak and Katie. They had planned to bus down to Can Tho in the Mekong Delta so, rather than waiting for Arjun in Ho Chi Minh City, where I had been for the past two weeks, I decided to take advantage of my new bike and meet them down there. Changing plans is easy when you don’t rely on buses! I had breakfast with Deepak and Katie, they got in the cab that would take them to their bus, and I headed to the highway for my first motorbike trip.
I was full of excitement. I had ridden my bike around the city a little, but it didn’t compare to embarking on a legitimate road trip with a real destination! Wind blowing in my face, sun shining on my arms, it was all I could do to keep a ridiculous smile from continuously creeping up on my face.
For the first 70km or so leading out of Saigon, the highway is separated between cars and motorbikes. This is another example of how well Vietnam caters to motorbikes and how much they hate and tax cars. This means that traffic is light and you don’t have to deal with trucks so getting out of the city is easy… and boring. It’s an industrial wasteland but, fortunately, my initial exhilaration was more than enough to get me through it. I trekked through for the next two hours during which my drive was interrupted only by fruitless attempts at finding a smoothy but that consistently ended with Vietnamese coffee settlements.
Then I arrived at the church that may have saved my life! It was nothing fancy, but after endless ugly factories and dusty shops reminiscent of the wild west, it stood out like the Sistine Chapel. I decided to exercise my right to unlimited stops and check it out. As I was parking my bike, I noticed a crack in my luggage rack which, had I carried on, would have likely broken off and taken out my back wheel.
I started looking around as if a mechanic would pop out of thin air and weld it back together but, after realizing that divine intervention can only get you so far, I readjusted my luggage to make sure the bulk of the weight was on the seat instead of the rack and gingerly drove off in search of one. I passed a few “Honda” signs, which I assumed meant they fixed bikes, but it wasn’t until my third attempt that the guy understood what I needed. He called his friend, who took me to his shop and welded my baby up. Visit a mechanic to fix a bike issue: check! Good thing it wasn’t a serious one.
The first notable landmark on the journey though, was the Mỹ Thuận suspension bridge. It was getting dark by the time I got to it, which made it even more spectacular. You know you’re in Vietnam when it’s ok to pull your bike over on a bridge and expect everyone else to avoid you, but that’s what everyone was doing, so I figured I might as well join them and enjoy the sights. Both the bridge, and the inlet it towered over were beautiful, an amazing contrast of human engineering with nature’s beauty.
Another hour or so and I finally entered Can Tho’s city limits and was surprised at how much activity there was going on. This was no hamlet. The streets were still heavily lit up with the decorations from Tet, the lunar new year, and traffic was bustling. A couple of hotels spiked up in the distance and bars, karaoke joints and restaurants dotted the streets as I made my way to our guest house. Deepak and Katie were there already and graciously agreed put their hunger on hold as I showered. You quickly realize how dirty you get while motorbiking as your body soaks up all the grime and dirt flying through the air. The particle masks I’ve seen the locals wearing are starting to make sense. I showered and we hit the town. First motorbike trip: complete! Ready to explore the delta one more time, on my own time!