Riding out of Saigon - Unchained Melody - CycleBlaze

November 25, 2023

Riding out of Saigon

The doorman took our photo just before we left our Saigon A25 Hotel.
Heart 11 Comment 4
Scott AndersonNice that Andrea’s sleeves, shoes and helmet all match!
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2 months ago
Andrea BrownTo Scott AndersonOh, I’m stylin’. Everyone says so.
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2 months ago
Bruce LellmanTo Scott AndersonI'm definitely a mishmash colorwise. My helmet used to match my bags but now my new helmet kind of contrasts. Hopeless. All I could come up with was matching our shorts.
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2 months ago
Jeff ArnimThis photo fills my heart with joy.
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2 months ago

Riding out of Saigon

Finally we were set to start riding. Having walked around Saigon for a few days and even ridden our bikes a bit it was still quite daunting to think about riding the busy streets with thousands of motorbikes.  Andrea had mapped out a route that largely put us on back alleys weaving slowly towards the outskirts.  But we definitely had to cross big streets and make turns against traffic (left turns) without the help traffic lights may have provided.  All we could do was try to wedge ourselves in a pack of motorbikes as we went against traffic on those turns.  It was fine if you didn't think about it much.  Strangely, I am actually not all that nervous in Vietnamese motor bike traffic once I'm in it. 

Two little guys we met in one of the alleys.
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One street we rode down was the chrome metal fabricating street.  Every shop had piles of chrome metal stools, tables, utensils, etc.  It was dazzling but I couldn't take the time to stop and photograph it properly.  I love it when you happen upon a street where all the shops specialize in the same one thing.  It happens often in Asia.  

Chrome Street, Saigon.
Heart 5 Comment 1
Susan CarpenterI was in Saigon several years ago at the start of an organized Saigon to Bangkok bike ride. In search of an SD card adaptor, I found myself wandering up and down "Electronics Street", which was lined with small shops jammed full of new, used and semi-obsolete electronic parts and equipment. I didn't find my adaptor there, but loved exploring the small stores and trying to communicate with the shopkeepers.
Wishing you a wonderful trip - I am excited to follow along.
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2 months ago

I loved riding the little narrow alleys because it was as if we were riding through people's kitchens and living rooms.  Everyone had a look of astonishment on their faces but then smiled and said hello.  The Vietnamese say "Hello" when they answer their phones so it is one thing they understand from us. I always wish I knew the language of the country I'm in but no one has ever really expected us to know their language either.  They are just glad to see us visiting their country.  I think it means a lot to them.

So, we zigged and zagged a lot, missed our turn a couple of times, and generally everything was going well.   It was slow going when we were in the alleyways for sure and faster on the streets.  At one really big and busy intersection a woman on a motorbike with three good sized cardboard boxes on the rear of her seat was in front of me and right in the middle of the intersection one of those boxes hit the pavement, plop!  As soon as we got to the other side of the street I had Andrea hold my bike and I went right out into the heavy traffic to save the box for the woman.  I held my hand up to a car as if I had suddenly become a traffic cop.  I pointed at the box on the pavement with my other hand and actually to my surprise the car stopped, motorbikes saw what I was doing and everyone sort of slowed and moved cautiously.  I picked up the box which weighed way way way more than I ever imagined it did, nearly throwing my back out in the process, and I lugged it to the woman's motorbike.  Mission accomplished.  The woman bowed deeply in thanks and I felt good about what I had done.  

I like these sorts of opportunities to show respect for the local people. I don't know how to word this concept of mine so that I don't come across as some sort of merit seeking narcissistic creep of a guy.  But, seriously, I'm just who I am, Boof to some, who loves traveling in SE Asian countries and one thing I really love is when I get the opportunity to help people in very simple ways.  

Just as an aside, if I may.....One time, 23 years ago, I was standing on the back of a little truck way in the north of Laos all day long as we traveled through the middle of nowhere into more nowhere and it was so beautiful.  I had just met a Danish guy, Sam, who was also hanging on the back with me.  He had been traveling the world for 12 years straight!   Every now and then the truck would stop to pick up someone and usually they were old people with a 70 kilo bag of rice next to them at the side of the road.  Sam, who was very muscular, would jump off and without thinking twice grab that bag of rice and heft it onto the roof of the truck.  Later Sam was inside the little truck peeling oranges he had bought, passing them around to all the local passengers.  I thought I knew how to travel but Sam taught me so much more.  You show respect to the locals as much as you can.  That's traveling. 

I think it's important to show that foreigners come in all shapes, sizes and demeanors.  I always want to help the locals wherever I can or at least come across as someone who cares about them and is not an aloof elitist snob.  When language is not available as communication, other means are necessary to get respect across.

Anyway, I saved that package for a woman and I'm pretty sure everyone who saw the foreigner picking up that box in the middle of a busy intersection will not forget it and maybe even go home and tell their family about what they saw.  I'm sure it was an unusual sight for them.  It was unusual for me!.  When I placed the box on the woman's motorbike seat it was then I realized that none of the three heavy boxes were tied on!  What was she thinking?!!  I risked my life because she hadn't tied anything on?  That was crazy and makes me a little mad, but don't tell her that.  

I just happened to have taken a photo of the woman with the untied boxes on her motorbike. The box didn't drop in this intersection but the next which was much bigger and busier.
Heart 9 Comment 3
Brent HirakThanks for doing that. I think everyone saw it will actually remember… I think peace loving people are uniquely Perceptive to genuine acts of kindness
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2 months ago
Lisa LeslieI'm playing catch-up with my reading and comments. I love your practice of caring for locals. In Saigon we played a game with our kids of seeing who could get a picture of the largest or weirdest items being transported on a scooter.
I believe a nearly full size refrigerator or a five tier wedding cake were the winning entries.
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1 month ago
Andrea BrownTo Lisa LeslieAlso fun: how many people can you get on one motorbike?
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1 month ago

So, we were going along, making our way as best we could amidst the chaos.  Riding out of Saigon on a bike is not for the faint of heart, that's all I have to say.  It was so noisy that Andrea, who was the navigator with her phone mounted on her bike and me in front of her, (not my choice), could not be heard if she shouted directions to me.  At one point she shouted what I thought was, "Stop, stop!" and with these new disc brakes I stopped on the spot.  Apparently she had not yelled stop but instead, "Pull over," which is the same as stop to me but sure doesn't sound the same.  I'm still wondering about how I could misconstrue those two things.  I stopped so abruptly that she plowed into me and one of my rear panniers came off.  We put it back on but noticed the little clip things were missing and we couldn't find them.  As we rode on I thought something else was amiss so I stopped to check it out.  The problem was that the rack had snapped down low and was dangerously close to winding up in the rear rotor disc brake.  

These are new racks from Bike Friday and where it snapped was a weak point.  Where it snapped, half the metal rod is a screw hole.  Why anyone would think that the rack wouldn't snap there one day is beyond me.  To keep the broken end of the rod from causing more damage I dug out a piece of rigid foam I had saved from our packing material because, remember, I am from the era of the Great Depression and I save everything.  I wedged it so the end of the rack rested on the foam preventing it from going anywhere nasty.  Then I secured the foam to the frame with duct tape I had brought along.  The temporary fix worked like a charm.  

Only four miles into our bike trip and my rack is broken.  We are pretty sure someone will be able to weld it back together.  It's just a small problem possibly.  I have to laugh because it turns out that we are our own worst enemies!  We were so worried about the traffic situation in such a large city with millions of motorbikes but in the end it was we who broke things!   Fortunately we were able to continue on.

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Eventually we saw our first bright green rice paddy and then we came to a small ferry that chugged us across one of the tentacles of the Mekong River as it forms its massive delta area as it approaches the ocean.  We even rode on a small trail for a bit and there I heard my favorite bird of SE Asia, the bird I call The Counting Bird but is really the Coppersmith Barbet.  

Our first ferry on the Delta.
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On the ferry.
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It's not much of a trail but it had a Counting Bird, my fave.
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It was very hot and the humidity made it beastly.  After only fourteen miles we called it a day.   We found a Nha Nghi (guest house/hotel) off the main road, very quiet with a great bed.  It was all we needed and the cost was only $6.25.  Yes a rack broke but not us and that's the important thing.  It was a good day.  We finally broke free of the gravitational pull of the big city - Saigon. 

lovebruce 

In our first Nha Nghi (guest house). The sheet was holiday appropriate - the blanket just weird.
Heart 10 Comment 3
Brent HirakThat character is a Japanese one called Doraemon. There’s a big argument as to whether he’s a dog or a cat. But his most important and special power is his magic pocket! With it, he can open a magic door and go to anytime and place he wants to…
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2 months ago
Bruce LellmanTo Brent HirakThis is really interesting. Thank you, Brent. I know nothing about Doraemon but now I want a magic pocket too.
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2 months ago
John SolemLove in Home
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2 months ago

Today's ride: 14 miles (23 km)
Total: 15 miles (24 km)

Rate this entry's writing Heart 20
Comment on this entry Comment 3
Suzanne GibsonI am so impressed! I never dreamed you were going to ride out of the city but rather put the bikes in a pickup or something. Bravo! That rack will get fixed, they know how to repair most anything in SE Asia. Good job of fixing it on the fly like that.
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2 months ago
Andrea BrownTo Suzanne GibsonI’m impressed with us too, ha. But it’s all due to Pocket Earth. We rarely use it outside of megacities but it’s pretty amazing.
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2 months ago
Rachael AndersonI’m Im so glad you made it through the awful traffic but am sorry your rack broke!
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2 months ago