Tam Biet Viet Nam

Tam Biet Viet NamHo Chi Minh is a bustling city, the traffic is crazy busy but surprisingly it seems to work, traffic jams don’t seem to happen. I cycled a bit around Ho Chi Minh, I had to try and find a box to send my bike home in. It was surprisingly easy to get one. I just went to the street that had several bicycle shops. The young man in the shop knew exactly what I wanted and produced a box that had been flattened. The older man at the shop whipped out his tools ready to dis-assemble my bike. I put my hand out to say “stop” that it would just take the box. No problem, they set about strapping it to the back of my bike. So I cycled back to the hotel, with my new, extra long wide load.  I blended in perfectly, nobody batted an eyelid. A few times I thought it was going to slip of the edge and I held one side while I held onto the handle bars, while manoeuvring through traffic. This took a little bit of concentration and just plain good luck that I didn’t have to stop in a hurry. 

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I cycled into the security area/parking lot of the hotel. This wasn’t the hostel I had been staying at, this was the fancier hotel I thought I would treat myself with. I hadn’t checked in there as yet. I thought I would drop my box off and then ride back to the hostel for the rest of my luggage. The security guard thought I had lost the plot. In my very best charades, I demonstrated that I needed the box to put my bike in to go on the plane, yes the action for aeroplane is the same in any language! He nodded, he obviously understood because the box was stored securely behind his desk. I can imagine what it will be like today when I go down to pack my bike up, no doubt I will get a lot of assistance, happy to yet again be some ones source of entertainment for the day.

My back is sore, I think it’s just tight because my legs are tight. A massage would be a good idea. I have had massages before, several, but I am going to compare oranges with oranges. Bali is very similar, massage wise. As you walk down the main street the familiar “massage, massage, manicure, pedicure” and a pamphlet is shoved into your hand with the prices. The masseurs are not formally trained , they have learn’t their craft from their friends and family through years of the tourist trade. So you can get a nice enough relaxation massage that ignores all the knotted muscles and puts copious amounts of oil on your skin.

As you walk down Bui Vien Street, in the main back packer area, the massage places are aplenty and thats were the orange suddenly become passionfruit, all seedy on the inside. They are all called My Spa, probably because TripAdvisor recommends “My Spa” as the best massage in Ho Chi Minh City, so lets just change the name. The girls are all dressed in very, very short, tight dresses, with the highest heals. Cleavage, although not particularly ample is everywhere. The street is full of bars and cafe’s with all the seats facing out to the street, the seats are filled with middle aged men with any number of women hanging around. It has that seedy vibe. So I have decided not to get a massage on that street, or possibly girls, they look so young! I think I will just go to the Spa in my little bit “posh” hotel.

The massage is a bit more expensive than the street, no,  I won’t have the hot rocks, the jacuzzi or the special, private room thank you. Just a massage, and I will have a female, is she good? Well yes Madam, she is very good! I am shown to my room and in walks a tiny, young woman with the highest heals, shortest skirt and her boobs pushed up around her ears. She doesn’t look like a masseur. And off course she wasn’t. I don’t think she has ever had to massage for an entire hour ever. The massage was terrible.

I won’t even bother to explain the massage, only to say that at some point she ran out of oil and gave me something equivalent of a Chinese burn, if I only knew how to say “what the hell are you doing” in Vietnamese, which I did say in English, but the Chinese burns continued. She left the room on several occasions for an extended period, I argued with myself about getting up and walking out, I just felt sorry for the poor girl, I imagined she was racing out to a more experienced colleague saying, “what to I do know?” to be told “go and pull her toes, see if you can crack them” “just pull her hair”, “rub her back a bit more” or do this weird creepy crawly thing on her arm. I wondered if they ever broke anyones toes or fingers doing that. 

Well the torture session ended and I walked out to the reception to pay, to be asked if there was any tip. Yes, I will give you a tip, train your staff!  I wouldn’t got to dentist if I needed brain surgery. I think it’s time to go home, this is not my scene. My bike is dismantled and in a box, my patience is coming to an end.

Two thousand and eighteen kilometres, four motorbikes (to sight see only), two taxi’s (to and from airports in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh), two bus rides to go canyoning and to Cu Chi Tunnels. Every kilometre between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh was pedalled by me,  except the 200 metres the monk pushed my bike up the hill.

It has been wonderful, really, truly wonderful. The Vietnamese people have been a delight, their smiles and endless hello’s kept me smiling most days. Somedays were tough, some days were a breeze. But even on the tough days not once did I question what I was doing. I met people along the way that I will never forget and a few people that I don’t care to remember. 

It was surely never dull, I was kept entertained by the constant hustle and bustle that is the roads of Vietnam. I saw weddings and funerals, private lives that are lived very publicly on the streets. Sometimes it was lonely, but never while I was out on the road, that is where I felt most at home, I felt like I was a part of something, I was a part of that hustle and bustle, not just a bystander, not once was I invisible. People have asked me why I did it? No epic reason really, because I can. What did I get from it?  A sense of achievement, and knowing that I can do it.


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