It is Fridat April 16, 2010 and today is the last day of our motorbike journey. Our day began at the Canary Resort in Phan Thiet on the South China Sea with another wonderful breakfast. Before we departed, we met again with the police chief, who has been our constant escort since Hue, and his family who lives nearby. I was somewhat surprised that his family spoke understandable English and were very curious about us 'Americans'. The teenage boy was deeply engrossed in a computer game (he had a laptop with him) and the girls quickly found the girls in our group and soon were chatting away. He and his family were very friendly, and I think we could have sat and visited for hours.
We left the resort around 9:30 am on the last leg of motorbike journey. We were approximately 200 kilometers (about 124 miles) from Ho Chi Minh City. We were told that back seat riders could ride with us the first part of this last trip, but only single riders were allowed as we would enter the busy traffic of Ho Chi Minh City. So, for the last time, off we go!
We rode for almost two hours then stopped for lunch at a very large road-side stop. Here the back-seat riders board the busses for the final leg of our journey. It doesn't take long to enter the outskirts of the city. Ho Chi Minh City is a vast, sprawling metropolis of over 7 million people. Traffic is very heavy - cars, trucks, and more motorbikes than you could ever imagine; there are motorbikes everywhere! After about 40 minutes of choked road riding, the car/truck/bus traffic veers of in one direction and the motorbikes in another. Now we are just a small number of 'bees' in a very large beehive!!
As I enter the city, I am amazed by the sheer numbers of people. Streets, sidewalks, and back alleys are literally congested. At a red light (one of the very few in the city) I pause to take a picture of a telephone repairman up a pole. If you look closely, you will see a 'knot' of wires just above his head. I simply cannot imagine how he knew what he was doing or which line needed his attention!
We continue into town - we riders have absolutely no idea where we are - we just continue to follow our leader. It seems as though every motorbike is trying to go in a different direction and all at the same time. Horns all around us, yet no accidents and no one seems upset or impatient. Its almost like a finely timed and orchestrated ballet only with thousands of participants.
Around 5:00 pm we arrive back at the Royal Kimdo Hotel. Yes, this is the hotel we spent our very first night in Vietnam, and now we are back again on familiar ground. But first we park our motorbikes on the sidewalk in front of the hotel. Soon there is laughter, handshakes, and a lot of hugging. Here we are, 12 Americans and several Vietnamese United Methodist pastors, all having survived a 1,600 kilometer (1,000 mile) motorbike ride through Vietnam.
We pause to pray - to thank God for being with us during this amazing journey. We thank Him for His protection, for His provision, and for new friendships. It is hard to walk away from the Vietnamese pastors we have come to know so well. Despite our language barrier, we have drawn very close to each other - brothers and sisters in Christ and on motorbikes. I'm sure that many tears were shed as we walked away from the pastors and the bikes.
One last order of business. Speeches must be made. Recognition must be acknowledged. Our leader, Joe Bishman, says a few words. Our police escorts, Chom and the 'chief' must also say a few words. Ut and Karen, our United Methodist guides must have their turn. One last observation - I was able to say goodbye to the police chief. He gave me a hug, and the last words out of his mouth to me were - "God bless you!" Imagine these words from a Communist official!
Finally, everyone slowly drifts away. The Vietnamese pastors take the bikes and head off into the depths of the large city. The police get into their cars and drive off. One by one, we check back into the hotel and take showers. Tonight, supper is on our own. Believe it or not, we happen to find a Pizza Hut just a few blocks from our hotel. Ahhhh, pizza. But remember, we are in Vietnam - familiar, yet different. The pizza is delicious, but not quite the same as back home. After supper we check out the night-life near our hotel. There is a 4-story shopping mall just a few doors down the street. First floor is expensive jewelry, but stuff gets cheaper as you go up. So up we go and have a blast bargaining with the shop keepers for souvineers. A little food, a little shopping, and bed around 10:00 pm. What an adventure!
School has Begun!
4 years ago