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Bikes in Saigon

Last time I pressed the key to post I muttered something about ‘new experiences’.

Having moved out to the sort of ‘leafy suburbs’ I need someway of getting back into town to work.  Taxis may be cheaper than the UK but they can rapidly eat into a pay cheque.

The solution, take the plunge, enter the melee,  and hire a scooter.

Two weeks ago motorbikes randomly appeared from nowhere, round corners, up pavements and, almost, into street cafes.  But after riding a few motorbike taxis it didn’t seam as bad belonging to the stream as playing the constant game of chicken to avoid it.  And after all, I had driven, many years ago, a scooter round Manchester city centre so it couldn’t be that difficult, could it?

Consequently Friday found me pacing up and down some unknown street trying to locate a cafe recommended as one of the best places to hire from.  Yes, cafe.  Everything and everybody seams to multifunction in some way, a friend rented her bike from a bakery.

The street numbering system takes a little fathoming out, hence the pacing up and down.  Move from say, 41 then there may be an alley way before 42.  Any buildings down the alley way will be 41/something,… at least that is how it seams to work.  I’ll probably discover a different system tomorrow..

Digress.  Having found the said cafe I then had to convince them I wanted the smallest bike they had not the largest and most powerful in the place.  Then admit I had not ridden one for years and would they ‘please’ drive me home as I had absolutely no idea how to get there.  Problem with being driven I had taken no notice what so ever how to get from one district to another.   Fearing more for the safety of the bike than me this negotiation was successful and I was duly driven home, sadly still none the wiser on city centre extraction.

Driving round District two was uneventful on Friday and as I didn’t fall off, or get lost, Saturday saw me heading for the highway and the city centre.  Even this was fine at first.  There are motorbike lanes on the biggest roads and if, as I was advised, you ‘stay with the pack’  when negotiating junctions and roundabouts the adrenalin levels slowly drop.  I was so confident that having found the right road home I decided to stop have a coffee and head back to the city for another go.

Famous last words, pride before a fall, well it all happened.  I took a wrong turn, or didn’t turn when I should have, I think.  It soon became clear I was heading out of town in totally the wrong direction.  Even my maps app was pretty useless.  I may have mastered riding with two hands but holding a phone, looking at the road, that was just not going to be an option.  That city boundary indiscernible from the 13th floor appeared to be rapidly approaching.  I was running out of skyscrapers.  Time to stop and ask directions, with no phrase book and less vocabulary than a 2 year old.  I muttered Ho Chi Minh and pointed one way.  No, the gesticulations clearly said HCM was the other way.  At least I had managed to fill up with fuel earlier.  Towering buildings have never been so welcome.  But even then I had no idea where I was.

The ultimate irony.  I hired a motorbike taxi to lead me back to my district.  Much to the amusement of all surrounding when I managed to convey my strange request.  The price was $5.  I would, by that stage have paid $50!  It was clear this was the only conceivable way I was going to get back to then make the return  to the city for pre booked seats at the opera house.

Lack of photos?  Not learned to use my camera and drive the bike at the same time.  I doubt I ever will. I’ll just have to get off and walk!

And the show at the opera house is the AO show, take a look.  It was amazing.

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