Not content with just one biking exploit, we set off again to get a taste of the Mekong. This time, we upped the style rankings and rented a Vespa 150 VBB. Anyone know what “VBB” stands for? Nobody could tell me, so I coined it “Very Beautiful Bike”. That's another one for the Christmas list ;-)
Just look at this baby! The bike's not bad either ;-)
Keep reading, and we'll show you a few highlights from our three day Mekong loop:
The Friendly Locals
The Vietnamese are some of the friendliest folk we met on our travels. The delightful owner of this petrol station was as besotted with our bike as we were, and was just the most charming man.
This kind couple provided us with shelter from the monsoon rains, which approach surprisingly quickly. Despite the language problems, we managed to communicate with hand gestures, and Google's translate function also gave us a helping hand. They gave us a coke, some crisps, and a chopped custard apple with a salt and chilli dip. When we gestured about the cost, the man promptly replied, "forty." He might not know any other English, but he's on to a winner with that "forty"!
When It Rains, It Pours
The Mekong monsoon rains come quick and hard. And once they've arrived, it really buckets it down. When the sky looks like this, it's your signal to find somewhere with a roof - and quickly!
Then there's not much else you can do but sit it out - and watch the brave souls who carry on regardless...
The contrast in traffic is extreme. Leaving Ho Chi Minh City, the streets looked like this:
Can you spot R in this little lot?
20km further south, things looked a little different with vibrant green rice fields and palms replacing the concrete jungle:
And here's R fitting in with the locals...
No Load Too Great
An army of buzzing scooters form the packhorses of Vietnam. From baskets of ducks - their hours numbered - on their way to market, to shifting the air-con system, a moped is all you need in Vietnam to move something from A to B. For some more pictures, check out our Beasts of Burden album.
And then we broke down...
Good-natured giggles and wide smiles abound as our lovely bike stumbled, spluttered, and ground to a halt right in the middle of a group of school children.
But thanks to the warm-hearted and helpful people of the Mekong, help was soon at hand. Fifteen minutes and €1,20 later, that engine was purring and we were back on the road.
Where Life Revolves Around the Water
The mighty Mekong influences the way of life in Vietnam's South. The early-morning floating markets were abuzz with farmers selling rambutan, pomelo, dragonfruit. and other seasonal produce.
As for this magical moment, we were lucky to spot a mother and her young son transporting bamboo in their boat along one of the Mekong distributaries:
Follow Your Nose and the Locals
Our Vietnamese wasn't too hot - to put it mildly. Still, we've discovered that, wherever you may be in the world, you can't go too wrong if you just follow the best smells and the locals. And a sense of humour doesn't go amiss, either. As we flapped our arms and clucked like chickens (what must we have looked like?!), we could manage to get a tasty plate of food - all for under €2 for the two of us - and a lively ambience to boot.
Vietnamese cafés wouldn't win any prizes for hygiene. With paper napkins and food remnants decorating the floor, and grubby facades, they wouldn't be inviting were it not for the fantastic aromas and buzzing atmosphere.
Always Time for A Caffeine Break
It's a slow pace of life in the Mekong and there's always time for a coffee break. You can't beat the caffeine kick you get from the sweet Vietnamese coffee. It's all part of the culture. Pull up a pint-sized plastic chair or relax in a roadside hammock as you recharge your batteries before hopping on your scooter again.