Tiếng Việt

Vietnam
A breath of fresh air
A few weeks in HCMC and we had found a few interesting restaurants, could find our way to the supermarkets and had managed to master the rules of the road. I’d never fully understood the ‘Chaos Theory’ but it all starts to make sense very quickly in this manic city.

A man tries a spot of freelance fishing out of outskirts of the city
Photo: Greig Callan

One Sunday morning, however we had a desire to escape the city, the confines of districts, traffic lights, smog and noise, even if it was only for a few hours.

It was never going to be a road trip, but just a chance to see what lay outside this sprawling city’s borders. Our first foray into the unknown.

So after reviewing a map and selecting, by virtue of the closest road to our flat that would take us out the city, we jumped on the bike. Out of District 5, hugging the river along District 8 into District 7.

A lovely view along a bustling street looking across at the boats moored in the channel over to the high rise buildings, we headed off towards Phu My Hung.

The marked difference between the wider expanse and expat influence of District 7 to our own home in District 5 was there for all to see. Modern apartment blocks, villas and apartments being constructed along the road, busy with lorries delivering building materials and removing waste.

This may not have been the right road to choose but soon it was all behind us. The traffic ceased, the construction lorries gone and now just a few other motorbikes and an open highway ahead of us.

Clear of all the buildings we drove on, the road splitting through the greenery and wildness of the countryside just a few kilometers out of the city.

What a difference in such a short space of time. Time to remove the ghastly face mask and feel like you are breathing fresh air again. At each bridge crossing the many channels, local fishermen would be parked at the side of the road, with several rods lazily dipping into the water below as they patiently waited for a tug on the lines and another fish to add to their buckets. Such a serene sight, only a few minutes from the hustle and bustle of downtown.

As we drove on, little hamlets would appear, the buildings clinging to the side of the road, staying as close as possible to gain some passing trade from the few bikes that would go past.

Small general stores, stores selling woven baskets and bike repair shops dotted along the road with the owners comfortably sitting in the tranquility of a peaceful Sunday afternoon. The scene would be repeated at every hamlet, a much slower pace at each one the further out of the city we drove. Stopping at one such village we soon had a crowd round us, not only children but a few adults looking at the strange foreigners stopping off in their little area.

The short trip may not have had the appeal of the many tourist attractions in HCMC, but the chance to drive without a mask and not gulp in wave after wave of exhaust fumes and to escape this manic city, even just for a few hours was like a holiday in itself. As my old Gran would say, a change is as good as a rest.

By Greig Callan in HCMC
From The Saigon Times

(11/08/2011 08:58)

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