Before I could meet my cousin Josh for his long awaited arrival, I went to visit Sam and the mechanic for one last check up on my bike before I departed on my long epic journey through the vast geography of Vietnam per Sam’s request and advice. Sam wasn’t around but I let the mechanic go about his business since at the end of the day he is the one and only person in the operation that truly knows bikes. He did a quick ride around on my bike and then started opening it up. He unveiled to me the status of the rear brakes which looked charred up and ashen like the state of a bonfire might be when all they ashy embers seem just about ready to blow away. Of course, why certainly, I would love to have that fixed! The one main thing that I can’t afford to fail on me mid-ride is the frickin’ brakes. When Sam finally arrived he tried to convince me that I did that during my less than 500 km ride mind you through the Mekong Delta. I may not be a mechanic nor an experienced rider but there is no way in hell that happened that quickly. Clearly it was damaged goods beforehand. He went on about this charade of me taking care when riding to slow down and be easy on the brakes. Sure that is all fine and good but the brakes are there for a given purpose: TO BRAKE and slow down THE BIKE. I can’t trust many people out here but Sam will have to do. All in all he has been good to me. It is just like when I ask someone how long it will take for me to get somewhere out here. They don’t want you to be disappointed with a long transit so they underestimate which is the worst thing you can say. Please, please, I beg all of you, if you don’t know just say you don’t know and if you can’t be for certain just overestimate. I would much rather you be realistic and not cause me fume over when late on arrival by two hours. Just saying! I made my case on the brakes by sticking form on my stance that there was no way I did all that. The two of us split the costs for the mechanic which was enough for me to move on with my life. During the tune up process, Josh and his girlfriend randomly walked by and noticed me. After a quick hug and hellos, they went their way until we would meet up at noon. I exchanged for a newer more protective helmet and then said my last departing words to Mr. Samuel (for some reason that brought to mind how cool it would be if there existed somewhere in this great wide world an Asian Samuel Jackson; I would pay to see and hear that man speak). After some R and R in the Bat Cave for an hour (don’t be hating, you know that you would be doing the same when the Earth’s crust had seem to go on fire as it tried to suck out every last droplet of water your body possesses), I went to meet up with Josh and his girlfriend and get the care package from home that I had been anticipating for some time before taking them to a nearby market for their first taste of real Vietnamese pho. The care package came filled with polyester shirts, amongst other necessities. Never have I hated cotton so much until I arrived to this part of the world. In my mind bending and sometimes delusional universe, cotton is like a sweatsuit straightjacket. When I walk, not run – there is a clear distinction to keep in mind with this – through these Asian streets I feel like that Olympic wrestler or Rocky jogging with their garbage bags and thick sweatpants on to shed those last few precious pounds of liquid to make the weight except my effort is devoid of all that glory; for me, it is more so a bitter ritual of simply existing out here. The woman running the pho stand was glad to see me and probably most glad to see me bring friends and more business to her. I showed the rooks how to properly dress a pho with mung bean sprouts, chilies, and the all important lime wedges while warning them of the dangers that lurk for the less experienced palate in the shape and smell of fish sauce and, shrimp paste. Yum! After a solid initial food experience for the new arrivals, I led them to the Independence Palace where I had already scheduled via email to meet with a local who is part of a free walking tour initiative that gives locals an opportunity to practice their English as guides while we learn some unique historical points about the city. The Independence Palace wasn’t overly interesting but had its fair share of history dealing with the Vietnam War. The most fascinating part about the place along with its theme of 60s and 70s decor stuck in a time capsule was the bunker. Walking through the long concrete hallways of this underground bunker while checking into creepy 60s and 70s rooms used as a theater, control room, bedroom, etc., I felt like I had walked into sets from the show Lost! when they get submerged into the quarantine holding cell within the island. We visited the Notre Dame Basilica and Post Office until Josh and to be frank myself included had to wave the white flag so that he could nap off the jet lag. The tour guide waved off my show of money saying that his tip is to learn English from native speakers like us. I said goodbye to Josh and his girlfriend wishing the two of them the best on their travels. They got to see a taste of the social butterfly that I have become. It is not that I have become a party animal and gained the favor of all around me but rather I am more centered and true to who I am and how I want to live my life, which means not being afraid to unveil the real Anthony and all the odd limitless intricacies that form such a unique and unbound person. Once again I stopped at the park to chat some English and Vietnamese but after awhile the head bobbing had become too much. The sun can suck so much energy out of you. I went back to the room to essentially do nothing except round up my supplies in preparation for an early tomorrow that would bring on the official beginning of my journey by bike through the lands of Vietnam and all the magic it has in store for me. At night I made one last short walk of the backpacker district to see the many Vietnamese women in the streets selling their random wares and foods while in full fledge pajamas of all things. They wear these mostly all day long this by far not an unusual sight after this extended time here in HCMC. For better and for worse, HCMC you will be missed.
Riding Vietnam Day 155: A Mini Family Reunion