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Published: July 28th 2011
Somewhere along the road Shauna inquired about doing a bit of driving again. Happy to sit on the back and get a few road shots as we sped along the coast, I pulled out the camera climbing behind her. Many kilometers later we crested a hill as it round past a vibrant pastel cemetery on both sides of the road. Trickling past we went over a small hill and picked up speed as the road flattened out. Along the way we came across two Vietnamese motorcyclists with two foreign tourists as we approached their location near the deep red earth one of the riders, his dark black motorcycle jacket on reached out an arm giving us a wave. His hand out and large grin spreading on his face. Waving back with a smile we rode on over the next hill.
Traversing down the road Shauna says, "did you see the bull humping that cow?" "What aren't you watching the road?" "How could I? I just saw a bull humping a cow!" She said completely laughing. "Ironically, I'm the one on the back of the bike and should be the one seeing those things. Not you as our driver," I stated.
Just than the road began to run out unless we veered and headed inland. "Should we follow the road?" Shauna asked. "It's up to you. You are driving," I replied. Not choosing she slowed the motor scooter to a halt. To our right a red dirty lane emerged. Straight a second red dirty lane lead to another temple. And left the road to anywhere continued on asphalt.
"Maybe you should drive?" She said, "Not sure I'll do well on the dirt," opting out of her chance of driving down the red dirt road. "Okay," I replied as she stepped off. Moving forward she climbing on behind me and I took off to the right down the dirt lane. Five minutes later we reached the smelly edge of a fishing boat launch area. "Can we head back to where we saw those other foreigners?" Shauna asked. "This smell isn't what you were hoping for in a beach location, I take it?" my words dripping sarcasm. "Nope. Does it work for you?" "It sure will. I need to take a leak."
Climbing back on the moped. I fired it up and took off back up the steep dirt hill. "Glad
you are driving. I would have never made it down or back up this." Laughing a flock of geese crossed our path starring and squaking at us. Driving up the hill its jagged rocks protruding out of the soil we heard two kids voices faintly shouting "hello." "I love when they do that," Shauna stated as I crested the hill pulling left around a corner because I wasn't really paying close enough attention when we drove in. A few minutes later we had reached pavement. Not the same spot we started at but in the vicinity. Peeling left around a couple of farmers heading back to the fields we drove back along the roadway. "Can we stop where we saw those other motorcycles?" Shauna pleaded. "Sure."
Less than two minutes later we arrived at the roadside with the motorcyclists sitting on the edge. "Hey man, how are you?" One of them opened up. "Great, thanks." Shauna couldn't take her eyes off the motorcycles. "My name is Lam," the one in the motorcycle jacket said. His friend pipped up. "My name is Duc." Shaking their hands. We introduced ourselves. Twice. So, they could catch and pronounce our names correctly. "We
are easy riders," Lam began. "Yea! Yea! We ride around with people," Duc enthusiastically added. Right away we could tell these two had awesome personalities. "Where did you guys come from?" Duc inquired. "We are on a day trip from Mui Ne," I replied. "What are you doing tomorrow?" Lam asked. "We bought tickets on the open bus. We are going to Dalat," Shauna responded. "No. Don't do that. Go with us. We take you. It's much more beautiful," Lam replied. "Don't be lazy! Be Crazy!" Duc shouted, laughing. "Not really sure about it," I stated. Looking at the pair thinking to myself what have we landed ourselves in now. As Shauna continued to talk to Duc, I walked over to the bikes taking a look at them. I wanted to see what condition they were in? How many kilometers they had on them? What gear they were packing? And what engine sizes the bikes were?
"You ride, man?" Lam asked as I looked over the tires and shocks on his bike. "Yea. Back home I have a GSX600F. It's a sport touring bike." (okay so I don't actually own it still but I will)
at the bike, I began to notice how worn in the bike looked. "Its a good time. You sit here. Wind in your face. Looking out over the land. You get to see "The Real Vietnam." Its awesome!" "I know. I love riding, myself. It's a great feeling," I responded still going over the bike. "Honda, man. Great bike. Japan. They know what they are doing," he laughed. I laughed. "True." That's when I spotted the engine size. 125. Shiiiit. I laughed even harder. Its the same size engine as the freaking moped. My smile made him ask, "Do you like what you see? You know how to drive? I let you drive your wife when we out on the road." His infectious spirits growing on me.
"Hey what are you two talking about over there?" Shauna's voice broke in. "Just checking out the bikes. Lam says, I can take you for a ride when we are out on the open road." "Sounds good to me. Do you want to do this?" That's it. They've convinced Shauna. Now what? What do I say to that? "Um. Well." I'm totally stalling for time. I don't know what to say? I
pull back my shirt revealing my Buddhist necklace. I think to myself. What would Buddha do? "What'cha looking at?" I hear soft a voice. Looking up, its Duc. "Buddha," I reply. "Buddha brother," his voice melts. "Yea," I say pulling my Thai Emerald Buddha necklace out of my shirt to show him. "Buddha!" he shouts, "Good looking, man! Me, too. What's Buddha say?" Thinking... Thinking... "Buddha says... Fuck-It. Let's Do This!" "Yea Man." I look up to see Shauna smiling. Lam is laughing. Duc is jumping around like a little kid and the two people whom they are actually riding with have just climbed out of the deep red gulley.
We all begin talking. Introducing ourselves. We ask about their trip. They are excited. Out rightly so. They cannot stop talking. They are having a great time. This is their 4th day with Duc and Lam. They picked them up in Nha Trang. They've been through the Central Highlands and are heading to Mui Ne. That's why Duc and Lam are looking for new customers. They pull out cameras. All three. They have videos. Photographs. Charts. Maps. And are just full of energy. The girl, maybe mid-twenties
says, "It's a little pricey. $65 per day. But we would have never seen what we have if it weren't for these two guys." Then her traveling companion said, "It's truly amazing. I've had such a great time with them. I wish I didn't have to stop." Lam pulls out a travel journal from the tank bag. He hands it to us. "You have to see this. We had some Canadians a couple weeks ago with us," he says flipping through the pages. He locates there testimonial page. We read through it. A couple of backpackers from Montreal and Quebec. They basically say the same thing as the people in front of us do. Having a great time. Once in a lifetime. Would do it again. The normal things people say who have enjoyed their trip. Thinking about it... I start flipping one page after the next it reads... Just Go. Do It. Fantastic. Thrilling. Best Thing Money Can Buy. Nothing Compares. Don't Miss Out. Duc and Lam are Great. Loved Every Minute. Forget the Money see "The Real Vietnam."
How can I ignore this? It's a journal. It dates back to January 2011. The book is
filled with people who have done this same thing. They enjoyed it. You'd enjoy it. "Hey, why don't we come by your place tonight? Where you staying at?" Lam asks. "Umm... Thai... Ho... Dam... It's... Shauna do you?" "Sorry." "Hey, Thai Hoa Mui Ne Resort. Far end of town?" "Yep. That's it." "We meet you there at four?" "Four's too early. How about six? Will six work?" "Okay. We'll see you at six," Lam says. We've agreed to meet them. That's good. "Sorry, for taking up your time guys," I say to the other two. "No worries. We hope you decide to go. It's been soooo much fun. Seriously," she says. Then they all pile onto the two bikes. They are started waving back to us they all peel off onto the roadway in Easy Rider fashion.
Shauna walks down into the gulley to take a few pictures and check it out. I stay up top not really into walking through a dried out water gulley. I sit down watching farmers work the red earth with their ancient tools. I ponder our money and the trip with those two guys. I know deep down inside it'd be a once
in a lifetime kind of trip. I totally know it. But I... frustrating. Shauna climbs out of the gulley and walks over to where I am crouching down taking a couple of photographs.
"Are you sure you want to do this?" I ask Shauna. "Is it the money?" She responds. "Yes and no. I mean. Sure its the money. But I wasn't planning it. And I cannot pay with my credit card. It's not.. It's just.. I totally love riding motorcycles. And I'm sure its going to be an amazing trip. But we didn't talk about this. It's an expense I didn't foresee," I say. Although I am totally in and I totally want to do this. I'm just thinking... there goes all my cash for the rest of this trip. We just arrived two days ago. And now I'm going to spend it all on a motorcycle ride? Lame.
"Let's just think about it and discuss it later. We haven't given them any money," Shauna says. "True. But it would be so much fun. Even Buddha wants to go," I say smiling "Plus they both have such great personalities." "They sure do. But lets think about it.
Then we can decide on it later." "Sounds good," I respond, "Are you ready to get out of here?" "Yes. You drive," she says, "I'm a bit tired."
Pulling the seat forward we drop our cameras and bags into the trunk space taking out our helmets and securing them. Sitting down we fire up the moped and scooter on down the road back the direction from which we came. Five minutes later I spot a white stone sitting on the edge of the road stating 68 km Mui Ne "I just spotted a sign it said Mui Ne is sixty-eight kilometers away," I tell Shauna. "Seriously? Wow it doesn't seem like we went that far." Pulling down the hill, we pick our way to the side and pull off to stretch the legs and give Shauna the opportunity to walk down to the water. A few minutes after our pit stop we are back on the scooter heading in the direction of Mui Ne.
Thirty-something minutes later we've reached the round about heading back along the path that returns us to Mui Ne. "We are going to need petrol again soon," I state. "I'll keep my
eyes open for a station," she replies. Quickly a bit of rain seeps out of the clouds above as a wicked section of dark clouds rolls in. "Maybe we could go back now?" Shauna asks. "What?" "I'm getting cold back here. That's why I am holding onto you so snuggly." "How about after we find petrol, we get a cup of coffee?" "Ooooh that sounds even better." Breaking through the town we merged into traffic as the afternoon poured on and the clouds built up above us. Cruising back through the main stretch of road we pulled out onto a vacant stretch open down to fishing boats and beach. Pulling to the side I said, "I want to capture these amazing clouds." "Okay then can we get out of here, I'm really chilly." "No problem."
Fourteen photographs later we were back on the bike speeding off down the twisting road dropping down the hill. As we descended I spotted a petrol tank on the edge of the road. Pulling to the side of the road we slowed in front of the petrol. A young girl emerged from the shop as did an older man limping. His crazy hands and
legs gesturing in every direction. The girl in perfect English said, "How many liters of gas?" "Can we have two, please," Shauna replied. The girl hit the crank bar and set the fuel spot into the tank. Watching the fuel rise in the tank they took care of adding fuel as the man continued to look at me stating "Ack Tlack" and pointing at the head light. "Yea. Headlight," I replied. "Ack Tlack" "Okay. Light on," I said again. Confused the guy pointed and gestured and stated "Ack Tlack, Ack Tlack." Shauna paid for the fuel setting the seat back down. I fired up the moped and turned on the light to appease this guy. He smiled, waved and walked back to his seat. The girl said smiling, "Thank you," as she began to back away from us. "You are welcome," I replied grabbing the throttle, releasing the brake sending us back down the street.
Over the next two and a half hours we found a cup of coffee at the "best coffee shop in Mui Ne" (at least their sign said so) at Natalie's Resort. Drank it back while watching a construction guy
Phan Thiet's banh xeo
through bucket after bucket of brick, mortar and rubble onto the beach and sea water. Drove down to Phan Thiet for the heck of driving fun. Spent time searching for food. Finally ended up at a road side cafe for Phan Thiet's take on banh xeo (bean sprouts and green onion wrapped in an egg crepe then rolled in lettuce leaves with sprigs of mint, basil and dipped into a spicy sauce). Delicious for road side food. Two plates and we sped off for the meeting back at our hotel. Along the way we spotted a Cham ruin deciding we had enough time (as I always do) we shot up the ruins. Checked them out, took photographs and sped back to Mui Ne. Pulled off at the local Circle K (no joke) to grab a couple of beers, water and fruit snack chips. Finally, we reached our hotel turning right onto the driveway Lam stood with a map in his hand waving with the other while Duc smiled waving his cigarette in the other. Dropping off Shauna I sped down the drive to park the moped.
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