Communist France

Any confidence I had gained from the previous day’s successful test drive was quickly and efficiently squashed as I attempted an early morning breakout from Ho Chi Minh. I was a washing machine of emotion for the next two hours. Having my own bike and freedom versus being run down at each and every junction. Getting out of HCM, a city I hadn’t massively taken to, versus stalling in front of a boisterous truck/s after making a run across a roundabout. Thinking Heather was breaking down versus realising Heather just needed petrol and therefore going to the petrol station for the first time and feeding her. Scandalously I survived and the murky waters of HCM were soon crossed after catching a short ferry over one of the many estuaries of the mighty Mekong. At this point the road soon opened up, for a good 10 minutes at least.

The road meandered through rows of rubber plantations lined with small roadside shack fruit stalls surrounded by hammocks ready to maintain any unexpected coconut overdoses. This quaint vision swiftly dissolved and became a hallucination against what was to come for the next 60 kilometres. The rubber plantations were replaced by vast industrial complexes, the fruit stalls by diggers tearing up the road and the hammocks by some of the loveliest 18 wheeler trucks I’ve been lucky enough to tangle with. Man I really wanted a hammock.

This glorious landscape continued for a wee while until I hit the intriguing town of Ban Ria. When planning my first few days on the road I had read that there was a lot of investment from oil companies due to the high concentration of offshore drills and other outdated and corrupt mechanisms of pillaging the earth. This then explained the drive towards the coast resembling a post-apocalyptic terminator film sponsored by Shell with their bright red banners emblazoning the landscape every now and then. A vision of the future perhaps. Anyway, apparently, they wanted a nice town to keep the locals happy and boy did they have one. As I drove through the distinctively European town I was amazed by the new flat tarmac, modern French style villas, tall glass buildings and kempt grass walkways. I would have been mistaken for riding through a quiet Mediterranean town in the south of France If it hadn’t been for the lines of large red hammer and sickle flags adorning each lamppost along the main street in the middle of town.

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A Marxist’s French Rivera dream.

The road continued in its intriguing beauty and slightly surreal nature as I made my way to a small village where I was to stay the night called Ho Tram. Predominantly a beautiful golden coastline stretched along most the south-east shore; is what I would have said maybe 10 years ago. Unfortunately, now the way up the ocean road is one of the best examples of a massive influx of super tourism I’ve seen. In an obvious rush to try and meet a seemingly immense potential cliental in the area, huge swaths of land have been bought by large companies and conglomerates, many of whom have built or in most cases began to build fancy resorts. Somewhere along the line the investors must have had a change of heart, stopped the building work and got the heck out of town. That or every single builder had a day off the day I drove through. Either way the empty shells of a couple of these failed bourgeoise luxury resorts provided some welcome shade from the mid-day sun.

The best part of my day was to occur after the sun had gone down and I was I sat down for dinner in Ho Tram. After navigating my way through the meaty menu and seemingly ordering myself some tasty vegetables and tea in my best Vietnamese I was joined by the proprietors two daughters. Regretfully I forget their names, one was nine and the other 6 both with a super good level of English. The next hour turned into a impromptu cross English-Vietnamese pronunciation lesson after the girls proudly presented me with their English text books. Long story short, after just finishing my TEFL course I wanted nout to do with teaching for a while but, as with most my life’s decisions, I’ve flip flopped and its definitely back on the table for when my funds inevitably drop into the ‘balls, I can’t afford a flight home’ level.

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