Every ride, trip, or adventure I’ve been on can be traced down to a single beginning, a middle and finally an end point. Our Vietnam scooter ride, is now starting to take on traction. I can now trace it back to two guys, one named To and the other Chien. Chien has never returned since his parents fled Vietnam in 1975, after the communist took power. He is now what they call a refugee birthright seeker. Years ago, I was one too. Cuba.
To is about twenty years Chien’s senior. He has returned several times and is now willing to play tour guide to our motley crew of less than average history educated Americans. Like for example, we now know from To that Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos each have their own distinct cultures, languages, and historical developments.
Although each country shares certain influences from their common history as a French colonial territory for nearly a century until 1954, Vietnam is much more culturally influenced by China while Cambodia and Laos have been more influenced by India.
Within each country, there are Chinese and other ethnic minority populations such as the Hmong, Mien, and the Khmer from Laos.
Our commonality however, is Motorbikes. We heard they have a few of them all over the country, and most can be rented for as little as just a couple of US dollars a day.
For many Vietnamese Americans to return to the “homeland “ for the first time since leaving can be mind numbing. Just imagine your self wondering, as an immigrant kid, what life for you would’ve been like if you stayed “there” vs “here” in the land of opportunity and plenty. During that initial meeting we also spoke about Vietnamese coffee vs regular coffee.
The most obvious difference to me is the brewing method of the two types. They both use gravity to let the hot water make its way through to the coffee and the filter. One uses a paper filter while the other uses a metal filter. That doesn’t seem like a huge difference but apparently it does. In Costa Rica my friend Marco made it perfectly clear that Costa Rica coffee was supreme because they used a reusable cloth filter vs a throw away paper filter with impurities that made its way into the coffee.
So, we’re also on our way to Vietnam to sample the foods, drinks, and culture while riding scooters. I’ve had a National Geographic Vietnam Travel book that I purchased at a Barnes & Noble bookstore in 2006. This will be my first time in Vietnam. I want to see what changed, besides the history.
Vietnam fascinates me because thankfully, I wasn’t anywhere near draft age and neither were my school friends when the US was out to save the world from godless communist? All wars are best understood through a lens of history, and understanding it, let alone being fascinated by it, is going to be another goal to try and wrap my mind around, on this Vietnam Scooter ride.
Our date of departure may be before during or after monsoon season. I now know not when. Remember that scene in the Forrest Gump movie where it started raining and never stopped? That’s monsoon season. “We been through every kind of rain there is. Little bitty stingin’ rain… and big ol’ fat rain. Rain that flew in sideways. And sometimes rain even seemed to come straight up from underneath.” Hopefully, we don’t ride in much of that. And that’s all I’ve got to say about our planned departure dates.
Let’s see, now we have Scooters, coffee, history, culture, the people and what we hear is the most amazing fresh served foods that arrive to you served directly from the stalls of farmers and fishermen. There is something obscene about the way our food in the US travels hundreds and thousands of miles around our industrialized country before it arrives to us oftentimes sterile, frozen and exhausted. And many of our people even use a microwave to finally eradicate the last bits of nutrients in it before eating.
Sitting on a motorcycle is one thing but, sitting on a scooter? Another getting used to item will be sitting on the saddle of a scooter. In Vietnam it might even qualify as exercise. Just picture us overweight middle and older aged young men, rather constricted. One’s blood flows down into one’s boots, while your vertebrae rattles around. Our muscles in constant motion. Hey, should have a great effect on our daily food intake and digestion, if we can avoid any and all food borne diseases.
So, want to get in on this planned ride? You still can. Just drop me a note and let me know if you also enjoyed the story thus far.