Walking out of Ho Chi Minh Airport and the beautiful madness begins, the muggy humidity hits you like a steam strain, cigarette smoke in the air and your instantly haggling away with the locals about a lift into town. I’ve never in my life felt so tall as I did waking out of the arrival gates here, the Vietnamese are reportedly the fourth shortest people in the world with an average of 162cm, 5ft 3! But as most small people do, they make up for it with their voice! ;) We haggled away until we got someone to take us into town with the bikes for a decent price. We were originally going to cycle into town but post Australian ultramarathon, a sleepless flight, and a big layover in Thailand en route to Vietnam, we were both exhausted. So as we were sitting in the wings waiting on our taxi, and we were being quizzed by the Vietnamese on our trip, a 34 seater bus pulls up, empty. “Now sir, big taxi!”. The bikes were so big the men had organised a bus only for two of us! We shared a giggle as we went to load the gear on, it wouldn’t fit in the luggage compartment underneath the bus, so the locals manoeuvred all the gear up into the passenger section of the bus and we followed. Off we went weaving through flocks of mopeds, and the sound of a million horns into central Ho Chi Minh. Our own 34 seater bus to kick start the south East Asia tour, was a pretty random one. :)
We had the pleasure of spending time with Mary and Michael Flynn, who flew down from Ireland to meet us. It was so nice to be in company again and they came down with one mission, and that was to fatten us up, and they done a fine job on it. In between eating, we went about exploring the local area, via the Mekong delta, Cu chi tunnels, and the war museum, learning about Vietnam’s history, and mainly their side of the coin on the “The Great American War”....more of the truth! 🤭🤫
On one of our mini trips around the capital Mary and Michael accompanied us on the bikes and we tried our best to convince them to join us on our adventures home, but Micheals reply was “Ive have cows to milk young Harrison”.
It was worth a shot, although i think if given the roll of our camera man/cinematographer, I’d say he might have made some arrangements. 🤔 He hired a moped and a driver, sat on the back of the bike like a professional as we cycled around the streets of Ho Chi Minh. (See Instagram for content and if you like the work, Michael is available anytime after the milking hours of 6pm for camera work in the south east of Ireland. ) 😀
All jokes aside. It’s our parents work ethic that has given us both the drive and enthusiasm for work and life itself, leading by example. I hope that this journey in itself will also set an example to the next generation that will follow, along with living by the values and principles we were both brought up in the world with.
Ireland was calling, and so too the cows and off Mary and Micheal flew back home.
Over the week in Ho Chi Minh we had been planning out our south east Asia ultra and cycling route. We decided that we’d run the ultra on an island off the southern coast of Vietnam called Phu Quoc, hoping that it would be a little less humid and we would get out on the trails rather than the hammer the joints on the roads.
Before we head for the sticks, One observation that will stick with me from Ho Chi Minh was when a thunder storm rolled in and torrential rain came down, everyone on the street took to shelter including myself and Paddy, and across the road I watched this woman in her 50’s wearing a plastic poncho and the traditional bamboo hats, unmoved by the elements, unmoved by of the cracking thunder that was so loud it was almost vibrating the concrete. The lady didn’t even flinch, and went about her business with lighting overhead, sweeping the lane that was opposite us, weaving through the streams of rain as it came up to her ankles. She laboured away with pride in her work and for me she epitomised the Vietnamese resilience, and hard work never goes unnoticed they say!
We made our way out into rural Vietnam, and if the Vietnamese that occupied the city had set a standard of hospitality and hard work the rural folks rose the bar .They are so welcoming, happy and they all seem to be genuinely content, and that’s with the bare necessities. Timber huts with thatched roofs, most of these only surviving, but look to be happy in doing so. It’s eye opening stuff and it makes one think, what truly makes us happy In this world. You can see females of the family working the water buffalos and Plough, fields littered with bikes on the banks of the paddy fields, and the people attending to them with manual labour. It’s like going back in time yet again, it’s a pleasure to watch them at their work.
You’d be left scratching your head at how much happiness and peace these people reflect, considering recent history, they know what the other side of the coin is suppose. Their core values are one I will surely learn from. We found ourself in bike lanes that weaved through the villages only wide enough to host two Bikes at anyone time. We seen some really rural spots and found ourselves in a couple of dead ends, with the family chickens roaming about, the cow tied to the garden fence and the locals scratching their head at us two wandering into their garden. It’s times like these I would love to know their language and what they were thinking, also saying as we done a 180 and peddled off!
We made it out onto the island and pulled off ultramarathon number two, it came as the cost of blistered feet, and battered legs.
We were a sight to behold coming back into town as dawn fell on the island, two men propping each other up after a full day of it.
Another moment I’ll remember, was about a mile outside of town, I was biting the tongue with the pain, and having a little self talk battle about the situation we were in, a moment of questioning “ what are we doing out here on the island in the middle of nowhere, in this state” I was there for a while, as you go through these phases in any endurance feat. As I got to the top of a hill, sun was setting in the background, there was the usual shack/home where they’d sell soft drinks and some processed food, and at the front of the home there was a table and chair, with a kid no more than 8 or 9 years of age, just sitting there with no phone or distractions, hands rested on the table as watched the world pass him by taking it all in, he caught my eye and gave me a gleaming smile and a wave, and I back to him. And instantly I was reminded why I was out there doing the ultra.
There’s these little spontaneous moments out here on the road are popping up the whole time. I love it.
We sailed back to mainland Vietnam and made our way to the Cambodian border... first border crossing went a dream. It was the first of many.
That’s it for now,
As always cheers for taking an interest...