Monday: Vinh Long to Ben Tre, 54km
Tuesday: Ben Tre to Tan An, 37km
Wednesday: Tan An to HCMC, 60km
Three pretty easy days to finish, with each day taking me further away from the lazy Mekong Delta and closer to Vietnam’s biggest metropolis. Coming into Ben Tre I have my last river crossing by boat.
Ben Tre was lovely, and at a recommendation (from mum researching on Google!!) I trac down a coconut candy factory. According to wikitravel there are a few in town, but this one benefits from being the only one with the address provided on wikitravel. Free advertising right there for someone. One of them. Unlucky everyone else. It was quite amusing to hang around for half an hour or so, watching the transformation from lump of candy to boxed product. In particular, the speed at which the ladies (and gent) individually wrap and box each square of toffee.
And speaking of advertising, on the way out of town the next morning I saw just how much advertising these coconut candy empires really were. I passed shop after shop, each with their own (basically identical) billboard advertising one of two companies. About two-thirds were predominantly yellow, and for the company I visited yesterday, while the remaining third were mostly maroon, and from the competitor. A bit of Coles v Woolies if you will. Both included a photo apparently taken in the eighties, or at best nineties of their matriarchal lady owner in oversized glasses looking, unlike their deliciously sweet product, rather sour.
There wasn’t much to see in Tan An, although had I been there a few days earlier I could have gone to a Vietnamese national league soccer match. That might have been something. Tan An, Tan An, Tan An. Oi, Oi, Oi.
Pretty mixed emotions coming into HCM. This was the beginning of the end. It was over. I’d cycled from Bangkok. No sweat really. Actually, a fair bit of sweat. A bit of blood. And a few tears. I lost my shit on a couple of occasions in the cities. They were awful places in comparison to the countryside. What a place the countryside was. The people, the food. The roads. The bits in between the towns. That’s what I’ve enjoyed the most.
The run into HCMC wasn’t too bad. Lots of traffic of course, but there was a separate lane for motorbikes, which I used too. Not many bicycles here though, I counted 10 from the edge of the city until Jim’s place. Jim from 2002 Jim. When I was 22 Jim. When we were both at the University of Queensland.
I followed my map and I arrived at Jim’s gated community appartment building and I got off my bike for the last time.
My journey was complete. A small feeling of accomplishment, but larger was the general sense of loss that it was all over. It all went by so fast! Still greater though was the recognition that life can’t all be holidays and that I have plenty to look forward to in 2015 with Sam in Melbourne, including a new job teaching Mandarin. Exciting.
Great to see Jim again, his wife Hue, and meet his two boys for the first time, Hieu (7) and Ben (2).
I got organised, and did what I tend to do in developing countries, I had some medical checkups, heading to Jim’s optometrist for some new glasses, dentist for not just a clean and polish but a new porcelain cap, and barber for a straight razor shave removing 8 weeks of facial hair.
That’s it then. Thanks for reading and in particular, thanks for commenting on posts! I’ve never felt too far from support which has been really nice. I’ve enjoyed using this as a diary and in the future will appreciate the memories it brings back – and I’ll upload trip details from Garmin and do some general tidying of the site when I’m home and working on something other than an iPhone!
A total of 2412 kilometres recorded, which excludes trips after finding my hotel for the night for dinner/shopping/site-seeing that I didn’t record. So let’s call it 2500 kilometres from November 26, 2014 to 14 January, 2015 and every day really has been a nice day for a ride.