10 Million People & 6.5 Million Motor-scooters
The image of locals bicycling around Vietnam is a thing of the past – now they are on motor-scooters. Sometimes as many as 6 people, an entire family, are on one; mothers are bottle-feeding children, workers are making deliveries; lots of riders are hauling large plants for the New Year. Well-behaved children smile and wave, geese try to escape, riders don’t seem to worry about their often-precarious loads. Some look like students, many like average workers, and others are quite dressed-up, women even wearing high heels; almost everyone wears a mask against the dust and pollution, and helmets are now required, but not one had any sort of otherwise protective clothing.
As we journeyed out of Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City to and from the Mekong Delta, it became an obsession with us, and everyone in our group, to marvel at the massive tide of motor-scooter riders leaving the city for the holiday. They were in every direction, sometimes even in our lane of traffic, coming straight at us.
We loved getting out of the industrial city of Saigon, Vietnam’s largest city. The rural countryside was green, the sky blue and air fresh. From the Mekong River village of My Tho, we boarded a boat to visit a few local island family businesses and sample the locally produced honey, bee pollen, coconut candy and fruit. We also rode in a four-passenger sampan through a crowed canal back to the larger river. It was very entertaining and interesting. The young teen and older man who paddled our sampan worked hard.
The river is crowded with colorful fishing boats and all sorts of lively boat traffic. After leaving the river, we stopped for a traditional Vietnamese lunch that included “Elephant Ear” fish from the river and fish soup. Unlike some in our group, my husband and I were undaunted by having a whole quick-fried fish placed in front of us, and enjoyed the delicious rolls made with rice paper, the firm fish, noodles and very thin slices of mango (I think it was mango); we did ask our server to leave out the lettuce.
Then back to putting our lives in the hands of our bus driver for the mad-cap ride back to the port. Getting drenched running through a pop-up rainstorm to get on our ship, we barely made it back for the ship to depart on time and make it under the bridge before high tide. And then, as fast as it came, the rain was gone and we were enjoying the view, as the Azamara Journey sailed south on the Saigon River.
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