A Walk in the Park… in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City). HCMC is bustling with cars and hundreds of motorbikes. The traffic is the worst I’ve seen so far. Thus, the city park becomes a shelter from the hectic of the streets. An old Vietnamese woman is working on her sword-handling skills. Next to her, young scouts from all over the country have gathered for a meeting. I make myself comfortable on a bench, a book in my hand.
Before I can even finish the first page, two female students from university interrupt me, asking for having a conversation to improve their English. I agree. They giggle. We talk until sunset about a wide range of topics. This way I find out that one of the girls admires Ho Chi Minh, who united Vietnam after defeating the USA exactly here in Saigon - and Putin. She studies textile management and wants to open a sweat-shop one day (at least in my stereotyped imagination).
The exhaustion fumes of the traffic jams together with the year-round heat of Southern Vietnam is making me dizzy. Sweat is dripping down my forehead and accumulating in my arm pits. It’s time to leave the tropics.
A Train Ride… through the countryside. Vietnam offers some magnificent nature. Unfortunately, I won’t have time to explore much because I really want to go home quickly. But taking the train up north, at least I will be able to see the landscapes pass by from my bunk bed.
For the first part of the journey I share my cabin with two old Vietnamese men. The train passes through the southern plains where the Vietcong once fought bravely against the mighty US-Army. I wonder whether my two companions here have served in the war. Asking them isn’t really an option - the train has just left the station and they are already fast asleep.
I wake up. Despite the constant shaking and rumbling and rattling of the train, I had a good night’s sleep. Being able to sleep everywhere is probably my only super power. Now, my eyes are once again fixed on the landscape outside the window, glowing bright in the first morning light. In my head I imagine American helicopters dropping tons of bombs and burning down the jungle in order to make the world a better place. Meanwhile breakfast is being served in my cabin. I love the smell of noodle soup in the morning.
A Day at the Beach... in Hue. 950km north of Saigon two seasons suddenly become four seasons. It is Winter now. Vietnamese winter, meaning 20 degrees and a slight drizzle. The drop in temperature lightens up my spirits and the rain makes me feel at home. On a rented bicycle I explore the nearby Pacific coast: harsh weather, high waves, and nobody is swimming in the ocean - the perfect beach for me. Sitting down next to an old weather-beaten fishing boat, watching the sea, I feel alive again after all these months of heat-induced lethargy.
A Reunion... in Hanoi. Antoine is in Hanoi. Antoine, the French cyclist who accompanied me through some parts of China. Through him I learn that quite a lot of touring cyclists are currently on their way back to Europe by train. For me, this is a comforting fact, because the costs for the overland journey back home will be more than five times higher than taking a plane. The only thing that keeps me from taking an airplane is the hope that one day, people from all over the world prefer travelling overland so that planes will eventually die out. It surely is an utopian thought but every small step towards this utopia is a success. Looks like touring cyclists are making the first step on a long and windy road.