Bravery, Hope and Healing

I had only been in Saigon for 5 days when my mom called to tell me my Daddy had been taken to the Emergency Room and then admitted to the hospital. Talk about a wake up call, that news hit me like a ton of bricks but what could I do from halfway around the world?! While I wanted to go straight to the airport and catch the next flight home, and after crying for about 30 minutes, I caught my breath, said some prayers both for my Daddy and me to be strong, then I went on the Vespa Adventures Insiders Saigon tour. What a blessing this turned out to be!

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My favorite part of taking the tours is meeting new people but on this morning I was uncharacteristically quiet as I was anxious and worried about my Daddy. The first stop on was the Thich Quang Duc Monument – aka Burning Monk Monument which encouraged me to think about loyalty, faith and renewal. Who sets themselves on fire to die for their beliefs?! A strange feeling of calmness washed over me and I began to worry less about the situation back in the US and be more present in this place to memorialize such astonishing bravery. As our tour continued, the next stop would prove even more amazing and make me feel even better.

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We entered the Chinese pagoda through these beautiful gardens with fountains, statues and ornate altars with burning incense that immediately made me feel peaceful and prayerful. I spotted hundreds of yellow, spiral-shaped cones hanging in one courtyard area, each one with a red tag. After explanation from our tour guide, I was invited to write down the name or intention that I wanted to be remembered, attach the tag to one of the incense cones, light and hang it. No need to guess whose name I wrote down, of course I was crying but doing this gave me confidence that all would be okay and I appreciated this opportunity. This is one reason that I love Vespa Adventures tours-finding these out of the way places where there are few other tourists and distractions.

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Our tour continued with a stop at the Temple of 10,000 Buddhas which was also an astonishing place filled with reverence and respect, especially for the dearly departed. I’m learning more and more about the mix of Buddhism, Hinduism and Christianity that is ever present in Vietnamese culture, always jubilant in life while celebrating death because when you really think about it-this is when life really begins.

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Grab Bike

I’ve learned an exciting way to get around Saigon and other cities in Vietnam that is cheap and in my opinion, daring and exhilarating-it’s a ride service called Grab Bike. It’s almost what it sounds like, a motorcycle “cab” business that is run through an app from your mobile phone, you enter a pickup and drop off point, it tells you what the charge will be and you can even link it to a credit card for payment but I stick with cash. You are sent a picture of your driver and his license plate number because the service is used by literally hundreds of people at any hour of the day or night and they provide you with a helmet, it’s definitely illegal and stupid to ride a motorcycle without one on these very busy streets.

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Of course, cars or limousines are available for more money but you would be surprised how much these drivers can carry on their bikes, don’t be alarmed when someone rides by with a refrigerator on the back. The driver will call you for better directions if he can’t find you, I say “he” because I have only ridden with male drivers, but minor issues arise if you don’t speak the language. I’m pleased that these men don’t mind stopping to ask for directions and keep checking the maps on their phone to make sure they are going in the right direction, American men could learn something here!

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I say it’s daring because there are literally thousands of motorbikes on the streets at one time, weaving between each other, honking their horns, dodging around cars, mysteriously reading each other’s body language and I have seen only 2 accidents! One way or another, you need to get comfortable with riding on the back of a Vespa, scooter or motorcycle, it’s the Vietnamese way and I like it! I’ve been here for about 2 months and my mother just figured out that I was on a bike AT NIGHT-oh the horror! Another suggestion I have is not to get drunk using this service, yes, it’s easier to have one more since you don’t have to drive but you don’t want to take the chance of falling off! Look Mom, I’m wearing a helmet!

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