I was at KennySia.com two days ago and he had some entries about his recent visit to Vietnam. That brought back a lot of memories. What better time for me to continue with my Memories of Vietnam series? The last time I wrote about Vietnam was more than one year ago.
In Vietnam the usual mode of transportation for most people is either a bicycle or a motorcycle. A few days after I arrived in Vietnam I bought myself a Chinese made bicycle. One thing about those Chinese made bicycles sold in Vietnam was that the air in the tires need to be filled up every few days! So having a bicycle tire pump was handy but I always had such difficulty with the pump that came with the bicycle. I just didn't seem to be able to fill enough air into the tires! So what I did was fill enough air to get me to the bicycle repair shop in the campus and then pay a few Vietnamese đồng (Vietnamese currency) to have them fill the air in the tires for me.
One thing about owning a bicycle in Vietnam is that you have to keep a close eye on your bicycle. Just locking and chaining your bike to something is not good enough. You can easily lose your bicycle in the twinkle of an eye! A couple of French students that I befriended there lost the bicycles that they had hired for the day while they were sitting down at a road side stall for a drink.
I didn't ride my bicycle very far. Most of the time I rode around the campus, and the farthest I took my bicycle was to a villages outside the campus. That must have been about 3 miles each way. I didn't dare ride my bicycle on the highway even though half the highway was filled with people on bicycles and motorcycles at any given time. I was afraid of the truck drivers who looked like they didn't really care about running down anyone!
One day one of my Vietnamese students, Phuong, invited me to visit her uncle who lived in the famous snake village called Le Mat. I think it was like 5 miles or so away from the campus, and I didn't want to ride my bicycle that far. She told me, I didn't have to ride my bike. I could sit pillon on her bicycle! And that was exactly what I did!
Phuong's uncle owned a restaurant that served the specialty for which the village was famous. Snake meat. No, I did not try any snake dish even though I was offered. I have been told that snake meat tastes a lot like chicken meat. I'm sorry, that is not going to persuade me to try it any time soon! Not then, not now.
One person that made my stay in Vietnam fun was a Frenchman named Stephen who was a fellow long term guest at the Guest House at the university. He loved to ride around the villages near the campus, and who else was there to check out these places with besides me? So he and I would ride our bicycles to the villages, and a lot of times we would stop at a little coffee shop for ice cream or frozen yogurt.
When I left Vietnam, I sold my bicycle to the care taker of the Guest House - my home the whole time I was at the Hanoi Agricultural University.