Two Irish girls who I met briefly in the Siem Reap airport insisted that, when in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam), I must do the Vietnam Vespa Adventure tour at night. As I am currently in a place where when someone says, “jump off this bridge, it was awesome,” I say, “where,” I signed up.
Now describing what the roads look like in Saigon to someone who has never been is extremely challenging, as I have never before experienced something similar. Imagine walking down 5th Avenue near Rockefeller Center right before Christmas. Now imagine that all of the tourists and all of the New Yorkers are on motorbikes. Now imagine that all of the stoplights are broken and there are no crosswalks. That is Saigon.
So after making my first attempt to cross the street (you have to walk a few steps, stop, wait for cars and motorbikes to pass you, walk a few more steps, stop, wait for more cars and motorbikes to pass you, walk a few more steps, stop again and continue this pattern multiple times until you’ve reach the other side), I really re-evaluated my decision to get on the back of a motorbike. But when 6PM rolled around and I found myself at the tour’s meeting place, Zoom Cafe.
After a few drinks at Zoom, the group had bonded. Josh, our tour guide from Tampa Bay, Florida who came to Saigon 3.5 years ago on vacation and stayed, was my driver. When I first jumped on the back of his Vespa, I was terrified but also thankful that we had taken the time to have a cocktail or two (just the passengers) before departing. Once I got used to the fact that I wasn’t going to immediately die, it was awesome. Weaving in and out of traffic, we still felt like one big mass. The group’s first stop was a side of the road cafe/stall/dump/restaurant where we all sat down and one long table. While drinking local beers, we were presented with the “appetizer” course. Crabs in chili salt, clams, mussels and my favorite, “chicken” or so it was introduced to everyone at the table until after the first bite when it was clarified that we were actually eating frog. Delicious.
After departing from the location of the first course, Josh and I stumbled across a teenage Michael Jackson impersonator dancing, literally, in the middle of the street in front of dozens of locals. For some reason, this is where I thought I should say to Josh, “I want to have a dance-off.” To my surprise, he immediately pulls over. I clumsily hopped off the bike, removed my helmet and went to town. Although my skills were a little rusty, I still received a courtesy round of applause from the locals who had taken this opportunity to film “the crazy American” with their cell phones.
Arriving the next stop, dinner, Josh politely explained to the group why we were late: I was moonwalking in the street.