After a night of hilarious Karaoke with our whole group and even our truck drivers, we all descended from the Central Highlands for our final ride of the trip. It was kind of bittersweet.
I remembered back before the trip started and during some of the first few rides, I was second guessing my decision to do this two week adventure as I huffed and puffed my way across the countryside. Some days the heat was utterly unbearable and the hills were too many and too steep for my legs and lungs. Our final day we rode about 60 kilometers down through the lush green mountainsides of coffee and tea crops. The first part was my favorite—all downhill and super fast.
The last 30 kilometers or so was what our guide called “undulating,” which meant some uphills and some downhills. It would be “same same, but different.” This is a popular phrase in Vietnam. It basically means “similar” and you hear it all the time. There are even t-shirts here printed with the phrase.
I let most of the group pass me and got into my own rhythm and loved it, hills and all. I was finally hitting my stride and it was our last day. Or maybe, psychologically, I knew it was our last day so it was just easier. But “same same” as on previous days, just when I would start to wither from exhaustion and heat with sweat pouring into and stinging my eyes, local kids would be smiling and waving at me as I rode past, just in time to take my mind off any exhaustion I was feeling.
Now, I welcomed the dust in my face, horrible exhaust fumes up my nose, and horns honking in my ears. It was all a part of this amazing country—alive, growing and vibrant. I had trouble not smiling most of the time that I was riding… a problem because bugs kept flying into my mouth. Nearly all the people we met along the journey were extremely poor, but extremely happy and friendly.
As I’ve said before, most tours are good or bad depending on the people. And this one proved that to be true once again. Not only were most of the girls fun and friendly, it was our truck driver, our bus driver, Loi, our wonderful leader, Phuc, and the people of Vietnam that made it special. They all made the trip so good for us and we were all in it together. We rode together, we drank together, ate together, took mud baths together, and sang together.
Mot, Hai, Ba….Yooooo! (One, Two, Three, Cheers!!!)