Stories

The Road Trip To Tay Ninh

by Kristina Rihter - 5 years, 8 months ago

I was in Saigon, Vietnam. Or, as it is called today, Ho Chi Minh City. I was reading about a very interesting religion called Caodaism which actually started in Vietnam in the early 20th century. It’s a syncretistic religion that combines features from several other religions (such as Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism...) in a very interesting way. I found out that the main temple of the religion is situated in the city of Tay Ninh which lies only about a hundred kilometres from Saigon. So we decided. Me and two of my friends, we took two motorbikes and headed to the road connecting Saigon and Tay Ninh. It’s actually a very important road (or so it was, before the war), connecting Saigon and Phnom Penh, Cambodia. It shouldn’t be that difficult to find, we said. First, we needed about an hour or so only to get out of this enormous city of Saigon. The traffic there is really crazy. Eventually we came to a smaller city (of which I cannot remember the name anymore) where we stopped to eat. Of course we ate the most typical Vietnamese “on the road” meal, pho. Do you know pho? It’s a kind of soup, either chicken or beef with rice noodles, seasoned with chilly, mint, coriander, lime juice, sprouts... It really makes you feel good especially when it is as hot as in Vietnam and you lose so much water through sweating. We then continued the road and acted really smart wanting to take a shortcut. Bad idea. We ended up on a road that barely deserved this name, full of holes and dust with sparsely scattered houses on the sides. It was really hot. Of course we were wearing shorts and T-shirts and didn’t remember to put sunscreen on before we left the house. And then – bang! The exhaust pipe on one of our motorbikes fell down and the motorbike started to make a really rough sound, as if it was one of those huge motorbikes, not a poor little scooter. People on the side of the road were waving and making gestures to stop so we did. It’s really great when you see how people in a foreign country who don’t speak English or any other common language with you, try to help you as much as they can. The whole neighbourhood came to see what happened. Of course, some of them were just curious. But a man, probably a mechanic or something, came and welded our exhaust pipe back to its original place. We even bought a bottle of sunscreen at a local shop (the only one they got and it was already used but hey, better than nothing!) and a piece of cloth (like a sheet or something) to put on our shoulders as protection from the sun. We were beginning to get dangerously red and violet. And we went on. After a few kilometres, it happened again. Bang, the exhaust pipe fell down. We were really lucky as there was another mechanic just a few metres away. He again welded the unfortunate pipe, we gave him some money and continued the road. Somehow, I don’t even know how, I guess we were a bit lucky, we came back to the main road. And went on. After a long time, it must have taken us around five hours, we finally made it to Tay Ninh! And guess what. Before we managed to find the temple, the exhaust pipe fell down again! People beside the road were laughing at us, funny foreigners. But then we stopped at a house and one of the men there had a brilliant idea to attach the exhaust pipe with an old wire. It seemed like a system D at a time, but the man was a real MacGyver, because we made it to the temple and back home without the pipe falling down again! All these unfortunate events made our stay in Tay Ninh really short because it was already getting dark and we didn’t want to drive the whole way back in darkness. We visited the temple, however, and it was a jewel! So many colours, details, every little part of the temple had a special meaning. It really was something and it made the whole road worth doing. As I said, we made it back to Saigon without having to repair the exhaust pipe again, the wire did an excellent job. It was a wonderful day and this exhaust pipe falling down all the time just made the adventure more adventurous. Of course we took the motorbike to a (real) mechanic the next day.


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