I’m sitting in a resort in Central Vietnam tonight, listening to the waves crashing on the beach, thinking that Vietnam is the most extraordinary country. All of us on the bike tour- 18 bike riders who live in the US, Canada, Australia, and Azerbaijan- feel incredibly lucky to be here at this point in Vietnam’s development. Today we rode 55 miles between rice paddies, through villages, up and down steep hills, past schools, cemeteries, and duck ponds. We bumped through puddles and potholes, then sped along on perfect coast roads, whizzing by shrimp farms, sand dunes, and enormous granite boulders.
Every kilometer was filled with more surprises than I usually encounter in a month. At times I had to slow down, finding myself behind a tractor, some water buffalo, or a motorbike with an impossibly wide load of freshly cut rice. I stopped to photograph these girls riding on a narrow path through the rice paddies, sharing their bike like most Vietnamese people do. I stopped to chat with two joyful women riding double on a motorbike who had just finished harvesting rice. My few words of Vietnamese limited the conversation, but they laughed to see their images on my digital camera. When it was time to go, they ran behind me, giving me a helpful push on my bike.