February 29 2012. Back in Saigon

We're back in Saigon.After a little less than one year we're back where we ended our last ride:the one in wich we rode through Vietnam from North to South starting from the capital Hanoi (www.goodbikingvietnam.com).
Being back in Saigon feels like we never really left.

We leave the airport and we are back in a bubble of steamy hot air.We get on the taxi and  we get our memories refreshed on the way traffic rules get fancifully interpreted.There's still that frantic repetitive rythm caused by car and motorcycles horns.In the Hotel we find the same smiles.They remember us.We're here and it feels like the entire last year just vanished.We get the feeling we just got here yesterday on our bikes.
We're going to rest tomorrow and then the ride goes on:we intend to cross Cambodia,Thailand,Malaysia and finally get back home from Singapore.

We're going to eat dinner on the sidewalk and we're going to smell and taste and listen and feel once again the way Vietnam speaks to us

March 1 2012. Rebuilding our bikes

Marco e Alessandro

We spent the day rebuilding our bikes.

Innovations for this ride:a new front shock specifically customized for our Seirans,a new Rolhoff internal gear shift system,two new hubs with built-in dynamo generators,head and tail lights by Schmidt,a new more practical way of assembling and disassembling our already modified seats and carrier racks,new chain roller guides and bullet camera holder.

Behind the curtains our new Ace in the Hole.

Our official "bike builder",the only one capable of building  wooden bikes and aeroplanes with ease.The only one we can trust with our bikes.


March 2 2012. Saigon – Tay Ninh (104 of 104km) – Day 1

We slowly left Saigon flowing on the traffic river heading North.Suddently a discovery:we left our passports at the hotel...STOP!TAXI!
We decided to cross the cambodian border in Xa Mat.We want to avoid Phnom Penh and ride to Angkor Wat along the way north of Tonle Sap lake.We will give up the coast for a while.It's extremely hot.The suns burns and won't forgive you if you leave a small part of exposed skin between your sleeves and your gloves.

Standard issue mask.

Gets replaced with a more advanced model to protect our nape and to inhale a little less dust.

Best way to seek refuge:a technical break.

March 3 2012. Tay Ninh - Kraek (75 of 179 km) – Day 2

It happened like this:while starting and stopping for our ritual bike fine-tuning,riding for a while then making a pause to talk about it...we got distracted and went on the wrong way.Must be the heat...we get on the right track  towards Xa Mat,a Vietnam-Cambodia border crossing point known for being less crowded than the Moc Bai one down South.
We spend about one hour going through the six checkpoints on the border(3 vietnamese,3 cambodian).We try to save our picture ID's for the next border crossings,everything gets settled with a "free offer".

Taking pictures is forbidden.

Crossing the border on our bikes has been quite stressful.Cambodia looks different than Vietnam from the get-go.The scenery is different.More open spaces.

In the inhabited areas you can see many wooden shacks built like stilt houses to avoid floodings.These groups of houses have something wild about them.There's something wilder about the people too.People look like they have been scattered around by some kind of devastating explosion.We can still see small fires here and there.People are sociable and hospitable though.Smiles keep coming our way and so do unending greetings and expressions of surprise when we pass by.Language is not really a problem.We comunicate with hand gestures.They take money from our hands when we have to pay for something and we trust them.

It's late for today.We stop at a Guest House.Something that sounds like "pkei pech" in cambodian.Thankfully we read the actual "Guest House" words.We got someone to write down "place to sleep" in their cambodian alphabet but recognizing these "letters" is beyond our capabilities for now.We eat a fine fried chicken and mixed rice dinner.We reintegrate our fluids with some cambodian beer named "Angkor".
Tomorrow we will have to make up for the kilometers we lost today.

March 4 2012. Kraek – Kampong Thnor (138 of 317km) – Day 3

We leave before sunrise.

Our headlights light up the street like cars do.Our red led taillights can be seen from a distance.Compared to mopeds without lights or pedestrians on the curb we can say we are safe in traffic.Holes on the streets concern us more and having to move from the tarmac to the dirt curb on the side of the road and back is sometimes dangerous.That's because the tarmac is considerably taller than the dirt track on the side.

Before sunrise there's people everywhere anyway.Streetside vendors light up their fires by their mobile shacks.All spots are taken.We can hear religious chants and litanies here and there.It seems like there is no difference between night and day.It seems like we live in a constant present time on which sunsets and sunrises don't have an effect.
Riding with no sun makes all the difference in the world.The temperature is perfect.

Mekong river

Worst time for riding is between 11am and 3pm.During these though hours we find out that we really miss those "supply shacks" we were used to in Vietnam.We make do with a big bamboo table for our well deserved "siesta".We miss coconut though.

Today we got a real taste of cambodian red dust.We have to wear the traditional scarves.

We get to Kampong Thnor by sunset.

P.S.: I have a new sunburn on my forehead shaped like the front vent hole of my helmet.