Getting out of HCMC was fairly painless, but the road ahead was not unlike Macleod Trail for 70km. With buses and trucks honking continuously letting everyone know their coming thru and the pollution for most of the 70kms fairly powerful it was rather tedious. Scooters are everywhere! Not unlike wasps it was up to us to watch for them. People here take responsibility for themselves. If a scooter is coming onto the road from a side road, they do not look they just ride into your lane. Swerving and being swerved around is what its all about. Agnes counted no less then 15 churches along the way and then stopped, many were very large. Christianity has a fairly large (8 to10%) following so it seems in Vietnam. Eventually we made Dau Giay, which would be just another spot on the highway except it had the intersection we needed. On the way back from dinner we found a small temple that was about to start prayers. They invited us in to stay. A monk and about 8 followers chanted to the continuous beat of a drum and occasional gong. It was a really beautiful way to end a slightly chaotic day.
Leaving HCMC was a little sad. Experiencing HCMC so early in the morning gave us a new appreciation of it. The streets were quiet with very few scooters and cars. The sky was overcast, and the air refreshingly cool and smelling of something other than fumes. If one were to live here, becoming a morning person would be a necessity. Many people rise early to do their exercises. It was a very peaceful Sunday morning; perhaps partly due to the large population of Catholics that reside here.
During breakfast we started hearing the traffic pick up momentum. Riding out of HCMC wasn't painless, rather mildly painful. The constant noise of traffic, and millions of people riding scooters, each with a specific path in mind and little room for compromise made the task of leaving HCMC an exercise in patience, and forgiveness. One has to let go of the idea that just because someone chooses to ride on the wrong side of the road, heading directly at you at ever increasing speeds that you have the right of way; or that someone merging into your lane looks for the oncoming traffic before cutting in front of you. You must remember that a cyclist, by virtue of her speed, is lowest on the totem pole in terms of traffic regulations. Once in a while, especially while going downhill, you get to experience the thrill of making someone on a scooter actually wait his or her turn.
Traffic continued all day long. We decided to stop in a small town of Dau Giay instead of making it a 190km day. After finding a room, we headed out in search of food. There were many restaurants/cafes to choose from, and all except for one were empty. We chose a very dirty and dilapidated place as it was overflowing with happy locals. The food was great, the price was right and the cold chrysanthemum tea really hit the spot. On our way back we decided to check out a nearby Buddhist Temple. It had a garden feel to it with many small trees in pots in front of a small, wooden building. Most lights originated from inside the temple. A woman was sweeping inside, while a young monk chanted, intermittently hitting a large gong. We stuck around long enough to be invited in. We participated in a prayer/chanting session to the best of our abilities. The deep, throaty chanting of the head monk, along with the intoxicating smell of incense and the ambience of the temple made for a very beautiful experience.