We woke up to rain again on Monday, but we had promised that rain or shine we were renting scooters and exploring the island. So I went to the front desk and ordered 3 scooters. They arrived, and I tried to drive one. I was alone on the little dirt road in front of the hotel. I only went about 150 yards and had to turn around and come back. It didn’t go well. I was terrified. I kept putting my feet down, and turning was a disaster. I almost hit a wall. When I made it back, it was very obvious that the scooter rental people did not want me to borrow their bike. They were so relieved when it became clear to them that Alison would drive instead of me. So, my new goal is to learn to drive a scooter. Any tips?
We took our scooters to Coco’s for breakfast since it was no longer a Sunday…in July. We had an underwhelming breakfast there. The coffee and tea were not so good, and everyone else seemed displeased with their meal choices. My tomato omelette was ok, but the group consensus was we needed a better breakfast, so we crossed the street and went back to the French place from the day before. I did love their coffee, and this time I ordered some fresh fruit instead of a crepe. Yum.
When we finished both of our breakfasts, it was still pouring. So we decided to go for massages before venturing off on our scooter rides. We found an open spa on the street that could accommodate us, and we spent a lovely late morning hanging out. I got my hair cut and made friends with a woman on vacation who has a husband from Michigan who teaches in HCMC. Then I got a 30 minute back massage. I know that 2 massages in 1 weekend is a little excessive, but it was raining, and my total cost for 2 massages (one long and one short) and a haircut was about $30. Winning!
It became clear that the rain planned to hang out awhile, so we braved the wet (in our ponchos) to drive to the gas station in town. I am not quite sure how the drivers managed to see well enough to drive as literally the raindrops felt like shards of glass on my face, but we successfully made it the 5k (I hate that nobody here speaks in miles; actually, I hate that I learned useless measurement systems). We got gas and went back to our dessert cafe from the day before and ate lunch. I know. Lunch? After two breakfasts? Yet, I ate every bite of that salad and some spring rolls. It was vacation.
Finally, we climbed back on the bikes and just went for it. We were heading toward a white sand beach on the southern tip of the island about 21k away. Sounds close, right? Wrong. We took the main road down, and it wasn’t so “main.” There were valiant attempts being made to do road construction. Unfortunately this work in progress meant that there was 2 way traffic on the side that was open, and the open side had such large potholes that it was sort of like the two sides were playing chicken to drive on the center strip of road that was less potholey. Not free of potholes – just less full of potholes. What an adventure! My driver, one Gregor Berger, responded to my desperate clutching and screeching with some wild “yahoos” and accelerated faster. While his spirit and enthusiasm were appreciated, my legs literally ached from being so tense and trying so hard to balance and hold on as we smashed through broken pavement. He was apparently unfazed even though several times, my helmet flew into his helmet.
We never did find the beach. We ended up in some random town at the very tip of the island. This town houses a military base. I know this because when we turned down a street which dead-ended into the gate of the base, a young man with a large gun came out of his little booth to show us that we weren’t so welcome on that little street. Yikes. We turned around.
Then we stopped for a moment to give our bodies a break, and somehow when Alison locked the helmets into her bike seat, the latch got jammed. When we decided to start riding again, it took the help of about 5 local men to open the seat. I am pretty sure that everyone who lived in that town, military man included, wish that we had successfully located the beach and left them in peace.
On the way home, we decided to take an alternative route from the main road. It was a muddy, pothole ridden disaster of a road, but I sure am glad that we took it because it was the most beautiful part of our trip. We were driving along for a long time before it became beautiful, though even then it was peaceful minus the rear-end numbing bumps in the road. Then, one minute we turned a corner, and there was a gorgeous shore line for miles that we got to ride beside. Heaven! There were a few little huts and some more sturdy looking homes, but essentially it was just a long strip of undeveloped land. I had just finished telling Gregor that I couldn’t wait to build my retirement shack on the beach in this spot when we approach huge fenced off areas with signs detailing the Intercontinental Resort being built. Then, as we continued down the road, there were signs for about 5 other huge development projects. Apparently, the beauty and magic of our beach weren’t so undiscovered as the barrenness had led me to believe. I guess this means that I will just have to spend a weekend at the Intercontinental some weekend when they host a sale – while doing my best not to begrudge them for despoiling the land that I had already laid claim to in my heart.
I thought the beach couldn’t get any better, but then the sun set. And there was a boat…parked under the setting sun and surrounded by palm trees. Life sort of outdid itself in that moment. The pictures don’t even come close to doing it justice.
After stopping for some sunset photos, we still had a bit of a drive (maybe 8-10k) left. This was going to be a little scary in the darkening night without any street lights, but it was going to be fine. Until the bike that Gregor and I were riding started making really weird sounds. These were the sort of weird sounds that you probably shouldn’t ignore. We did. Eventually we came upon a little settlement where we bought some gas from a roadside hut thinking that maybe that would help. It didn’t. A little further down the road, the bike started losing power. I sort of liked the slower pace, but I knew this was not good. Eventually, it had so little power left that we stopped. I got off, and the Jardins and Gregor took the bad bike and their good bike back to a little garage we had passed a few hundred yards back. Alison did a little forward venturing to see what was around the bend, but then she came back for me. This was her first time ever scooting with another person on the back of her bike, but she had just blasted through a tough 5 hours, so I was ready to put my life in her hands. She was great! We went back to the garage where apparently the woman of the house was using charades to communicate that the mechanic had a bit too much to drink and would be sleeping for the rest of the night. Since Alison had proven that she could balance with me on the scooter, we decided to soldier on with Gregor riding solo on the dying bike. Luckily, despite some black exhaust, we made it back to our hotel. Hopefully the bike recovered from its long journey with some attention from the staff.
After quick showers, we took our starving selves off to a posh dinner near the beach (the one we knew how to get to instead of the mythical one with white sands). Then, despite being tired, Gregor commanded us to have another beer at Frankie’s home. We were having our beer and reminiscing about what a great time we had laughing together. I was a little sad that Frankie wasn’t there to say goodbye. Just as we were saying that I would see him again if it were what the universe wanted to happen, out trots Frankie. I love that puppy. I think Michele is right, I will go back to island to look for him!
So, that is the trip in a nutshell. I will have to do another post entirely of photos that I steal from the others who have nicer cameras and a sense of composition. I think that I should invest in a nice camera and some photography lessons if life is going to continue to be so stunning.