Goodbye at the Gas Station
Trung and I had a great collaboration during our five-day trip. We had traveled almost 1000 km. We rode, laughed and ate together every day. He taught me how to travel on a motorcycle, and how to tame my motorcycle.
I also learned from my companion some driving strategies in Vietnam. He taught me to never trust a curve, because something can always pop up at the turn. He taught me to never stand up to a truck, because they are aggressive and insolent. And to be afraid of animals, because they are unpredictable. Trung had taught me to be cautious and at the same time he had inspired me to trust.
That morning, we parted ways. Trung returned to Hanoi. As for me, I continued my way towards the coast.
Before we parted ways, Trung had a few more things to teach me. First, he had to show me how to use the GPS on my cell phone; I would definitely need it. He also had to show me how to oil my chain, which I had to do every morning, and how to put air in my tires. Fortunately, the tires on my bike don't have tubes, which greatly reduces the chances of a flat. Nevertheless, they are still possible.
After I finished everything, he handed me his oil bottle and air pump. "Take with you," he said. I accepted without hesitation.
Trung looked preoccupied that morning. I think he was more worried than I was about the rest of my trip. Probably because he had a better idea of what to expect, having driven to Saigon himself.
It was time to hit the road. We had one last item left in our morning routine: fueling up. Trung drove us to a gas station on the edge of town, at the entrance to the highway I was going to use to get to Ha Long Bay.
We said our goodbyes at the gas station. It was morning and the place was deserted. Only the gas station attendant was watching us from the corner of his eye.
I hugged him. Then I said to him:
- Thank you for everything. It was a great adventure.
- Please be safe.
- I promise.
Trung didn't move.
I put my helmet on my head and got on my bike. After I started the engine, I turned around one last time to greet him. He was standing there, motionless. His arms were hanging down his body. They seemed so long that it was as if his fingers were touching the ground.
Within seconds, I was gone again. A quick exhale and I was already on the next leg of my journey. I was now alone.
It took me six hours to get to Ha Long Bay. I drove conscientiously, knowing that from that moment on, I was solely responsible for my safety.
At the same time, I was enjoying my first moments of freedom. With my bag, pump and oil in the back seat, I was completely autonomous. I could go wherever I wanted, whenever I wanted.
All fear was gone. I was now eager to see where this adventure would take me.