Shinichi Nakaoka, 1977 – 2009

While I was on holiday in Vietnam, I received some emails that my best friend who had been diagnosed with terminal liver cancer a little over 2 years earlier was not doing so well. After many calls back to Japan it did not seem like his condition was immediately life threatening but just to be on the safe side I rode the coastal rode instead of the mountain road (so it would be easier to get back to Japan quickly if necessary). Keeping in touch through email while travelling, it seemsed like Shinichi would be able to pull through the tough spot. When I got back to Narita (Tokyo’s airport) I called Shinichi’s fiance and sister (in town from Korea) to see what the status was and they said it was pretty serious. His sister said it would really be best if I came that night. I dumped by bicycle on a friend and went straight to Osaka on the bullet train arriving at the hospital around 19h. It was quite a site to see Shinichi in the hospital bed in pain. His sister and fiance seemed very happy that I had been able to make it that night. We left the hospital around 21h and I slept at Shinichi’s house to be woken the next morning around 6h30 saying that the situation critical. I ran as fast as I could to the hospital where Shinichi slowly passed away with his parents, sister, finance, myself and one other friend by his side. After the fact everyone was telling me that he was waiting for me to get back to see him and I can’t help but feel that there was a certain amount of truth to that.

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Day 16 in Vietnam – Saigon

In the morning before it got hot I rode over to an area of town with many pagodas and visited 4 of them. Returning around 11 I proceeded to pack my bike into the box I bought the day before. The bicycle went into the box with no throuble at all. To avoid the weight surcharges I decided I would mail as much of the stuff to myself as possible. I rode a motorcycle taxi to the post office and mailed it (which was a huge ordeal in its own right) and then took another bike to the history museum where I also so water puppets.

For the rest of the day I walked around Saigon and through the markets and through the central part of town before having dinner near the hotel. I got all my stuff together and left the hotel at about 21h45 for the airport (flight at 01h00)

Day 15 in Vietnam – Trang Bom to Saigon

I continued along Route 1 to get into Saigon but I would up making mistakes with the roads and eventually just decided to pay a guy to ride his motorbike into the center of town and I would just follow him. Upon getting there I got my bearings and some ice cream and went to my hotel (Madam Cuc) but the room the they showed me for 15$ was exceptionally small so I went round the corner to a slightly better place (Giant Dragon) and payed 20$ meanwhile back at Madam Cuc the staff gave me a really hard time for reserving and cancelling at the last minute. For me, the issue was that the photos on the web were very different from the actual room itself.

After taking the bags off the bike, I went around to some bike shops (selling regular bikes) and bought a bike box for the trip home. It was surprisingly easy to find the box but I wound up getting totally ripped off paying 50 000d for it. In the evening I ate at a Japanese restaurant which was quite good and just rode around the city aimlessly.

Day 14 in Vietnam – Bao Loc to Trang Bom

This wound up being the longest riding day of the trip. The plan was to ride from Bao Loc to the intersection of Routes 20 and 1, but after riding on poorly surfaced roads for most of the day I didn’t find any hotels there so I continued along Route 1 towards Ho Chi Minhto another town about 20km away. Exhausted I started riding around town looking for somewhere to stay and after about 10km of riding I found a hotel (again cheaper than I wanted). The annoying thing was that I had ridden right by in when I came through the first time but since the shutters were half down and I couldn’t see anyone inside, I had just assumed that it was closed. There were very few other stores near this hotel. I started to walk around looking for a restaurant and I found chinese restaurant which I thought would be fine as I can read Japanese characters but when the menu came it was a different story. There were at least a few hundred things on the menu as after trying to write Japanese characters etc with the staff I orded the one dish that I know the name of in Chinese, mabo-dofu.

Day 13 in Vietnam – Dalat to Bao Loc

I had hoped that the ride from Dalat to Ho Chi Minh would be a relatively easy ride as there would be an altitude loss of about 1400m. The first day was pretty marginal. First a decent down about 500m (vertical) on a road with a bad surface so I was forced to pretty much hold the brakes all the down. From there it became a brand-new super smooth 10-lane highway with absolutely nothing to see for about 20km. Mind numming boredom. From there it became a 1-lane each way road again with a bad surface (Route 1 had a nice surface pretty much all the way). Its really had work to ride over bumpy pavment for hour after hour. I finally made it to Bao Loc which is nice little town along Route 20 but again I found myself at a hotel that was a cheaper than I was hoping for