*It's already been a month. I'm back in Montreal, after 4 months and 7500km on the bike. I did not write before as I just did not feel as I was totally back. I still often feel like an outsider at home; I guess it's normal, considering I've certainly changed a bit over the last months.
The night bus ride was, again, a phenomenon. We don't have sleeper buses at home but to give you an idea, it's like bunk beds in a bus. It's actually very comfortable and looks like you could have the nicest, deepest sleep and make the "night bus" experience a beauty sleep experience. Yeah right!
They had the brilliant idea to put a TV and play some good Vietnamese karaoke success songs in there until midnight! And they started it all again at 5h45, just before arriving in Hanoi. We were amazed!
We spent the next few days doing the museum marathon. The best was certainly the ethnology museum and don't miss it if you visit the Vietnamese capital. If most of the museums we visited in China, Laos and Cambodia offered not much but propaganda, the museums in Vietnam seemed more well taken care of. Of course, when you visit the Ho Chi Minh museum, it's another story but considering he spent his whole life trying to reunite his country and has a near-God status in the heart of Vietnamese people, I could understand.
We rode towards Haiphong, the third largest city in Vietnam and the main harbor of the country. Leaving a capital city for another very big city, zipped through industrial compounds for 125km.. That evening, we met Jean and Genevieve, a Québécois couple on a South-East Asia bike ride for 6 months. We took the boat together for Cat Ba island, which was very quiet and enjoyed the best seafood hotpot ever!
We then took a 2 days boat trip that took us around the islands of Cat Ba National Parc and then in the famous Ha Long bay. We shared the boat with Jean+Geneviève and Françoise Journe, a French photographer. Being on the sea with such a stunning scenery was very relaxing. We would have to take the plane back home in about a week and I just couldn't believe it...
The boat stopped for the night on a floating village with dogs (!). There was a karaoke machine, a few fishermen/sailors and rice wine.. so we ended up signing "My Heart will go on", feeling very connected with Celine, indeed. Karaoke is very serious in Asia and, strangely, seems to be mostly enjoyed by men. We even had the option to sing O Canada ( the national anthem) but figured all the fish trapped underneath the floating houses would probably die if we did.
Sleeping in a nice quiet place, away from the city lights and sounds was good.
The next 2 days, we rode to the Chinese border, where we would have to catch a bus to Zhuhai. Being back in China was strange; it was a lot more quiet than Vietnam. The streets were large, the motorcycles almost completely disappeared and traffic was just more organized.
We arrived two hours before the bus was leaving and took another sleeper bus with Karaoke music videos (!) and some Kung Fu films (!!). We were in Zhuhai it was 6h AM and enjoyed a good cantonese Congee on the street. I was feeling all weird; we were 1km away from Macau, where our bike journey started. We were completely lost the first time we arrived here, I was now feeling almost completely at home here..
The next day, we phoned up Zealot Choi ( one of the Macanese cyclists we met on our first riding day). He is 25 years old and works in an Intensive Care Unit of Macau, as a nurse. And he likes his bikes. We had spoken to each other, maybe 5 minutes, 4 months ago. And yet, he had already arranged to find cardboard boxes at a bikeshop for us and, even if he was working night shifts, managed to take us around Macau for 3 days. This guy is a superhuman.
I look like a total wreck after a night of work.
He took us to a series of local restaurants and we rode around the streets of Macau with him.
We even did a casino tour with him! Macau is THE place for money laundering around China...
We really enjoyed our Macanese visit. Zealot, be assured you'll get a royal treatment if you visit Montreal one day! Cyclists are great. Or maybe nurses are great?
Zealot took us to the ferry terminal with our boxes with his mini van.Time to say googbye...
We took a boat directly to HKG international airport. Then we found out our tickets had been upgraded to business class; for our 15 hour flight to Toronto.
I did not sleep much during the ride back home. I was still stunned by the generosity of our Macanese friend, the beauty of Asia, the contrasts between the cities and countryside, the perfect pace of traveling on a bike, all the people we met, all the faces we saw for the first and the last time. I truly enjoyed life on the bike and having my dad with me for 4 months, I think we learnt a lot from each other.
Arriving in Toronto was a slap in the face.
I hated it. Seeing how the city spreads endlessly, how people were loud, fat, white, rude.
I was tempted to get the credit card out of my pocket and pick another place to go.
Back in Montreal, Alexis and Pascale (his adorable girlfriend) picked us up. I was glad to see them. And I was glad to see all of my friends and family. It was strange to be back in my apartment and thinking I would sleep there every night!
I'm now back in my ER scrubs, as a full time employee.
I keep on riding my bikes. I also pay frequent visits to Montreal's chinatown.
I guess it's my way to avoid the unpleasant withdrawal from endorphins and MSG!
So is it the end of Bike 'n Rice?
Of course not.
I've tasted a way of traveling that is very intense and addictive.
Just get out there with your bicycle and see for yourself.
You won't see the world from behind a window.
You'll feel the wind in your back or in your face.
The sun hammering your head and the cold biting your toes.
Most of all you'll meet people that you'll never forget..
See you on the road!