|Taoist Temple in Saigon. Worshippers offer burning incense to ward off evil spirits|
First things first - we made it! As they say in racing: first you have to finish, in order to finish first.
We didn’t finish first (actually, 7th which I will discuss below), but we did finish. Great relief for all competitors that made it the approximately 9000 km. In fact, all but 5 cars made it to Saigon, although some of them were sidelined for days getting repaired or waiting for parts.
By the way, the city's official name is Ho Chi Minh City, changed after the unification of the country, although the locals still refer to it, especially in speech, as Saigon.
|The Saigon Post Office built by Eiffel in the 1860's|
|We had an escort by the local Harley Davidson |
Club on final kilometer to the finish line
at the Presidential Palace in Saigon
The Car and the Rally:
The last day was an exciting one for us. There were two difficult Regularity Stages to run before getting to Saigon. We started the day in 7th Place just 10 seconds ahead of the 8th Place car ( a Triumph, driven very well by David and his wife Jo, who I think was the best navigator in the Field). This meant that we could lose up to 9 seconds in the two stages and still maintain our 7th Place standing.
In the first stage, we were 6 seconds slow. Both Brant and I were very worried that we were “about to blow it.”
The second stage covered 10 km, mostly uphill and a very fast time (part at 60 km and part at 65 km). When we finished the stage, we looked at the scoring board and realized we were 2 seconds off the perfect time. Our 7th place was secure. As it turns out, the Triumph lost 1 second on each of the Stages so our combined winning margin over the 8th placed car was 4 seconds.....sweet!!
The prize giving dinner was a festive occasion as everyone was feeling relieved to reach Saigon. Brant and I won third place in Class and were awarded and lovely tea set.
|Notre Dame Cathedral in Saigon. 100% of all building materials were|
imported from France
I’ve driven all over the world, and Vietnamese Drivers are the worse.....especially the drivers of motorbikes. Traffic in Saigon is like an ant hive, with drivers and motorbikes going in every direction. As I said to some, the rule here is to drive on the right side, but it is only a suggestion, one more often than not disregarded.
Saigon has 10 million residents and there are 7 million motorbikes....really! They go in every direction and their drivers are fearless. Most don't have side-view mirrors and hence, have no idea what is behind them. They park everywhere on the sidewalk causing pedestrian traffic to walk in the streets in many places. Honda has built a motorbike plant in Vietnam, so these vehicles are relatively cheap; about $1-2,000. The law says that only two people can ride on one motorbike, but children are not counted against that total; so you see many bikes with two adults, plus one or two children.....very dangerous. It is not surprising that Vietnam experiences 30 vehicle deaths every day.
The day after the finish, Brant and I did a little sightseeing. A visit to the War Remnants Museum (originally called the American War Crimes Museum); pretty grim, but a must see. While I had been here before, it is easy to forget man's inhumanity to his fellow man. For those old enough to remember I only have to say: The Mai Lai Massacre and Lt. William Calley and they know what I mean.
We also took a look at Notre Dame Cathedral built by the French in the 1860s. It was designed (as was the Post Office across the square) by Eiffel and you can see many similarities in the construction of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. We also made our way to Saigon's Chinatown and its famous Taoist Temple (built in the 17th Century). The Chinese have had a presence in Saigon and the Mekong Delta since the 16th Century. They continue to educate their children in special schools, learning Chinese and Chinese customs, as well as Vietnamese. There are about 1 million Chinese living in Vietnam, with about 200,000 in Saigon.
Tomorrow we head home with an early morning pickup at our hotel (5am) so let me end this blog here, with a turn of a phrase........"Good-byeeeeee Vietnam."