UPDATED November 2, 2023

BY Henry Gold

IN Golden Buddha Ride

no comments

UPDATED November 2, 2023

BY Henry Gold

IN Golden Buddha Ride

no comments

My First Day on the Golden Buddha Ride Adventure


Good Morning Vietnam!” If you are of a certain age and living in North America and probably anywhere in the English-speaking world, the phrase ‘Good Morning Vietnam’ will instinctively bring you back to the 1960’s and 1970’s. ‘Good Morning Vietnam’ is actually a movie, a war comedy set in Saigon in 1965 that stars Robin Williams and is very loosely based on a true story of an American DJ in the US Army.

After 27 hours of travel with very little sleep, I checked into the hotel in Saigon and within minutes I was in bed sleeping. In the morning, when my eyes opened and consciousness returned, my first thought was ‘Good Morning Vietnam’. I had arrived in Saigon for yet another inaugural TDA cycling tour, this one called the Golden Buddha Ride. Starting here, the route heads north for around 1,400km or so, then crosses into Laos, where we will first cycle west to the Mekong River and then northwest to the capital city, Vientiane. After a couple of days there we head north for almost 1,000km before passing over the Mekong into Thailand and doing a sort of ‘U’ turn heading for the country’s second largest city, the one and only Chiang Mai. Another seven days of cycling south and the tour will finish up in Bangkok.

Streets of Saigon

“The horror, the horror.”

As is my habit when I arrive to a place I have never been to, after breakfast I set out for my customary ‘walk about’. As soon as I step out ‘Good Morning Vietnam’ is replaced by another cultural memory that originates from the Vietnam War. This one is a famous musical that broke box office records called ‘Miss Saigon’, about a doomed romance involving a Vietnamese woman who is abandoned by her American lover at the end of the Vietnam war.

War Remnants Museum

Inevitably, on my first day in Vietnam I walk to the War Remnants Museum and recall the horror of what was happening in Vietnam during my teens and early twenties. Five months ago, on my first day in Nagasaki, Japan, the city where the 2nd atomic bomb was used to kill thousands of people, I wrote a blog that began with Joseph Conrad’s memorable words, “The horror, the horror.” As I walk through this museum, the same words come to mind all over again.

Henry at the Museum

What is even more poignant being here and thinking of “The horror, the horror” is that one of the most famous movies about the war in Vietnam  – Apocalypse Now – was loosely based on Joseph Conrad’s story, Heart of Darkness. Directed by Francis Coppola and starting Marlon Brando it revolves around a renegade Special Forces officer. Interestingly, I think to myself, that is the art that was created from this horrific time that seems to linger in my mind.

Street market

Trying to cheer myself up on the way back to the hotel after my museum visit, I wander by a stall full of the wonderful fruits that grow in this region of the world. Anyone who has spent even a short time travelling with me, knows that I love fruits and eat them all the time. There is one fruit which I don’t eat much and not because I don’t like the taste but because it is famous for its smell and is often banned from public transport and even from hotels. It is called a durian and years ago I had the pleasure, while on the inaugural Bamboo Road tour, to taste this fruit!


Without thinking much I bought a piece of wrapped durian and walked away happily, thinking about tasting it once in my hotel room.  Suddenly I realized just before entering the hotel, that if I wanted to eat this in my room, I had better sneak in quickly past the doorman, the reception desk and, hopefully, the rest of the staff. I opened the door of my room as fast as possible, opened the window right away and ate the fruit quickly before I got evicted. And so begins the Golden Buddha Ride.


Golden Buddha Ride

Join us on our cycling quest for the fabled Golden Buddha. Our journey begins in the bustling modern city of Saigon and continues up the country's...


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