Zen and the art of being a motorbike pillion rider

On the road to Ba Na Hill Station

James remarked over email that he couldn't imagine me scooting around in Vietnam on a motorcycle. I'm kinda surprised at it myself. Before this trip I had been on a motorbike exactly twice in my life, both times as a passenger: the first time a less-than-10-minute ride in central Hanoi from the hotel to a cafe; the second time when beeker took me out for lunch when I was jetlagged.

Since I got to Vietnam, I've been on a motorbike at least every other day, and then often for the better part of the day. And it's been great. As they say, there's no better way to see Vietnam than on a motorbike. How else would you appreciate all the little back-roads through villages that don't appear on the map, the speedy efficiency of stopping, parking or even making a U-turn against traffic, and most of all the feeling of going somewhere? The occasional sore butt or dirty feet and legs (from the driving rain and puddles) are well worth it.

It's even got me hankering to learn how to ride a bike when I get home.

But being the driver would take some of the fun out of it. What I enjoy now: the freedom to partially disengage from the world, and let the ride take you, well, wherever. It's easy enough to follow the rhythms of the motorcycle's motion, and since you can't simply doze off as a passenger in a car can, you have plenty of time to think, or just be.

Riding on the back of the bike has been the best time for me to think nothing more complicated than, "Ah ... Vietnam!" --- or, conversely, to come up with new ideas and possibilities for work, life and the future. It's easy to let the mind go, either way, and there's a reassuring "Feel the Force" aura to it.

Now I know why we have Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, The Long Way Down/The Long Way Round, and any number of motorcycle-inspired narratives. Maybe if Singapore was big enough to have more long and winding roads that we could ride down, we'd all be a more Zen population too.

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At 10/24/2008 4:07 pm , Blogger naixuhs said...

I hear you about the freedom of the road but I think this comes more in places where the road is less travelled. My honey loves his Kawasaki and drives it into early November (just before the frost comes in). When I have been the pillion rider, I have enjoyed the speed on the highway but was nervous about the other cars. I can't say I've had the urge to learn to ride the motorbike...but maybe then I should learn to ride a bike first.

At 11/07/2008 6:21 am , Blogger Unknown said...

Just reading this post makes me feel more zen... :)


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