"...and it didn't quit for four months. We been through every kind of rain there is. Little bitty stingin' rain...and big ol' fat rain. Rain that flew in sideways. And sometimes rain even seemed to come straight up from underneath. Shoot, it even rained at night..."
Never before has this quote from Forrest Gump about his time in Vietnam been more applicable to real life then now. At this point you may be saying to yourself, "damn Mike, you sure have been bitching about this rain an awful lot. Can it really be that bad?" Yes. Yes it can. When your primary mode of transportation leaves you completely exposed to the elements, rain dictates your life. Unless it's absolutely necessary for me to leave the apartment I don't, since thunderstorms can form shockingly quickly.
Take last night for example. Around sunset I noticed a line of menacing clouds to the west, but by the time I picked up a friend to go to dinner I had forgotten about them. We were heading to a small noodle restaurant in District 10, and as we neared Hung Vuong Plaza the wind picked up and the temperature dropped. A few blocks ahead a wall of rain was marching towards us. I pulled over, along with everyone else on the road, and by the time we got off my bike, opened my seat cover, and got my poncho out it was pouring. This is customary of Vietnam's climate: it can go from decent weather to apocalypse in a matter of seconds.
We carried on, the storm dropping visibility to whatever was right in front of me and creating standing water on the roads almost immediately. By the time we reached the restaurant everything but my torso was soaked. Another friend who joined us was equally soaked. The downpour continued through dinner. After we paid it slacked off a bit, but as soon as we got back on our bikes the rain returned with a vengeance. By the time we reached Tran Hung Dao on our way home the road - and this is a major thoroughfare that traverses several districts - had turned into a river. I hugged the barrier that ran down the centerline, avoiding the side closer to the sidewalk because it was even deeper. No one was paying attention to the stoplights because our bikes would stall if we stopped in the water, and after several near misses I dropped my friend off at her house, which was on a dry street.
Cao Dat, the street I live on, is prone to flooding, and I was not looking forward to driving down it. I looped around the road along the canal in order to avoid Tran Hung Dao, and as I approached my street I saw that even cars weren't risking a drive down it. Bad news. I didn't really feel like waiting for the water to drain though, so I pulled my feet up and dove in. The water had to have been within an inch or two of submerging my exhaust pipe, and I expected the engine to give out at any second. A van came down in the opposite direction and almost knocked me over with the wave it was pushing in front of it. Somehow, amazingly, I made it into my complex and parked. Plastic bags that had been floating in the water were stuck to my foot pedals. Surely my bike is in the running for Most Reliable Moto Ever Built.
Still think I'm exaggerating about the impact of the rain? Here's photo evidence to prove that I'm not.
Suffice to say I'm glad this will be my last rainy season in Saigon. Though, to be honest, that evening was a lot of fun. Once you're soaked to the bone and driving through six inches of fetid floodwater there's really nothing you can do but laugh at the absurdity of it all.
Luckily today has been a good day. I went over to another friend's house this morning to watch the Jon Stewart - Bill O'Reilly debate (I never knew this but O'Reilly is a huge human being) and order in blueberry pancakes for brunch. By the time the debate finished it was a weirdly sunny early afternoon, so I went home and immediately went for a bike ride, which alleviated the acute weather-induced Vitamin D deficiency I'm suffering from. It's now absolutely hideous outside, but at least we got a few hours of sun. Here's hoping for more days like that in the near future.