Biker and the Buddha
Nha Trang Travel Blog› entry 43 of 62 › view all entries
While crossing the Tran Phu Bridge I noticed the big Buddha statue beckoning from a hilltop across town. It sat tall and bright under gray skies. I made my way in that direction, zig-zagging random back-streets. The enormous white statue reappeared from the busy boulevard just past the train station but no roads or signs pointed toward it. I finally found a narrow alleyway at the base of the hill that lead to another lane which climbed upward. The winding climb became pretty steep so I could only pedal a portion of the way.
Half way up the hill, an occasional deep gong resonated from a wooded turn-out. The Long Son Pagoda, ornate with strong Chinese influence, straddled shaded stairs leading up the hill from the boulevard below. Beggars, rare in the city, roamed the area and slouched or sprawled on the concrete steps.
The sitting Buddha loomed when I topped the hill. I coasted to a dusty coffee stand near wide steps leading to it. An elderly man running the outdoor café nodded where to park the bicycle. It was reassuring to have the bike's presence acknowledged by a local - locked or not, new or old, a stray bicycle makes an easy mark for would-be thieves.
Built by the French in 1963, the nine meter-high Buddha sits cross-legged like a meditating giant facing Nha Trang and the South China Sea. Some of the Vietnamese visitors approached the Buddha's altar to offer sticks of burning incense and to pray. Others shunned kids selling post cards by gesturing their digital cameras. Views of the shoreline and coastal islands seemed distant by growing city. To the southwest, green rice paddies stretched closer to town than I would have ever expected.
Coasting down the hill would be suicidal due to marginal braking of the Martin 107. The bike already showed signs of wear with handlebars working loose every few miles. Sometimes I would turn them but the beast continued straight ahead. A 12mm wrench from a back pocket checked that hazard but the ride down Big Buddha hill is no place to discover, or induce, new mechanical problems.