How strangers helped me when I was stranded in floods
Anyone living in Saigon knows the pains of commuting on flooded streets during the rainy season. Saigon has been raining cats and dogs for the past couple of days, making it hard to know what to expect when hitting the roads.
As I rode my scooter out to Bùi Viện a few days ago for some fresh air, I got hit by a heavy rainfall that lasted nearly three hours. Worse, my scooter conked out and I was hopelessly stranded in knee-high floodwaters.
In the midst of my troubles, two strangers went the extra mile to help me.
Here’s how my stormy afternoon transpired.
A staff member at Baba’s Kitchen looked out for me the entire time
It started raining at 4PM while I was riding my scooter around District 1. As I was en route to Cống Quỳnh Street, my scooter started to conk out right at the entrance of Bùi Viện Walking Street and in front of Baba’s Kitchen Restaurant.
The downpour was getting stronger by the minute, and I had no choice but to take shelter under the roof of a closed cafe on the sidewalk. I intended to call auto mechanics over to fix my scooter and wait for the rain to abate before going home.
The thing about Saigon rain is that it is intermittent and usually lasts no longer than 10 minutes. However, this storm lasted much longer than I thought. By 5.30PM, the heavy rainfall had started to flood the streets.
The sidewalk I was standing on had been flooded to ankle-length, even though it is considerably elevated off the ground. Within a short amount of time, my feet were submerged in trash floating out from the nearest drains, and cockroaches started to climb my thighs.
My terror increased big time when all of the auto mechanics I called replied that the downpour was too great and they couldn’t come over any time soon. Needless to say, I was vexed and my phone battery was running low already.
Seeing me struggling, a man in his 50s clad in an Ahamove uniform approached me. He introduced himself as the delivery rider for Baba’s Kitchen right across the street and took a quick check on my scooter. He advised me to cover it with something so that the water wouldn’t flood the ignition switch, gas tank, and ruin the engine.
He kept me company for at least one hour, consoling me that the rain would die down soon and I could go home after that. His manager, an Indian man with a green turban, also signalled me to go inside their restaurant. Nonetheless, I nicely declined his offer because I couldn’t just leave my scooter unguarded on the streets.
Every 15 minutes, the delivery guy whose name I didn’t catch would re-evaluate my scooter and try to get the engine running again. After numerous attempts, it finally restarted and the floodwaters had risen to my knees.
The kind stranger whose name I didn’t catch
Around this time, he had to deliver a meal order to a customer so we had to part ways.
Before he left, he didn’t forget to advise me to wait until the floodwaters receded to go home. Even though he had a mask on, I could see him grinning from ear to ear as he wished me luck with my scooter.
“If you ride your scooter in the floodwaters, the engine will surely break down again,” he said in a caring tone that reminded me of a nice uncle next door.
A mechanic walked 1KM through floodwaters to help me
Around 6.30PM, the neon lights at Bùi Viện’s entrance were lit up in a desperate attempt to beckon passers-by who were hurrying through the sour-smelling floodwaters. The nearest nail spa was playing BEAST’s On Rainy Days, and I was standing on a table in a futile attempt to keep my pants from being completely drenched. Thank God the table was made of wood and heavy, otherwise it would have already started floating around.
The rain was showing no signs of easing and I had been trembling from the cold. I couldn’t wait any longer and made more calls to see if anyone could come over and help me get my scooter out of there.
This time around, one mechanic finally did and said that he’d come to my spot in 20 minutes.
Half an hour later, he called and told me that he was 1KM away from my location. However, he couldn’t keep on riding his scooter because the floodwaters were too high and would submerge his vehicle too.
“If I ride my scooter to your spot, it will surely break down,” he explained in a reassuring tone. “Therefore, I will walk to you.”
I didn’t know how long I had waited, but I finally saw someone come over. He was completely drenched and glad to find me amid a sea of dirty rainwater. I was so happy I almost burst into tears.
To ensure that more water wouldn’t be sucked into my scooter’s engine, he walked it through the floodwaters to a drier and more elevated place.
He walked my scooter amid the floodwaters
It is hard enough to walk amid knee-high floods, let alone carrying a 113KG vehicle with you. I followed him, gladly and confidently as if I were walking in the shadow of my savior, not just a mechanic. On my way, I saw many commuters falling off their vehicles because of the strong water currents.
As we reached a safer place, he took a quick assessment of my scooter and said that it was fine and that the waters had yet to completely enter it. All I had to do from then on was to always switch off the engine and walk the scooter if the area I was in were flooded with knee-high waters.
“If you see knee-high floodwaters in front of you, get off your scooter,” he said in a positive tone. “If you try speeding through it, your scooter will die.”
He reiterated that I’d arrive home safe and sound as long as I heeded his instructions.
As we were waiting for the rain to subside, my amazing mechanic went around to help other stranded commuters nearby whose scooters had broken down.
Before we parted ways, I sent him VND500,000 (~USD21.95) for his extraordinary efforts to help me and a valuable lesson on commuting amid the floodwaters.
Strangers’ kindness prove me that Saigon is a liveable city, rain or shine
Being stranded on a street covered in dirty waters and with a faulty scooter is an experience that I hope to never encounter again.
However, it will remain etched in my mind for a very long time. Not only did it teach me an important lesson on scooter handling, but it also restored my faith in the compassion of the people around me and completed my conviction that Saigon is a truly liveable city, rain or shine.
Also check out:
- 7 mobile mechanics & vehicle repair services in Saigon
- Saigon enters monsoon season, residents wake up to knee-high floods
- UDI MAPS weather app lets you check flood-prone areas in Saigon
- I had paranormal encounters at my office & vowed to never OT again
- Vietnamese student unclogs street drainage in the rain
- 12 traffic rules to know before you hit the road in Vietnam
Cover image adapted from: The Smart Local Vietnam