“JUMP!” I leap forward with both hands in front of me flying through the air like Superman. Landing in the muddy water, my left hand touches a leg. With one motion I bring my other hand around for a better grip and rise to my feet. This is not the leg of the goat I am trying to catch. Blindfolded and covered head-to-toe in brown mud, I ham it up for the camera, “Lẩu dê! Who wants goat hot pot?” Bình, a girl from another team, laughs out loud as she struggles to get free, “Let me go Richie!” I release her and continue to wander blindly around the mud occasionally diving for my goat on Mimi's signal. After a couple more attempts, I am successful, and I take my new little friend to a nearby stream to clean up. “That was so much fun,” I think, “I wish I could do it again!”
From the goat ranch we head by taxi to Hoa Lu Lake. Living in the city, I often forget about the incredible natural beauty of Vietnam. As I row our boat amidst the Bhuddist temples and tall cliffs, I am forced into a meditative state by the breathtaking surroundings. Pure bliss.
While we enjoy the raw beauty of the lake, two other teams enjoy buckets of raw vomit. These were the other two teams who decided to EAT RICE CAKES instead of CATCH GOAT. They struggle with this task for over 6 hours while every other team advances to the finish line ahead of them. The two girls from Hanoi, Thuy and Thoa, finish in last place and are the first team to be eliminated from the Amazing Race Vietnam. These “Tracksuit Goddesses” as they’re referred to in one forum, won the first leg and received an “Express Pass,” but they did not realize they could have used it at any time to bypass the eating challenge.
Back on the lake, we finish our tasks and start to make our way to the finish line. As our boat pulls up to the shoreline, I hop out quickly and run to give a hand signal to Heo and Bún, another team who has just got into their boat. After seeing the show, one friend thought I was giving a shout out to the 2-1-4 area code of Dallas, Texas. Another friend thought I was caught cheating on camera like the chemistry students at Doi Ngo High School. 214 is the number of steps up to the Tam Quan Gate where the world’s cutest child-monk lives. Once teams arrive at the top, he asks you “How many steps did you just climb?” Since I just came from there and Heo is going there now, my hand signal saves him at least one trip up and down those steps.
In the American version of Amazing Race, it is very common for teams to collaborate, help each other out, and form alliances. This was non-existent in the Amazing Race Vietnam. Every time I tried to interact with other teams, they ignored me. Not in a rude way, they would simply say “Cô lên! Fight on!” and then walk away. It seems the other teams are so focused on racing they do not want to “waste time” talking. It has been my experience in Vietnam that socializing is frowned upon during working hours. When Vietnamese people are “on the clock” it’s all business.
Since we came in last place on the previous leg, we have to give up our money at the beginning of the next one. Not wanting our money to go to waste, we do a little “shopping”. There are not many options on the side of the road so we settle on snacks and soft drinks. Later that night, after all teams finish racing for the day, we have a makeshift farewell party for the Thủy and Thoa. They are both well-liked and everyone is sad to see them go. Unlike the all-business attitude during racing hours, now everyone is laughing and enjoying themselves. We “nhậu” on soda, chips, and beef jerky purchased with the last of team RiMi’s leg money. Work hard play hard, that is the Vietnamese spirit.
Team Rimi survive another round, but will they make it through the 4th episode? Watch the Azaming Race Vietnam, Friday night at 8pm on VTV3 to find out. You might see Richie kiss a snake!
The Amazing Race Vietnam is an American-franchised reality game show in which ten teams race around Vietnam to compete for a final prize of VND300 million (US$14,000). The show airs at 8pm on VTV3 every Friday between May 18 and August 10.