Friday, 16 December 2011

Biking in 'Nam

Ok, so having biked from Lang Son to Halong bay and really enjoyed myself, the adventure turned into more of a struggle than I expected. I was trying to get to Hue by the 9th so as to meet up with the Russian Girl (Ulgar) I was chatting to on the halong bay boat trip. Obviously the roads in 'nam are pretty poor in terms of pot holes and nutty drivers, all of which I could have coped with had the weather been better. Basically I was concentrating so much on the road, the nut bar bus drivers who don't take any prisoners whilst being soaking wet from the rain and worrying about petrol, what gear I was in (the bike had neither gauges for each - which Suzi did have!) and which direction to be traveling.

On the first night I stayed at a fairly legitimate looking hotel just outside of a major city as it looked clean and safe. I got chatting to one of the hotel staff who spoke fairly good english who wanted to practise and for me to hang out with her and the other employee's. To her suprise, when she offered for me to come along to her friends 'party' even though I was shattered I thought I'd give it a whirl (carpe diem and all that). So like 20 odd employees of the hotel rode off in convoy to the 'party', of which I had no idea what I was going to. We arrived at this restaurant about 5k from the hotel and got some snails and chips to eat. The entire time I was being starred at like the elephant man by all the employees, but it was kinda cool being so interesting to them. The guys where trying to get me pissed on Vietnam Wine (40 odd percent) but I was being carefull as I didn't want to be hammered while riding in a foreign country (obviously!). After the meal we all went off in convoy to a karaoke place that didn't have any of my trusty songs that I usually call upon to nail so I ended up going with 'circle of life' from the lion king. Big mistake, that song is haaaaaard! Everytime I picked a song that I thought I would be able to do well it turned out to be by another artist (eg 'now and forever' I thought was going to be by Richard Marx which I know pretty well was actually the air supply version that I'd never heard of!). Anyway, I also did Gangster Paradise by Coolio which I did pretty well but the guys where ripping the piss out of my rapping most of the song by also freestyle rapping in Vietnamese!

The next day I managed to get one of the employees to fix my head light on my bike (did I mention that non of the electrics worked?!) so at least I was 'safer' riding at night. I was making pretty good time heading south until the road got really shitty then my chain fell off, fortunately just outside of a garage. The guy fixed it in about 20 minutes and charged me the whopping fee of one pound for his troubles! If that had happened in England they would have charged a shit load to fix that. Then about 2 hours later I was happily plodding through a village and a dog ran out in front of me, I couldn't brake quick enough and ended up hitting it and dropping the bike. Immediately I was in shock, the dog was whining and limped off to the side of the road, I got up and checked that I was OK (I wasn't wearing any protective gear other than a helmet so I was pretty lucky) and checked the bike which was ok except for the indicator (that didn't work anyway!) was smashed and the make shift luggage rack (two planks of wood held on my an empty bike tire) was bent. At this point I had a massive crowd of people around me and I was trying to get them to show me where the dog was to check it was ok, eventually found it standing up, a bit shacky, and had a minnor cut on it's head but was ok. I was trying to explain that I felt really bad for the dog (even though I wasn't doing anything 'wrong') but a guy was telling me that it;s a different culture here and basically that they don't care about dogs. Poor thing was probably their tea that night! So obviously that shook me up a fair bit and I rode for another hour before stopping in at a hotel and hitting the hay early.

The next day I rode for about 70k and when I arrived in Vinh I decided I'd had enough of biking so sold the bike for half what I paid for it 4 days prior. TBF I only lost out on 120 dollars (70 odd quid?) so fuck it. It was a great experience and I defo don't regret it but it's not something I'd do again in 'nam. At least not in the winter anyway. Apparently the roads south of Hue are much more enjoyable but the weather was shit the whole time (and has been since) so I'm glad I gave up. Got a bus to Hue from Vinh which took 8 hours and i was so happy to be in the warmth and comfort of a sleeper bus :-).

Ok, my hour on this internet cafe is almost up so tune in for my next installment when I'll be reporting on Hue, Hoy Anne and Nha Trang.


1 comment:

  1. Nice, really keen to see the pictures of the biking parts. You should try and get a bike in Oz - only way to travel. I just bought a F650GS in old London town.

    Throw a grenade for me when you get to the Cu Chi Tunnels. Yes, you can buy and throw a grenade.