Vietnam Bike Tour: Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City (Day 2)

June 1st, 2014 Comments Off

DAY: 02Screenshot from 2014-06-02 00:08:13
Distance: ~65km. Not so much.
Origin: Mai Chao
Endpoint: Somewhere on highway 217
Today’s Author: Zach
Screenshot from 2014-06-02 00:08:08
Given that we had to wait for the wheel to show up, we decided to take it a bit easier today. We woke up as late as our bodies would let us, which was about 10AM. I stayed in bed until 11:30AM working on these blog entries, barely made any progress. Writing and editing blogs via “WordPress for Android” is a miserable, miserable experience. I’ll spare you the details for now, needless to say many hours today were spent going through past days.

The homestay place made us lunch, and again there was a massive amount of food. The second picture below is when we had finished eating — it looks as if we hadn’t even started! Such a waste!

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We took a walk around the village that we were in afterwards. The walk itself was fairly miserable given how hot it is outside, but we’re starting to get used to simply being hot and sticky all day. We stopped on a bench after maybe half a KM. We were walking through this town of sorts with lots of “stilted” buildings (no first floor). We posit they’re all built on stilts for the raining/flooding season. We’re not sure if it’s a town either, because it was completely empty in the middle of the day. Perhaps the locals are simply smarter than us and chose not to be outside at noon on a massively hot day. The locals also have this habit of burning things — we’re not sure if it’s their trash or something else. Either way, from certain vantage points you can see how the fire smoke literally blankets the valley. Despite how picturesque some of the photos were, the whole valley had the slight smell of burning and the air didn’t feel so wonderful.

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A tiny bit of the modern world in this rural oasis. We were quite thankful!

We found a shop with a refrigerator and enjoyed our first properly cold beverage in over 24 hours (we’re still spoiled). We then made the arduous walk all the way back to the home stay place where I proceeded to sit in front of a laptop for almost 3 hours putting together photos etc. for this blog whilst we waited for the new wheel. Enough whining though…

Felix and I had a bet on whether or not the guy would show up with a vehicle of some sort that was capable of properly transporting an object of such size and shape of a motorcycle wheel, or if it’d be a dude on a tiny moped carrying it in his lap whilst reaching around the wheel to awkwardly use the grip-controls. Well, sometime around 6PM, bang on time, a dude shows up on a scooter holding a new wheel. 50,000 Dong for Felix!

The local mechanic tried to replace the wheel at the hotel but even for Vietnam that was a silly idea. Using our handy-dandy Google translate we convinced the guy to let us just ride the back the 2KM to his shop with a proper jack. So, 5mph back to his shop we went. 20 minutes later the bike was good as new!

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The “Mechanic’s Shop”

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We scrambled back at the homestay to get ready to get on the road before sun set. We quickly realized though that this would turn into a night ride. For the sake of the moral victory, and with a promise to each other to be extra cautious, we decided to give the night ride a shot. Holy goodness, are we idiots.

We set off from the homestay somewhere about 8:30PM. The roads were pretty smooth for about the first, I don’t know, 10 minutes?  The three hours following that can really only be described as straight out of the Darwin awards book. The smooth flat road transitioned into a fairly steep, windy/twisty mountain dirt/mud road. Had we not been on proper dirt bikes we absolutely would not have made it — a normal scooter or motorcycle would’ve gotten caught in the mud. We averaged about 20kmph (12mph) for the next 3 hours. Normally when riding I try and have interesting thoughts in my head, think about work, life, etc. etc. Not tonight. 99% focus and concentration on the 10ft in front of me that my headlights illuminate and 1% focus on my rearview mirror to ensure Felix is still there. The vast majority of the route was unpopulated and there was virtually no traffic on the “roads.”  For a while we wondered if we’d ever see lights again!

Around 11:15PM we found ourselves in something that passed for a “town”. That is to say there was more than one building in a row and the road was made of something other than mud. We stopped in-front of the building that remotely resembled a storefront and made the internationally recognized symbol for “I want sleep” (two hands against a leaned over head). The gentleman there, who was previously locking up, became very excited and started gesturing to us. I was thinking, this can’t be for real, is this guy really the proprietor of some kind of hotel?!   He lead me into the back into what looked like a proper motel, with AC and all!

Needless to say we happily paid the man whatever amount of money he wanted without negotiating (a whopping $10 for both of us together), took quick showers, congratulated each-other on being alive and passed out.  Whew!