Motorbike Diaries Continued:
We broke 1,000 km today! 1,034 km, according to Adam’s running tally.
Our ride was fairly uneventful. It was broken into two halves. The first being on a fairly empty, but nicely paved highway that followed along a river. The road swayed in and out with the bends of the river and we swayed along, ecstatic to not be driving up and down mountains like we did for 9 hours the day before. This highway connects the Ho Chi Minh Highway, the highway we’ve been using the entire time, to Highway 1, the highway we’ve been avoiding.
8 km onto Highway 1 (and a total of 70 into our drive for the day), Adam signals me to pull into into a gas station. His Hank is a gas guzzler, so he’s a bit paranoid about running out of gas, whereas my Moon can go at least 200 km without trouble.
Anyway, I honestly don’t know what happened, but as I was down shifting and slowing down (as I do every day), Moon starting revving and popping wheelies on me!! Since I was going so slowly and was almost ready to stop at the time it happened, I had a foot on the ground and was able to get off of her fairly smoothly before she toppled over. Again. (I swear I’m a competent driver.)
Adam was kind enough to ask if I was alright before snapping a few shots of my misery. (He told me it wouldn’t have occurred to him if I hadn’t mentioned it in my last blog post… so, my bad I guess)
I’m chalking it up to Moon being a strong, sassy, independent woman (like here momma, maybe?).
But anyway, the force of the fall left her looking pretty badly; my foot pedal was pushed into my shifting pedal, making it impossible for me to shift above 1st gear, black oil and gas were spilling everywhere, my rack broke and was dangling with my pack off the back. I honestly thought I’d hurt her really badly. I thought I’d busted a hole in the engine or something that would cost me dearly.
The guy at the gas station was of absolutely no help. He just watched, not even in amusement. I remembered we had just passed a place with “garage” written on the sign a few hundred feet back, so Adam strapped my pack onto his and I drove in first gear all the way there (which is painfully slow, by the way).
I pulled into the “garage” and motioned at the 4 men sitting around smoking and drinking coffee to come help with my bike.
“Mechanic? You? No?”
They looked at each other and shook their heads.
Adam: let’s just drive back into town.
Me: that’ll take ages in first gear.
Adam: it’ll take as long as it takes. We have the time.
Me: I just need a hammer to put the pedal back in place.
Adam to the men: Hammer? (With hammer motion/sign language)
They sprang into action. One disappeared and brought back a hammer. I showed him the problem and he started hammering the metal footing back so it wasn’t in the way of the shifting pedal. Another brought out a hollow rod and used leverage to pull it straight. And suddenly she was able to be shifted!!
I was still concerned with the amount of oil that spilled, so we headed back into town to find find a mechanic to look her over. She seemed to be driving ok, but I wanted to be sure.
We found a mechanic that had “Honda” displayed outside, which means he’s a good mechanic and could take apart and rebuild your entire bike if he needed to. We spent a few minutes using hand motions and simple words to try to explain that Moon had fallen over and oil might be leaking. The mechanic and the other guy there getting his bike fixed got a kick out of the fact that I’d fall over on her, laughed a bit, then looked her over.
Mechanic: Not broken. Oil change.
Me: Not broken? Really? Not broken?
Mechanic: Not broken. Oil change.
Me: Ok, sure, oil change.
Me: Shit, Moon is a beast.
Adam: Yeah, I honestly thought he was going to have to take apart your engine or something.
Me: Friggin’ beast.
In the process of changing mine and Adam’s oil, the mechanic hit on me, his friend tried to trade me his bike for mine, and Adam got to talk about soccer… I mean “football”…
And then, after a solid hour figuring Moon out, we were off again, onto Highway 1 for another 60 km.
We’ve been avoiding Highway 1 because it’s crowded and dangerous, but this drive made us realize we’re also avoiding it because it’s boring as hell.
Later I told Adam I was saying all the Vietnamese words on every sign we passed in funny accents to entertain myself.
I imitated some of them for him. “NHA NGHIII. BUN BO. CAT TOCCCC. GA PHO.”
Adam said he was singing to himself.
We got into Hue (pronounced HWAY), found the hotel we’d booked, which was recommended to us by a manager at our Farmstay in Phong Nha, and were elated to be in a real hotel with clean sheets and heat and an actual shower and a doorman who helped us fix my bike rack and smiling faces on the people behind the desk.
I suddenly felt very dirty, though, walking into this posh, clean hotel dripping wet from the rain, mud all over my boots and rain pants and backpack from riding in the rain and my mishap with Moon.
While checking in, the man and woman behind the desk asked us where we’d be going next.
Me: Da Nang
Woman: Great, you can get there by train or bus.
Me: We have motorbikes, actually!
Woman: Oh! One?…or….two?
Woman Two?! What?! You ride a motorbike too?! A woman?!
Me: (laughing) Yes! Me too!
Woman: You are so brave! I’m too afraid!
Man: You are so strong! Hardly any women ride motorbikes.
Woman: We just ride behind the men!
Me: It’s scary sometimes but I just (hand motion honking) BEEP BEEP BEEP, VROOOOOOOM (hand motion veering out of the way of something)
Adam: Hahahaha, Jesus.
Man and Woman: Hahaha
After showering, Adam and I set out in search of dinner. We were, again, elated to find the street was lined with proper restaurants with doors! We had CHOICES.
While walking down the street, store shop with “Columbia” pants caught my eye. While feeling them, the lady working there jumped on the opportunity to sell me something, “I have your size and manufacturing colors!”
I laughed. I hadn’t been able to find my size in anything in Vietnam.
“My size?! Are you sure?!”
“Yes, yes!! Come!”
Adam and I shrugged at each other and followed. She pulled out a bunch of plastic sealed pants and handed me a pair. I tried it on over my jeans, a bit snug in the ass. Typical. She pulled out another pair. I tried them on and they actually fit! I took them off to examine them. I declared to Adam, “I’ve gone up a size since Hanoi! XXL!”
While we were in Hanoi, I bought two extra pairs of underwear from a store so I’d have enough while we were on the road. The lady had looked me up and down and handed me the biggest underwear she had, XL, and they still looked child-sized to me (and they are too tight on me, but they are better than nothing when my laundry is piling up).
(Back in Hue)
Adam: I wonder if they have a pair that fits me…
Me: Keep your pants on this time…
Adam had also tried to do some shopping in Hanoi, but being at least a foot taller and much thicker than your average Vietnamese man, we often walked into a store and they looked at him and immediately said, “No.”
On one occasion we’d found a pair of pants that looked as if they might fit. Adam, having only been in Vietnam a day, was still naive in their ways. He asked if they had a fitting room. The man brought him to the middle of the shop, moved a rack aside, and motioned for him to try them on there. Adam looked at me, shrugged, and removed his pants right then and there. As Adam stood in his underwear, another westerner walked past the open storefront, snickered, and walked off. I hid my mouth with my hand to try to hide my smile.
Adam slid the pants on and I busted out laughing. They looked as if they had been painted on him. They were XXXL. The man brought out at pair of XXXXL, and they were still too tight.
(Back in Hue)
Adam and I both bought a pair of extra pants that actually fit! Small victory!
We continued walking and came upon a shoe store. Adam and I both only have two pairs with us and decided we’d like a third pair to have since both of ours seemed to have always be wet from the constant rain.
They only had one pair in Adam’s size, size 12, and they were terribly ugly so he passed on them. I found a boot I liked and asked the lady if she had anything bigger.
“Size 41 (European).”
I’m not kidding you when I say her eyes bugged out, almost falling out of her head as she choked back, “FOURTY ONE?! I am 35!”
I laughed hard and deep and said, “I know!!! So big!!!”
I stepped next to her and put my foot next to hers. 2 inches bigger, at least.
She shook her head, “No only 39.”
So we both went home with pants, but no shoes.
Day 8: “Rest Day”
No biking was done today, but it was far from a rest day. We took an all day tour of Hue, visiting the most famous of the 300 pagodas, 2 of the 3 emperor’s tombs, a local market, and the Imperial City. We left at 8 am and got back around 5 pm, by which point my eyes were hardly able to stay open.
The best part is that it’s the Chinese New Year and we get to be in a big city to celebrate!!
Every city and town we’ve driven through has been decorating for the new year for weeks; banners and flags hung up at the beginning and end of every town and along the streets, potted yellow chrysanthemum flowers and kumquat trees lining the fronts of homes symbolizing prosperity, property, and wealth for the coming year.
The streets were silent during dinner, shops closed, people at home with their families. But around 9 pm, everyone starts coming onto the streets for drinks and waiting for the countdown to midnight. At midnight fireworks will go off in every city and town!
I can’t wait to be in the middle of it all.
P.S. the highlight of my day:
P.S.S. HAPPY (CHINESE) NEW YEAR!!!