Motorbiking Vietnam Part 5 – Stranded

I’ve been slacking hard in the post department lately. It’s not that I don’t want to write, because I do. I enjoy keeping my friends and family up to date on what we’re up to, but sometimes the last thing I want to do after a long day in scorching Southeast Asian heat is to bang out a post or two. I will try to be better in the near future, but for now i’ll be playing catch up for the next few posts.

In Motorbiking Part 4 I talked about Breada’s unfortunate gas issue. For whatever reason her bike burns gas faster than mine, though when we got oil changes today the mechanic told me my bike burns more oil than hers. I’m no mechanic, but I found that interesting. While the bikes have been pretty good overall, we have had some rough patches along the way, which is more or less the topic of this post.

We spent 2 nights at Life’s a Beach, the hostel Chase and Robbie helped us out getting to when Breada ran out of gas. We just wanted a break, and the hostel was the perfect place to kick back and rest up for a little while. Honestly, we never even left the hostel grounds the entire time we were there, which was totally fine by me.

The ride from Life’s A Beach to Hoi An, to put it nicely, sucked. It was a two stop journey, first in Quang Ngai and then Hoi An. The ride to Quang Ngai was going great, until a van decided to pull into a driveway from the left lane, crossing the lane I was in, and forced me to jam on my back brakes, which led into a fishtail and eventually dump my bike to avoid hitting the van. I was totally fine, not a scratch on me, and besides a couple smashed mirrors my bike was fine as well. My first reaction was to get up as quickly as possible because we were on Highway 1, and I was nervous about someone behind me coming up and smashing into me. Luckily, the stretch of road we were on was empty and I was able to move the bike to the side of the road without further aggravation. I wanted to scream at the driver of the van. Who crosses over a lane to pull into a driveway? Vietnamese drivers, that’s who. I had to keep my cool though, because no matter what, if you’re a foreigner, you’re at fault. Doesn’t matter. It’s just the way it is.

I’m not sure if the driver knew he was an idiot or was just a nice guy, but he got out of the van (after pulling it into the driveway) and helped me fix the one mirror that was salvageable. Him and another local looked the bike over to make sure nothing major was wrong, and within 10 minutes or so we were back on the road. When I dumped the bike, my bag slid off the rear rack and the rain cover melted on the exhaust. I still have bits of blue nylon on the muffler for proof.

Other than that the ride was quite nice! I wish I could say the same about Quang Ngai. If the city has any redeeming qualities, we missed them. Luckily it was just a place to sleep and we weren’t staying longer than 12 hours, because I don’t think there’s anything for a tourist there. We ventured out for food that night, and because of a language barrier, we ended up with 3 meals for two people. The waitress brought out a beef noodle dish for Breada and a massive plate of fried rice and egg for me. There’s nothing I could really do but eat it, since I guess it’s what I ordered? Then, just as I’m finished stuffing my face with rice I didn’t want to eat in the first place, she brought out skewers of beef. Normally I would be happy, I love kebabs, but why did you have to bring it out just after I finished eating a family size portion of rice!? I was paying for it, so I ate as much of it as I possibly could. Whatever, the whole meal was like $10 so It could always be worse.

We left early the next day, excited to finally get to Hoi An, one of the places we had been looking forward to since we arrived in Vietnam. The ride should take about 3.5 hours, but because things never work out they way they should it took us 7.

That wrench in our plans was of course..Breada’s bike. Everything was going fine for the first 2.5 hours of so. We were moving at a good pace, no major traffic, when all of a sudden Breada’s 4th gear decided it didn’t want to work anymore. Anything more than 1/2 throttle and it would slip and rev high like it was in neutral. Since 4th gear is what we’re in 90% of the time we’re not in the city, this is a big problem. Luckily, like everywhere in Vietnam, there was a mechanic right by where we pulled over. Unfortunately, the guy didn’t speak a lick of English.

I kept motioning for him to take the bike around the block so he could feel what we could feel, but he kept insisting that he knew what was wrong. It’s amazing how much you can communicate without using a single word really. We left him to do his work and went and got some iced tea at a place nearby. It was scorching hot that day, so pretty much a regular day, and we needed something before we passed out in this middle of nowhere town. We came back about an hour later to find out he replaced the carburetor. I’m no mechanic, far from it really, but I knew the carb was not the problem here. He gives me the keys and motions for me to ride it around, which I did, and as I pulled up to his shop I gave him a big thumbs down. He finally decides to listen to me to ride it around himself, he drives about 30 feet, and turns around. He comes back and motions that he now knows whats wrong, which is great, but it would have been better before he put a new carb on we’ll be stuck paying for.

He leaves to go buy whatever part he needs to fix the bike, which was an entire new clutch. It’s around this point Breada and I are realizing we don’t have much cash on us at all, and being in the middle of nowhere means there are no ATMs nearby. He finally comes back about 30 minutes later, and using handy dandy Google Translate I ask him how much everything will cost. He starts making out a price list, which topped 1.6 million Dong aka about $70. I know we’re getting ripped off here, because you can rebuild an engine for that price in Vietnam. We didn’t even have the kind of money anyway. Between the two of us we had about 720,000 VND on us. I tell him ( using Translate of course ) that we can’t pay that since we only have so much money, and to just fix it enough to get us to Hoi An. I show him all of the money we have and tell him don’t replace the clutch since we can’t pay. We just want to get to Hoi An. He seems a little aggravated, but also seems to understand what I’m saying. He then left again to return the part he just bought and we waited another 45 minutes or so for him to get back.

He finally gets back and begins working on the bike.. again. We’re starting to really get aggravated because what should have been a 1.5 hour fix is moving past 3 hours and we don’t want to get stuck riding on the highway in the dark. That, and the clouds are moving in pretty quickly and getting caught in the rain is almost as bad as riding in the dark. Finally, after another 30 minutes of playing around with the bike he says its ready to go. We handed him everything we had except for 10,000 VND (50 cents) in case we needed a little extra gas or a bottle of water. When we handed him all the money he made this face like we weren’t giving him enough. I told him 100 times this was everything we had, but like when I told him to ride around the block, he apparently wasn’t listening. After a few seconds of making a pouty face he took the money and smiled, probably because he knew he was still ripping us off.

We took off and had to pin it to Hoi An since it looked like it was ready to rain any minute. Luckily we were only about an hour out so we could just go nonstop without taking a break. I don’t think I had ever been as happy to arrive somewhere as I was getting to our homestay. We were tired, aggravated, broke, and hungry. As soon as we checked into our room we dropped our bags, searched Tripadvisor, and found a burger joint nearby. Honestly, it was one of the best burgers I’ve ever had in my life, and i’m not just saying that because we hadn’t ate all day. Anything with cheese. bacon, and avocado is a sure fire hit with me.

Moral of the story : always end a bad day with a burger and you’ll go to bed happy.

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