Originally my plan was to skip Vietnam because I'd been here before and wanted to maximize my time in new places. But I ran into two amazing new friends in Tibet and we really loved traveling together, so I came back to do Vietnam with them. This would be a more relaxed and less touristic vietnam than the one I did with Adam over three years ago.
A few days before coming to Vietnam, Adam emailed me asking what I thought about driving through Vietnam on motorbikes. Let me tell you, the reader, that I've never driven a motorbike before. I didn't learn to ride a bicycle till I was around 11 or 12. These two wheeled things were never my cup of tea. When I was in Vietnam last time I tried driving one to go around the city, but had no idea how to do this and the guy who was renting his bike couldn't speak English so just laughed at me trying to figure out what to do. Eventually refunding me and laughing with his friends. So why would I want to ride a bike through the country? Well, because... and that is sometimes enough of an argument.
So we got a very brief lesson on how to drive a bike and then shortly after we were thrown into Hanoi traffic. For those unaware of what traffic in Hanoi is like should go on youtube right now and be amazed (though Saigon is worse). It wasn't that bad though. Once you figure that there is a small order in the giant chaos then you're sort of ok.
So after a few days of trying different bikes and getting them repaired and then more repaired we got our bikes and are ready to go. The common bike for tourists to get is a Минск (minsk) former Russian but now Bela-Russian motorbikes. They are 2 stroke instead of a more standard 4 stroke and also manual clutch instead of automatic. This might make it seem inferior but in many ways it's more superior. It's made from solid metal. Most bikes here are made from shitty plastic and when you get into an accident, half the bike falls apart. The other day a car had some rope hanging off the end and it hooked the handlebar of my bike and dragged it maybe 20 feet. (I wasn't on it, it was parked) The biked knocked over a few other cheap hondas and they had little damages, my metal machine was fine.
So, I'm writing this post from near Ninh Binh, around 100km south of Hanoi. We made our first drive yesterday and had no problems. We're still learning a lot about how to ride and about the bikes in general. We expect problems and we're hoping that we can fix them ourselves, and if not that a mechanic is close by. It sounds like no matter where you go in Vietnam, a mechanic is close by. I'm also hoping to learn a lot about how the bike works and get a better understanding of mechanics, as I'm a guy and guys like to tinker.
I now own an old beat up, reconditioned, needing much love blue Minsk. Her name will be forthcoming in the next few posts (I hope) as well as pictures and stories.
much love to you all
PS for those who didn't catch the title reference it was in regards to one of my favorite movies, "Easy Rider." If you aren't familiar with it, go download/rent/netflix it.