On the third day of our Vietnam Motorbike tour we got up at around 6 (thank you rooster for waking us up) and had pancakes for breakfast. I realised a slight drizzle. You wouldn’t call it rain (unless you live in a desert), but it was enough to make the ground wet and the rocks slippery. And I just realised that we have to go down the way we came up the day before….
And that proved to be challenging. “First gear, DO NOT use the brakes, otherwise you’ll crash” we were told by our guides.
The “ride” down was more like a dance on ice after six pints and two bottles of wine. Tremendous fun, but looking back it might have been just a bit risky…
Once on the way down my Minsk became too fast and I used the brakes – big mistake! The rear wheel blocked, then slided to the right. I used the front break and that wheel also blocked. I almost crashed into the rock but was able to bring it under control just in time. In the meantime, our mechanic passed by me on his bike, grinning in a sheepish way as if he’d like to say “come on, it’s not that difficult…”.
Somehow we made it down the mountain in one piece. Back in the village we picked up our jeep, filled up the bikes and started the long way back to Hanoi.
We soon figured out that the promise on the second day of “no more shitroads” wasn’t entirely true. After about one hour of riding through stunning countryside we came to a slope where the tarmac all but disappeared. “Same shit, different day”, we thought. But it turned out not be as bad as on day 2. It just took us around 20 minutes to clear this stretch and we were back in the game.
For the last 150km back to Hanoi we took the infamous “Ho-Chi Minh – Hanoi” road. It’s infamous for reckless, stupid drivers and lethal accidents. And if you’re equipped with common sense it’s not hard to see why.
The road is a normal single lane road. Traffic rules in Vietnam are: The right of way is with the biggest and heaviest vehicle. So it didn’t come as a surprise that a bus pulled out, drove on the other lane in collision course with cars from the opposite direction. After all, the bus is heavier so it has the right of way. Given that we were on small Minsk bikes we were quite scared….
But we weren’t hit by a bus or a truck. Instead, our problem turned out to be a cow.
One of those lovely animals decided it wants to cross the road. I just was able to evade it, my mate behind used the Minsk’s brakes and, surprisingly, made it to a full stop half a metre in front of the cow. But our wisest and oldest tour member wasn’t that lucky. He, like I, evaded the cow but then crashed into a stupid scooter that came from behind.
I looked in my rearview mirror and saw him going down on the tarmac. I turned around immediately and drove back expecting the worst. He was damn lucky! Just a few scratches on his hand, bruised arms, legs and a bleeding elbow (for some reason the fabric wasn’t torn though). The Minsk was also fine.
So how do you resolve an accident situation in Vietnam? Call the police?
No, you bargain. And the bargaining took some time. First of all, the scooter rider was just a kid. He looked like 13, so he might’ve been around 18. This being Asia, he had to call his “superior” (aka daddy) to sort it out. And daddy arrived half an hour later, together with half the village.
So our poor tour guide was surrounded by 20 to 30 people while haggling for the price. It was a tough task. Not so much the bargaining I reckon but just the lack of fresh air.
Remember, it was the Tek New Year. So everyone is at home boozing. And 20 to 30 villagers who arrived were no exception. They were all accompanied by a huge cloud of alcohol vapour. Just when one opened his mouth a massive cloud of pure alcohol was emitted. Just being in that cloud for a minute is similar to drinking three or four pints….
Anyway, since we’re the foreigners we had to pay for the damage. We paid half a million Dong (around USD 25) to recompensate them for the damage on the scooter. Then it was settled, we shook hands (while holding our breath) and set off again.
Another hour later we all arrived in one piece at the garage for a final group shot!
We were all looking forward to having a hot shower and bath. But at the same time we were just a bit sad. The best trip ever has come to an end. It had been the most amazing trip we ever made.
And since we managed three days on a Minsk, two weeks shouldn’t be an issue. That’s how long it takes to go all the way up from Saigon to Hanoi!
Thanks to the team at ExploreIndoChina, you made this trip truly the best trip ever!