Our story began here.
The trio were already more than halfway in their journey. The room reeked of soiled clothes. CW was already downstairs inspecting his broken machine. That morning, they managed to push their motorcycle to a mechanic nearby. It never seemed like a simple problem, and were doubtful when the mechanic charged USD$20 to fix it up. To his credit, the bike was running again, but it was clear the engine was running on borrowed time. So they rode to a proper workshop, and they managed a questionable overhaul of the engine within a day’s time for USD$100.
Final Drive: Chain
Hoi An was famous for its seafood and while the bike was being repaired, they spent their downtime at the beach. They did tourist things, making sunglasses and roamed the streets for cheap beer. They had missed the famed Hai Van pass because of the delays and dreaded the next leg of the trip onto Kon Tum.
When they set off the next morning, CW’s motorcycle had a new problem. This time his chain broke off. Karl tried to rejoin the remaining pins and spent a precious hour attempting so. They did their best but it was not enough, and succumbed to accepting the fact that they had to push the bike onward. Marcus was quite experienced with this endeavor at this point in time and they soldiered on. A local truck driver pulled alongside them and saw the painstaking effort. He kindly offered them a rope to tow the motorcycle instead. Another plus for Vietnamese people.
A Morale Boost
They travelled at a snail’s pace and covered about 20 kilometers of road in this manner before a mechanic was in sight. They continued on their uneventful ride till dinner. At the restaurant they were once again greeted by a menu that was unreadable, not even by Google’s visual translator. They ordered their food at random and had no expectations. The unassuming restaurant served the best meal they had on the trip. It was fit for royalty, large portions of fresh meat, vegetables and steamboat. The locals were amused by the portion the friends had ordered. They had suffered through a miserable day with no expectations for it to get any better and this meal lifted their spirits tremendously.
When they reached Nha Trang the next day, they decided to detour and explored the empty roads. The compact asphalt made way for loose soil that invited them towards an open grass field. It was empty for miles, lush trees and hills made for the backdrop and only the river bordered the area. Local kids in mopeds curiously investigated these three foreigners. They were school children in their uniform, watching innocently as the three friends took turns letting the rear wheel loose on the soil. The kids gleefully imitated their actions and in that moment, the language barrier fell away as motorcycles became the medium for communication. The bikes invoked the same emotions for everyone.
Where the roads ended, adventure began and this was a common theme for the trip. Towards Dalat, the friends found themselves being rewarded for their curiosity as they explored every vague dirt trail they saw. Karl was drawn towards a steep hill climb and incited the rest to follow suit. They fought gravity in the warm weather and the Honda Win fought valiantly to keep up. It eventually passed the test, the hill mercifully revealed the beauty of Dalat’s landscapes to their eyes. It was a panoramic view of the hills and highlands that split the cerulean blue sky and viridescent vegetation.
Dalat was their favourite destination on the trip. It was the distinctly cooler weather and empty, peaceful streets on the outskirts that they loved. The streets reflected the architecture from the French colonial period, it was also one of the most visited places in Vietnam. With that, came a siege of activities targeted at tourists. From curated adventure packages like waterfall tours to luge rides, the friends mulled over their options.
In their last leg towards Saigon, the friends stopped at Mui Ne, infamous for corruption. They had braced themselves for road blocks and were prepared to pay off the police. A single road ran into Mui Ne and it was the main artery that the police had to target. But in a stroke of fortune, the Honda Wins were so slow that by the time they had reached Mui Ne, it was dusk and the police had already packed up. It was amusing even to the locals, when the friends retold the story to their homestay hosts.
With the midday sun bearing down, the friends found themselves barefoot on the beach, awaiting an epic fishing trip. A round tub, made of faded blue plastics, bobbled at the shore. CW clambered over it, before the rest got on board. The Vietnamese guide paddled with tremendous strength to get them towards the fishing boat, docked further offshore. They sailed towards the open sea that day, only to turn back empty handed. It was a disappointing waste of time and money, made worse by the insincerity of the guide. Mui Ne also had beautiful sand dunes sculpted by the winds brought inland from the sea. A unique desert landscape, marred only by the incessant number of tourists.
They concluded their journey after Mui Ne, and headed south towards Saigon. Heavy traffic resumed, mirroring the conditions of Hanoi, where they had started. Eager eyed mechanics would scout hotels and home-stays with Honda Wins that were ridden by foreigners. The bikes were sold for USD$130 each, a mere depreciation of USD$70.
The friends expressed their ambivalent feelings leaving the machines that had brought them through this extensive journey through Vietnam. They were grateful that the worst was over and that the bikes, that were a time bomb, were off their hands. They had thrown caution in the wind when they decided to make this trip as spontaneous as possible, but they were quietly confident in their abilities to step out of their comfort zone in times of hardship. Heck, they would have slept on the road if they had too. The trip was about the endearing hospitality of the locals, the extreme spectrum of the weather be it the biting cold or scorching heat that they had to plough through the day, the acceptance of vulnerability on two wheels that all riders shared, the unsaid understanding between friends and optimism in the face of adversity.