Ho Chi Minh City to Mui Ne
Finally we’d taken off with our motorbikes from Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. Travelling on the notorious Highway One we are heading to the coast and our second destination: Mui Ne.
The wheels on the Win go round and round
It took us nearly three hours to cover the first 20 km out of Ho Chi Minh City – but that wasn´t our fault: Traffic jams, hordes of scooters, bicycles, trucks, busses, taxis and cars all the way. Everybody is shoving their way through the traffic as if their lives depend on it and yet, this happens with a certain respect and no witnessed accidents. We are learning pretty fast to adapt our driving behavior to the Vietnamese style and it doesn’t take long until other road users start to notice: The Vietnamese are cheering, laughing, honking and giving us countless “thumbs up”-signs. It is amazing how happy these people get, just by meeting us on the road. Just drive slow and cautious but resolute. We can’t go fast anyway, 50km/h is all the two rockets manage. Breaking, gas, standing, breaking, gas, standing, coupling, gas, breaking, standing – for aaaages. But then, suddenly the highway splits into smaller roads and we are finally out of Ho Chi Minh City’s suburbs.
Sebo is happily throwing one hand in the air doing the victory pose. With every driven kilometer our sensory overload abates and we are starting to enjoy our motorbike-trip in Vietnam for the first time. We begin to notice, that our scheduled route was planned a little too optimistic: on our first day we spend nearly 10 hours on the back of the bikes and are really happy when we see the first street signs for Mui Ne. At dusk and simultaneously with rain we finally arrive at Mui Ne and start immediately looking for the hotel we had in mind. After some clueless cruising we give up and decide to ask for some affordable hotels on spec. On the third attempt we succeed: It´s not the Hilton, but everything we need (a bed, a hot shower and some space for the wet clothes to dry) is taken care of. The backpacks are loaded off the motorbikes and we head to a little restaurant on the other side of the road. HUNGER is here!
Little Russia in Vietnam
Shortly after our arrival in Mui Ne we notice Cyrillic letters on a lot of signboards and it seems that a lot of Russian tourists spend their holidays here. Even the menu of the restaurant we´re sitting in is only available in Russian or Vietnamese. But like a lot of other Asian restaurants, this one has tiny pictures of every meal on it and so we are able to order fried rice and some beer with the last of our strength. Our feet are still wet, when we head back to the hotel an hour later. With a full belly and thousands of new impressions we barely manage to take a shower before falling into a deep sleep.
The alarm goes off at 7 the next morning and we get up, still tired. With a short look out of the window we realise, that the rain has finally stopped. The sun is out! And the motorbikes are still there. Everything is good. We do a quick wash; put on dry cloth, pack our backpacks and we are ready to hit the road again. While leaving the hotel room we get a visit from our friend, humid air and we are sweating – again. We must´ve been really really tired the night before, because we didn´t even notice the ocean, that is located only about 50m away from our hotel – scary what you miss when sleep is needed. A few minutes later we stride the Honda Wins and head to the city center to get some breakfast and find a garage for the bikes.
Two oil changes, please!
Today is market day in Mui Ne, we stop for a short visit and also to buy some fruits and munchies for breakfast. Afterwards, it only takes seconds to find a garage for the bikes and we cross the street to park the motorbikes in front of it: “Xin Ciao, oil change?!”, I ask a mechanic that is coming towards us wearing an old shirt, flipflops and whose hands are daubed with oil. “Ha???”,he´s asking a bit insecure. “Oil change, we need new oil”, Sebo says. While telling him this, Sebo is pointing on the motor and then doing a move that looks like a football-coach wanting a substitute player. “Aaaaah okay siiir, no problem!” The mechanic understands and offers us two small plastic stools for the waiting time. We gladly take the offer and begin to eat some fruits for breakfast.
We nearly choke, as we witness the way Vietnamese mechanics undertake an oil change:
- Tow the motorbike on its main stand
- Put an old cooking pot, a cut of plastic bottle or another item that is usable as a collective tank under the motor
- Undo the oil screw, loosen the oil filler neck
- Let the oil run into the container and pour half of it over on the street (or alternate use a too small container right from the start)
- Start a compressor
- Place the “air-pistol”, that is attached to the compressor, in the oil filler neck (what is he doing?)
- To get the last drop of old oil out of the motorbike, use it a few times and blow some air in the motor (is he really doing that?)
- Tighten the oil screw
- Pour new oil into the motor and don´t forget to lose half of it (aaaaaah!)
- Tighten the oil filler neck
- Finally stub out the cigarette with 5cm of ash on it you´ve been holding squeezed between two fingers since the beginning of the procedure (I don´t believe this)
- Pay about 3 Euros per motorbike
As a German motorcycle tourist in Vietnam, who is used to very neat garages, this is a nightmare and you just want to jump off the chair, scream and rap somebody over the knuckles. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Will the motorbikes still run after compressed air has been pumped into them? We relax a bit after finding out that this seems to be normal and all Vietnamese customers get the same treatment for their motorbikes.
Both oil changes are done and the friendly mechanic backs up the motorbikes onto the street after receiving the arranged amount of money. “Cam on (Thank you) and bye bye!” we shout to the mechanic. He smiles. Both Honda Wins start up smooth, a little smoke here and there, but they run better than ever before. “Woooohooo, look there is the ocean!” Sebo shouts as he’s overtaking me. I take a deep breath – I smell fumes, oil, tea, flowers, salt water, gasoline and grilled meat. I see kids laughing and playing on the side of the street, elderly men drinking coffee, the crowded market. I pull the throttle. Goosebumps! My mind is clear; finally we are on the run again. Vietnam, we already love you!
Next destination: Dalat.