Riding a Manual Motorbike for the First Time in Vietnam - Day 39

Who are we?

To keep it simple, we're two eager travelers with roots in the US.

Having explored quite a bit of our home country together, we set our sights abroad and kick started our foreign travels in Southeast Asia. With everything we owned in our backpacks, we set off on our five-month trip.

Having traveled Japan for the past 35 days, we're well on our way to our new home for the following two weeks in Vietnam.

There are countless ways to explore this developing nation, and everyone has their own take on the subject matter. From the busy city life with endless markets and awesome street food to the pristine beaches and breathtaking mountain views, Vietnam has a little something for every kind of traveler.

The options can be overwhelming when considering your trip to Vietnam, so to help narrow down the possibilities, we'll highlight some of our experiences to give you some inspiration and personal know-how!

Without further ado.. 

What day is it today and where did we stay in Ho Chi Minh City?

Today is Saturday, the 17th of November, 2018.

We stayed another night at the Jungle House Hostel. A great location, reasonable prices, and a friendly staff were all reasons we ended up extending several days.

What did we explore today in Ho Chi Minh City?

(Garrett) I purchased my very first vehicle today in the decaying alleyways of Ho Chi Minh.

For a whopping price of 6,700,000 dong ($290), we received a motorbike with the sweat and grime of a well worn traveler.

He came from Hanoi making the typical backpacker exchange before heading off to Cambodia, but instead to fly out for work in Florida.

Having never driven a bike, he thoroughly taught us the ropes as best as one could hope - but there's something one cannot be prepared for: the unknown.

We all know the threat of pushing ourselves. It simmers in the dark, awaiting a challenger to illuminate its shadows. It never reveals itself; always there to keep you in line towards your better self.

Facing it is where we test our courage. By living on the edge of our discomfort, we forge the qualities we seek to become in this moment.

Having the baseline knowledge to operate it was a good start, but hopping on and giving it a ride is another story.

I drove an aircraft carrier alongside other ships without a driving license which I got at age 26, why not try a motorbike?

The idea inspired me, pointing thoughts toward a long distance drive through Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. But something changed.

I crashed.

Perhaps I should say, we crashed. While Ben had a sturdy mind and quick wit to his new back seat position, I was under his trust driving.

Going down a single lane road fitted with two ways of traffic should have been a sign of caution. Most motorbikers head up the sidewalks and curved around the trees, grandma shops, and crushed tiles to beat the traffic.

Following the locals, we were dipping down too fast from the 8" curb, plopping down into a puddle from the afternoon downpour. Twisting and turning we plunked straight into the ground, luckily only impacting ourselves and not the other zillion drivers less than a fingernail away.

Stepping up to our feet, we lifted the steaming hot bike out of the water and drug the bike in neutral up the curb. With a second push we got it over, and away the horns and traffic screeched behind.

Buses and trucks zoomed through, crunching down on a sharp tune. The motion blurred before our faces, trucks whizzed off out of focus and we're left with the flip of a broke mirror rocking back and forth in the street.

Raising our heads we sunk back into reality. The crashing was over. Now the aftermath scene sets the stage.

When you have an event like this occur, you never feel the pain with the adrenaline flowing. Checking for damage, we gazed up and down our bodies.

upload.jpg

Ben had scrapped his foot and lower arm. I was so grateful he didn't have such an impact being right behind me on the seat. What a relief!

Looking over at myself, I felt off balance. My right foot was slammed down on the tip of my sandal folding it like origami. Sticking my toes back into it, blood came into sight.

upload.jpg

I beheld my leg, oozing with the deepest red. I followed the trail down to the root like spread. It seemed to only have been a single hit, gashed under the knee.

Being able to stand was a sure sign of our luck. Nothing was broke, nothing uneven after fixing the sandal.

Wanting to look further into the wound, I pulled out a liter of water from my carry on and poured it down the sticky mess. Revealing a deep white cut, there appeared to only be one - minus the burns, scrapes and possibly bruises.

Setting down our equipment and taking a moment to breathe, we discovered a vietnamese man nearest us on one of those child sized pink seats Vietnam has everywhere. He dashed in, not in a hurry, but in some kind of urgency to get something off his chest; a speech, a recital, something...

Speaking away, we couldn't understand a word. He pointed as if insisting something with a thick and unwavering tone. He wore a security vest as he sat to watch bikes - like ours - as people shop till they drop.

Turning our heads we saw a clothing stand full of intricate designs and traditional fabrics. Thinking perhaps he was signaling a cloth for wiping the blood, Ben went to scope out the place with little to return.

After the man turned away in our confusion, we continued to sit and clean with what little we had. Looking around for a convenience store or something for some bandaids or rag, the man rushed back in.

Halfway guiding us, and halfway tugged back to his chair, he brought us to an alley that grew dark into the depths except for one spec of light.

upload.jpg

Unsure at first as it looked like a school of sorts, we entered the premises as the man caved back into his seat.

Within its walls was a dead end. Completely vacant, we stepped inward to a slanted creeky door opened so slightly as you see in horror films.

A lady in a labcoat and flip flops was speaking with another women, until our eyes met. She stepped out with a wonder in her eyes. We held two helmets, skidded mud and street goop on our faces and clumping blood down my leg.

She grew curious, stepping down onto one knee like she held a ring for me. Pointing to sit down, I did. After inspection, she went back into the room and payed the lady she spoke with, gently guiding her out.

Perhaps a patient she finished with, I started to ponder the money situation. It was clear this was some kind of clinic... not sure what kind, I didn't have time to think, she urged us inside the room.

Sitting down she placed some newspaper to rest my leg. Cleaning the wound she used a lot of gauze and liquid, until revealing every scarred surface.

Going back and forth between body language and broken communication, we understood that a pocket of blood was swelling and I needed stitches.

She turned to prep the needle, to which reminded me of when I fell off my bike in a church parking lot back in the 90s. Getting stitches was a lot of pain back then, but as she had me lay down (me wanting to still watch), she poked me three times and went straight for the sewing.

Not hurting nearly as much as I thought, it went by smoothly. Bandaging me up and offering plenty of supplies to last me the next week until I'll need to remove the stitches, we brought up the money situation.

Wait till you see the medical bill - oh wait, there wasn't one.

No travel insurance, no life insurance, how would this work? Pulling out our calculator for her to type in the amount we ought to pay for services rendered, she turned it away. That's right: FREE.

Going to the hospital in the US would put us in debt for being seen, let alone stiched up and given a week worth of pills and supplies. I didn't show her anything whatsoever.

She refused to take any money - many times. Even paying her directly for helping us out was out of the question. Prompting us to go as she had another patient waiting, we left in disbelief.

That was it?

Making it down the street, our bike was gone - so it appeared.

The guy that directed us to the clinic moved it closer to him, under his guard. Also refusing any money for watching our bike, we hopped back on with his blank stare. Must be quite common here to make no commotion of it.

This speaks to the kind hearted nature of the Vietnamese people, whom I constantly misjudge based on mere body language and culture. Walking the streets they can appear loud and pushy, but their intentions are clear.

We'll leave it at that for now, even though we crashed once more 20 minutes later...

Today was a head on collision with death. Facing our fear of riding, only to push through it over and over, changed our lives forever. Testing the fragility of bodies and minds, we passed our inner ordeals to grow beyond ourselves. Now to do it again tomorrow....

Toured Chua Quan Am Pagoda

upload.jpg

With damage from the crash, we tried to see what was nearby to get going and also make something happen for the day. Reaching this Chinese pagoda built in the 19th century, we got to see Kannon or the goddess of Mercy.

Being free, these sights are great for the budget traveler but also for taking mindfulness into consideration. The artwork and practice is a sight to see, following the patterns and intricate detail in every corner. This Pagoda is relatively large compared to the nearest ones in Saigon, plus sharing its fair share of active participants.

Fled from consumerism at the streets

upload.jpg

Non-stop selling, marketing, and advertising draw ones attention towards the signs and flashing lights of various material possessions. Having only truly bought a bike throughout our whole traveling journey, it feels odd to see places like this: selling pikes of stuff all day, every day.

How much stuff do people really need? It’s understandable to make a living, exchanging services back and forth between all of ourselves, but there’s something missing in the exchange. While we all could use certain items, others are merely to satisfy basic desires, which are fleeting and soon enough rising once more.

What if we could live with the essentials, making more time for each other and less time for false buying/selling. By investing ourselves in each other, our minds, our lives, and our communities, we’d benefit the planet for global wellness rather than an onslaught of consumerism. Perhaps we’re the odd ones out on this one… let us know what you think in the comments below!

Took to the alleys for some Pho

upload.jpg

You can’t beat the price for some mouth watering Pho. No matter where we get it, it’s absolutely delicious. Any time we can afford to stop for a quick bite, we do. While ever so common, it’s just that good! What is your favorite food here in Vietnam?

How much did we spend traveling in Ho Chi Minh City?

Food: 194,000 VND / $8.31

Transport: 36,500 VND / $1.56

Lodging: 70,000 VND / $3.00

Sightseeing: $0

Other: 3,459,225 VND / $148.27 (Half the motorbike each)

Total: $158.22

The bike was a big hit, but also a great investment. Whether we continue to use it or not depends, but we’ll keep our options open. The day otherwise was rather cheap, spending all of our time working with the bike.

If you'd like to see more of our journey through Southeast Asia, check out our Facebook page or subscribe to our RSS feed.