“Do one thing a day that scares you” – frequent advice seen in motivational Instagram, Pintrest and Facebook posts. I’m not sure what doing one thing a day that scares you will help you with, but I did 2,748,028,420 things that scared the absolute shit out of me today, so I’m hoping that will make me pretty friggen great some day.
We just completed day one of our moped adventure and it was quite a day of ups and downs. Our trip began in Ho Chi Minh City, which if you’ve seen our snap chats, has the worst traffic I have ever seen in my life. There’s some ridiculous number like four million motorbikes in this city and it is the craziest, but most organized chaotic craziness I have ever seen. Everyone that rides a motorbike here somehow seems to succeed in dodging cars, pedestrians, other motorbikes, people riding down the street the wrong way, etc. and somehow it just all works out. If you’ve ever wanted to play a real life game of human Frogger, just try to cross the street here. Because of this, I have to admit, I have been dreading this first day of riding since we purchased our bikes because it meant that I somehow had to make it through the craziest city in the world despite my inexperience on a bike.
We were supposed to stay one more night in HCMC tonight, but the hotel staff tried to overcharge us for an extra night so, we decided to hit the road earlier than expected. The one additional night of comfort and safety I was clinging too was suddenly gone and an overwhelming feeling of dread followed me around for the next three hours until it was time to depart. Once we finally packed up and checked out, we made our first attempt at loading our backpacks onto our bikes. With 25-30 pounds of luggage each and a new tent and blanket, this was quite a challenge, but somehow we managed it.
Within 5 minutes into our drive, we pulled over on the side of the road because Josh’s biking was wobbling and my bike was practically popping a wheelie because all the weight from my bag was concentrated way too far back. Any time we passed 30 km/h (sorry, our speedometers are in KM’s), the whole things just started shaking. Instead of taking the time to untangle the mess of bungee cords strapping our bags to our bikes, we decided to just continue on our merry way.
The next 30-60 minutes was the most terrifying 30-60 minutes of my life. When we bought my bike, I made Josh test it out and drive me back because I didn’t want to drive at night in the traffic. Despite Josh asking me several times if I wanted to go practice in a parking lot, I refused and decided the best time to learn how to ride my new bike would be the time we were going to drive out of Ho Chi Minh City. Oh yeah, it would also be only my second time driving a semi-automatic bike…my first time being in an abandoned parking lot. Brilliant. Anyways, after getting on the road, I am surprised that my heart is still beating and during the first half an hour of riding I think I asked myself approximately 10 million times, ‘what the hell am I doing and whose idea was it to buy this damn bike in the first place?’ – Josh’s obviously.
Although, as we continued riding, the traffic started to disperse and the roads became quieter, I couldn’t help but feel like I had just accomplished so many things. I had survived: hitting my first pothole and not falling over; almost getting hit by my first car; almost getting hit by my first truck, twice; almost getting run into by another motorbiker; almost running over another motorbiker; almost hitting another motorbiker riding down the street the wrong way; almost getting blown over by a gust of wind; almost eating shit on a gravel road, etc. I accomplished so many things today. It was amazing. Meanwhile, Josh was just fine, leading me around effortlessly while I was having a borderline panic attack behind him.
After figuring the damn bike out and getting out of the crazy city traffic, I will admit that I began to enjoy riding along. The rest of our journey was a long and uneventful ride through ugly industrial landscape and it wasn’t until we reached the ocean that things started looking a little better. We did stop for lunch at a place on the side of the road and a lady offered to sell me her little dog for a dollar…at least that’s what I interpreted out of the interaction. She very well may have been offering to cook him up for me; we are in Vietnam after all. 85 miles and 5.5 hours later we reached our destination and some more fun began.
Not only has Josh been excited about motorbiking through Vietnam, he has had this crazy idea in his head that we will also be camping whenever possible. And when would be the best time to try out camping in a foreign country? After our first day out on the bikes of course!
So, we got to a destination that we were supposed to be able to camp at. It was a little restaurant on the beach that looked like it was closing up for the night and we asked the guy if we could camp there. He looked a little bit confused, but said yes and quoted us a fair price. After a few minutes of searching, we found a nice little spot and began setting up our tent. This was the first time we opened the thing since we got it and Josh expertly began directing me on how to set it up. “Stick that stick in the hole thing there on your side.” I complied, only to bend the tent stick, for lack of better words, too hard and snap a piece of it in half. Awesome. (P.S. despite, what Josh may believe and not say out loud, I did not do this on purpose)
After a few seconds of dismay, Josh’s quick mind went into fix-it mode, and we began mending the broken piece with some plastic trash we found on the beach. We were quickly beginning to realize that this was not working and not even 5 minutes into our effort of fixing the poor broken tent, the guy that said we could stay there came up to us and told us that he was very sorry and that we would have to register with the local authorities in order to stay there. Local authorities? What local authorities? Mind you, while we are trying to figure this out, nobody in these remote parts speak English well enough to have much of a conversation that makes sense, but somehow Josh was able to get enough out of the guy to figure out he would have to ride a few miles down the road to try and find the police station.
Off Josh went into town and I sat with our stuff in the dark for about 20 minutes until he returned, only to inform me that he was not able to get any info out of the local people other than that the station was closed because it’s Sunday. So, we packed up our broken tent, re-bungeed our bags to the bikes and headed to the overpriced hotel in the middle of nowhere that Josh found on his quick journey to town. Camping fail.
Now, we are at a guesthouse/hotel thing wishing we were on the beach listening to the sounds of crashing waves, but I guess this will have to do for now. After an entertaining dinner where no one spoke English, the menu was in Vietnamese and we had to use Google translate back and forth with the poor waiter who tried so hard to help us, we are now chugging a bottle of wine and preparing for round two tomorrow. I blame that for all spelling and grammar mistakes. Sorry.
Who knows what tomorrow will bring, but we are hoping it will be a bit smoother than today…but who knows.