I took a morning ferry because I needed to get to Hanoi soon because my lights still didn’t work. It took some time to get back to the mainland, so I found a nice place on the top deck and started playing my beautiful guitar.
When I returned back from Cat Ba to Hanoi I went right to the shop where I bought my motorbike. After the experience there, I promised myself to write a review of this shop so that other people know. This is what I wrote:
Bad experience. I bought a motorbike here and after a few km, it started vibrating and the electronics stopped working. I had to get back from Cat Ba island, I told them what they have to fix, we agreed on a time, but when I came, the motorbike was still on the same place. I came next day and they repaired just about 60% of the things I told them about. I also gave them a list of things, but before I left, the owner already made a nice paper ball from it in front of my eyes. I had to repair it by myself even when the motorbike had 1 month warranty. The mechanics didn’t care. They were playing games on their phones and I was just walking in the workshop and grabbing tools so that I can do it myself. And they were so nice when they were trying to sell the motorbike. Better to go somewhere else.
Yeah, no money in front of their eyes, no work. But after all this struggle, the motorbike worked quite fine again. One part fixed, the other part broken by the fix though. The same day I was reading my FB feed and I saw a post from one guy leaving back to his country. He was giving away a small backpack, I wrote to him and I was about to meet him in the evening that day. From the workshop I rode just about 5 minutes to my hotel and when I was about to go for the backpack, I didn’t realize that my gas tank was nearly empty. I knew that there was enough gas before I left the motorbike in the workshop. I entered the highway next to the hotel, I did like 500 meters and the motorbike stalled. I realized that they took my gas. I wasn’t so surprised after the previous experience though. I knew that there is a gas station about 800 meters far away, so I kept pushing my bike there. After few meters, one Vietnamese stopped and he offered me a help. I showed him on a map, that I want to go to this gas station and he kept pushing me forward with his motorbike and his leg on my peg. I was showing him the gas station when we were approaching, but he kept pushing forward and there were other motorbikes and cars next to me so I wasn’t able to turn. I was slow to react and we passed that gas station. He was signalling me that there is another gas station ahead. I thought that he knew about some better one or something, but he just kept pushing without stopping. It was still in the direction of the place where the guy with the backpack was living, so I didn’t care. At least in the beginning. This guy kept pushing me for about 20 minutes through the traffic. It was quite fun. I was enjoying this silent ride with his external force. We have managed to get to the gas station and I was very grateful. The conversation was like:
Me: Thank you so much for helping me!
Him: No “Thank you”! Money!
Me: Ok, ok.
I pushed my bike to the gas station and when I received some change I gave him about 5 US. He took the money and left straight away. I was quite sad, but I got reminded that money is something that rules this place.
The guy with the backpack was super nice and I was glad to meet someone like him. The backpack proved to be very useful for me.
I stayed with Amanda for another few days. It was nice to realize that we both love Drum and Bass. We spent a lot of time in The Pirates Den bar, where my friend, the owner of this place, always played some tracks for us. The atmosphere in this place was magical. Once we were going back to the hotel from there and we’ve heard some D’n’B beats on the street. We were about to check it out. It was coming from a club called The Opera. It looked quite snobby just by the looks of the entrance, but we didn’t care. We went inside and nobody was dancing there – even when the DJ was dropping some heavy sh*t. Everyone was just standing and sipping some of their expensive drinks. The waiter came and showed us the menu. We went through it real quick and we realized that the beer was 10 times more expensive than behind the corner. We said that we don’t want anything right now, but the waiter kept standing there and he was pointing his finger towards the menu. “You have to order,” he said. We looked at each other and we just left. Young Vietnamese rich kids spending their parents money. Instead of that, we played some D’n’B in our room.
One day, we were eating some ice-cream on the street and one Vietnamese guy approached us. He was offering Amanda to fix her shoes, but her shoes were made for the jungle and it was untouchable. She was like: “You should look at his shoes!” Yes, my shoes looked like it already died seven times. I bought it in Lidl supermarket store in Czech Republic for about 15 USD. My only shoes I took with me to lower the weight of my luggage. It survived a lot, but it got its heart attack in Chiang Mai on a D’n’B party that was pretty wild. My legs moved to the breakbeat by itself and I was enjoying way too much. I don’t stop my legs when they want to move and when I have a good grip from my shoes, my legs just get crazy. After Chiang Mai, there were several holes in it, but I just kept wearing it because I was not able to find size 46 anywhere.
Back to Vietnam. Of course that the guy had seen my shoes before he asked Amanda. He knew that he will spend plenty of time with these and therefore it is not a good business for him. He said 40.000 VND (~2 USD) in the beginning, but when he was about to finish the first one, he asked for 60.000 VND (~3 USD). I saw him repairing it well and I said 55.000 VND. He said ok. Later, he started to clean it by himself and then he asked for 90.000 VND. What? You started yourself! I gave him 60.000 VND and I was happy to heal my shoes.
We both knew that this romance is going to end soon, because she needed to leave Vietnam. One day, I rode her back to the airport and we said “goodbye” to each other. The way she was hugging me on the motorbike stayed in my mind for a long time. She was very cool. She is a tough girl. She will punch you in the face if you treat her badly, she is not this fragile pink blond porcelaine girl. She was living one year in a jungle building houses with machete.
We ate so much kebab that one day my stomach just started a anti-kebab strike. It took me one week to get better. The food in Vietnam is very nice, but you still need to be careful from where you take it. My stomach is usually doped with plenty of chilly so it is hard for bacteria to spread. Getting sick only means I need to eat even more chilly next time 😀
From time to time, I was exploring the surroundings. You can get just about anything right on the street. You wake up in the morning, you go outside and there is some guy stopping a motorbike next to you and asking: “Weed? Sex?”. 9 am. You see a woman carrying some fried ducks and you just ask her for one half. She lays everything down on the road and she splits the duck there. It is a very organic place.
Did I mention how hot can it be in Hanoi? So you have for example 36 degrees Celsius. But that is not the only thing. Another part of it is the humidity. With the amount of humidity that you have in Hanoi, you go outside and it is like jumping to a river. The sweat on your skin hardly evaporates and this combination might feel like 48 degree Celsium instead of 36. That is also why the streets are filled with people after the sunset.
I keep talking about problems, because I needed to solve plenty of those, but on the other hand I enjoyed staying in Hanoi a lot. It is a great city. People are free here. Streets are alive and the food is amazing. The beer culture here is giving it its impulse. When I was reading about it in a Lonely Planet book, I found a page about Bia Hoi (Beer) and its history. During the communist era, Czechoslovakia gave the recipe to Vietnam and it changed the face of Vietnam forever. Bia Hoi and Viettel (mobile operator) shop is in every small village these days. These are the most important shops people need here (at least it looks like). Being from Czech Republic, this gave me an advantage when I was telling people from which country I am. And believe me, I was being asked a lot. Vietnamese people are eager to learn English and they want to practice everywhere. Imagine yourself sitting with 3 friends in a Bia Hoi and in a few minutes, there is going to be some Vietnamese guy who is going to start a conversation with you. Even if you are talking with your friends right now. You need to be assertive.
Bia Hoi culture is pretty well combined with smoking. Cigarettes are pretty cheap here. 10k VND (0.5 USD) for the cheapest package. Most of the Vietnamese smoke Tut Lao – a bong filled with a strong Lao tobacco. It will disconnect your mind from your body. You can see it everywhere around. People working in a shop will keep it in front of it and every once and while they will go outside to have their small disconnection. I say small, because they must be pretty used to it. I tried it once and I was glad I was sitting. My body stopped existing for 20 seconds. Tobacco for like 30 bongs will cost you 7k VND (0.3 USD). You will find a bong and this tobacco in most of the local restaurants and you can light it up for free after your food.
Another thing that is pretty popular here are balloons filled with the laughing gas. These are pretty cheap as well – about 20k VND (1 USD, depends on the size). This balloon will disconnect you even better and everything around will be very funny. Just watch out to stay conscious. I’ve seen a few people passing out and falling on the ground for a while.
After some time in Hanoi, I received a message that Viv that I met in Pai is coming to Vietnam and she wants to do a motorbike tour. I wanted to do the same originally and that is why I bought my motorbike. I didn’t hesitate and I rode all the way up to Ha Giang. About 300 km north from Hanoi. It took me about 7 hours straight. I was trying every possible kind of stretching while riding the motorbike, but it didn’t help. The motorbike burned all engine oil after 300 km. Cheap Chinese engines – what else would you expect. I was approaching Ha Giang in the dark, but I had to have my helmets plexi-shield on because there were too many mosquitoes going into my eyes and mouth. When I arrived, my bum was numb. It was a great ride though. More about riding a motorbike in the northern Vietnam in the next post.