>Who wants to bike Vietnam?!

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Bowl of Pho – $1
Room – $3
Hat – $1.33
A water and 3 cups of tea – $0.66
Sitting on a stack of styrofoam on a random street corner smoking a tobacco bong with an old local man and being so zonked I can barely write – priceless
Pulling out a stack of 50k notes in front of a bunch of people who probably make 50k per day – MISTAKE
So I made it Hanoi, and my first thought was: I want to bike this country. UnFORTUNATELY, Curtis, who I knew would be down 100% for that plan, had just departed for home, and I was a leeeettle bit pensive about driving 2000 km alone on a rickety Russian bike that would probably break down a good 10 times. Not only that, but I had just less than three weeks in the country, and the drive would have taken a solid 10 days of driving, minimum. SO that adventure will have to be put off for another day. It’s GOING to happen. Curtis promised me.
So I settled for the usual backpacker route, heading down from Hanoi to Saigon on a bus that allowed you to stop at multiple cities on the way. I hit up Halong Bay (to see the spectacular karst peaks), Ninh Binh (supposedly the Halong Bay of the rice paddies), Hue (an ancient capital riddled with bulletholes), Hoi An (the tailoring capital of SE Asia), Qui Nhon (a quiet, more laidback beach), Nha Trang (the tourist beach of Vietnam), Dalat (I don’t really know what was going on there since I was sick and in bed…and almost quarantined in the hospital for H1N1…jerks) and Saigon (the bustling economic metropolis). The plan was to rent bikes as often as possible (because it’s FUN to drive in Vietnam!!) , check out the cities and then get out to see the real Vietnam, the part that the travel agents refused to tell me about. (Really they did, they told me I was a tourist and therefore wanted to go to the tourist places…no help at all!). I had a crap-o disposable Kodak on me, so I wasn’t able to take THAT many pics, and the ones I did take didn’t turn out that hot…but here are a few of em anyway.
Halong bizzle nizzle.

A pretty river near Nha Trang.

Vendors in a street market in Hoi An.

The biggest flag in Vietnam. No, I’m not lying to you. Yes, I know it looks really small. It’s called perspective, people!
As I was wandering the streets in Hanoi one day I noticed a local electric company worker about to do some maintenance on one of the poles along the street. The funny thing was, he didn’t seem to have much equipment other than gloves, a hard hat and a wrench. No ladder, no safety harness, nothing of the sort. The next thing I know, he reaches up, grabs a thick, low lying cable and clambers up like a monkey onto the roof of a nearby building, from where he begins his repairs. Really?? You can only chuckle at these shenanigans. I should probably mention that wiring along the streets looks more like spaghetti than any ordered electrical system.
Here is another shot of roadside electrical maintenance. You can’t really tell but that’s a dude on a bamboo ladder tugging on random wires with his bare hands.
Apparently Vietnam is also the second largest producer of coffee behind Brazil. I will leave you now to cogitate about that fact.

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