For details of the places I visited in Vietnam along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, with GPS Coordinates, see my book Vietnam Caves.
For details on motorbiking in Vietnam and Cambodia, from buying and selling a motorbike, to border crossing, see my book Motorbiking Cambodia & Vietnam.
Is this the end of the trip?
When I awoke this morning, I feared that this is where it ends for me and the little Yamaha Nouvo 2 scooter.
With the decision already made that I will not continue onto Laos, for lack of funds and information, I had to look at my options of what to do with her.
With conflicting information of how to, and how much it cost to ship the bike to Saigon, including how long it will take, I may be better off selling here here in Hanoi. However, prices are better in Saigon, so if it is not to expensive, then it will pay to ship her down. (Also added info for my book.)
I head down for breakfast, and get the usual omelette and bread roll, but this time they give me some fruit. No idea what it was, but tasty.
Then I go to the hotel desk and ask if they can help me with train tickets. They advertise they do all kinds of tours. Turns out, the hotel owners also own a travel agency next door. The husband runs the travel agency and the wife runs the hotel.
I ask him if he can help me with tickets for my bike from Hanoi to Saigon. He says he does not sell the tickets and you cannot get it online, you have to go in person to the train station with the bike. But then he offers to go with me to the train station and translate for me. So off I go, following him in the mad traffic. He constantly looks over his shoulder to see if I am still there, and a few times is surprised to see me right behind him.
At the train station he parks his bike, and then hops with me on mine, then directs me to where to go to.
We go over to where a “big” bloke is sitting behind a desk, and I am reminded of scenes from movies where you go and see the dock mafia boss. You know the big guy with a cigaret in his mouth that runs the show, with like 5 guys just hanging around him like flies. That kind. I get the impression that if things turn sour here, your bike is not going to make the train. (Heard from a friend that he is still waiting for bikes after more than 2 weeks.)
We are stopped by one of the flies, a distance away, but big boss wave me forward, and the flies open up. I bring the bike up right to big boss’s desk.
The hotel/tour owner speaks in Vietnamese to him a bit, and then the big boss exclaims, 750K vnd cash (about $30 ich dollar). At this point you could hear a pin drop. I nod my head yes in my best Gibbs from NCIS impression. (Having no idea if it is a inflated price or not, but acting like I know what’s going on.) All of a sudden things come to life, and the flies around big boss jump into action. Three tackle my bike and immediately drain the fuel from the tank. (3/4 full), then start to wrap the bike up.
I am handed a form where I fill in my details, then they ask me for the ownership papers and some cash. I hand the stuff over, and off goes the guy with it. Soon he returns with copies of the papers, and then it is big talk time. Caught up, everything goes in slow motion now as all wait for me. The guys wrapping the bike up hang in mid motion, steeling glances at me out of the corner of their eyes.
Slowly I count the money inside my wallet, then put it on the table. In typical mafia style, the big boss just looks at it, and a fly steps forward to count it. After checking the notes for fakes, and counting it twice, he nods to big boss. At this point everyone go back to wrapping the bike up. The tension leaves the air, and the thunder clouds that was building up, disappear like mist in the hot sun. I am told the bike will be on the train tonight, and in Saigon in 5 days.
Behind me is a line of people waiting for their goods to be checked and loaded, and I have the feeling I just jumped the line. But no one hints at it, for big boss spoke (and I paid up).
We go back to the hotel on the hotel owner’s bike, and now it is negotiation time. I have 4 days to kill. (Train for me first class is 36 hours). I have the option of taking a hard stool. (Basically a wooden plank) a soft stool. Basically your average bus seat. A hard Bert. A small bed with a mattress on, or a soft bed in a bunk with 3 other people, lockable door and aircon. Price difference is $30 between low and high class. I opt for soft bunk, total $91.
Now, what to do with my time. I am shown three stunning locations I can go to. All one day trips, for from 28 to $35 each, all included. Meaning hotel pickup and drop off, lunch, entry fees, guides, and all.
As I look at the places, and think about my bank balance, I decide that I am here, I am alive now, so I book them all. (After negotiating a package deal.)
So for the next three days, I am going to see some of the most stunning places in North Vietnam. Thus, this trip is long from over.
After parting with my funds, I go walk around the city a bit. I spot a guy that is all wired up.
And I spot a Ducati with a monster back wheel.
Right, find a spot to eat and write a bit.
I am not telling where I am going for the next three days, I will keep you all in suspense.