So I've been back in Hanoi for a few days now since my motorbike trip around the North and I think it's finally time for me to tell you all about it. Now I could never do as good a job as my photos can at detailing the stunning views that I saw but if you keep on reading, I will take you through some of the most memorable experiences that I had on my trip.
On my first day I got all packed up and headed out onto the chaotic streets of Hanoi with a plan to cover some distance and get up to Ba Be National Park where I would spend the night, however it wasn't to be. I'd gotten about 80Km North by way of roads that I would have thought too small to call a highway, dodging trucks all of the way and getting some serious use out of my horn but I was getting to know how the traffic moved and everything was going well. Fast forward a couple of kilometres and I was riding through a town near to Thai Nguyen when a lady on a scooter coming the other way decided that she wanted to turn across my lane and go down a small road that led off the highway. She indicated then stopped in the road so I gave her a honk of the horn to let her know I was coming. There was plenty of time for her to cross before I got to her or she could've waited until after I had passed but instead, she waited until I was literally a couple of meters away from her and then decided that it was the right time to pull out into my lane. The soundtrack that accompanied my world turning sideways and me coming to land with a bump on the road was one of metal and plastic breaking and twisting, followed by scraping as the bikes slid for a very short distance then finally an "Ow!" from me as I realised that I'd crashed.
I got up and checked myself for damage but bar a sore foot and a few scrapes I was ok and the woman who caused the crash was ok too so things weren't that bad. My attention then turned to my bike which had definitely came off the worse of the two and the front end of which was now in pieces with fuel leaking out of the tank. A crowd of people soon formed around us and they helped clear the bikes out of the road and they pushed mine about twenty metres to a garage where it could be fixed. Now with regards to crashes in Vietnam, if a foreigner is involved then they normally have to pay off the other party involved whether or not the crash was their fault as legally you need a Vietnamese license to ride on the roads of Vietnam but police don't bother with foreigners and a license is all but impossible to obtain so people just don't get them. Because of this I did think that I may have to pay the woman off but I thought it was worth a try at getting her to pay up first and it turned out that all of the witnesses were telling her (in Vietnamese which I couldn't understand) that it was her fault and that she should be the one to pay for the damage so she did do.
She paid me 500,000VND which is about £16 and I took a look at how damaged my bike was I was doubtful that the amount would cover the repair costs however I didn't want to push too far as if she was to have gotten the police involved it would've taken a while to resolve. In the end I accepted her offer then I made my way over to the garage where my bike was, followed by about ten of the people that saw the crash. It turned out that they were all local business owners and soon my bike was being fixed, I was being offered food and drink, a woman was tending to my scrapes with ointment and plasters and everyone was smiling and laughing at my attempts at speaking Vietnamese. Three hours later my bike was fixed and the time had come for me to pay up. Now if you take into account the three hours of labour, a new speedometer unit, a new clutch lever, straightening my very bent front wheel, fixing my lights so that they all worked and fitting a new front tyre, back home the costs would've easily ran into the region of £3-400 but in Vietnam the cost only ran to 300,000VND or just over £9. I tried to give the mechanic the full 500,000VND as he and his family had been very kind to me but he wouldn't accept it so I got back on my bike, revved some life back into the engine and pulled away feeling a bit apprehensive but happy to have met such nice, friendly people who turned a bad situation into one that could be laughed at and remembered as a good experience overall!
Unfortunately the engine got a pretty hard knock when the bike fell onto the floor and a few days of engine problems and trips to mechanics followed but after a while there was a loud "Bang!" from the engine and some smoke came out, then for the rest of my trip it was fine. I had a couple of weeks of pain in my foot and my ribs as a result of the bike falling on me but I had them both x-rayed and nothing was broken so no harm done really and I'm just glad that both myself and the woman involved were ok.
Right folks, I think that's all for now as I don't want to put everything in one long post then have you fall asleep halfway through it. The other main reason is that that I'm very hungry and I feel myself being pulled towards the lovely aromas wafting in my window from the restaurants down the street so I shall refuel and then post part two of my trip; mountains, minorities and a-mazing views! (note: the incorrectly placed hyphen is intentional)
Until then, adios amigos!