Thursday, March 27, 2014

Leaving Vietnam

Jan 21 Ho Chi Minh City to Chơ Ma Đa Gui with Farron 148 km
We had a good continental breakfast at the hotel. This was one of the first days I woke up early enough to get the breakfast. We only took a few wrong turns on the way out of town but soon we were riding on #20. This is a much better road than the Ho Chi Mihn Highway. There is still crazy traffic near Saigon but it tapers off quickly. We met 2 guys and a girl who bought scooters. They were planning on riding to Hanoi over the next few weeks. They all had shorts and flipflops on. I tried to explain to them that its not if they will crash, it is when. I tried to explain that my friend and I had been riding for a long time and we had accidents from the traffic. Even though the girl had never ridden before, she still wanted to argue, "I won't crash". Ok. You win. Have fun. Soon after we got waved over by the cops. This was the first time I had been pulled over in VN. Ferran and I only speak Spanish to the cops to start out with. This seems to be frustrating them very nicely. Ferran shows them his Spanish passport and they take it over to show the other cops. That's when I noticed my key was missing. The sneaky bastard who was trying to get me to show him documents took it from my bike. I walked up to him and tried to take it from his clenched fist. He wouldn't let me but I said give me my fucking key back. The other guy said something in VN and the bastard gave me the key back. The other guy tried to say we were speeding and we said we weren't. At this time they had 2 angry bearded white dudes looking down at them. They knew we were not going to be a pushover. We got Ferran's passport back and left in a hurry, not wanting to overstay our welcome.
In the evening Ferron's bike started running like crap. We had not gone as far as we would like but his bike would not run enough to keep going. Earlier I had put a "new" spark plug in his bike that was a spare. I knew it was a cheap knockoff of a NGK but I figured it would be better then the old one that he had. It didn't occur to us that this was the problem. We got a hotel room and I went to work cleaning the carb. His pilot jet was completely clogged which accounted for the shit idle. The bowl and filters had mud in them. I'm not sure how this bike ran the way it was. There were 4 or 5 VN guys watching me clean the carb. Ferran and I were joking that these guys are hoping the bike does not run when I put it back together. When I got it back together, it was running better, but still lacking.

Ferran and Charlie

Bullet holes maybe?

Nice one. 

Small adjustment to the fender. 

Jan 22 Chơ Ma Đa Gui to Mui Ne 261 km
Over the first little mountain pass, Ferron's bike was getting worse and worse to the point where it died on the down hill. We coasted into a gas station and filled it up. It had gas, now it must be spark. There was spark from the wire when we checked. With the help of some VN guys, I bump-started the bike and started riding. Now it felt like it was a spark problem. A few km further I pulled into a shop. I pointed at the spark plug and told him to change it. He looked at me like "how do you know it is spark plug?". I insisted and we put a new spark plug in. The bike roared to life. It felt like it was a new bike again. The next time we stopped I could see Ferron was smiling and the worried look had gone. Soon I would go to the coast and he would continue north by himself. He had talked about selling the bike again and taking the train or a bus. I told him he will thank me later for making him keep the bike and ride solo to the north. We were about 20 km from Du Lak when I turned south over some nice twisty roads to the coast. I saw where something had hit a scooter. There was the outline of the body and the tarmac was still stained from blood. Once again reaffirming the safety of riding a scooter in VN. This part of VN has some large sand dunes and they looked like they would be great to ride. That is if you can get a big bike in. The scooter didn't really like the sand. I stayed the night at a place that teaches wind surfing and kite boarding.

Proof of bad driving: Busted up helmet. 

More proof of bad driving

Jan 23 Stayed in Mui Ne
I was planning on leaving but this place was pretty chill. There was a decent beach, good seafood and some good people from all over the world that were there to use the nice wind a warm water. We ate some good seafood again that night and drank some rum that was made locally. It wan't very good but the sunset was nice again.

Jan 24 Mui Ne to Ho Chi Minh City 240 km
It was a long ride to Saigon. At first I was making good time but shortly after lunch I had a flat front tire. 1/2 hour and $2 later a local scooter shop had me back on the road. As I was getting close to Saigon the rear went flat. This time it wasn't as easy as a patch. The tire was completely shot. $25 gets you a new rear tire and tube. I was back on the way. The bike was running like crap and I got a whatever hotel I could find. I am all to happy to eat the amazing street food. $2 or $3 will get you bbq pork and cracked rice or bbq chicken and fried noodles.

Everyone was getting ready for Tet 
Jan 25 Ho Chi Minh City to Takeo Cambodia. 360 km
I had to get out of Vietnam before Tet festival. It was only a few days away but I could feel the pressure mounting. Police were trying very hard to get whatever bribes they could. They wanted some money to celebrate Tet. The roads were about to get even more crazy with every bus in the country running to get people to their villages they were born in. On the way out of town I went past a few police by pretending I didn't see them. In a crowd of scooters this works but if you are riding along solo, they will block your path. So I pull over. This time I took my keys, GPS, and helmet with me. I didn't want anything on the bike that could be easily grabbed by a sketchy cop to hold as ransom for money. The police said I was riding in the left lane. "Only this lane close here is for scooter" I laughed at him and asked what happens when a car or truck is parked in the scooter lane or driving at 5 km/h. Just then about 200 scooters from the last stop light come whizzing by. About half split from in the left lane and half in the right. I said there was no problem and went back to the bike. They didn't have any of my stuff so there was really nothing they could try to do to make me stay to pay a bribe. I kept telling them "What is problem? This is no problem. I am going now". They said Ok. Go and I took off. I would get pulled over 2 more times that day. The next 2 times I didn't even have to talk to them. When I took off my helmet, beard covered in sweat, dust and anger, they waved me on. Just before the border, a lady asked me where I was going and I told her Cambodia. She said "I work at border, you won't be able to bring scooter into Cambodia". She was just telling me a line because she wanted to buy my scooter cheap. I said I would take my chances and I went to the Tinh Bien border crossing. They didn't even ask to see paperwork leaving Vietnam or entering Cambodia. I stamped my passport and went through. No questions asked. If only it was this easy with a big bike. 50 km more once I was in Cambodia because there wasn't a hotel in the first few towns. $5 got me a pretty nice room with a shower, big bed and a balcony view of the street market down below. I ate about $4 worth of noodle soup and bbq things on sticks.

Jan 26 Takeo to Phnom Penh. 72 km

It was a quick 72 km to Phnom Penh but it was all my ass could take. I was ready to be done with that scooter when I got there. I thought about running it into the river or starting it on fire as a sacrifice to the moto gods. But I couldn't. This bike had been "good" to me over the last 3000 km. It had taken a lot of abuse from me and kept going most of the time. When I say it had been "good" to me, I mean it had gotten me from Hanoi to Phnom Penh in just over a few weeks. Not bad for a $250 copy of a Honda Wave with countless trips up and down the Ho Chi Mihn Highway. I went to bed that night smiling knowing the next few weeks I would be free to wrench on the KTM in a shop to get her up to snuff for SEA.

The Sim 150. Cambodia's workhorse.

Great place for breakfast noodle soup. 

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