Back when I was in 'nam, chinese honda ripoffs only cost $200. So. For christmas, I bought a ticket to vietnam with my friend. We are both college students, and wanted a break from the cold in Montucky. So this is my friend, Jed. His experience with moto's consists of a couple of weeks renting in northern india. and this is me, graeme. This is unequivocally the most dangerous endeavor I have yet to undertake, and I have done plenty of stupid stuff... Everything here is written by myself except when it is highlighted in orange. That means jed wrote it. Jed is a writer, and I like to take pictures. For this trip, I stupidly decided to lug around 30 pounds of medium format gear. This is the result. Every photo here is either taken with a pentax 67 or with a cell phone. With any luck, jed will step in here as a co-editor, lest this undertaking turn into an ADD inspired tangle of nonsense. context: Sometime in early July, Graeme and I got the idea to take a trip together. We had no idea where we were going or what we were going to do, but we knew we wanted to go. During that first meeting we decided we wanted to go someplace cheap and far from home. After a few hours of google research, we each came up with our top five potential countries. Vietnam was the first country that both of us had on our lists. Motorcycles were the obvious transport option, as they are both cheap and very dangerous. It wasn’t until we bought plane tickets in September that any sort of realistic planning occurred. Over the past few months, we’ve planned a bit and begun to learn about what we’ve gotten ourselves into. Through 167 emails we managed to come up with a packing list, developed a rough route, completely abandoned that route, and debated the merits of snake liquor (general conclusion: better than water). Now we’re packed. and waiting. . . I always imagined that when this week came it would be a hectic, stressful blur. Somehow it isn’t. I’m sitting in my spotless room, looking at my packed bag, and watching the clock. 2 days 20 hours 7 minutes and 26 seconds. But who’s counting. We got int into Hanoi about 9am, we decided to spend the day trying to stay conscious to get used to the time difference. We started walking looking for local cell phones and a motorcycle shop. After walking through a couple of rough neighborhoods, we found that we had no clue as to where to find bikes. That and nobody speaks any English. Not saying they should or something, they just don't. From our experience thus far, most people are super nice, and a good portion of those are generally trying to rip you off. Its really not too big a deal though, as ripping you off means charging $3 for a $2 meal. Could be worse. I had never been to asia. Its pretty much the same as here, all things considered, except I felt as though I might be good at basketball. This is hanoi in the morning... The elderly are all about their tai-chi with swords and stuff. They bump techno music and work out at sunrise every day. Homies are LIMBER. One of the biggest things I learned back in 'nam was that you get what you pay for. Cheap beer is generally cheap beer. With the exception of bia hoi. The first few days mostly dealt with acclimation, and drinking. Turns out water puppets are super lame, and the only way to reconcile the situation is to get drunk before seeing them. Unfortunately, I didnt have the same taste for "whiskey" and green tea that jed did, and had a hard time reaching advantageous levels of inebriation during the show. Verdict: Not worth it. The one exception to the cheap stuff rule is the price of motorcycles... actually that's not entirely true. Here is the story behind our bikes. We started out trying to find a dealer. Our search for a specific dealer failed miserably. Lost in the Old Quarter’s spiderweb of streets we stumbled into some local guys who said they would take us to a bike market. We hopped on the back of their scooters and zipped down to the market. Their friend in the market tried to pawn off some junkers to us at a serious whitey price. When he told us the price a small vietnamese man in a soiled white shirt giggled audibly. He looked nice enough and had a smile that took up half his face. We followed him all over the market, weaving through stalls, and handing scraps of paper with prices on them back and forth with every dealer we saw. He kept urging us forward,shouting at us in Vietnamese and making crude sexual gestures with his hands. He never stopped smiling and laughing so we kept following. Eventually we found some decent bikes in some sort of maintenance bay at the back of the market. We handed the dealer a piece of paper with $200 on it and gestured to the bikes. “My friend, My friend. Good quality. Good quality” the dealer said. “$300 one motobike. $300 one motobike” “No, no, no” We shook him off and stepped away. “My friend, My friend. How much you pay? Your very best price.” We handed back the same sheet with $200 on it. “Ahahaha. No no.” He started the bikes and flicked the headlights on and off. We walked away again, and he called us back again. After several rounds of this song and dance we were the proud owners of 2 Honda Dream II’s for $210 apiece. The dealer handed us registration cards for the bikes. Mine is registered to Nguyen Van Luong and says Talent. Graeme’s is registered to a different Vietnamese person and says Robot. I would normally be concerned about this, but we aren’t legally allowed to own or ride the bikes anyway, so a little false registration seems like a minor issue. We pulled out into rush hour traffic and began to weave the chaos. In Hanoi traffic, it is easy to reach out and touch several other motorists at any point, including those traveling the opposite direction. I shouldn’t even attempt to describe Vietnamese traffic, but youtube it and you’ll get an idea. I made it about fifteen feet from the bike market before I regretted buying the bike. We were completely lost, far from our hotel(and helmets, boots, and gloves) and out of gas and money. This is my whip, la muerta. Aptly named after the disconcerting pinging attained after running at high levels of RPM over long distance. That and the times it would die. Graeme waved me over to the side of the road, “This sucks.” “Badly,” I said. “We can’t just ditch the bikes for now, I have no idea where we are.” “Lets pull over, make a plan, and hopefully traffic will settle down” We pulled up to the first streetside restaurant we saw and parked the bikes. We sat down at a long plastic table under a corrugated steel carport. With crude hand gestures we managed to order some food. Our waiter barked at us and laughed. We had stumbled into one of Hanoi’s many Thit Cho spots, restaurants which serve only dog. “Screw it, We can’t really leave.” To properly understand how dog tastes, I think it is important to understand how it is prepared. An unskinned dog is placed on a bed of coals until most of the hair is burnt off, and the skin shrinks into a shiny, taught surface. This dog is then placed on a cart for all diners to see. When you order they cut a hunk off, reheat it, cut it into bite sized pieces and bring it to you piled high on a plate. No seasonings, sauces, or sides, just a big pile of old Yeller. It is stringy and tough. Eating the attached skin is like chewing through a quarter inch of charred rawhide. Its like a really thick cut of bacon that tastes like ass. After grinding through as much dog as we could handle, we decided to make a run for the hotel. Traffic wasn’t going to ease up anytime soon, and we knew if we left the bikes we would likely never see them again. The ride back to the hotel was three and a half hours of carefully planned 400 foot spurts. “Alright, lets go straight to the second left, shoot the gap, and try to grab that first right. Then pull over and meet up.” “I’ll follow you” During one of our curbside planning meetings we spotted a street vendor selling helmets. $1.50 USD bought us a pair of thin plastic baseball hats with a sweatband inside. The vietnamese fittingly call these hats rather than helmets. They offer no protection in a crash, but they kept us from getting pulled over and offered a little peace of mind. Somehow we managed to make it back to the hotel in one piece. The next day my jaw ached from continously clenching it during the ride. Safe to say it was a rough introduction to riding in Vietnam. Here is a photo of Jed with his title at the dog restaurant. Then we went north... to china. Next installation: Gators and vomit.