Riding Vietnam Day 147: Not So Fast!

I woke up ready to pick up Irene the Dutch girl and begin our trip to Can Tho with the motorbike that I did not like. As I pulled closer to the meeting point I saw Sam and did what I should have done in the first place. I told him that I regretted my purchase and asked to see if he wanted to either buy my bike or help me sell it off so that I could buy the bike he was originally trying to sell to me. My trip to Can Tho and the Mekong Delta would need to be delayed so that I could sort this whole mess out. After telling Irene she would need to find her own way there, we began going around to a few dealers to tell them the price I was asking for. Eventually I rode with Sam’s mechanic to the dealer I bought the bike from while Sam went around trying to see the best price he could get for the bike. I arrived at the dealership roughly 10 to 15 minutes away from the backpacker district expecting the worse but still hoping for a glimmer of light to my day. The owner told the mechanic, who spoke no English as well, that he could buy it back for 2,500,000 dong even though I bought the bike for 4,600,000. I was incredulous; besides my energetic movements and facial expressions that revealed my dismay I had no way of communicating my boiling thoughts that were brimming beyond the surface thanks to being the only English speaker within this very Vietnamese part of town. After further discussion and some translation through Sam over the phone, Sam explained me that the owner told him the weasel I dealt with yesterday was in fact the one who ripped me off. Apparently, (at least according to the owner’s side of the story) he sold the bike to me for 3,300,000 while the weasel middle man took the rest for his own profit. I was furious beyond belief. How could I have been duped like this, taken for such a fool? Deep down I knew this could have been a possibility but I chose to ignore all those inner thoughts that tried to warn me of the danger lurking. We rode back to Bui Vien (the main backpacker street) to meet Sam and fill him in on any other missing details, which mainly included how pissed off I was. While I ate some breakfast, Sam continued looking for a buyer. Eventually, he told me he found someone willing to take the bike off my hands for 3,000,000 which was a far cry from what I paid for it but I was willing to admit my mistakes, cut my losses, and return to respectability with the bike I should have always gotten in the first place. When going to the ATM to pull out the money necessary to make up the difference in the prices of the two bikes, I saw the weasel of a Vietnamese man sitting around chatting away with a friend of his. I approached him saying that he f$&@ed me over. He didn’t understand what I was talking about or even slightly recognize me from the day before, trying to play stupid on me. After snatching his helmet off his bike, I told him that I “needed some help with the bike” and would like him to meet me down the street where my bike stood and where also Sam and the mechanic would be waiting. Sam and the mechanic had my back as they bickered back and forth in their language. Who knows if this is true (since I have been forced to learn you can’t trust anyone out here no matter how convincing the evidence might add up), they explained that the owner of the bike was the true one that robbed me of the money while the weasel got only peanuts for screwing me over. What is done is done and the past can no longer be altered. After purchasing the bike officially, Sam had the bike redone with the wrack while I sat around feeling like a fool. The only thing I can do is learn from the mistakes I have made. The memory of the pain and angst feeling I have felt need to be left in the past while I should only carry the lesson with me as I move on with my life. Being out here in the REAL world, I have had no choice but to take my lumps and learn from them. Sure these things wouldn’t have happened if I were sitting in the comfort of my own home but then again more than anything else all the great memories I have accrued over my time out here far outweigh any fumble or miscue along the way. In a way, it is all apart of travel and rather life itself. If you really sit down with people, everyone has had that stumble they would rather not admit but each failure gives rise to growth and new beginnings if you are willing to put the regret and hardship behind you. After the bike was all tuned up and up to spec as far as I was concerned, which isn’t saying much, I met up with a German friend of mine that I first met in Rotorua, New Zealand. By chance, he saw that I was in HCMC and messaged me with both of us in disbelief of the odds. Like I have said to everyone I have traveled with, you never know when our paths will cross again in the most unseemly ways possible. After lunch, I had to finally get on the road and begin this long awaited trip if I had any hopes of getting into Can Tho before the shadow of darkness cast its cloak over me. Removing myself from Ho Chi Minh City was easier said than done with the many weaving paths that would get any navigable person lost. Despite the threats zipping past me from either side, I managed to find my way on the road directionally southward to Can Tho or at least in the general direction of it in the midst of the Mekong Delta. About an hour into my ride, the bike felt odd below me with my back tire not gripping itself as securely to the road as it once had. A couple Vietnamese bikers pointed at my bike to get my attention as they passed me before I pulled over and found the real raw truth of it. I had gotten my first flat tire of the trip which wouldn’t have been a big deal if it weren’t for the fact that I was pressing for time as sunset would be approaching in the near present future. After unveiling my prospects to the locals, I was pointed down the road 150 m to a mechanic. After waiting my turn, he began checking my bike (I had little to explain with the obvious condition of my wheel). I called up Sam with the mechanic’s phone to verify what he was about to do before giving him the okay knowing the all to low price to correct such a flaw. Once again, I turned onto the road gaining speed (not as fast as you would expect with speed limits ranging from 40 to 60 km/h) keeping up with the faster traffic and even leading my own occasional caravan. I got lost at times but no worries. They rarely understood my take on the city I hoped to arrive at so a pen and a notepad came in handy quite frequently. After some hand motions to point this way and that to the left or right and some counted fingers to symbolize the kilometers or meters to retrace, I found my way but nightfall found me as well. Along the way I passed small town after small town, so the big city pulse of mayhem and chaos was mostly behind me. Occasionally I zipped past cops pulling off the rare local but for the most part they were a rare breed but not nearly as rare as the species termed the White Man; I can not recall one single non-Asian on the road with me, which made the event even more liberating knowing I was out of my element rest assured of my own place on the roads of such a foreign country to my own. Eventually I pulled into Can Tho, the city of lights as it should be considered with the main boulevards lit wildly with neon colors in shapes of typically flowers. Can Tho is one of the largest cities in Vietnam resting on the banks of the Mekong River as many towns are in the Mekong Delta where the river splits into what represents the veins of the body that pump the life source from which the Vietnamese people live off of. The Mekong runs through all the mainland Southeast Asian countries including China, representing a great mode of transit and commerce. After gaining some wifi, I found out where Irene was staying. Once I shed my body and bike of my baggage at the hotel, I found a local pho restaurant where I heaped upon the bowl many bean sprouts, chilies, lime, holy basil leaves, and greens to join the already flavorful broth. For all that food, it feels like a crime that I only pay less than a $1.50 for such a culinary masterpiece that would otherwise rise well above $10 in the States. I even have gotten into the act of adding fish sauce to my pho soups. A usually deadly knock out blow that could be used akin to bath salts to awaken a KO’d heavyweight boxer has added another layer to the flavor profile of the region’s cuisine. After meeting with Irene, we planned for a fairly priced private day trip boat tour with a Irish guy for tomorrow to see the floating markets but this excursion would result in a five o’clock wake up call so the night ended early which I had no reason to complain about after as an exhausting of a day that I experienced with the quick exchange of bikes the many k’s I put behind me on my newly purchased bike.

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