Riding Vietnam Day 162: Speed Racer

For those with uneasy stomachs, I warn that today’s post has a rated R label on it for reckless graphic violence. Leaving Dalat was very bittersweet for me. Sure, I am ready to get back on the road to see and experience more but I will readily admit that Dalat is a place that I could call home for a few weeks. It has the perfect balance for me as a place. It is a city with enough to keep me occupied but not overcrowded to the point of becoming overwhelming and overbearing. The overall feel as a mountain town surrounded by further windswept mountains and hills have taken ahold of me. Plus it’s temperate cool climate fits just right for me. We left the city riding through the lush green countryside following each curve and roll of the mountains and hills as we progressed further and further away from civilization. The climb into the more distant mountains that make a prominent stamp on the geography in the area never seemed to end. We hit tight curve after tight curve with the low lying lands intermixed with farmland waiting down below. Of course the roads weren’t perfect with enough bumps and potholes to keep you on edge and slow the otherwise hectic pace we kept without thinking twice. We were enjoying the views looking longingly at our sides as we sped along past many small villages broken apart by untouched Vietnamese evergreen land. After traveling through Myanmar and Cambodia where the hot and dry season clearly showed with its dead dusty and burnt canvas, I worried Vietnam would follow the same narrative. I envisioned Vietnam as a country loaded with green waterlogged rice paddy fields and it has delivered on every hope and expectation I have had. I have not even reached the far north where the famous rice terraces reside and already I find Vietnam to be beautifully unspoiled and majestic. The mountains started to turn into mole hills but the road still kept its winding snaking path. Around one corner, I started to shake and get a little wobbly which instinctively told me to brake some. Unfortunately my nerves got the best of me as I envisioned myself flying straight off the road and not completing the turn. As I further drifted towards the curve’s far most outer bank, the stable road gained less traction with the assortment of pebbles and dust stretched on the edge of the road causing me to slip and fall. I slide for a few meters but nothing compared to what may have occurred if the situation got more out of hand. Once I came to a standstill, the bike laid on top of me with my left leg trapped below as the rear tire kept spinning without abandon. The engine continued to rev as if I were still speeding down the road. After Thomas and my own delirious strength lifted me out from under the bike and quieted down the machine, I looked down at my hands which had now turned numb. Scrapes and abrasions were on the palms of both of my hands along with one on my left knee which took a large brunt of the fall. I had other cuts and bruises scattered on my stomach, chest, and elbow but they were mere flesh wounds compared to the aforementioned scrapes. While villagers in the distance watched the show at hand, I did what I could with the supplies readily available to me. I rinsed the wounds with the some water and then slapped on some large bandages before wrapping them up with the catch all duck tape until I could get to our final destination of Buon Ma Thuot to properly operate on it. The pain grew in intensity as the numbing sensation wore off especially as I hit bumps when my hands were forced into pushing heavily on the brakes or just the handlebars themselves. We got into Buon Ma Thuot, a city of surprising size and little to the imagination compared to Dalat but I already found it intriguing since we clearly were the only Westerners around based on the many looks cast in our direction. Eventually we found and met the Couchsurfing friend that Thomas had arranged for both of us by the name of Tuan. After being welcomed in by his family, I had Tuan take me to a pharmacy to buy some gauze, bandages, and sterilizing agents and ointments. He was a huge help since the woman clearly spoke no English, which was a surprise to no one. Back at his home, I went about the task of attempting to properly treat and care for my wounds. The first task meant washing them off with soap and water. The pain was so intense that I had to take one of my many unwashed dirty clothes and stick in between my teeth to bear the agony like a solider preparing for non-anesthesia surgery. I bit down hard and tried to hush the moans as I washed over the wounds and tried to get as much soap cleansed over the tender skin. At no point was I able to full rub soap directly onto my wounds since the pain may have fairly well dropped me to the dirty prison-like bathroom floor. After drying up a bit, I had Thomas drop some of the iodine sterilizing liquid onto my wounds starting with the least intense. I would have down it myself but the thought of inflicting that much pain to my own body warded me off from such a thought and idea. Halfway through on to the more severe wounds I had to wave the white flag. I had had enough to the point I felt my body couldn’t take it anymore. Dinner had been prepared for us by Tuan’s mother to distract me from the aches and pains I was experiencing. We all sat down in their living/family/dining room to eat on the floor which felt like a picnic in a way with a thatched mat laid across the floor bearing the spread she prepared. We ate rau muong (the tasty stir fried water spinach commonly found in SE Asia under a variety of names), deep fried rolls with meat and veggies, a leaf wrapped roll akin to the Greek style grape leaf roll, soup, and of course a large tub of rice that Tuan’s mother was only too happy to keep heaping into our tiny bowls that we pulled from with our given chopsticks. The feeding never seemed to end as Tuan’s mother kept peering into our bowls to see if we could use another helping of rice. Beyond pacing myself, I tried to shield my bowl away from her hawk eyes in attempt to foil her efforts to round out my belly into a full fledged Buddha belly with the large stock of rice she had sitting next to her. While we went through a couple bowls of this fresh, unusual, and delicious delicacy Tuan poured shots of rice whisky that I happily downed to the Vietnamese drinking chant of ‘yo!’ in a personal attempt to numb my pains. I had to sit in the most uncomfortable way thanks to my wounds but I still enjoyed chatting with the parents with Tuan as a crude translator. I used my limited vocabulary of numbers, thank you, and delicious to communicate directly with them. After dinner with my skin now fully dry from the half-assed shower, I went about covering my wounds with Neosporin and bandages. Apparently, Tuan’s father is a doctor which surprised me since this information could have been used earlier but regardless he insisted on wrapping my wounds properly with gauze. Who knows maybe Tuan’s father was a doctor of philosophy or something bizarre like that. It certainly didn’t fit that they lived in the home that they did. The home was fine and all; I have seen worse and know that many families live in dire circumstances and living situations but it certainly didn’t feel like the home of an educated man of medicine regardless of what country we are in. Anyways, he wrapped my wounds to the point I looked like a boxer ready to fight which only go me posing for photos with him as if I were ready to defend my champion’s belt. The three of us went to a coffee shop which doesn’t quite fit for an evening activity but coffee culture in Vietnam is big morning to night. Vietnamese coffee is a strong blend with enough sweetened milk to offset it and usually comes served with ice chilled. After getting our buzz on, we went to a karaoke bar to experience the unusual cultural phenomena of Vietnamese karaoke. Unlike at Western-style karaokes where you sing in front of a larger audience with you as the sole person on stage, we were taken to a private room that had a comfy couch, a table to hold the drinks, and TV screen mounted to the wall displaying the lyrics you would sing with various places in Vietnam as the background. We drank beers with the typical large cube of ice. It has been so odd for me to adjust to drinking a beer with ice; it just doesn’t seem natural. I definitely helps fake the number of drinks you went through. Tuan’s girlfriend and a friend of hers joined us for the night’s festivities to offset the previous awkwardness of three dudes in a room belting out random songs. The English playlist was limited with odd selections long displaced by time to go with the standby of The Beatles as a safe bet. The background music to which you hold your frame and tune was so off key but we had a blast singing songs like ‘Sweet Caroline’ by Neil Diamond as well as various duets. Eventually, for reasons I still can’t figure out, Tuan turned his girlfriend and me getting married into a running joke. He probably wanted me to take her to America and then he can eventually join us. Very weird but I played along with it. Thus ended a wild day of various highs and lows. Now I must awkwardly sleep with my arms outstretched to prevent any discomfort to my poor delicate hands.

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