The Motorcycle Chronicle - Phong Nha to Pha Chau

Trip Start Oct 27, 2010
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Vietnam  , Thua Thien-Hue,
Tuesday, July 19, 2011

   Having just finished out tour of the Phong Nha Caves, we got ourself back on the road. The extra days rest in Phong Nha had served me well, and I was raring to build up some miles today. But the 'mechanical gremlins' had other ideas.

    Our first casualty was Shane who lost all power as he reached the top of a large climb. After a few checks we realised that the problem was to do with the absence of any spark on his ignition plug, with limited tools we had to find a mechanic to sort the problem. With luck we were able to free wheel the bike for 3km down hill till we reached the flat, from here we were able to push him the remainder of the distance.

    Although mechanic shops are frequent in Vietnam, normally spotted by the hand painted 'Xe Máy' signs, most of them are normally tool happy amateurs. Although I don't proclaim to be an expert, I like to think I know a thing or two about the mechanics of a bike after working in a bike shop for almost 3 years; but most of the time the Vietnamese don't have a clue, and generally just bodge around till the problem is solved.

    Eventually some time later once the problem had been eliminated, we could get back on the road. The only problem with travelling in a large group is that everyone travels at a different pace, weather down to bike top speed or rider experience; this does pose the problem that you have to continually wait for people to catch up. But as I hit a great stretch of road I lost all concern for the bikes behind me, and continued on at my own pace, leaving all the bikes a specks in my mirrors. But eventually I decided to grab a drink on the side of the road, and wait for them to catch up, only for Shane to roll in alone. We waited together for ten minutes before he doubled back to look for them. After a further 30 minutes waiting I too turned back, but decided that after retracing my steps for a couple of kilometres they may have taken a wrong turn, and so continued onto our planned rendezvous; not wanting to get caught riding in the dark.

    Darkness enveloped the surrounding countryside as I reach the town of 'Pha Châu' and I get myself checked into one of only two guest houses located in the town. 'Ngàn Phố' hotel is basic, and doesn't break the budget when I stay by myself, offering a room for 150,000 Dong ($7.5, £5). I send the guys an email letting them know where I am staying before heading out for some food.

    'Pha Châu' is a large market town, but did not offer much for a tourist. English was not spoken by any of the locals, except a few words thrown among the children. I end up in a small restaurant, much to the amusement of the owners. After I finish of a large plate of 'Cơm Ḅ' (Rice served with beef and mixed vegetables) I attempt to make conversation with the owners. It eventually ends up with a game of 'Pictionary' with me having to draw most of my answers, such as 'What flag?' when they ask for my country, and 'Where have I ridden from?'. The grandmother in the corner just laughed at me, before coming over and groping my arms, hair and face; before exclaiming 'Rooney!' Never before have I been referred to as this shrek like man, but it has become a growing theme in Vietnam.
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Matt on

"Most of the time, the Vietnamese mechanics just bodge around till the problem is solved" is because they want to find all the problems of your bike. This in turn provide them a little more income. Just like doctors, they will never "fix" what you tell them straight out. They have to do a checkup first.

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