April 22, 2006 GMT
Vietnam II

The Minsks have many fans. It’s difficult to understand why. Then again, it isn’t always smart looks and great performance that counts. Oh hell, who am I kidding? Smart looks and great performance is everything. Hanoi to Saigon on Italian machinery - THAT would be something. Did I mention that Balto was made in Italy? Hmm, not quite in the Ducati league but… Anyway, I was stuck with something assembled from the crash site of Sputnik 2, and I questioned if it would get me out of the capital Annoy. But the Minsk’s lack of flamboyance and refinement proved to be the least to worry about.

Tam Coc caves: Bring pepper spray against the rowing souvenir pushers

Easter vacation had just begun and the traffic was bloody awful. Though knowing that the Vietnamese do not celebrate Easter made me realise that the traffic is bloody awful all the time. The drivers love to bully, and - Easter or not - if you’re yellow or chicken you’ll be a looser. The menace is the many scooters and the constant cross traffic they represent. It took some time to figure out how to deal with them. The key is to aim straight at the crossing vehicle, and by the time you get there it has moved further to the side and the path is clear (hopefully). It all happens very fast, and you better get used to this bold system as hesitation confuses the others and they might wobble into you or someone else.

Hoi An and the only street I came across that was closed for traffic

“Hey Mister, where are you from?” Locals were notorious businessmen. There was no such thing as a reasonable first bid, and if they got their will I’d pay 40.000 Dong per banana, and 85.000 for two (special offer for you my friend). I met Tony, a member of the Easy Riders, a group of motorcycle guides operating from Dalat. He was returning from a tour up north, and since we both were heading the same way we drove side by side for a day. His front fender fell off shortly before his horn did. Then the Korean shopper barfed fuel and Tony had to weld the tank. Finally he tried to charge me for “guiding”. My reply was that I had guided him, so he should pay me. Then we had a dispute about who guided who. I never saw Tony again.

Tony was a nice chap though

Tony’s more stylish bike fell apart. At the same time the Minsk didn’t. The two-stroke engine rattled like a thousand empty food cans thrown into a trash container. It didn’t get better, but it didn’t get worse either. The bike just kept on doing what it did, day after day. After 1100km I cleaned the spark plug. That’s all, and the Minsk didn’t ask for more. On Easter Day we passed a giant shipyard, drove through the village of workers behind, to the other side of the small and lush peninsula. The asphalt turned to gravel, and the gravel turned to sand. And it was there - on Jungle Beach - that I decided to slip into something more comfortable.

The end of Asia coast to coast, from the Bosporus Strait to the Pacific Ocean. Yep, it was Speedo time, and the swim was bloody fantastic

Posted by Erik Saue at April 22, 2006 04:02 AM GMT

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