Wednesday, December 7, 2016

A Couple of Stupid Messups

Well, I had a couple of stupid messups here in Hanoi, both involving my motorbike. No, they weren't near road accidents or anything like that, just stupid mistakes that I could have avoided, but that ended up turning out not too bad. I really am coming to enjoy my little motorbike. It is a Ditech Win, which is a Vietnam-made bike. I bought it almost brand-new, because although all the backpackers here in Vietnam are buying $200 motorbikes, those bikes can be thirty years old and need repairing and cajoling all the time to keep going. So many people who buy the cheap bikes end up paying as much as for a more expensive bike, plus have the experience of breaking down in the middle of the jungle. So I bought a 2016 model, with only 1700 kilometers on it (just enough to break in the engine), and it runs great. Hopefully when I take off across Southeast Asia with it in about a month, I will have minimal problems.  When I first got it, I was really tense on it, especially in Hanoi traffic, which is about the most insane traffic I have ever seen. But I'm really coming to not only be comfortable with it, but also enjoy riding around on it. And I'm starting to understand the peculiar logic of Hanoi traffic, where people ride on the wrong side of the road, don't stop for red lights, and dart through intersections helter-skelter.

Near-miss number one was when I parked my bike in downtown Hanoi and was looking for a pharmacy in the area. I had come into the area, but didn't realize that the street I was planning to go down was one-way. Now, a lot of people just go the wrong way down one-way streets, and I would have been willing to do that, but the traffic was especially packed, and I just couldn't see doing that. So I parked my bike to walk about four blocks to the pharmacy. In Hanoi, you can just park your bike on the sidewalk, so I did that.

I had walked about two blocks down the street, and stopped to get some kind of snacky thing to eat from a street stand. I was eating this thing, that was sort of like a donut filled with sweet red bean stuff, when I decided to check the map on my phone to see which block the pharmacy was in. So I checked my pockets, and my phone was not on my person. Oh, crap, I realized, I had left it on the phone bracket on my bike. My bike has a clip-on bracket for the phone so I can follow GPS, and there is a USB port on the bike, so the phone can charge while it is on the handlebars. My first immediate thought was that it was surely not there anymore, being in the middle of downtown Hanoi with massive amounts of pedestrian traffic. I ran all the way back to my bike, and to my surprise and relief, my phone was miraculously still there. I put it in my pocket, and decided to ride the bike to the pharmacy down the next one-way going the other way. It was a little circuitous, but I found the way to get going the other way. Some Hanoi streets are like catacombs; they are windy and narrow, and sometimes they don't go where you think they will. But I found the way, and got to the pharmacy. But there were in siesta mode. Apparently they close down for several hours in the middle of the day, and re-open at two PM. No sweat, it was 1:55. I just waited a few minutes, and they opened up. But there was an elderly Spanish woman at another counter trying to figure out how to communicate with the pharmacists; she saw me looking at her when she was speaking Spanish in vain to the pharmacists, and asked me if I spoke Spanish. I said I did, and helped translate for her into English, which the Vietnamese pharmacist barely understood, but we managed to get the necessary points across, after which she was grateful. I ended up getting what I needed, and took off. But I didn't lose my phone...that was near-miss number one.

Near-miss number two came a day later when I went shopping. I decided to go to the Big C way across town, because it is the biggest supermarket I have found, and occasionally I go there to get stuff I can't find at any of the others. But it is fairly far away. I decided to take the northern route to get there instead of the way I usually take that is more straightforward. It was a little longer, but I got to see some scenery I hadn't yet seen, and go kind of on the outskirts of town, which was more peaceful and agrarian. I usually take a little backpack to the grocery store with me, so I can put my groceries in it and strap it to the rack on my bike. It is kind of a pain in the ass at the Big C, because they make me check my backpack, which I keep my helmet in until I get the groceries. Then they make me put my waist pack in a plastic bag and staple it has my wallet in it, so I just tear it apart at the counter so I can pay. I bought my groceries, but they were a little more than would fit in my backpack, so I had to strap the backpack and an extra plastic bag on the back of my rack. The plastic bag had mostly vegetables in it. I didn't do the greatest job strapping it on, but I figured it would make it home. I was on my way back, and crossing the bridge across the Red River in the middle of Hanoi, when someone passing me was frantically pointing to the back of my motorcycle. I pulled over to check it out, and the bungee cord had come loose, and the plastic bag had come off the back of my rack, but I still had the backpack with the bulk of the groceries. So I stopped my motorbike, and walked maybe half a kilometer back, which was pretty dangerous on this freeway-like bridge packed with motorbike traffic (as was parking my bike on the side of the lane), but I didn't see anything.  So I had to cross all the way across the bridge, which is fairly long (but has a great view), and then turn around and go back to retrace my path. I found the place where it came loose about two kilometers behind where it was brought to my attention, because I found the bungee cord. But no bag of groceries to be found. Oh, well, I just hope that somebody who needed some food found the bag and took it, rather than it having gone to waste. So that was near-miss number two.

When I got home, I didn't have most of my vegetables, which I was planning to chop up to make a stir-fry, so I just put the groceries away and then went out for dinner. I was only out a few bucks worth of groceries, and I could just go shopping in a day or two and get some more.

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