Day 190: Trying to buy a Honda Win in Vietnam
THERE was the overiding smell of urine as the breeze shifted again toward Leh and me, sitting under the Long Bien Bridge waiting for Joe, who turns out to be a guy named Lee, from Facebook to arrive with a 110cc Honda Win for 180 dollars.
We're sitting on my North Face hoodie, spread out over some dirty cobblestones, leaning up against a pile of vendors goods covered in a tarps, waiting.
Leh logs out of her Facebook so I can sign in on her phone. Though the die did decided that I could have a Vietnamese SIM card for my phone, we haven't bought one yet.
Before leaving the house, I confirmed the time with Lee: “Lets meet at six.” The place, urine bridge, also known as Long Bieng Bridge, was Lee's choice.
I open Messenger to a string of messages from Lee:
“Ok we will see y at 6.
“Just send me massage facebook it is ok.
“Do y come or not.
“I feel confuse.
“Please let me know.”
We had agreed on a place and a time. Ten years ago that would have meant that we both would show up at the agreed place at about the agreed time. If the other person wasn't there, we'd wait around, maybe we'd have brought a book. Now, we leave in an age where we are constantly asking people if they are there yet and re-confirming well-confirmed plans. It's a disease of our time, a symptom of the constant connectivity provided by smart phones, which I didn't have because mine isn't connected to a data plan right now. Otherwise, I'd be blissfully scrolling through Instgram photos.
I call Lee. He hasn't left is place, though it's now 6:20pm. Basically, he was going to stand us up.
“I don't even want to buy the bike from this guy any more,” I moan to Leh as we wait for Lee to drive the bike to the bridge.
Lee, a small Vietnamese guy – most of them are – is not the white guy “Joe” that I was expecting.
I shake his hand, then go over the bike. Once crumpled onto the seat – Honda Wins are such tiny bikes – I realize the side view mirrors are missing, which is a common trait of scooters and motorbikes in Vietnam. Side-view mirrors are not cool, Leh informs me.
The gear shifting lever is stiff and doesn't click through gears easily, while neutral is nearly impossible to find. I kill it a couple times trying to figure out how to step the damn thing into neutral.
“Have you ever ridden manual before?” Lee asks.
“Yes, I owned a CB500X before this,” I say, perhaps too defensively.
Lee tries to roll the bike forward with me still on it to put it into neutral. I manage to wiggle off the bike and out get of the way.
The bike's a piece of shit. I don't even need to give it a test drive to know for a fact that I don't want it. But, it seems rude not to give it a test drive, so I putt away on the machne.
The front wheel is rattling loudly, perhaps a loose ball baring, the handling is miserable and the shifting is also a disaster. Though I told myself I wanted a piece of shit bike in Vietnam, I also want a bike I can at least enjoy being on.
This isn't the bike for Dice Travels.
I tell Lee so as soon as I get back to where he and Leh are waiting.
No skin off his nose. It's not like he'd been waiting nearly an hour for us to show up.
“I think he buys bikes from backpackers and sells them again,” Leh says, pointing out that he probably uses the Facebook name Joe Linh to take advantage of travelers familiarity biases (yes, I know that's not a real thing), which is the idea that we are more likely to trust people that we believe share things in common with us.
Leh and I are both running low on energy at this point, it's been a long day of running errands. Leh dedicated her whole day to riding pillion and giving directions, first taking me to a place to buy a couple more pairs of pants, then all around looking for a bike.
Back at the house, the die says we should watch a movie down in my room. My stomach is acting up again. There's a light, cramping pain. It's uncomfortable and distracting.
Leh comes down from her room wearing a short nightgown and no bra.
After flipping through a couple options, we settle on Sausage Party, 90 minutes of dick jokes bolted together by Seth Rogen. The speakers on my computer are so faint that it's hard to make out some of the dialogue, but it doesn't really matter. My stomach is not happy.
Finally, the movie ends. Leh heads up to her room, while I curl up in bed, thirsty but too stubborn to walk up the three flights of stairs to the kitchen.
“Maybe I'm constipated.”
Laying their in the darkness, I'm try to remember the last time I took a shit. That's got to be part of the problem. Dehydration leads to constipation, this could all be built out of being sick before the train ride from Chiang Mai to Bangkok and then getting dehydrated on the way down.