Back on Two Wheels

I had deluded myself that it might be possible to go through our whole trip without having to set butt on the dreaded and ubiquitous motorbike. We went through all of Indonesia and China walking past hundreds of calls of, “Wan motobai?” with me declining or ignoring each and every one. In Vietnam, I had hoped we’d manage to avoid the touts and their bikes with increasing ease. Not so.

If you know me well, then you know the details surrounding my fear of anything on two wheels. For those of you that don’t, all you need to know is that I was in a bicycle accident in college. I took the brunt of the fall with my face. The result was an eye patch, a false tooth, a couple of scars, and consequently bike-a-phobia. Sure, I can laugh about it now. Once, several years later, I was even able to hop back on a bicycle (albeit the back seat of a tandem on an empty bike path in Tahoe).

However being faced with the prospect of hopping on the back of a motorbike was no laughing matter. I had a feeling it was going to happen at some point, and the time had come. If we wanted to get to the Marble Mountains and China Beach, motorbike it would have to be. I have been observing people on motorbikes for months now. The way the passengers nonchalantly hold on to packages of all sizes, kids and babies stowed between, up to four on a bike, as the vehicles and streets and hazards fly by, where the rules of the road are that there are none. Jeff and I each had our own motorbike, complete with driver and helmet. If I didn’t already have reservations to begin with, what definitely did the trick was the fact that printed in familiar font on my driver’s helmet and bike were letters spelling out “HONGDA”. Despite the fact that my driver was really a complete stranger, I had to resist the urge to wrap my arms around his waist and hold on tight. After all, in my analysis of motorbike passengers, the only ones I’d ever seen clutching their driver were likely also dating or married to them. So, the 15-minute ride was spent with white knuckles gripping the skinny bar behind me, legs squeezing both sides of the seat and bike, and body so tense, I thought for sure I’d be sore afterwards.

Fueling doubt

Fueling doubt

Anyway, since then I have been on a motorbike three more times. It doesn’t matter that for two of those times, I had no idea a motorbike trip was involved until it was too late (once to get to the bus station and once to get to the docks-both sans helmet, and the latter trip with all my luggage!). Good thing I had one ride under my belt because who knows how many more motorbike rides lay ahead. In fact, just today we rented our own motorbike for a day trip to a national park. And despite the inexperience of my driver, at least I was able to hold on to him for dear life without shame. Jeff said that it was fun to drive and towards the end of the ride I realized that playing passenger wasn’t as terrifying anymore. It was even fun…almost.

Posted: November 4th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Vietnam | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »