Today was the best day yet for me. We woke up in our very nice, clean, large room that cost $22 a night (seriously, it would be a $175-$200 a night room in the US). We had a free buffet breakfast, which is standard in SE Asia and took warm showers and got ready for the day in Hoi An. It is a beautiful little city that is charming and feels like what we all expected Vietnam to be, little busy streets, people selling their wares everywhere you look, scooters like you could never imagine, and beauty amongst all the people and places you see.
The girls have been pushing to ride scooters since we first landed in Bali and saw how many people ride them as a means of transportation, commerce, transport and business (upcoming blog on things you can carry on a scooter), and they saw this slower paced area as the opportunity they had been waiting for. They hit us hard and begged Julie from the moment we woke to at least see how much they were, where we could get one, if the had any available, if we needed a license, etc….. we walked downstairs and of course the hotel rents them (it seems that every hotel in Vietnam rents everything, books everything, and sets up everything that they can make money at).
So the scooter adventure begins…. Julie who wont allow me to take the girls on a fully insured and state approved motorcycle ride to Starbucks in Laguna on the weekends without putting up a fight, said OK to the 4 of us renting old rusty, high mileage scooters in Vietnam and drive around a 3rd world country with nothing but a plastic helmet the size of yamaka. Our safety briefing consisted of, “here is key, six dollars for day”. I don’t know what is more shocking, no safety waiver to sign, no interest in insurance, or that it is only $six dollars for the entire day? I love this country.
Julie was very clear that she would do this as long as we stayed on quiet streets and didn’t go into the city, so we headed out to the beach, about a 7km drive through beautiful rice fields, small villages, and dirt roads, it felt great to be on the open road, with Morgan on the back laughing and smiling and enjoying every minute.
I felt at home with the wind on my face and smell of fresh air. Granted the 50cc hum is a little different than the rumble of my chopper, the barely able to start moving is different than the breakneck start of my Harley, and the off road capabilities are not quite that of the BMW GS, it still felt good, it felt like we were on an adventure that would only end when our ¾ of a gallon tank ran out of petrol, we could make it at least 75 miles on the open road……AWESOME……..
We rode to the beach, everyone smiling and enjoying the moment, it was great to hear everyone laugh after the tough train ride and mental meltdowns we had just experienced 2 days before. After hanging on a deserted beach (we were literally the only people on the beach), we decided to the let the girls ride the scooters by themselves, we found a deserted stretch of open road and after explaining how they work and safety off they went. Morgan rode a little faster than Riley, but both rode well and made turns and rode back and forth 3 or 4 times, Morgan posing each pass with a smile and hand wave. The final pass ended with her taking the pose more seriously than the actual scooter and down it went, she managed to jump off and avoid injury, the scooter did as well. It was hopefully Morgan’s first and only incident with a motorcycle, but it is Moe we are talking about!
We found a really neat little restaurant on the side of the road, that was placed out over the local river on stilts. We had local food and drinks and relaxed. It had great little Buddhist sayings on chalkboards that caused us all to reflect on the moments we were experiencing on this journey. As the water slowly passed by it eased a lot of the tension we had from the previous weeks of travel and felt like a deep breath we all needed to take. The people here are all so friendly and love to try English, because of how many Aussie’s travel here, some of the locals speak English with an Australian accent. It still cracks me up every time I hear it. Last night a 10 year old was trying to sell me something and when we started to negotiate price, he said “C’mon mate, how ‘bout given me a little break here!”, I don’t know why it seems so funny to hear a Vietnamese local speak with a British accent and sound so formal.
After riding around the town for another hour we went back to the tailor shop we had visited the night before, Hoi An is know in Vietnam as the place to get custom clothes and have anything you can think of made for you within 24 hours. Yesterday I ordered a beautiful wool/cashmere suit, custom fitted for $95 (it was a little more than usual because it would “take extra fabric”, because of my height), I also got high quality fabric custom shirts for $20 each. Julie got a great dress for travelling and a really pretty more formal dress, all custom made for about $90, and the girls each got a sundress for travelling (which turned out super cute), and formal dresses for their 13 birthday in Paris for about $25 each. Crazy cheap and great quality, we would have paid 7 to 8 times as much in the states.
After the pick up of the clothes, we headed to a local coffee shop, had great French press coffee and beer and talked about the Vietnam war and the implications that the United states foreign policy has on other countries as well as our own. The trip so far has caused all of to look at how and why the rest of the world looks at us. Both the positive and negative aspects. There are plenty of both. We seem to be where many want to live for opportunity and wealth, but also where many resent and don’t understand because of our past policies and current decisions. Its interesting to look at your own country when you are outside of it, it has been a refreshing take for me, and I believe Julie and the girls as well.
Anyways, I’ll get off of my political soapbox and back to the story at hand. So we drive around again and I ask Julie is she is doing OK, she says “yes, but about done and don’t want any traffic”, that was an open chance for us to head back into the city center, it got a little crazy, and quickly, hundreds of scooters and thousands of people. Swerving, stopping, cutting us off, on off the curbs, just crazy. Pictures can’t explain it. Unless you have been to South East Asia and witnessed it for yourself, you cant really imagine the controlled chaos that people live in here. I ask Morgan, who is on the back of my scooter to check on Julie, she looks back and says “dad, she doesn’t look real happy, I don’t see her teeth”, up until now her big pearly whites have been out in force, apparently the chaos was not going well with her. Fortunately I lucked out and made the right turn and got us back to the hotel just before Julie lost it.
Before we checked in our scooters we stopped by the closest local stand to grab some water and snacks. That was when the discussion started “was that a huge rat or a small dog”? We all saw it, except Julie only saw the very back of it as it ran to hide in the store, the answer was “yes, that was a gigantic rat” a little bigger than my sisters wiener dog Ellie. It was a big one, and a great way to end the afternoon, it was a great day filled with beach time, scooters, shopping, adventure, and wild animal sightings.
Today was my best day yet, it just felt great to hear laughs, be on the open road, enjoy each other, and exist.