21 December 2013

Separation without anxiety

We left Buôn Ma Thuôt about 9 Monday morning (16 Dec) and headed for Pleiku. The original itinerary as sketched out by Cong had us landing in Kon Tum for the night. Before departure, we decided that Pleiku would probably be a better destination because that would be a pretty full day and Kon Tum would be at least an additional hour.

As had happened in every hotel so far, upon arrival we parked the bikes immediately outside and the staff brought them in just before the hotel locked up for the night. This meant that our bikes were inside under lock and key and protected every night. As I started to load my bike this morning, I realized that the spare front tire I've been carrying since HCMC was gone. I immediately went to the front desk and ask them about it. After a bit of discussion in Vietnamese, they informed me that two men had walked by, taken the tire off the back of the bike, and walked away. When I ask why no one had tried to stop them, I did not get an answer.

The manager soon showed up and offered to reimburse me for the cost of the tire. I thanked him and told him that it was at least partly my fault because I had not secured the tire sufficiently. It was nice of him to make the gesture, but the 200,000 VND (~US$10) is almost the cost of a room night and means a lot more to them than it does to me. A few minutes later, one of the Easyrider guides approached me and said that it was very nice of me to forgive the mistake – and that it meant a lot to both the hotel and the Easyriders. 

The ride to Pleiku was relatively uneventful; we pretty much just powered through the whole day, stopping for fuel, lunch, and little more.

On the outskirts of Pleiku, as we stopped so that I could check the GPS, the girls told me that they wanted to continue to Kon Tum. They made it clear that I was welcome to join them, but as we had done about 188 km so far, and still had to find the hotel we'd picked from, I was pretty well thrashed for the day. So we said our goodbyes and they promised to let me know when they got safely to Kon Tum.

Click here for today's map.

After unpacking at the hotel in Pleiku, I rode around a bit and found a place to change the oil and wash the bike. No one there spoke English, and I've all but stopped attempting to speak Vietnamese, but we figured it out :-)

While changing the oil, they checked a few other things and found that the nuts holding the rear tire on had worked themselves a bit loose, so they tightened them. Note to self: pull out the wrench every once in a while… 

As I've seen in many places in Việt Nam, there were at least as many people sitting around and observing has were doing actual work. The apparent owner, a well-dressed man in his early 50s I'd guess, did most of the work while three younger men sat and watched. I hope they were not employees. 

While he was working on my bike, the owner gestured that I should go next-door to the beauty salon and get a shave. I declined, though it was tempting. I've never had anyone else shave me, and it sounds like an interesting experience. I'm not sure why I turned it down…

After parking the bike back at the hotel, I wandered around town for a bit, picking up a number of different fruits for dinner. I just wasn't in the mood for a dinner of Vietnamese food again tonight.

After dinner, I asked at the front desk for a recommendation of a local massage place. The relatively unfriendly girl at the front desk suggested a place a few blocks away, so I walked over there. For 100,000 VND (by now, you know that is ~US$5) I got a very good massage from a quite cheerful woman. She had a constant smile and laughed a lot, seemingly enjoying her work. She did, at one point, ask if I wanted her to massage my "baby" and again I declined. She did not bring it up again, and they gave her a tip of 150% of the massage fee. I slept well that night – as I often seem to do after a good massage.

Oh, yes... I got an email that night from Annika saying that the road to Kon Tum was very bad, but they had made it safely. That was good to hear that they are okay... I made a mental note to leave earlier in the morning to allow for the bad roads.

Tomorrow: Am I in Olympia or Việt Nam?

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