jump to navigation

Tam Dao 6 December 2010

Posted by uggclogs in Happiness, Life, Travelling, Travels, Vietnam.

What a weekend it has been. A friend of ours here in Hanoi is getting married soon, and we decided to see him off in style. He expressed a preference for going on a road trip for his bucks/ stag/ bachelor party, so of course we were much obliged.

Saturday morning, last minute arrangements: I picked up an extra motorbike, as driving with two westerners on one bike including luggage is less than comfortable. The xe om driver on the way to the rental place asks me how old I am, and upon learning my age exclaimed;

“But you are so big!”

Which I am not certain of whether it meant “tall” or “fat” or both. I chose to ignore it, and, conveniently, forget all my Vietnamese language skills when he asks for a tip at our destination. I smile my non-committal, non-confrontational, ‘I am not a pushover’ smile and hand him the prearranged amount agreed upon.

Other purchases are also made, including some shimmering Liberace cloth for me to tie around my neck, as, unlike some, I don’t have a superhero costume lying around in my wardrobe. A make-shift cape will have to do.

So imagine a group of nine riders, one of whom is wearing a Santa tuxedo (no kidding), the rest of whom are wearing capes that flow in the wind, riding off into the country side. The groom to be neglected his cape duties, but this was soon rectified by a quick-thinking purchase of a large amount of tinsel (courtesy of the man in the Santa suit).

Starting of rather well you would say.

Riding out of Hanoi, we get lots of attention, laughs and incredulous looks. The ride is proving to be gorgeous, the weather is warm, despite the inching winter, and the beautiful skies are making us all excited about the journey ahead. One person who knows the way leads the pack. At cross roads, the second and third person stop, pointing the next riders in the right direction until the last bike drives through. This process repeats ad nauseum.

The progress is slow, but the back roads that we are taking are scenic and beautiful. Cue buffaloes, rice paddies and friendly locals, you know, the usual.

Then, just before we reach the bottom of the mountain, I drive over a small amount of large gravel, and start hearing this hissing sound. Like rushing air. Oh yes, after almost 2 years of driving in Vietnam, I have managed to get a flat tire.

Magically, a man appears. He has a mechanic friend who lives in the nearest town. He gives this friend a call. His wife tells me that the reason I had a flat tire is because there are sharp rocks on the road. I nod knowingly. While we wait, the groom is challenged into kissing a calf that is grazing nearby. He does. The calf falls in love.

The man who called his friend for us leaves when said friend arrives, knowing that we are in capable hands. Because my bike is a rental, I do not know the state of the inner tube. I thus agree to changing the entire inner tube.

While waiting for Mr Whizz Kid to change the tire, two puppies appear for a cuddle. And I am seriously not making this up. So nine westerners are watching one bike being fixed, while playing with the two darned most cuddly and gorgeous puppies you ever did see. Just as I exclaim ‘I frigging love this country’ for the third time, a local random who is passing, imparts his infinite wisdom to the guy repairing my bike;

“She got a flat tire, because she is so fat.”

The mechanic nods in a non-committal, Vietnamese manner which could either mean he acknowledged the guy’s comment, he agreed with it, or he was finally getting the wheel back in place, and was pleased with himself for entirely different reasons. He then charges me a little too much (five dollars instead of three), but proceeds to lead our little group on our merry way to the base of the mountain, pointing up. So all is well.

The ride up the mountain quickly gets chilly, the air and the mist seeps into your skin and chills you to the bone. I had to stop a mere three kilometres away from where we were staying to get a sweater out of my bag, as it was simply too cold.

The house we stayed in, which belongs to a friend of a friend, was crazy, artistic and awesome. Lots of art and sculptures and furry chairs, a pool and a front door in the ceiling – so you arrive onto the roof of the building and enter through a trap door from above. So cool, and a view stretching into misty nothingness.

The afternoon was spent exploring the house, driving into town, drinking beer and eating cheese. Dinner at the Belvedere Hotel wearing our capes, laughing at silly jokes and drinking games related to the Buck. There was Men Vodka (yes, that is the brand) all around, and there were manly jokes being shared, as after all, this was an all male (and ‘manly enough women’) bucks weekend! We finished off the night in a private karaoke room at the hotel.

Afterwards, we repaired to the house, some people went for a dip in the pool (crazy sods) and a fire was lit in the hearth. We chatted away until the sleeping bags became too tempting, then we chatted some more from a slumber party vantage point.

The next morning, the light outside, made brighter by the ever present mist, woke us up at the ungodly hour of six thirty, making us all keen to start the day. We went into town to eat Vietnamese pho, before scaling ridiculous steps to the top of Tam Dao mountain. There, being on the top of the world, you could spot the tops of the surrounding mountains between the troughs of the clouds.

Packing the bags and loading up the bikes we set off to go home again. I was singing to myself, thoroughly happy with the successful weekend. I arrived at a large hair pin turn, when I realise that I am taking the turn too widely. There is gravel in the turn, and I have to make a split-second decision. I know I have too much speed to simply turn. I also know that it is the mountain side of the road, so I am not about to fly off into nothingness. If I turn and break, I will wipe out. Or I can try to keep the bike straight, break and try to stay upright. I chose the latter.

The bike slows nicely. A lot. But the edge is coming closer. Quickly. The bike starts wobbling. The front wheel is skidding, I know I am about to go off the road. All I can think of is ‘keep the bike on the road’, or on the roadside of the cement guard rail. I have enough control to do that, and I have almost got the bike fully under control.

But the momentum is too large. As I hit the guard rail, I go over. Next thing I know, I am falling much further than expected. I seem to have twisted mid air, thus falling backwards. Trying to grab onto something on the way down, I am literally grasping at straws. My bum hits something hard, and I stop falling.

Above me, I see how my body has formed a tunnel through the grassy vegetation. I am lying there, folded double, legs to my chest, and realise that I am ok. This realisation, and my legs in the air, makes me laugh, almost hysterically. I realise I hit my chest on the way down, but as far as I can tell, nothing else hurts.

I somehow manage to scramble my feet underneath me, and stand up. The road is almost half a metre above my head, meaning that I have fallen at least two metres, almost two and a half metres. My partner’s anxious face appears above me, asking if I am ok. I say yes, and stupidly laugh.

I always laugh when I see other people hurt themselves, it’s a nervous trait I have. I laughed when my mother fell down the stairs when I was little. I am just not very good with situations like that. Clearly, I also laugh when I am the one getting hurt. More of our friends arrive as my partner is pulling me up on the road. One of them turned my bike off and lifted it upright. Some Vietnamese girls appear out of nowhere, clearly offering help, but I am embarrassed and want them to leave. They do.

I have the presence of mind to tell people to get off the road, as they are stopping their bikes in a turn willy nilly, but it takes someone else’s orders to get them to move them. I am giggling like an idiot, circling myself, picking the pieces of the broken mirror off the road. My partner tells me several times to sit, which I do, even though I didn’t even realise I had got back up.

Both of us remember that when my partner had his wipe-out, my brother had said “sugar, lots of it” to prevent the adrenaline crash after an accident. I remember there is chocolate in my bag, and stuff my face with it. It is bitter, and tastes dry, but I am convinced I need to eat it. Worried faces are hovering, making me uncomfortable at being the centre of attention. All I want is to get out of there. I feel fine. Someone kindly offers to drive my bike for a little bit, which I decline. Back on the horse, someone else nods.

I get back on the bike after a while, and start driving very slowly. I have had an awful fright after all, and the reality of how lucky I am starts sinking in. Not far on, we find a temple where a bride is prepared for her wedding. Attracted to the music and the chanting, we stop. I realise that my thigh hurts. There are prickles all through my shirt and bra, my chest hurts, but only superficially. No cracked ribs or broken bones. More and more I realise, as I stand there at the edge of a small lake and all the others are watching the bride, how lucky I have been.

After a while, we drive on. Just before stopping at a petrol station, we see a police patrol pulling people over. As I have been the unlucky one so far, everyone seems to be expecting me to be pulled over. I, however, drive the slowest out of the group at this stage, aware that my thigh is starting to hurt a lot. Not broken by any means, but bruised badly. I don’t get pulled over.

I feel like I am back to normal, I get my petrol, I am feeling pretty good. Homeward bound.

As we get on the highway, I start smiling, my partner, who witnessed the whole crash and had the fright of his life, is smiling at me, too.


A bird shits on me.

No joke.

I get hit with bird shit on my chest.

I cannot believe it, but it is true, I actually end up pulling over to wipe the shit off me. What a day.

The ride home is just as bumpy as the road there, but on the way back, every bump hurts. My thigh is hurting, so is my chest. Today, the bruises have come to the surface – I have one massive one on my right thigh and another one on my bum. My chest is scraped from the cement guard rail. All my muscles are sore and my right shoulder is a little unhappy. But nothing is torn, the skin did not get broken, and neither did any bones.

Just a little banged up and battered, but that is it. Crawling up on the couch to watch a movie and eat ice cream never felt so good.




1. lizeth - 7 December 2010

Hugs and kisses…..

2. HJK - 7 December 2010

Jeebus. That’s… Special.

Glad you’re okay, Shuu! But also glad that you did what you did; If you hadn’t kept your head cool, you’d have ended up much worse in the gravel-clad turn. Good work on staying upright and scrubbing off as much speed as you could! And glad I don’t have to go visit you in hospital in January…

3. Jennie Marchant - 7 December 2010

Bless your heart! What can we do?!? Seriously, do you need anything? I can’t believe that you are already laughing about your major events!

uggclogs - 7 December 2010

I am fine, feeling much better today. The bruises are healing nicely, and the ice cream is helping, too. Not to worry!

4. allfinehere10 - 7 December 2010

Poor you! At least you can see the funny, ridiculous and crazy side of it all, even though you must have gone through a series of rotten experiences. Makes for a fun read though!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: