Sunday, August 17, 2008

AAA - Vietnam

(PICTURE: My new favorite bike "garage.")

After karaoke I drove Pamela back to her hostel. About three blocks from where she was staying I felt my bike starting to wobble. I pulled over and said to Pamela, "Can you tell if the back tire is flat?" Pamela looked down and said, "Looks good to me." I figured maybe I hit a rough spot on the road and started to drive again. It took going only about eight feet before I knew I definitely had a flat -- my bike started really really wobbling.

I pulled over again and sure enough the tire was totally flat. This was the THIRD TIME in about a month that my bike tire was flat. Two out of three times it was a direct result of driving another Westerner. To say these bikes aren't designed for foreigners, let alone two foreigners, is probably a gigantic understatement.

Well, within seconds of pulling over a Vietnamese man walked out of store and asked if he could help us. Mind you, it was eleven at night already. I pointed at my flat tire and he in turn pointed diagonally across the street: "You can fix it there." Sure enough a man had set up shop on the corner and was fixing bikes.

This is a common site in Hanoi. Throughout the city are sidewalk motorbike repairmen. Literally someone just brings their tools, an air pump and a bucket of water and fixes bikes right on the sidewalk. Why the bucket of water you might be asking? Well, to find the hole in the inner tube they inflate the tube and stick one part at a time under the water. When air bubbles begin to form they've found the hole. They then shave the hole, put some kind of super glue on it, then a patch and it's good as new. It took this guy roughly four minutes to fix my bike. Cost: $1.15

On a side note, this little anecdote serves as a good way for me to say how much I love Vietnamese people. Within minutes there were two acts of kindness:

ACT OF KINDNESS 1: The stranger asking if he could help us. How many times have you gone up to a random person having car trouble and asked if you could help?

ACT OF KINDNESS 2: When it was time to pay I was having a hard time understanding how much the repair guy was saying it cost. I thought he said 100,000 Dong. I started to hand him two 50,000 Dong notes and he shook his head at me. He then peaked into my wallet and took out two 10,000 Dong notes and smiled at me. You have to love honesty. This guy could have taken the 100,000 and called it an early night. However, he didn't.