SELLING THE OL’ BIKES & CHANGING HOTELS & PUPPET SHOW

Hanoi, Vietnam
October 17, 2013

We woke with a vengeance; packed with a vengeance; and walked down the stairs with a vengeance, until we cornered him behind his desk like the rat he was.
KT: We didn’t even get our token picture of the room! We’ve gotten pictures of every single guesthouse room across Vietnam, but not this one. We were too set on getting out of there. Whoops!

“We’re checking out” we said with sternness in our faces.
He was quite. Then asked if we drank anything from the room.
“No. But the fridge was missing a bottle of water which I told one of your staff yesterday.”
I thought he was going to play the ol’ $18 a night trick. But he stuck to his word.

Then he started to add the $4 for parking our bikes for two nights and that’s when we chimed in.
“We saw you pull the bike underneath. We’re not paying for parking.”
He came back as if he had rehearsed his lines already.
“No…I park yours underneath. I pay for parking for mine.”

We weren’t stacking what he was chopping – buying what he was selling; if you know what I mean. I know it was only a few bucks, but the point was this guy rubbed us the wrong way from the start and it was a matter of principal.

We read the night before that there was a free parking lot around the corner, and one of the workers told us that they would drive our bikes over to Violet Hotel 1 and then ride one of the bikes back to our hotel. And the downstairs lobby could have easily fit four bikes and we were the only ones staying there. So instead of unleashing the rage that I was full of I hit him with a dose of realness.

Instead of trying to make a few dollars off us, it would have been nice of you to tell us about the free parking lot.”

His smirk went away. We had 700,000 dong ($32) in our hands and we were set on not paying a penny more. The payment even included parking my bike, which we let him have a small victory. He accepted the money and we walked off without another word.

We loaded up our bikes as he stood there in guffaw. We had our justice. After cruising around the block we rolled up to Alibaba Hotel which gave off a feeling that was the polar opposite of Violet 2 and right then we knew that we had to go with our gut, something that we had been doing thus far until comfort skewed my vision.

Dingy, oddly shaped, and perfect!

Dingy, oddly shaped, and perfect!

We dropped our bags off in our new $13 room and had a little chat downstairs with the women about how relieved we were to be out of our last hotel. They knew exactly what we were talking about. They even described the man to me.

“He is very thin man. Short. A little bit darker skin.”
“Yes yes yes! That’s him!” I blasted
“Ahh! He sometimes stands in front of our hotel and tries to steal our customers.”
“Are you kidding me?”

The horror goes on. We were just happy to be out. And we couldn’t have found a nicer pair of women. We went to a café to check our emails and wait around for Robert to drop off the remaining money.

Photo on 2013-10-18 at 5.41 PM

We all played on my Macbook haha -KT

We ordered Americano’s and opened our emails. I had a bite and it was about time. We were leaving tomorrow and I couldn’t afford to be out a couple hundred bucks. It was from a 50 year old who just arrived and was obviously looking for a bike. After a little back and forth action we had set a time to meet. Katie wished me luck and I took off for the hotel.

I first have to mention that it had been raining nonstop for the past four days and had flooded my engine so the electric starter wasn’t working, but the kick start got it running just fine. I know the bike and I have been through hell over the past three months but as of late it had been running just fine aside from the recent popped tire. I knew Michael Douglas would get the last laugh. The man showed up and it turns out he was also a Canadian and we’d shared many of the same travels through Asia and South America. With the rain coming down I had to get the kick start going for him, which wasn’t a good start, and he took off around the block. Ten minutes had passed before I saw him putting up the street. Motherfuckersucker!! I had already known he wasn’t interested and I don’t blame him. He said the bike died on him a dozen times. Yadda yadda goddamn Michael Douglas is all I thought! I wished him a safe trip and no ill will. Now it was crunch time.

heheheh

heheheh

That morning we stopped to put air in Katie’s tires because she woke up with a flat tire that occurred from Robert’s little accident. While we were getting it patched we popped into a hostel to use their internet. The woman behind the counter said she knew a mechanic that might be interested in buying my bike. I thanked her but told her I was holding out for a tourist. This woman was now my last hope. So I started my bike up easily and cruised on over. She wasn’t there but another woman was. She knew the same mechanic. In fact it was her brother. She put him on the phone so I could talk to him.

“Where were you yesterday?” He said “I showed up at the hotel.”
You have to be kidding me! It was the same mechanic from yesterday.
“I am so sorry. I was five minutes late and they told me you left.”  Which was true.

Having already seen the bike he offered to pay me $150. I knew this man was my last option so I dropped it down to $200. He came back at $160 and eventually we settled on $170.  Which was $80 less than I was asking, but $170 more than nothing.

I handed the phone back to his sister and he told her to pay me. I, being an idiot, forgot my blue registration card at home, which he insisted upon, so I got back on the bike in the rain and flew back to the hotel to pick it up.

To add another level of bizarreness, this transaction would never have been possible had it not been for the whores who returned my wallet in Ho Chi Minh. If you haven’t read the story already click here. Well if it wasn’t for me getting my wallet back, blue card intact, it would have been extremely hard to sell a bike, even if the registration is not in my name. It is just like a right of passage. So even though those two whores stole $130 from me, by some divine act they had also given me back $170. I picked up the registration card and flew back to complete the transaction. And with a huge sigh Michael Douglas was off my hands.

Robert had messaged Katie and apologized for not being able to make it, but he said tomorrow he would be there definitely. They set to meet at one o’clock, which didn’t leave a lot of room for us to buy a ticket for a bus to Sapa if he decided to back out or switch to another day. Our Visas were coming to an end and we wanted to spend a couple days in Sapa. The timing was getting extremely tight, but first we have a water puppet show to attend.

The play was very interesting. A live Vietnamese folk band sat to the left of the stage and narrated, sang and strummed along with the puppets. The stage was a bed of water with a bamboo backdrop. And alongside the music puppets came to life singing, fishing, chasing fox, planting rice and boating around in lifelike form. It was truly a wonderful show aside from, and there seems to always be an aside from, a Chinese woman that snuck into the seats right ahead of us with an iPad size camera screen and wanted to film the whole damn show. It was as though we were watching a play through her lit up camera. It was just another example of how people feel like they are the only person in the room.
KT: I always enjoy a good theatre show, and The Water Puppet Theatre was incredibly impressive! I didn’t expect to laugh so hard to puppets splashing around in water and imitating catching fish. It was really amusing, definitely recommend it if you’re ever in Vietnam! Apparently Water Puppet Theatre was a cultural past time when the monsoon season would drown the crops.

BIKE CRASH & HORRORS OF HANOI HOTELS

Hanoi, Vietnam
October 16, 2013

We woke up and walked the old quarter looking for a breakfast spot. After scouring the backstreets ogling menu after menu until our bellies were concave with hunger we ended up at Gecko. The breakfast set said: tea, buttermilk pancakes, crispy bacon, toast, real French butter, real homemade jam, and fruit salad. What I got was: a cold paper-thin crêpe, soggy wilted bacon, salted New Zealand butter, and average everything else. But hey I’m still healthy and life is good. But it was becoming apparent that the meat in this country has continuously been letting us down and the sanitation conditions have been on the lower end of orthodox. We were a couple of sudo-vegetarians in the making.
KT: I got eggs, bacon and a baguette and other than the let down of the bacon, my meal was alright. Trusty ol’ eggs & baguette ;)

KT: After our delicious breakfast (heh) we went to seek out someone to clean our bikes for us, or a tap for us to do it ourselves. Gotta pretty up the wheels before hockin’ ‘em! We Travel Vietnam KT bikestumbled upon a guy who had a little bike cleaning service set up beside his mothers hair salon, and he got to work, telling us to come back in an hour. We used that hour to wander around, in search of cheap Bia Hoi…but apparently it was too early in the day as no one had it stocked yet. Instead, we stocked up on some toiletries, and wandered as we’ve gotten so good at doing. Returning to our bikes, our jaws dropped. THOSE are our bikes?? They’re so beautiful! I don’t want to sell it anymore! We dropped our pretty puppies off at the hotel, with a couple awkward smiles with our hotel manager, and killed time at a neat cafe nearby.
Travel VIetnam Lou Bike

Afterwards, Katie had scheduled a meeting with this dude from Brooklyn to come check out her bike so we made our way back to the hotel to do some biddings. Waiting out front the hotel manager began pestering us about our bikes to a level of uncomfortability.

“How much you sell bike for?”
“I’m selling mine for $250.” I said
“And I’m selling mine for $400.” Said Katie
“Ohh so expensive. You sell me.” He said
He walks over and inspects Katie’s bike.
“I give you $200 for Yamaha Nouvo. You take $200”.
“No. I’m sorry. I can’t. I have someone coming to look at it now. I need to get what I put into it.” Katie said
He does a wrap around my bike and says I cannot get more than $100 for my bike and so I should sell it to him for that much.”
“I’m sorry. I can’t. I’ve put too much money into it.”
Katie and I look at each other with an ok, buddy just give us our space look.

The manager loomed over us with a sly grin on his face. Neither of us have trusted him from the start. When he showed me the room yesterday he rubbed me the wrong way, and it was my own blindness that confused me into accepting the room. It was just too damn nice to pass up. After agreeing on a price. He had dropped the room from $28 to $15, which was nice of him, but we simply couldn’t have stayed there for any more and would have had to simply turn down the room. So after showing me the room, he says…
You are Canadian. You have lots of money. You pay $18.”
“I’m sorry, we can’t.” I explained. “We are sleeping in hotels everyday for six months and it is over our budget.”
But you are rich. $18 is no problem.”
“You agreed to $15. If it is more, I am sorry we cannot stay.”

He followed me down the stairs and I could tell that he was sizing me up. It was an odd feeling. A feeling that I just didn’t want to be in his presence. I got downstairs and he finally agreed to $15. And since then every time we pass his desk he’s been hell bent on selling a tour, trip, bus ticket, or buying our bikes. Its been nothing but money, money, money and neither of us trusted him. He even charged us to park our bikes. He said that there was no room inside the hotel so he had to drive them to a parking garage and that it would cost 20,000 dong each. Which was a lie that we caught him in the act in the evening.

Now where was I. Ahh yes, we were waiting for the dude from Brooklyn to arrive to show him Katie’s bike while the manager was looming about. The guy finally arrived amidst the manager pressuring us to book our bus to Sapa. We left him to greet Robert, the dude from Brooklyn who rode up on a motorbike with his friend.

He took a look at both our bikes and we both did our schpeel, but it seemed like he was leaning towards Katie’s bike since it was an automatic so I gave them their space to get down to brass tacks. There was no issue with the price, he just wanted to give it a spin around the block to see how she ran. Of course Katie obliged and handed him the keys while his friend hung back by our side. Robert saddled up on the bike and got comfortable before putting the keys in the ignition. It was an extremely busy one way so it took him a couple minutes before he could ease out onto the street. When he did, with the slight twist of the handlebar the bike shot out like a bullet jerking him back until he let go- similar to an Olympian bursting off before the bang only to have to restart.

“Woah. I didn’t expect it to start so fast”, Robert said catching his breath.
“Yeah it has a little kick. Just take it slow. Ease into it”, Katie said.

He waited again for the traffic to subdue before giving the gas another try. This time the bullet left the chamber and he shot out wildly, wobbling out of control with his body clung to the back of the seat and slammed into the side of a bus leaving a giant scar along the busses glass as well as lacerating his shirt from neck to belt buckle. Traffic stopped and we all ran over to lift the bike and him from the asphalt. Robert was shaken and alive in more than one sense. Miraculously, the bike came out unscathed aside from a nick on the handlebar. The bus driver stood there with a scowl written on his face that read “are you fucking kidding me?” Eventually he saw that Robert was avoiding him he started up and trolled off.

Almost at the same time as the crash I saw through the window of the bus Eva and Luca on the street corner opposite to us so I made a mad dash while Katie and Robert’s friend were taking care of him. His booboo’s weren’t too bad so he opted for round number three on the bike after Katie made it adamantly clear that she has $400 invested in this bike and she needs to get it out of it. Robert agreed that he would take responsibility and off he slowly rolled this time.

KT: I was shaking. Seriously shaking. He was fine, so I wasn’t concerned about his well being. I was concerned about my bike! She had been between my legs for the past 3 months, I had shared intimate and serene moments with her, and here was a stranger dumping her in the middle of the street for all to see. I got very serious with Robert, and after a few minutes of friendly debate, I let him try again.

I grabbed Eva and Luca and briefed them on the chaos that had just ensued and the five of us hung around until Robert returned. He ended up giving Katie an $80 deposit and said that he would come by tomorrow to pony up the rest.

Robert and his friend left and the four of us went for a coffee before they had to reach a train for their trip to Hoi An.

I still hadn’t found any buyers for my bike and was beginning to get a little desperate. We were leaving in two days and I was yet to nab any full-paying interests. I had my bike up on three forums and no bites. One of the workers at our hotel, who also wished to purchase my bike at $100 said he knew a mechanic that might be interested. Although I knew that would mean I would be getting middled. The mechanic would want to buy it cheap and then sell it to a tourist. I agreed to meet him at out hotel at six which I missed because we bumped into our German friends. I wasn’t too bent out of shape about it because I was putting all my faith in selling it retail.

When we got back to the hotel I apologized to the man and it turns out I missed the mechanic by five minutes. The manager and worker were sitting around and worked us with another round of money, money, money.
“Book your ticket to Sapa.”
“You want trip to Halong. One day tour.”
“Sell me your bike $100.”
Give me your bike. Souvenir. Souvenir.”

All to the point of extreme annoyance. As we were walking back to our room to drop some stuff off before dinner we told the manager that Katie had sold her bike so perhaps he would drop all the chatter. As we were about to walk up the stairs he says to Katie…

“You sell anything else?”
“Uhh No? What do you mean?” Katie replied.

With a seedy grin on his face the manager said, if you could really call him a manager, “You sell…you?”
We were overtaken with uneasiness and questionable brows “could he mean what he just said?”  We walked upstairs knowing that we had to get out of this hotel. That was the last straw. I was about to go downstairs and tear into him, but we decided to just forget it and move out. He could easily just say he was joking and it wasn’t worth the effort on our part. What a slimy piece of shit. We went upstairs and decided to check out tripadvisor.com and you wouldn’t believe what it had to say.
KT: & this wasn’t the first time he had made this kind of innuendo. When we were first moving in, he made sly “jokes” about “buying” me. We laughed it off, as two friendly Canadians will, assuming all is well and friendly. But this time was too much.

First off it was difficult to find anything about Violet 2 Hotel, which was because the hotel had recently changed its name! Oh I wonder why? On our nightstand there happened to be a price sheet for the beverages in the fridge, which, aside from the point, were three times more than the going rate. The pricing sheet happened to have the name AuLac Hotel on it – a couple of detectives we were typed that into the search bar and it came back with nothing but 1 out of 5’s. Oh GOD what did we get ourselves into? The search came back with headlines “SCAM HOTEL” “DO NOT STAY HERE” “DO NOT BOOK ANY TOURS THROUGH THIS HOTEL” Then we started reading through each one. It was everything that we had experienced although we hadn’t succumb to the pressure of manager.

We left to get Indian food from a little joint around the corner and tried to avoid him on the way down. That night we just walked around the town sticking to old quarter. We really didn’t get to explore Hanoi. We were too fixed on selling our bikes and spent all of our time in café’s posting and reading over emails. But our walk that night was nice. There is a lake in the middle of the old quarter and we went out for a walk in evening drizzle. After making a loop we went to get snacks to bring back home when we walked past the water puppet theatre. We had wanted to go in Ho Chi Minh City but never got around to it. So we bought a couple of tickets for the next night, 4th row and center at five dollars each. On the board outside it was posted that for an extra two dollars you could photograph the show and for a few more you could video tape. Not thinking much of this we carried on.

That night back at our hotel we sat on our balcony catching up on our blog until midnight. Our bikes sat outside of the hotel which we peered down on every time we heard a sound. Like I said, we didn’t trust this man and knowing that they were for sale we didn’t know what to think. I knew what I wanted to say to him. But I wasn’t sure what was going to come out when we tell him we are checking out a day early tomorrow morning. I heard some fiddling around downstairs so I peered over the edge. He was gearing up my bike revving it pretty good and then he took off down the street until he disappeared. I crossed my fingers. An hour or so later he had come back and we watched him pull Katie’s bike into our hotel. BUSTED! It made our blood boil. That sneaky S.O.B doing anything to make a buck. We slept with a little less comfortably that night as thoughts twisted through our heads.
KT: We got so worked up over this guy. A lot of the TripAdvisor reviews mentioned violence when he was confronted negatively, so we knew we had to tread lightly. At one point while we were sitting on the balcony, Louis’ bag fell off the counter inside the room and Lou JUMPED up and assumed fight stance. Our nerves were shot lol