2 June, 2010
Mui Ne, Vietnam

Since Minsks are such a popular touring bike in Vietnam, there’s inevitably an online repair manual for them. My bike came with one already printed out and stapled together, and one page is devoted to solving ignition problems, which are caused by “one of a finite number (33) of problems.” All 33 are listed, and one of those is an empty fuel tank. Several days ago, I sneered “What kind of idiot wouldn’t be able to start their bike and not realise it’s because they’re out of petrol?”

I figured out why my bike wouldn’t start today. It’s because the petrol tank was empty. In my defence, Minsks don’t have fuel gauges.

Chris and Max drove back into town in the morning to solve the problems with Chris’ bike, and later returned to pick up Jimmy’s bike. We switched hotels, moving from Mellow Guesthouse to the rooms at the back of the Hoang Vu restaurant, which charges US $8 for a room with a double bed. This means Chris and I are sharing, but with decent aircon we can crack out the sleeping bags and it’s not gay at all. At US $4 each, it’s the cheapest place we’ve stayed yet, and the rooms are actually quite nice. We’ve paid much more for much less.

We spent today lazing around on the beach, nicking deck chairs from a resort. Mui Ne essentially consists of one long road running east to west, with the beach on the southern side. The south side of the road is lined with ritzy hotels and resorts; the north side with cheap hostels and guesthouses. It’s quite a dramatic comparison.

The ocean here is extremely choppy, because for some reason there’s a strong and constant wind. It’s popular with kitesurfers – I counted at least 25 today – but not good for much else. But it’s a cleaner and nicer beach than we’ve yet seen, and after all the Minsk hassles we decided we were in need of a holiday from our holiday, so we’re happy to laze around on the beach for a bit.

I’m running out of sunscreen, and I didn’t have enough to cover my entire upper body, so I didn’t bother at all. This was a mistake. For some abysmally stupid reason, I thought, “Ahhh, I’ll be fine. I won’t get sunburnt!” Why I thought I wouldn’t get sunburnt lying under the tropical sun for two and a half hours with no protection, I don’t know. I’m now as red as a tomato. A lobster. A capsicum. A fire engine. It hurts to towel myself off after a shower and it hurts to scratch mosquito bites.

In the evening we decided to fix the problem of my bike being out of petrol. There are a few roadside stalls near our restaurant selling it, but they’re notorious for watering it down with kerosene, so I wanted to find a proper petrol station. We fiddled around with Chris’ exceptionally stiff fuel level for a quarter of an hour before managing to half-close it and withdraw the tube so we could drain some fuel out for me. We got about a litre, and I went roaring off up the coast to the town of Mui Ne proper, where I was sure I’d seen a petrol station the previous night.

That mechanic certainly seems to have fixed my gearbox – the lever feels great – but I keep thinking about my new cardboard gasket, in the same way somebody might think about an enemy who’s just discovered a piece of blackmail material. It wants to fuck me over and sooner or later it will.

Anyway, I found the petrol station and filled up, with some confusion. I only had enough oil for six litres, but the pump ran out with less than four litres (which I now suspect was a scam) and the attendent ushered me onto the next one, which was still set up for somebody else’s, so I lost track of how much petrol they’d put in. Eventually I realised it was nine litres, leaving me 150 mills short of oil. They didn’t sell any proper BP oil, but they did give me half of some stuff in an unmarked clear container, which they vaguely assured me was two-stroke oil. I wasn’t happy, but I didn’t have many alternatives, and the bike ran fine on the way back to the restaurant. Fingers crossed. Fucking two-strokes.

We went to Joe’s Cafe for dinner, drank some beers, did some Skyping. My mother doesn’t seem quite as flustered and hysterical as I’d expected from somebody whose only son is riding a motorcycle through Vietnam with no experience and very little protective gear. (Max and Jess don’t dare tell their parents what they’re doing and have fobidden us from posting anything about it on their Facebook walls.) When I went for a leak I noticed Joe had plastered the bathroom walls with newspaper cut-outs about the hazards and dangers of driving in Vietnam, including a warning about machete-wielding bandits ambushing travellers on motorcycles in the sand dune roads north of Mui Ne. Think about that, Mum! Don’t really, we’ll be fine. They mostly attack at night. Mostly. (We’re not going that way anyway.)