Erica and Matt Chua: Motorcycle Maintenance in Vietnam

Number one tour guide in Vietnam?  Me.  Being your own tour guide can save you money, but could present you with unexpected adventures such as needing a quick repair job.  When we got to Mui Ne Beach I saw that the town was a straight line along the beach, a very long line.  It was roughly 20km roundtrip to see Mui Ne and another 40km roundtrip to Phan Thiet.  To tour both Mui Ne and Phan Thiet would be about $30 USD, but renting a motorcycle was $10.  Quick math and motorcycle experience made it a clear choice, rent the bike.

I gave LOCAVORista the full Mui Ne tour and continued to Phan Thiet.  I made it 3/4 of the way through the city tour and thought, “I hope this thing holds out, I am a long way from where we started.”  Within 5 minutes I felt the rear end shimmy as the engine began to cut out.   Immediately I made LOCAVORista get off the bike and asked, “Is it flat?”  She laughed and responded, “Completely”.

I walked the bike over to the repair shop and they immediately started speaking to me in Vietnamese, because they, as everyone here, thinks that I am Vietnamese.  Irregardless of what I may look like to them I had no clue what was going on.  This clearly was a repair shop but they were saying no and pointing.

Even though they pointed one way, the tire repair shop required some maneuvering through alleys and knowing where you needed to go.  Lending a helping hand they took me to a shop specializing in tires and discussed what we needed.  This is where you trust in people and let them take apart your rented motorcycle.  Maybe, just maybe, this is when you call the people you rented it from, or you just fix it and never mention it…

I have to be honest, I was scared.  Here I was, having no clue what a tube could cost, not speaking their language, I was at their whim.  This was going to cost what they told me.  At home I had tubeless tires on my motorcycle, but I have tubes on my bicycle, the last one I bought for that was $10.  I was prepared to pay about $20 for this including labor, rendering the self-guided tour savings worthless.

The repairman lowered the bike, oiled it up, and put it back in the street for us.  The moment of reckoning had arrived.  He held up six fingers as in 60,000 dong.  Trying not to smile I pulled cash out as fast as possible thinking he could be mistaken and before he realized I would be gone.  I gave him the money and he smiled with a thumbs up.  I will never know if he upcharged us and thought he had gotten a great deal, but for my $3 the feeling was mutual.


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