I got the idea that there were several places that rented motorbikes in the city but unless I actually saw, in English, the words ‘Rent Motorbike’ I wasn’t going anywhere near them. I was sure I would have to surrender my passport, and there was no way I was going to hand it over to some geezer on the street that I can’t even have a conversation with. I ran a search on Google Maps for rentals in the city when a handful came up. One that caught my eye in particular was a place called Chi’s Café. It was a fair distance journey on foot but I figured if this was all that I did that day then it would be worth it. I set out around mid-day in the hot sun following my cursor on the map, as I meandered my way down back alleys and side streets. After an hour I was starting to get a bit pissed off, but I could now see many more foreigners on the streets, so I figured I was getting close to a tourist area.
I began to think Chi’s Café could also just be a woman, who doesn’t speak English, by the side of the street renting bikes, but I had to give it a shot. About twenty minutes later, I found the café, and it was right in the heart of the tourist area, and it probably would have been a good place to stay with an abundance of cheap guesthouses. There were dozens of restaurants, and I guessed this is where most foreigners hang out, especially backpackers. The area is called Phạm Ngũ Lão Street and everyone spoke pretty good English, which was a first since I had I arrived in the country. I knew there must have been a tourist congregation somewhere in the city and this was it.
After having some well needed lunch, I enquired about renting a motorbike and there seemed to be a few decent ones around. She said it was 120,000 dong (£4) a day, so I said I would take it for 4 days. After paying my bill and surrendering my passport, Chi showed me to my dusty, clapped-out old banger of a bike, she had brought out from a dark and dank corner. After wiping away the cobwebs she told me that I mustn’t take the bike out of the city, which was my intention, but by the look of it I didn’t think it would make it anyway. I think she said that if the police stop me on the bike outside the city they will confiscate it, but I wondered whether she was just ‘blowing smoke’. She also said that I mustn’t just park the bike anywhere because it will get stolen, and I must leave it with someone and get a ticket … outside a restaurant etc.
Security guards are a common sight outside shops even during the day, and there are barriers in use protecting department stores and the like. I was hoping to take the bike to the Cu Chi Tunnels and complete number #8 of my travel bucket list in style, but I guess for now that will have to do. I have plans in the pipeline to buy a motorbike in Asia in the next couple of years and may do an extensive road trip then; possibly China as well, but that’s a blog for another day.
So I got on the bike, that was probably older than me, and headed out onto the busy streets of Ho Chi Minh City, and I don’t mind telling you I was shitting myself with traffic coming from all directions and near death experiences on every turn. Out of habit, I kept looking in my right hand mirror when I kept realising the thing was missing, so moving into the right hand lane was a little tricky! I had a rough idea of the direction I wanted to go in, but I had to stop a couple of times to check the map. Slightly trembling, I made it back to the hotel in one peace. Parking at the hotel has security so at least I didn’t have to worry about that. Dodgy place, Vietnam, with a lot of crooks about!