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45
 
...two travellers in search of the world's wildlife

7 December 2018

Four wheels good, two wheels bad

1 December 2018

Oh dear. Oh dear oh dear oh dear. We did a foolish thing, and then I cemented the deal with a bit of poor skill. Still, before I go on I should say: it’s nothing major, no real harm done.

We rented a scooter from our guesthouse, because it’s what everyone in SE Asia does – you read about it on all kinds of blogs, in guidebooks and forums, it’s the most fun, easy and cheap way to get around in SE Asia. In fact lots of places seem to almost assume it’s what you’re going to do. You don’t have a license, you’ve got no experience or insurance. What could possibly go wrong? That last sentence is in a sarcastic tone.

Actually, to be fair, there are also forum posts and responsible guesthouses who recommend not joining the herd and renting a scooter if you don’t have any experience or suitable insurance. They’re absolutely right.

There was a left turn, but it was onto a dirt road and the surface was a bed of loose gravel. I still can’t decide quite what went wrong, all I know is that just before we reached it I thought “oh heck, this looks hellishly tricky” and then we fell off. Maureen mostly fell on me, but got a bruised knee and a nasty cut on her hand. I got a lot of skin shredded off my elbow, a bruised shin, a torn T-shirt with a grazed shoulder beneath, and a good bash to the ribs that makes laughing a bit painful and coughing really painful.

There were two very nice local ladies who happened to be nearby, and one fished out a whole bunch of plasters from her purse and liberally applied them to our wounds. Later that evening our homestay owner, who happens to be a doctor, cleaned us up and put fresh plasters on. Since then lots of people have done sympathetic smiling, and my cuts have been described as a “Vietnamese tattoo”. So yeah, it seems that falling off scooters is a common thing.

The really annoying point is, if it had been possible to rent a car I absolutely would have done that instead. I fancy myself a reasonably skillful driver, and have driven in plenty of places with roads and traffic worse than rural Vietnam. But apparently foreign visitors aren’t allowed to rent cars in Vietnam. So you either chance a scooter, or you hire a car-with-driver for an entire day. I just… don’t like that. I mean, I know, you’ve hired them and so in theory they’re at your beck and call for the day. But just little things like deciding to pull over to photograph a view, or choosing a slightly longer route to the national park because it looks prettier, it’s all just a bit more complicated when you have a driver who speaks no English. I guarantee you, they would speak no English. Plus of course it’s a lot more expensive: £70 per day for car-with-driver instead of £10 per day for the scooter (or a better comparison: £25 per day to rent a car in most parts of the world).

So, grrrr, now I have to worry about whether my injuries are bad enough to mess up our planned activity in a couple of days (a bit of light cave exploration).

To make matters worse, our visit to Cuc Phuong national park wasn’t even worth the cost of a scooter injury. Lunch at the restaurant there was the blandest crud we’ve eaten in the last five weeks (Philippines included!). The 6km trek through the forest was okay but we didn’t see any wildlife or views. Strangler figs are no longer interesting. And then although we got back to the park HQ before 4pm as instructed, there was actually only time for a ridiculous 10 minute whistle-stop tour of their primate rehabilitation centre. We had hoped to spend a bit of time there and ask a lot of questions.

That, and of course we still had 1.5 hours of riding to do on the scooter of doom, plasters flapping in the breeze, to get home to our homestay near Ninh Binh. Which was fine. Still ain’t gonna risk getting on one again.

Goat BBQ for dinner to make us feel better

Goat BBQ for dinner to make us feel better


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