Missive #4 from Trike Traveler Steven Telck …
Present GPS location: 15.88798,108.32855 (Click number to view satellite image)
I was finally able to find someone who had enough working knowledge of how to set up a mobile phone data network so now I finally have mobile data in Vietnam. One might ask why not just drop in to a coffee shop and use their wireless connection? The simple answer is one often needs navigation info when they are no where near a coffee shop. Most phone shops here can only insert a sim card and if it doesn’t work immediately they are at a loss for what to do next. Well as I said I now have mobile data, 20 GB for 30 days at only $11. Refill costs are even lower. The person who figured out what the problem was happened to be a women. All the young men working in the in the cell phone shop were coming to this lady and requesting information about how to configure phones. It was clear that she was both the sharpest knife in the kitchen and the boss also. Technically very savvy. The problem was with APN or Access Point Name settings.
Every day of this tour tells us the difficulties of communication. Here is the latest in a series of miscommunications. We go into a noodle shop. We look up and show the Vietnamese word for vegetarian abs show it to the waitress. We then point to the two riders who are vegetarians. The shop girl shakes her head for yes. We look up the VN word for meat. We point to a bowl of noodles with pork and say “no meat”. The girl says OK yet all the noodles show up with pork. Still trying to figure out how this went bad. This language barrier is rather frustrating. Doesn’t do any good to get angry as this is their country and I feel it is my responsibility to figure out a solution, not them. Independent touring has its rewards and frustrations when dealing with everyday problems. If one is not willing to deal with these issues then it is best to stick with touring in countries that speak your language.
It seems many young people do not read their own language well. When shown a VN word in a dictionary they seem very puzzled to what it means. We have tried many different dictionaries just to make sure it is not a bad translation problem. On the other hand if we use a talking dictionary they get it immediately.
We did not climb the famous Hai Van pass as we desired. When we arrived at the bottom of the hill the fog was so bad we could not see 1/4 of a km. We didn’t see the value of spending 3 to 4 hours struggling up the pass in the fog dodging the fuel trucks only to reach the summit and not be able to see 200 m. Fuel trucks do not use the 11.2 km tunnel under the mountain as the tunnel is only two lanes and if one had a bad day it might mean the tunnel could be shut down for a long period of time, not to mention the possible loss of life. Our bikes and trikes were loaded up on flat bed truck, tied down and we boarded a bus. 11.2 km later we were on the other side of the mountain.
Early in the morning we were pedaling around a penisula and coming into a small village. A young girl on a brand new Honda scooter, a really nice one, saw some speed bumps just as she passed me. She hit the front brake and should have been able to travel on with out problems. Unfortunately for her it had been raining and there was mud on the bumps and down she went in front of me very quickly on her right side. Minor damage to the new scooter and some missing skin. If she had just let the scooter ride over the bumps instead of braking she would have been OK.
Tonight we were having our usual game of let’s see if we can get what we order for dinner game. The waitress had zero English ability, but was trying really hard to understand our zero Vietnamese ability. A young man came over and asked what did we want to order in English. We put in our order with his help. We asked if he would eat with us and he accepted. The order arrived and we had a good conversation in English as we ate the meal. I asked where he had learned English to which he replied “YouTube” and other sources. Claimed he had never gone to any class for English and was entirely self taught. He had a very good vocabulary and his syntax and grammar was very good. We jokingly asked if he might like to bike with us to the Cambodian border to which he replied “I would love to, but my boss will have a different opinion”. He said he taught himself English so he could find and get better jobs. It is amazing what one can do if they truly want something.
Being a stray and trusting dog is not a good trait in VN. The dogs on the back of the motorcycle are being pedaled down the road as a loud speaker blares to the public they are for sale. A few hours later we saw this man coming back towards us with only one dog in the pen. I understand dog is rather expensive in VN. The people also keep dogs as pets. I am guessing if a dog becomes too big of a public problem they end up in a pen on the back of a motorcycle for one last ride. Before too many people reading this email get upset, one should remember they eat horses in Europe. Cats are also eaten in VN. I have seen very few cats in VN. I don’t think they are as popular as dogs for pets.
Things we have seen, Chinese graveyards fancy old and ancient. Overloaded bicycles, water buffalo still quite a lot of them in the countryside unlike Thailand where the Kubota diesel engine has replaced the water buffalo.