At 9am the next morning, I head to the Offroad Vietnam office, located a few blocks from my hotel. To find the address, I have to go into a narrow alley. The store is tiny, with six feet of frontage and barely six feet deep. Despite its narrowness, the place is occupied by four motorcycles and two mechanics.
Anh Vu ("Ang Vou" or "Andrew" to the tourists) welcomes me with great kindness - he is used to foreigners. I tell him about my interest in the Honda. Before I know it, I'm on the back seat of his motorcycle, on my way to the garage where it is stored. We rush through the chaotic traffic. After a few minutes, he tells me:
- The traffic in Hanoi is like a river, you have to flow with it.
So, in the middle of this frenzy, I understood completely what he meant.
The rules of driving in Vietnam can be summarized in two things. Heavy vehicles have priority, for lack of courtesy. For the rest, it is an obstacle course where everyone is responsible for avoiding anything that gets in their way. Signage - including traffic lights - is optional. Even the direction of traffic does not worry Hanoians; it is not uncommon to encounter oncoming traffic.
When we arrive at the garage, Anh Vu shows me the Honda. It is perfect. A bit worn but in very good condition. A cruiser as I had imagined it. Anh Vu then gives me a review of its specifications. I barely listened to him - I already knew that this was the motorcycle for me.
After a few test rides on the bike, I closed the deal.
I then asked him about his organized tours. I would feel more comfortable starting my trip with an experienced guide. The answer was negative:
- The next guided tour will leave in January.
- Do you have a guide who could accompany me for a few days?
- Yes. Come back at 3 pm, you can meet him.
Excellent. In the meantime, I have a few hours to get to know my motorcycle. I put on my helmet and launch my Honda. The engine purrs.
Clack. I close my visor. I take a deep breath and put it in first gear.
Before I know it, I'm out of the alley. On the street, I waltz with the other vehicles, bypassing junk, pedestrians, street vendors and bicycles. It's much easier than I thought. In fact, it's kind of fun.