Hello, What’s Your Name?
A three week adventure around Vietnam.
Arriving back to our hotel from our anti-climax of a relaxing morning on the beach, we received a knock on our door, considering I just got undressed to change out of my bathers I decided to just go ahead open it whilst being completely naked! Just as my hand gripped the handle to pull it open, my bravado encouraging me to do it, Niki walks out of the bathroom, looks at my hand trembling towards the handle, instantly she knows what I’m about do and before I can explain myself, falls onto the bed laughing as if this was the biggest joke she had seen all week. With my encouragement burst like an over inflated balloon, I yelled “just a second”, grabbed some clothes and opened our door to the friendly front desk attendant. The staff at Phu Quoc Hotel are the best in all of Vietnam and as we recently found the attendant got married only a week before, Niki and she would enjoy a number of girly chats over the week. However this time her face was smiling yet straight to the point, she said with an almost life and death situation voice, “we would like to you to be in a game show for the hotel”.
Instantly I knew I couldn’t pass this opportunity up, how many times in your life do you get to be in a Vietnamese Game show right? So before I knew what I was doing, I agreed. This was one of those times I should of clarified a few things before I agreed to it – my mind takes me take to a time in Bangkok when a Thai lady asked if I wanted a happy ending with my massage, this was another time I should of asked more questions before jumping in and just saying yes…..okay maybe not, but you get the point. So after getting dressed and running down the stairs, the request became a little more detailed, in fact, it morphed into a totally different concept all together, I was going to be riding in a Cyclo Rally from the town center to the beach we just rode from. This time I was to be the passenger whilst I left it up to a professional to do all the hard work, or so I thought. As the challenge was only for me, I felt bad about leaving my new wife but before I could say “Comme onnnnn down”, Niki was being chucked on the back of a motorbike and became the official photographer for the event, whilst I was going to represent Phu Quoc Hotel in basically an over-glorified Miss Cyclo Universe challenge. As Niki headed off, I jumped on the back of another motorbike and hurled myself towards the starting point and where my carriage awaited.
Arriving to the starting line, drums were playing, beautiful Vietnamese women were walking up and down holding banners like at the F1, I had underestimate the seriousness of this event. All the other hotels and tourist companies each had amazingly decorated cycles and an adopted tourist to come for the ride. They were dressed in amazing Vietnamese silk, brightly coloured sashes and other iconic clothing and here I was, in an outfit more closely resembling pajamas than finely tuned racing gear….I was in trouble (I put all my clothes in the wash that morning). Mentioning my dilemma to my motorbike rider, he said Ill fix it and rode off into the sunset. Niki and I were sure he went to a local tailor shop and before I could say “can I buy a vowel please”, I was wearing a red women sash with the hotel’s name on it. Now I just looked like an over-sized candy cane, but it would have to!
I met my cyclo driver, a man half my size but with legs built like rocks and Niki went off to begin her photojournalism. Half and hour of waiting and my driver suggested I sit on the driver’s seat and Niki in the passenger seat for a photo; this happened to be the same time the race began! So before I could say “What is a three wheeled bicycle”, the driver gave me a sly smile and pushed me off. I had just become the next Michael Schumacher of the cyclo world in this PR stunt and it was about to backfire. Pushing the heavy pedals to get up to speed whilst following the 20 other cycles along a route that would take us through the old town of Hoi An before onto the final destination, Cua Dai Beach. It was surprisingly easy once you got momentum, Niki was loving it and people were lining the streets to wave and cheer. Naturally I embraced this. As I turned the first corner, watching all the cars still on the road as I was riding along, this was about the time I realized I hadn’t had the chance to ask the basics….like where the brakes were for instance? And as I waved back at people, who for some odd reason seemed to be overly waving at me as if they were trying to tell me to look out for something, I heard Niki yell out “PETER WATCH OUT”! Well apparently they weren’t so much waves of excitement and love for me, but distressed Vietnamese telling me that I was about to run into a very long barricade where road works were going on. As my right wheel sunk into the sand near the sign, I was desperately searching for the brake and then it happened, the Cyclo started tipping…this was going to hurt!
Niki was scrambling for her life, I was trying to think of another game show saying and then before you know it, the cyclo driver came out of nowhere and pushed the bike back onto track. I thought that was it, surely he wouldn’t trust me anymore, but I was wrong. He was laughing as if this was the funniest thing he had ever seen and sent us on our way. We continued riding along the track, only once running into the bike in front of us…okay maybe twice. All the Vietnamese were watching and smiling, tourist weren’t sure what was happening and I don’t blame them. The idea of 20 cyclos swarming down on you is what Asian nightmares are made of. The ride was a great chance to experience a slightly different aspect of Hoi An on the back of Cyclo and as we passed the Phu Quoc Hotel and tailor shop the staff bought us water and lots of smiles.
Rule No. 9 of being married – Making motor cars noises for 5km’s whilst riding a cyclo is apparently not funny!
Leaving the old town, we hit the main road and this is when things started to get hairy, welcome to peak hour traffic Hoi An style. After only avoiding the third incident with another cyclo due to the lack of my ability to find the brake, perhaps I should “phone a friend”, apparently and I kid you not the brake handle sits under your groin, the cyclo driver who had walked alongside me the whole time said it was time to switch. THANK GODDDD!!!! My legs were jelly and it was debatable if I ever be able to sit again. Niki jumped out and hopped on the back of waiting motorbike and headed off to take some photos, whilst I jumped in to be ridden around like royalty…without the glamor. The last 5km took an hour due to traffic and as I waved to everyone in cars and on the side of streets, I thought Hoi An really is an amazing little city full of friendly people, amazing opportunities, a lot of history and the coolest game show in the world!
PS: I promise no more game show one liners because “You are the weakest link, goodbye!”