What is it with us and drunks?

Tonight we were walking home from a very nice dinner on China Beach, when we heard, then saw a motorcycle crash across the street. We hurried across to try and help. We found a man out cold, a cigarette in his hand, and gasoline leaking from the motorcycle. Claire crushed the cigarette and threw it away, and I got the motorcycle off him, and upright so the gasoline would stop spilling, and turned off the key.

We tried to rouse him, and were greeted with soft moans for a couple of minutes until his eyes opened. We checked him for damage and found mostly abrasions, and apparently a very sore head because he kept rubbing it and groaning. We encouraged him, kept him awake, and checked him out as best we could in the darkness. We haven’t seen a policeman since we arrived in Vietnam, and passers-by showed no inclination to stop, so we knew we needed to help him.

Within a few minutes, he managed to get astride his motorcycle. I was about to remove the key and hide it, he was obviously drunk, when another motorcycle stopped for our waving. We got lucky. The young woman, riding behind her boyfriend, spoke some English.

By now our friend was lucid enough to understand we weren’t going to let him ride. He was able to tell her a phone number, and she made a contact with a family member. She said she would stay with him until they came.

That’s when he began to throw up great volumes of dinner and booze. Everybody jumped away from him; it was impressive. It must have made him feel better, because he smiled at us. We had been patting him on the back and offering encouraging words, so he wanted to shake hands with us both. We agreed to wash our hands as soon as we got back to the hotel.

I’m glad we stopped and roused him when he chundered. Had we not forced him awake, he could have drown in his own puke. It happened to a college acquaintance of mine.

Our hotel is close, so I went back a big bottle of water, and that cheered him. His wife was there by then, and I felt sorry for her. I doubt this is the first time for him, he wasn’t young, probably in his 40’s.

So now we know how some of those 25,000 motorcycle accidents a day happen in Vietnam. We hope most of them happen at night. We have Zippy parked by sunset.

Vietnam: Photos and Comments

A Facebook friend commented that she loved Vietnam. Unfortunately, I can’t ask her what specifically she loved about Vietnam because we are again in a country that doesn’t allow Facebook. This country takes some of its culture from China: we’re back to eating our food with chopsticks and some of the dishes are very similar. I like Vietnam but I guess the noise is dampening my enthusiasm a little. We had grown accustomed to the quieter nature of Laos. Buses and trucks have the same loud horns here as they do in China, though perhaps with a little more variety and expression. The traffic is enough to freeze you in your tracks. Bob nearly got run down twice trying to cross one street.

We’re adapting though and learning to find alternates to Highway 1A that are a little quieter: the route over Hai Van Pass avoided the 10 kilometer tunnel and offered nice views in spite of the weather.

Mom delivering child to school, Hue style

Mom delivering child to school, Hue style

One Last Pass-It Was Easy And Fun

One Last Pass-It Was Easy And Fun

Gathering Greens For Our Lunch

Gathering Greens For Our Lunch

China Beach Vietnam on a Stormy Day

China Beach Vietnam on a Stormy Day

Figure over the door of the Imperial Inclosure in Hue, Vietnam

Figure at the East gate of the Imperial Enclosure in Hue, Vietnam

Lotus flowers in Hue, Vietnam

Lotus flowers in Hue, Vietnam

Bob: I am of the Vietnam generation. A bleeding ulcer (real) and arthritis (really just gout) kept me from coming here under different circumstances. I was young and patriotic, if conflicted about the war, and would have served if drafted, but didn’t have that choice. Over the years my survivors guilt has grown, as I have met so many veterans damaged mentally, if not physically, by their experience in Vietnam. On our first long tour, around the U.S. we met (camped with often) many Vietnam vets who were homeless. There are still many homeless vets from the American War, as they call it here.

It’s odd to be here on China Beach, where so many of vets came for R&R.  If you plan to return, be aware that the Chinese have bought up most of the land facing the beach, and planning huge high-rise developments, quite different from the mid sized hotels here now, which are probably themselves post war. I’m sure it’s very tame compared to those days. I’d love to see comments from you about your experiences on China Beach.

Dogtags For Sale in Hue

Dogtags For Sale in Hue

For cyclists: I think the Vietnam experience, along the coast, has probably been changed negatively forever by too much exposure to foreign cyclists, mostly on supported tours. Almost every international cycle touring company lists the coast of Vietnam tour. The sheer numbers on busy 1A has led to a certain disdain, and worse, sense of entitlement in the people, particularly the children. For the first time in our 40,000 miles of touring, we have heard, “money, money, money,” on our passing, and outstretched hands from children chanting, “dollar, dollar!” Coming from Laos, where the children were so delightful, this has been hard to take. My advice, go somewhere perhaps more challenging, but where your money is more needed, and you will be welcomed for your person, not your money. If you want to come to Vietnam, spend most of your time in the mountains, where the hill people are more like the Lao.

Zippy on China Beach

Zippy on China Beach

Plowing in the rain

Plowing in the rain

Vietnamese Cemetery, they are everywhere

Vietnamese Cemetery, they are everywhere