Nhat Ky Xe Day 12: Na Phac -> Nguyen Thai -> Hanoi Approx. 204km
A dream of a day compared to the last! We flew back to Hanoi at full speed on the (comparitively) good roads, stopping in Nguyen Thai (another provincial capitol) for lunch on the way. We had the bikes cleaned about 30km from Hanoi and took stock of how properly we had smashed them up on the trip. I started to get a bad feeling about bringing them back in their current state…
The last 10km’s of the ride was probably packed with more near-death experiences than I’d seen on the rest of the trip. In the city, people drive like lunatics trying to outrun invisible monsters. And then there’s the trucks with horns so bone-shatteringly loud they double as sonic weapons. I soon learned that the only way to stay alive is to drive like everyone else expects you to, which is like a complete psycho.
Somehow we made it back to the Real Darling Cafe on Pho Hang Quat in one piece, the very same spot the journey started.
We had one mission left to complete: returning the bikes. If we hadn’t just taken them on a 2000km demolition-derby joyride through the backroads of northern Vietnam, I’d have no problem bringing them back to the suspicious lady who rented them to us. But it was obvious that these bikes had left Hanoi. Very obvious.
Hanoi has a district for nearly everything, including a large one for motorbike parts and repair. We shopped around and replaced some large plastic parts on the bikes which had cracked for a total of about $10 before we took them back to the rental place. We were terribly nervous and worked out our story carefully before we drove up. When we returned the bikes, she didn’t even look at them for more than a second! She was so eager to collect the payment that she didn’t even bother to start the engines or anything. I found out a bit later that luck was on our side in this case…
Later that evening I was walking down the street and someone grabbed my shoulder from behind. My heart stopped for a moment, but I turned around to see Hiep sitting on his bike. I was actually on my way to call him up and tell him all about the rest of the adventure that we had started with him almost 2 weeks ago. We went to “Bia Hoi Junction” and I recounted the full story. He told me that on the 8th day, when were supposed to have taken the train back from Sa Pa, he went to ask the lady at the rental place if we had returned with the bikes yet. Of course she said no and started to worry about her bikes and asked Hiep all sorts of questions about what we were doing with them. He reassured her that everything was fine, but continued to visit her and ask about us every day. Just a few hours earlier that day he had an argument with her in the street and told her not to worry, we would be back soon and everything will be OK. She calmed down a little after her rant, and then we showed up not 30 minutes later with her bikes!
Thus ends the Nhat Ky Xe, on my 63rd day in Vietnam. Which means my visa had expired.
The next day I booked a cheap flight from Hanoi to Bangkok for the following day. I wrapped things up in Vietnam, said goodbye to Michael and Hiep and went to the airport with my fingers crossed.
After some confusing (and sometimes really funny) run-around I ended up in the office of the airport immigration police, explaining why I had overstayed my second 30-day tourist visa. I gave them an abridged (and slightly embelished) version of the great adventure across the north, making sure to throw in a couple Vietnamese phrases, which they loved. They let me get away with a reduced fine ($20) and sent me off to Thailand with a pat on the back…