No License Plate, No Worries!
A few days back, while sweating through my clothes on a Thai public bus, I found myself reminiscing about my old motorcycle in Vietnam, and thinking back on the good and the bad things that made the motorcycle ride from Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi such an adventure. Naturally, the good far outweighs the bad, but today I thought I would write about one of the more troubling aspects of the trip: bike repairs. Specifically, I wanted to talk about a tough position I found myself in, which I couldn’t find any advice for online. I hope this post can serve to be of assistance to people who are in a similar position as I was.
Here is how it went down:
After reaching Hanoi from Ho Chi Minh we decided to continue our trip by taking the motorcycles around the North of Vietnam on what is referred to as the Northern loop. This leg of the trip takes you to some pretty remote areas, and with that comes some pretty sketchy roads. Now these Honda Wins are warriors, but even they tend to struggle on these rock strewn and potholed trails.
After one such stretch of road near Cao Bang colloquially referred to as a “shortcut”, AJ, Alex, and I had made it back onto the paved highway, and were headed back to town when I heard Alex honking his horn repeatedly. In our complex biker code, this means pull the f over! As soon as the 3 of us pulled off to the shoulder, Alex got off his bike and walked up to me and said “Dude, your license plate is gone!”. Sure enough, I went around to the back of my bike, and where the license plate should have been were 2 small holes where the nuts and bolts securing the plate had fallen off. With the sun setting and a gruelling day on the bikes behind us, we decided to continue back to Cao Bang and look for the license plate the next day.
Long story short, I never found my license plate, and this left me in an odd predicament. Firstly, as is the case with anywhere I imagine, driving without a license plate is illegal and can land you in trouble with the law, or at least can ensure you will be paying the officer a nice bonus. Secondly, getting a license plate made for you under the table in Vietnam (or anywhere for that matter) is a sketchy business, which means it is both expensive and hard to find someone who is willing to do it. The last issue, is that to sell the bike at the end of your trip, you obviously need a license plate on there that matches the registration card for someone to buy it. So what can you do?
The way I got around this problem was a classic example of statistics: if you ask enough mechanics, one will eventually say yes. Now I’m no Euclid, and I got a B- in statistics, but this method worked for me, and as far as I can see it is the easiest way to do it. This is even more true if you are in a big city, where there will be hundreds of mechanics. In total I paid 400,000 dong (about $20) for the job.
Once I found the mechanic in Hanoi, I showed him my registration with the license plate number on it, gave him a 200,000 dong deposit, and was told to come back that night. when I came back there it was, a brand new license plate on my beautiful bike. I paid the mechanic the other 200,000 Dong, and then I was off.
Note: Do not give the mechanic your registration card and leave or else you might never get the card or your bike back.
If you are reading this I hope you found it helpful and informative, or entertaining at the least. Leave a question in the comments if you have one and I’ll do my best to answer it!
Thanks for stopping by everybody,