Bike, thy name is FLEXIBILITY and ACCESS.

After months of putting it off, it dawned on me at the goat restaurant that I just can’t NOT have a motorbike anymore. Getting around is easy without one, but the expenses add up – 2 bucks here, 7 bucks there, a taxi to far off locations, xe oms wherever and whenever you need them… And the hassle of haggling is something that I never look forward to (although I’ve gotten better at it. A little).

Initially, I’d been waiting (and waiting… and waiting… and waiting… UPDATE: …still waiting…) to hear from my company about what public school I’d be in before I invested in either a motorbike, if it was far away, or a bicycle, if it was close by. Because I plan to be here more than 10 months, a rented bike would be more expensive than purchasing the same bike outright, and I wanted to wait and make the choice.

Well, I’m fed up with that. I’ve decided to rent for a month or two and then make another decision when it comes time to renew my lease or move. (NOTE: I should add that I made the choice to rent thinking I had another 3 weeks before my full-time public school job started… and then the very next day I found that I’d be starting NEXT WEEK. UGH WHATEVER.) That’s how I ended up with this sexy, sexy beast. Before long I’ll no doubt purchase one of my own, but for the meantime, as I learn how to ride in traffic and how to get around HCMC, this will do quite nicely.

He’s a little dirty, but I’m not paying
for a wash. Sorry, Stormo.

It’s a Yamaha Nouvo, the same model that I learned to ride on in Da Lat (post forthcoming!). It’s automatic, has decent great pick-up, and I’m maybe a little in love with it. Also, it costs $5 USD to fill up. Awesome.

For those of you unaccustomed to the majesty of the motorbike, let me give you a quick rundown of general points I’ve discovered:

There’s a compartment inside the seat to hold stuff – maybe about the volume of 35-40 regular sized tamales. The center of gravity is surprisingly low to the ground, but to stop and go around turns it sometimes helps to stick out your legs and kind of trail them on the ground. Accelerate around corners when you can, contrary to your instinct to slow down! In heavy traffic I go between 15-30 kph, but when the roads are clear and the lights cooperate I can get up to 30-50 kph for stretches at a time. It’s got an obnoxious little horn (seemingly the same one every single other bike on the road has… ahh, the music of the city).

LOVE.

Getting it up the ramp into my house was really hard the first time, so much so that the neighbor (the same one I talked to last month) offered to help me out. Since then I’ve gotten much better at it – at least he didn’t need to help me again! After Tâm and I picked it up several districts away, I successfully made it back to my house alone, in the rain and at night. I was pretty proud!

I also bought my very own helmet. It’s thick, sturdy, and pretty solid. I have big artistic plans for this bad boy (hint: notice the colors…). Now I just have to find some metallic silver and red paint for sale.

And lastly, its name is not actually Flexibility and Access. Its name is Stormo.

UPDATE: I also fell off my motorbike in the rain (trying to turn) for the first time Thursday, and also almost got hit by a taxi for the first time! I’M OK. Just a few little bloody scrapes, and a bruised ego. And now I know how to ride in the rain. I almost never get tired of the fact that every single thing is a new learning experience here.