Wednesday, March 28, 2007

somewhere on a desert highway...


It wasn't a Harley Davidson, but the price we paid for our splendid isolation in Phu Quoc was having to rent a motorcycle in order to get into town or do any exploring of the island. Now, I have always always always absolutely hated motorcycles...I hate the ear-shattering roar they make, I hate the smell of their fumes, and most of all I find the thought of driving one utterly terrifying. I don't just mean nervous--I'm talking mind-numbing panic (and anyone who knows just how incompetant I am when it comes to operating motorized vehicles of any kind will admit that my fear is somewhat reasonable). On top of that, we were on a tiny, isolated island with pitted, twisty dirt roads and no access to medical care in a third world country where we couldn't speak the language. Oh yeah, and we didn't know how to drive motorcycles. It seemed like a no brainer: stay on the beautiful, solitary beach and stay far away from the motorcycles. Unfortunately, Will didn't seem to agree with my reasoning...and it didn't seem fair to veto the only thing he said he wanted to do (Phu Quoc was my ideal vacation much more than it was his). I tried my best to suck it up and be a good sport (although I did ride on the back of Will's motorcycle instead of getting one of my own) and was determined not to be annoying or yelp, and all in all I think I did a pretty good job (especially during the night riding, where I was a total Positive Papa). It took a while for me to get comfortable, because as I gained confidence, so did Will--which meant he started driving the motorcycle faster and less cautiously. He also picked up the pace whenever we were passed by other motorcycles...I guess he felt embarrassed by our faltering, foreigner pace (although, since it was his first time, and he had to navigate over large rocks and holes and strange, makeshift wooden bridges, he really shouldn't have felt embarrassed at all). This was too bad, not because of the scariness, which I got pretty much used to, but because it made it harder to look around and almost impossible to take pictures from the back of the motorcycle (this was pretty dangerous because I needed both hands to operate my camera and I had to lean back and to the side to take pictures...meaning I was off balance and completely unattached to the moving vehicle...but there was so much to look at that I tried anyway). We rode all through the town, just looking, and stopped at the harbor to look at the brightly painted, marigold-decorated fishing boats and to climb up some rocks to a lighthouse/tower-y thing that looked out over the whole of Long Beach, where we were staying (the picture I'm in the forefront of). We went out to dinner at a place other than the open air restaurant at our bungalows (an open air restaurant at another hotel, but still). This place was in the middle of the line of resorts and hotels and bungalows at the top of Long Beach, and even though it was more expensive than our place, I am beyond glad we didn't go there. It was a great place to have dinner though...we were up high on a deck and could look out over the water to watch the sunset...but we failed to give any thought to what would happen after our meal, when it was dark out and we were stranded far from our sweet little bungalow. For a while, we couldn't get the motorcycle's headlight to turn on, but quickly established that it wasn't broken---it just only went on when the motorcycle was actually accelerating (this made the huge rocky downhill somewhat of a ride of terror). We made it home almost without incident, but as we turned onto the narrow, sandy track that led to our bungalows, we hit a deep patch of sand and fell. This would not have been that big of a deal except for the fact that we were on a thin raised path running through an extremely muddy ditch full of extremely muddy ducks. I had laughed about the ducks and their muddiness and bird flu and such earlier in the day, so jinx-ically speaking, I totally deserved to fall in the mud with the ducks. Luckily, knowing this, I clung so hard to the falling motorcycle that I only scraped myself and burned my foot. And after a few minutes of non-starting stress, the motorcycle worked again, so everything turned out just fine.


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