We had surely stepped in it now. Going on was not an option. We were wobbly from the epic ride and a diet consisting mainly of Power Bars. The only thing to do was park the bikes and see if we could wake someone up and enlist their pity.
I was sure the locals would think the aliens had landed when they got a look at us. Here were three strange white men, tall by Vietnamese standards, with freaky plastic helmets and overly tight black shorts with ass padding walking around in the middle of the night.
We soon found a couple of Vietnamese men leaning on their scooters and sharing a smoke in the cool night air. They stared at us like we were giant talking rabbits. As I fumbled through the phrase book in the light of my head lamp, my pal Kevin pantomimed ‘sleep’ with his head leaning on praying hands. One of the men seemed to understand. He said something in Vietnamese and gestured for us to wait, then started off on his scooter. We stared dumbly while his buddy muttered in Vietnamese and nodded reassuringly.
After about seven or so awkward minutes, another man appeared from out of the darkness. He looked to be in his forties and said, ‘You need hotel?’ We blurted out ‘Yes!‘ and he went on in limited English to explain there was no hotel but he had a little shop we could stay in for the night, if we were willing to sleep on the floor. With a pen he scratched out the number ‘20,000’ on a scruffy little notebook and pointed at each of us. We rightfully took that to mean 20,000 Vietnamese dong per person—about a dollar each. He could have asked for a million dong per person and we’d have paid it.
Children and war ruins, Quang Tri, Vietnam
His shop was on the main drag, a one-story block and stucco affair with three sides and a gated front. He fumbled with the lock on the gate then rolled it up and flipped a switch. A couple of fluorescent lights flickered to life revealing some small tables, a few potted plants and a desk that signified some kind of business. It hardly mattered as we were about ready to fall on our faces from exhaustion. ‘You sleep here, okay?’ the man said, pointing at the floor. ‘Hell, yes!’ came the answer.
We retrieved our bikes and gear and, in no time, had our Therma-rests and sleeping bags spread out on the concrete floor. Before we could crawl in, the shop owner asked for our passports. I’d seen this in other parts of Asia–insurance against guests skipping out on the bill. We shrugged and handed them over. He folded them into his little notebook and said, ‘Okay..‘ Last thing I remember was him still standing there as my head hit the pillow.