Post 264: Asian Preparations
We’re one week into 2010 and for the last five days, the Tiger hasn’t moved an inch. The main roads are clear of snow, but getting to them on a bike like the Tiger just isn‘t going to happen. OK, it's probably got a lot more to do with me being a knob than the Tiger being unsuitable, but even if I did have the balls to ride it in the snow, those balls would be resting a few inches higher if I ever had to pick it up after a fall. Even if I was brave enough to do it, I’m no longer a fan of riding in crappy weather and to be honest, I’ve given up any thoughts of being back on 2-wheels until I’m out in SE Asia.
I’ve managed to track down a selection of previously enjoyed Minsk’s in Hanoi’s Old Quarter and so getting hold of one shouldn’t be too much of a problem. I’ll probably end up paying around £250.00 for a working example with official papers, which sounds like a bit of a bargain. However, at around 7,500,000 VND (seven and a half milion Vietnamese Dong) it really sounds quite expensive. At least when I arrive in Vietnam, I'll feel like a millionaire for a few days. After the journey, if I sell the Minsk in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) rather than Hanoi, then I’ll get most of my money back, probably in a wheelbarrow. It’s a question of ’Supply and Demand’. Most of the Minsk’s are located in the North, but the people in the South are developing a taste for something that’s a little bit different to the break-back Honda’s and Yamaha Fino’s that they usually ride. On the other hand, I could always try and ride the Minsk back to Blighty?
In terms of preparation, my body and mind are still a few weeks behind the paperwork, but I’m doing my best to catch up. It’ not easy, but I’ve set myself a gruelling regime of physical and mental exercises. Physically, on January 1st I stopped drinking my usual pints of beer and to be honest, it hasn’t been as difficult as I’d imagined. In the more remote parts of SE Asia, draught beer is quite scarce and to account for this, I’ve had to acclimatise to drinking my beer from bottles. Bottles tend to be smaller and while making double the number of visits to the bar is really quite tedious, the extra exercise avoids any real need to start jogging.
In order to train my mind, I’m doing all of the obvious things like refusing to do anything on-time and asking for discounts in the supermarket. No success in Tesco yet, but I’m working on my technique. When I go to the Post Office or Bank and they ask me "What can we help you with today?", my new response is "Up to you". This seems to confuse the crap out of them, but if anybody has ever spent more than a few weeks in SE Asia, then they’ll know exactly why I‘m doing it. Logic stands on it’s head and there’s absolutely no point in fighting against it. I’ve just got to get used to going with the flow … ’mai pen rai’.
On the Vietnamese Embassy website, it states that as the price of visas is constantly changing, I should telephone the Embassy for the current visa price before writing the cheque and mailing my application. When telephoning the Vietnamese Embassy, they of course refer me back to the website. In the end, I might have to drag the Tiger from it's snowy nest and ride into London rather than just using the mail. It's a not so merry merry-go-round but it's probably just a sign of things to come ... 'mai pen rai'.
Talking about the Post Office, or more precisely ’Royal Mail’, why is it that Estate Agents and Fitness Centres can slide massive brochures effortlessly through my letterbox, but if it’s anything larger than a postcard, the Royal Mail claim that it’s oversized and ask me to collect it from the bloody Post Office? Continuing with this little rant, ‘Parcel Force’ really ought to change their name to ‘Postcard Farce‘. I’m beginning to think that they don’t really deliver parcels. They probably don't even have any delivery vans, just an army of kid’s who ride around on bicycles silently delivering ’Sorry you were out’ cards while you're obviously 'In'. I’ve never spent as much time in the Post Office as I have done in the past two weeks. Unfortunately, my local Post Office isn’t quite as ‘local’ as it used to be and it’s quite a long walk to get there. This is probably quite good for my fitness regime, but while waiting in the inevitable queues, I’ve learned far more than I’ll ever need to know about Winter Fuel Payments, WRVS Menus and Bunions. If the Post Office employed a loyalty card system then I’d be swimming in an ocean of points. But they don’t, ...... so I’m not .... 'mai pen rai'