Skip to content
image description
E-bike expedition part 4 Vietnam - Online diary 2016-2017

Ripped off, repair and drive through rice fields

N 22°18'04.5'' E 103°53'41.3''
image description

    08.07.2016 until 11.07.2016

    Day: 377 – 380


    Ta Van

    Latitude N:

    Longitude E:

    Daily kilometers:
    25 km

    Total kilometers:
    17,407 km

    As the crow flies:
    10 km

    Average speed:
    11.6 km/h

    Maximum speed:
    37.4 km/h

    Travel time:
    01:49 hrs.

    Soil condition:
    Asphalt / gravel

    Maximum height:
    1.600 m

    Total altitude meters:
    44.463 m

    Altitude meters for the day:
    670 m

    05:27 pm

    6:52 pm

    Temperature day max:

    Temperature day min:

(Photos of the diary entry can be found at the end of the text).


Kim, the amiable waiter at our hotel, whom we have befriended, takes me on his moped to a small, run-down workshop. “Can you drill two holes in there?” I ask the mechanic. The man looks closely at the brackets that arrived by courier from Germany yesterday and nods confidently. A few weeks ago in China, the bracket to which Tanja’s trailer is attached to the rear of her bike cracked. A helpful and friendly workshop welded the bracket for us quickly and free of charge. To be on the safe side, we had two replacement brackets sent to Sa Pa from Germany, but they had to be modified slightly.

“Sit down,” says the mechanic, pointing to an old plastic chair suitable for small children. The man rummages in a broken wooden box for a few drill bits. “Does the size fit?” I ask, scrutinizing the blunt things. “Perfect fit,” says the head mechanic in broken English and inserts a drill bit into an equally old drill. Kim is now sitting next to me, also on a plastic children’s chair, and smiles at me confidently. “If he drills into the brackets, they’re broken,” I say, while the head mechanic takes the blunt drill out of the machine again after the first failed attempt and uses a self-tapping screw to force the start of a hole into the bracket. Because the tip of the self-tapping screw keeps slipping off, his mechanic colleague rushes over to lock the bracket to the floor with a pair of pliers. I realize that I am here in Southeast Asia and do not expect European standards. I’ve experienced too much for that in the last 25 years of traveling. However, the two of them make such a pathetic impression during the drilling operation that I have serious concerns about my holding angle. “Take it easy Denis. I’m sure they’ll put two decent holes in it,” I reassure myself. Finally, the self-tapping screw has taken hold and penetrates the aluminum until it gives up the ghost after a few millimeters. “Good thing we have time,” I say to Kim, who smiles good-naturedly at me as always. The chief mechanic inserts the blunt drill bit into the machine again and tries to cut a hole in the aluminum. It smokes and fumes, then the drill slips, narrowly missing his helper’s fingernail. A dangerous job, this hole operation. The boss replaces the drill with another, even blunter one. After this does nothing but produce a lot of smoke and an almost glowing aluminum angle, the drill is replaced again. The first hole is in the angle after 15 minutes and the second after 25 minutes. The maltreated part lies steaming on the dirty ground. I wait until it has cooled down and put the screws through to check. “Fits,” I say approvingly. Another 25 minutes later, the second angle is perforated. I happily put the spare parts I need in my trouser pocket. “How much does it cost?” I ask kindly. 50.000 Dong (2,- €). “What? 50,000 dong for four holes?” I ask in surprise. “No sir per hole”, I can’t believe my ears. “What, you’re charging 200,000 dong (€8.16) for four holes?” I ask in horror and am annoyed that I didn’t clarify the price right at the beginning. “Yes, it was a lot of work. It took us a long time.” “Of course it took you a long time with the broken tool. It would probably have been easier to carve the holes by hand than with your blunt drill. I pay you 100,000 dong and you still earn more than most people in industrialized countries in Europe,” I say, although I know that his English is not good enough to understand me. “200,000 dong!” the usurer demands with a friendly smile. Since I don’t want to start a fight in front of my friend Kim, I’m a bit shocked by this outrageous demand and at this point I don’t know what the average Vietnamese earns, I grudgingly unpack the 200,000 dong and hand it to the man. Only later do I find out the extent of this rip-off. The average salary of a Vietnamese is currently around €1,147 per year. That’s €96 per month. Since almost all Vietnamese have to work 7 days a week, that’s €3.19 a day and because 12 to 15 hours a day are not uncommon, around 21 to 26 cents an hour. Even though it took the man just under an hour instead of five minutes to drill four holes, I paid him 2 ½ days’ wages. The equivalent of 30 times what a local would have had to pay. Of course, you can say at this point that you shouldn’t get upset about it, because ultimately it’s not a huge amount. However, it normally takes no longer than 5 minutes to drill 4 holes. Converted, that would be just under €100 per hour. So here in Germany, too, it’s pure usury.

As Kim and I leave the workshop, he shakes his head and apologizes to me. “It’s not your fault,” I say. “We should have asked beforehand. It was my fault,” he replies, somewhat crestfallen. “No, it wasn’t your fault. Because we lived in China for a long time and hadn’t experienced anything like this in the regions we’d traveled to, I wasn’t prepared for what happened in Asia. Don’t worry about it. That was a lesson for me. From now on, I will always check the prices beforehand, wherever I go.”

As I have to install a new, stronger and more professional drawbar mount in our dog trailer, which we also received from Germany, I am now unsure how this should be done. I would prefer to stay away from a garage, of which there are certainly many friendly and honest ones. I would prefer to do the repair myself, but I still need a drill to make the necessary holes.

“Denis, I’ve found a drill!” exclaims Tanja happily as she rushes into the room after walking Ajaci. “What, you found a drill?” I ask in disbelief. I walked past a massage parlor where a man with a drill was fitting lamps. “We urgently need a drill,” I told him and explained what it was for. “Then why don’t you bring your trailer over? I’ll be happy to help you,” he replied.” “Hm, that’s very nice of him. What does he want for it?” I ask. “I don’t think he wants anything. But it’s better if we go there together. Then you can talk to him in person.” 15 minutes later, I’m talking to Thang, the tourist guide and owner of the massage parlor. “Take the drill with you and bring it back tomorrow,” he says. “Oh fantastic. That will help us a lot. What do you get for it?” “For the drill? Nothing. I’ll be happy to lend it to you.” “How different people are,” I say to Tanja and am pleased that Thang more than makes up for his compatriot’s rip-off. Hours later, I have installed the new, solid drawbar bracket, which will certainly never break again.

The next day, I replace the drive sprocket, derailleur sprocket and chain for the second time on this tour. Service work is due every 3,500 km to 4,000 km. Before we continue, we should take a test drive,” I think. “Definitely,” says Tanja, which is why we set off with Ajaci and minimal luggage to inspect the nearby surroundings of Sa Pa with its sometimes magical-looking bright green rice terraces.

“You’ve got a great bike,” says a young man as he rides past Tanja on his moped. Attracted by his open, friendly manner, we quickly strike up a conversation. “I was traveling in Vietnam for a year on my bike myself and got stranded here to earn money for the rest of my trip,” says the Vietnamese man called John. “As a cyclist, you’re always hungry. I would love to invite you for a meal. What do you think? Would you like to come to the guest house where I work?” Tanja and I look at each other briefly. “Why not,” I think, and we follow John. When we arrive at the guest house, which in Vietnam is also known as a homestay (living with a private family), we are welcomed by a few travelers from Italy, Spain, Vietnam and Canada. Each of them cherishes the dream of timeless travel on Mother Earth. When they learn that we have been on the road since 1991, we are, as so often, inundated with questions. Quite unexpectedly, as is not uncommon when traveling, we find ourselves in an extremely pleasant atmosphere and talk about life on the road…

If you would like to find out more about our adventures, you can find our books under this link.

The live coverage is supported by the companies Gesat GmbH: and roda computer GmbH The satellite telephone Explorer 300 from Gesat and the rugged notebook Pegasus RP9 from Roda are the pillars of the transmission.

This site is registered on as a development site.