The next day we found a small restaurant near the Ho Hoan Kiem lake and had breakfast and spoke about the bike idea. Liam was trying to reassure and convince me to do it but I was worried about being stopped by the police or having a serious accident. Liam was conflicted by my reasons, it was illegal after all. To have a bike in Vietnam you have to have a 3 month visa (we didn't), a place of residency (we didn't), the bike has to be in your name (this costs a lot it its second hand plus we couldn't afford a brand new bike) and you have to take a theory and practical test. It was beginning to look like a bad idea so we looked into purchasing an open bus pass ticket and travel along the coast which is the main tourist route. This price seemed good and stopped at most of the attractions, but...it was the boring option! Liam was so keen to do the motorbiking, despite the risks and the cost of the bus ticket was roughly the same as buying a bike, which when we sold in Ho Chi Minh would mean only paying for fuel would be the main thing, which is dirt cheap.
Hanoi has a lot to offer both interesting and not so interesting. First we explored the famous prison where John McCains flight suit is displayed. It wasn't what we thought it was going to be like. It was more of a prison for women, but it was very interesting. The flight suit was hung in a sealed glass cabinet. Apparently John McCain wants it back but the Vietnamese government won't give it back. The prison was full of various war artefacts and the way everything was written about showed a very different pictures fro the Americans point of view who say they were subjected to torture most of the time, whereas the prison showed films of the Americans laughing and playing games and joking with the prison guards. Apparently they were forces to do all this for the cameras.
With the bike idea still unresolved, we decided to rent a scooter to see if we could get the hang of it. Liam rode to a quiet part of the city, with me clinging on for dear life and then I had a go. I had never ridden a bike before so was a little reluctant but after getting used to the throttle, before I knew it I was zipping up and down the street. It was lots of fun and we explored lots of the city and it was great to have the freedom to go whoever we chose. So by the end of the day, we knew we were going to get bikes!
Next mission was to try a manual bike rather than a scooter, we contacted a few people on the Lonely Planet Thorntree website and met a guy who had a Honda Win 110CC. Liam thought it was awesome and was keen to buy it but he wanted $350 which was a bit much considering the key ignition was broken, none of the lights worked and the horn was broken, plus he'd lost the original blue registration form (which you have to have). To start the bike you had to push it for a few meters then jump on and try and kick start it. It didn't work every time and Liam was getting rather exhausted. The guy selling it tried to reassure Liam that it hadn't let him down the whole journey from the south and that it had just been serviced and that today was the first time it had played up. Funny that. He then tried to explain that you didn't need working lights as you wouldn't be driving at night but Liam was losing interest. I tried riding it but couldn't get used to the clutch and gear change and new I would need more than an afternoon to practice. We went to see another bike, a Honda Win 100cc and Liam knew straight away that he wanted it and it was so much better than the last one. Not as powerful but in better condition. The couple who were selling it had ridden together and were really lovely and helpful. Liam bought it for $250 and they gave us lots of great advice about routes to take and lots of things to see. The main advice about the police was, if you get stopped they'll usually just ask for money, better still is to never stop for police! We must be crazy because even though it's completely illegal and our insurance is completely void because of this we still bough bikes. Now it was just my turn to find a bike!