“The Beast,” our old Chinese motorbike, has seen its better days. It would sit in the little shed we had made to cover it for weeks before I would use it. When I did need to ride it, it would be really difficult to get it started. This is because the added dyes to the gasoline in Laos would settle in the carburetor, gumming it up. If I rode “the Beast” every day, it probably wouldn’t be as much of a problem, but I don’t.
You may remember that we named it “the Beast” because the odometer was stuck on 666, and somehow it lived up to its name. I had to buy inner tubes for the tires in bulk because these Chinese ones often broke at the stem. I pushed this beast to the repairman about a quarter of the time that I actually rode it! On top of these problems, Donna had knee pain when she rode on the back if we went somewhere. This was no good!
Recently the islands have been getting new cement roads. Don Khone is finished, and Don Det is well underway. With these new roads, electric scooters have been introduced to the islands. Not the standing type, but like little bikes. They are silent and creep up on you, so you must be careful when walking around. While up in Pakse, we saw a three-wheeler electric scooter, and Donna began to dream of getting one for us to replace “the Beast.” We couldn’t find where they were sold in Pakse, so we searched online. Alibaba has many, but how would we get it here from China, and what would the import taxes be like?
During our recent trip to Pakse to see Hap off and to meet up with Nick, we were told that the New Market might have some electric three-wheelers, so we went in search. Nick had some experience with electric bikes and helped us check them out. We saw a few at one shop, but they were a little pricey compared to what we had seen on Alibaba. We found an E-bike store with lots of two-wheeler scooters and one three-wheeler. The price was right, and after many questions and mulling, we decided this was the one. But how to get it to the island?
We called our transport friends, who told us to take it to the South bus station and put it on a songtaew, a local bus. The dealer assured us they would transport it to the bus station on the day we agreed to return to the island. I would accompany the scooter while Donna returned in a VIP van.
Where is it?
The morning of departure, I left Donna at the hotel with our cases and coolers while I went to the South bus station with eight boxes of goods we had bought while shopping. The 9 o’clock songtaew to Nakasang was perfect! It was a larger one with a big space for the three-wheeler. Now if the three-wheeler would get here on time. I called the store, no answer. I called again. This time the sales girl answered, assuring me it would be there soon. Half an hour passed, and it had not arrived, so I called again, handing the phone to the driver who told her that if it didn’t get there by 9 am, he would have to meet them on the side of the road outside of the station.
The songtaew pulled out of the station on time, allowing the next songtaew to prepare for the next group of passengers. I stood on the back nervously awaiting the arrival of our three-wheeler as we pulled to the side of the road to wait. Before too long, I could see one of the salespeople on the scooter slowly driving up the road. I thought they would bring it on a truck instead of driving it the five-plus kilometers to the bus station. We whistled, getting their attention, and soon we lifted the scooter into the songtaew. The songtaew helper tied it down, securing it with rope. I sat down in the seat, and off we went! It was the most comfortable seat on the songtaew!
Hey, You Can’t Sit There
Shortly into the ride, the helper indicated I should sit on the bench like everyone else. He might have been concerned for the security of the unit. I sat next to a couple of nice Israeli girls, and the helper sat in the comfy seat of the scooter! I thought, ‘Really?’ He was much smaller than me and even held himself off the scooter, suspending from the songtaew roof’s frame when we went over big bumps.
About one hour into the three-hour ride back to the islands, we stopped to let someone off. The helper got up from the scooter’s seat to unload a sack full of coconuts, and another larger Lao boy slid into the seat. Neither the helper nor I said anything until we hit a big bump, and the boy started bouncing heavily on the seat. I told him to get up. He looked at me like I was crazy to tell him to leave the seat. “Get off, now!” I said and motioned strongly. He then, begrudgingly, got up.
One boy had been looking over the scooter and the key fob with three buttons dangling from the ignition. His curiosity was just too strong. He had to push the buttons, one of which set off the alarm. WEEE WEE WEE! Pushing the buttons madly, I tried to figure out how to stop it. WEEE WEE WEE! All the passengers crammed in the back of the songtaew turned to look at me as I tried vainly to stop the blaring alarm! WEEE WEE WEE, DEE DOO DEE DOO DEE DOO! I pointed at the culprit, “He did this!” One of the Israeli girls said, “Turn the key on and off. That should stop it.” It did.
Finally, we arrived in Nakasang, our port city. We unloaded the scooter, and I drove it to the boat ticket office, where Donna was waiting. I got Donna, our bags, and boxes of purchased items loaded onto one of the boats that shuttle tourists to the islands. I then drove the scooter to a catamaran shuttle that took me to Don Det.
As I drove from the head of the island down to the tail of the island where we live, the sight of this scooter turned many heads. This is the first three-wheeled scooter on the islands and will give Donna the freedom to get around and in comfort! Of course, I’m enjoying it too!