I’ve been driving around Saigon on my late Uncle’s old bike for about a month now, so it was due for an oil change and a wash. My mom taught me that it is important to support the local businesses where you live so that they will in return reinvest in the community and help maintain the prosperity of the area. Taking my mom’s advice, I decided to go to the little mechanic shop at the end of the street where my Aunt and I live.
I’ve seen a sign advertising oil changes (thay nhot) and motorbike washes (rua xe) at Hoang Spacy (how did they come up with that name?), for awhile and thought it would be a convenient place to take my bike every month to get the oil changed. I was quoted 70,000 Dong (about $3.80) for an oil change….I don’t know if this is cheap or expensive for Saigon since this was my first time doing this…but I suspect that I always end up paying a bit more for everything in Vietnam vs the locals (see “Helmet-napped!“). I also requested a bike wash and was told it would be 100,000 Dong ($5.40) for both the wash and the oil change. I knew that 30,000 Dong was way overpriced for a bike wash…..the big gas station down the street does it for 10,000 Dong….but since I was already here I went ahead and agreed to it.
It only took about 10 minutes for the mechanic to drain and replace my oil, and he told me it would be only a little bit longer to get my bike washed. I waited for 20 more minutes in the hot afternoon sun and my bike was still just sitting there…..there were 2-3 guys standing around doing nothing during that time. I wasn’t too happy with the service so I paid my 70,000 Dong and went to get my bike washed at the gas station.
The people at the gas station at the corner of Ly Thai To and Le Hong Phong do a great job with the wash. They really scrub down the bike well and then they use a small tube to spray air into the crevices of the bike to help dry it out. It was 10,000 Dong like the last time….I gave him 20,000 Dong for doing such a good job…..still 10,000 Dong cheaper than Hoang Spacy even with the 100% tip.
I knew I also needed to get the air pressure in my tires checked so I went to find one of those portable air compressors you see at every street corner. The people that own these compressors not only fill up flat tires, but they usually have a kit to mend or replace burst tires. The problem was not finding one of these air compressors….it’s that they are usually located on steep curbs on the sidewalk which themselves are not very wide.
With a month of bike riding experience under my belt I am pretty confident about navigating through pretty much any traffic conditions in Saigon…but I still dread it when I have to park or pull up onto a curb. You usually don’t have much room to maneuver because the sidewalks are small….not to mention stuff like the food carts or tables and chairs from restaurants that take up so much of the available space. I’m always afraid that if I don’t give enough gas to my bike….I will end up stalling halfway up the curb, and then falling back and crashing into the street traffic….or if I give too much gas I’m going to end up crashing into a storefront. So I drove around for 15 minutes trying to find an air compressor station in a location that wasn’t so cramped. I finally found a old man that was inflating tires just right off the curb on Hung Vuong street. It was perfect! I didn’t have to drive onto the sidewalk at all. Cost to inflate my tires….3000 Dong (about 15 cents)….I gave him 10,000 Dong because he was an old man….and because he saved me from potentially making a fool out of myself.
Total cost for everything was 100,000 Dong. Jiffy Lube takes me for almost $40 every time I get an oil change in The States…..and that doesn’t even include a car wash.
BTW…I’m looking for a good boxing/kickboxing/jiu-jitsu school in Saigon….preferably near District 10. I was excited when I saw a Jiu-Jitsu school near where I live on Thanh Thai….but I went in today and checked it out and it looked awful. The students had bad form….and I didn’t see any kind of sparring sessions. I would like to find a school that offers full-contact or at least moderate contact sparring….it’s too boring otherwise. So if anyone knows a place please send me an email via the contact form on the front page. Thanks.