Sometimes all the running training can pay off in unexpected ways. Last week, I needed it especially when trying to get my Vietnamese motorbike driving license. Driving a motorbike is the easiest way to get around Hanoi, so obviously we need a license to allow us drive. However, getting such a document is not as simple as it initially seems.
First off we had to get our Irish driving licenses translated into Vietnamese. This we did back in Saigon with relative ease. Then we filled in a form and brought it to the Irish Embassy here in Hanoi for signing and stamping. The translation and the form, together with original and copies of our passports and driving license, we brought to a licensing office in downtown Hanoi. However, our application wasn’t right.
But we weren’t too sure why, because the lady at the office didn’t speak English and we don’t yet speak Vietnamese. After many varied arm movements, facial expressions, and gesticulations, we rang our Vietnamese teacher who managed to translate for us over the phone.
She told us that we had brought our application to the driving test centre. But by doing this, we were applying for a brand new license and so would have to sit a driving test in Vietnamese. This we would inevitably fail. What the lady was trying to tell us was that we needed to exchange our Irish licenses instead and so go to a different office.
So in the full heat of another Hanoi summer day, we traipsed our way over to the new address across town. We ended up going to this place three different times in total. First we were told at this second office that we had the wrong form and that we had to fill in the form in Vietnamese. We went away and got the new form filled in properly. We brought this back, but then were told that it was stamped by the wrong agency, that it needed the stamp of the company where we worked as opposed to the Irish Embassy’s. This we brought then back with the right stamp. Then we were told, because the company is a charity, we had to go to a completely different office instead of this one in another different part of town.
Three days had passed since we started the license process. But we couldn’t give up now. We arrive at the new office to be told that we now needed a letter in addition, stating that we wanted a Vietnamese driving license, as well a copy of the company registration. It was now the weekend, so we took a break from running between offices.
Then on Monday, I went back with everything they had requested. Only now, I was told that my photos were too big. I should come back tomorrow with photos of smaller size. I couldn’t face another day of coming into town to deal with this again. But I had no idea where to buy passport photos. I was sent to a pharmacy and a bakery before happening across a small Kodak photo processing shop. After more pidgin Vietnamese / English conversations, they worked out I needed my photo taken. This they emailed to another shop and 30 minutes later, a guy arrives on a motorbike with the photos in hand.
By now it was now 10.20am. The license office closes every day at 10.30 am. There was nothing to do but to sprint the length of the street, dogging motorbikes and rickshaws and pedestrians and cars. At 10.26am, I burst through the doors, dripping in sweat, and hand in all the documentation together with the right size photos. Finally, our applications got accepted.
We will be getting our Vietnamese licenses next week. However, I became so despondent last week about trying to get a license that I went off and bought a normal Trek bicycle instead.
Cycling around town involves less speed and more sweat as opposed to going by motorbike. But it gets me from A to B. And, even better, I don’t need a license to ride it!