Monday, June 9, 2008

Kite Board Box

On my last trip back to the US I decided to take back my kite surfing equipment. The kite itself is pretty small so that wasn't a problem. However, my board is 138cm so it's too long to fit into my large suitcase. I could probably have just carried it on the plane, but that would have been a pain.

I asked around and found out that there is a place that specializes in making boxes for things. These guys have a shop places strategically across from the post office at 53D Nguyen Du Street in District 1.

Having learned the Vietnamese Way, I took my board across town on my motorbike. My first problem was how to carry the darn thing on the bike. I tried putting it between my legs and in front of my chest, but it was too tall and I couldn't see very well to drive. I then decided to put it across the seat and just sit on the board with it sticking out on both sides of the bike. To minimize the protrusions, I tried to angle the board so it was at about 45 degrees rather than 90 degrees from the centerline of the bike. This made me a little lopsided but I eventually made it. I'm sure I was quite a sight driving around with a big yellow kite board sticking out from each side of my motorbike.

As I approached the shop, they immediately recognized a potential customer and waved me in. One of the guys grabbed my board and assessed it. He went back and pulled out two different grades of cardboard. I chose the thicker one for 100,000 VND (about $8). I swear it took him less than 5 minutes to fashion a box. When he was finished, the board slipped into the box without a hitch.

Now I had an even bigger problem of getting home with this even bigger and more awkward load. I couldn't sit on it anymore since it was now a few inches thick. I tried to convince one of the guys to come with me. This is the way a real Vietnamese guy would do it. He would have his friend on the back of the bike holding the thing while he drove. Failing that, the guys decided they could make a harness for me. With some red nylon string, they fashioned a nice little harness around the box with loops for my arms. With their help I slung the box onto my back like a backpack and scooted off down the road.

On the way home a storm was starting to blow in and the winds were picking up. I'm lucky a gust of wind didn't catch me the wrong way and toss me onto the road. In the end, I made it home with no problems.

The box held up well. Except for a little skepticism from the US Customs Officer at SFO, it made it to back to my garage unscathed.

This is another great example of things that just work well in Vietnam. In the US this box would probably have cost me three times as much and taken a day. In Saigon, it was done in 5 minutes for $8. Sweet.