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Old 09-24-2012, 04:56 AM   #1
roly1 OP
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Talking A lot of Vietnam

My favourite from Vietnam, the road to Dalat

Hello Adventure Rider forums, l've just joined and wanted to share a ride I undertook in Vietnam, as a repost of an old blog entry.

Altogether it was a month long motorbike tour of Vietnam, four days warm up across the Northwest with a guide, the rest solo from Hanoi to Saigon. I've skipped the bit with a guide here, compared to many posters on this forum my trip is already 'cute' enough. I had no Lonely Planet Guide, no GPS, just a map (one of those paper things you fold up) and a route in my head.

I hope that this is the first of many motorbike adventures I can undertake. I also hope that people considering similar adventures find useful information here and to that end I have been as honest as possible without being rude. My only distraction from riding was recording sound effects to a portable digital recorder, from which I managed to get lots of great material. I didn’t ride across Vietnam so I could write a blog about it, or find myself, or take nice photos, or learn about a foreign culture, or relax from work or broaden my horizons,* I just went for an adventure.

There are a hundred stories I don't have room for, but hopefully theres enough here for interest :)

So -

Hanoi to Ninh Binh - breaking in

Lunch stop near Ninh Binh, Vietnam

At 8am I picked up my bike, a 250cc Yamaha Raid trailie with knobbly tires, from Voyage Vietnam in central Hanoi, and jostled my way through dense scooter traffic in first gear on the clutch. Owing to a strange combination of a semi- ring road and selectively motorcycle prohibitive routes, within an hour I was completely lost, a fantastic start. On two separate occasions people sent me in the exact opposite direction to my intended destination. In fact, despite meaning well, roughly half the people I asked for directions in Vietnam got it wrong, a good lesson to learn early then.

I used the location of the sun, instinct and luck to find the road to Ninh Binh, which was chock full of heavy vehicles spilling construction materials over the road, belching black fumes into my face and generally driving like assholes. I saw a man lying on the floor with his leg bent the wrong way, blood staining his trousers, a group of people arguing and pullling around his broken scooter. Lunch was wet noodles with beef at a roadside shack.
Being full of good old English bravery and spunk I had ridden into the overcast, muggy weather in a t-shirt with no sun cream. Error. My arms were radioactive for a week after. From then on I rode in my hoodie with sun cream on hands and neck.
I stayed in the Kie Anh hotel on the main road, which is near some decent places to eat local food and is not a bad place for 10 dollars.

Ninh Binh to Cua Lo - to the sea!

Fun locals on the road to Cua Lo, Vietnam

The roads were shocking today, for four hours I had to battle for road position with endless lorries, huge bullying coaches, suicidal scooter riders, constantly changing road surfaces, ever fluctuating road widths, pot holes and a spot of rain.
I stopped for a wee at one point, and when I came back to my bike a group of rascals were all over it, nice lads though.

Mid morning I had a small minor crash with a guy riding a scooter heavily laden with cages and bags full of bananas. As many Vietnamese do (even with their wife and two kids hanging on the back) he pulled straight out into the road without glancing at the traffic that could kill him, narrowly avoiding death by coach. He then proceded to drift left across two lanes of fast traffic, then looked over his shoulder, saw me, was apparently transfixed by my radiance and was unable to stop turning. I tried to swerve left but decided I should straighten up and just ride through the bugger. After a loud bang and a girly scream he ended up sprawled across the road covered in bananas with his scooter on top of his legs. I stopped, turned around, and rode over to see if he was ok. He limped up, recovered some bananas and headed off looking pretty broken. I had ripped open my hoodie, bruised the right of my stomach and gained two thin gashes in my knee and forearm.

The beach at Cua Lo, Vietnam

Once on the smooth open coastal road to Cua Lo I opened the throttle and had some fun. Cua Lo is a popular destination for Vietnamese holiday makers, although it was definitely low season when I visited. I saw no foriegners there at all, which made me a prime target for people to have their photo taken with me. A group of 6 screaming teenage girls caught me and took it in turns to have their photo taken with me, grabbing onto my top so I couldn’t escape. As soon as I got my camera out they ran, a common phenomenon I found in Vietnam – fear of a foriegners camera…

Seafood feast at Cua Lo, Vietnam

Once at the Viet Anh hotel I went for a seafood feast by the beach which was heaven - a hard days ride then an early munch on top grub with the ocean wind clearing my head. I then met these mental chaps who got me as drunk as them. Lovely guys, great evening. (Compared favorably to my evenings in the Western tourist town of Mui Ne later in my trip).

Local lads at Cua Lo beach, Vietnam

I walked the beach in late evening until it was dark. The next day I walked the coastline for miles, often a holiday making girl would come over so her boyfriend could take a photo of us. I got to put my arm around some very beautiful girls. For lunch I ate some salty poppadoms with peanuts and syrup on. In the early evening a strange dense fog came in.

Cua Lo harbour, Vietnam

Evening on the beach at Cua Lo, Vietnam

roly1 screwed with this post 10-20-2013 at 11:19 AM Reason: changed browser so i could actually format the post!
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Old 09-25-2012, 04:00 AM   #2
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Nice

Good stuff. It reads well. I'd recommend reposting the content here (leave off the guided tour post) and make the pictures larger
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Old 09-26-2012, 08:19 AM   #3
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Day 5

Houng Khe to Dong Hoi – Sehr Gut

Across the plains, road to Dong Hoi, Vietnam

Weird church, Vietnam

Karma gave me a slab of ‘good’ after a rough night. There was incredible riding all day, first around lush green rice paddies with misty mountains in the distance, then into those mountains on winding steep roads. There was hardly anyone else on the road. It was certainly the best day so far and I couldn’t stop smiling.

In the misty mountains, road to Dong Hoi, Vietnam

Crackers for slags -
Bacardi Breezer ripoff, crackers for slags

Phong Nha valley, Vietnam

Mid afternoon rain and grey sky couldn’t dampen my spirits (did I mention I'm English) but I decided to skip exploring Phong Nha park, and so went straight to Dong Hoi. I pulled up to the cheap and decent Thien Long hotel where the manager and his wife speak seemingly good German. Riding around town for a while I found what I think is the only proper restaurant in Dong Hoi, near the tallest building there, Sacombank, and had some lovely cheap munch. So much fresh food so cheap in Vietnam, at EVERY place I ate, (even better than my experience of Shanghai).

Grub in Dong Hoi, Vietnam

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Old 09-26-2012, 08:03 AM   #4
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Laugh day 4

Cua Lo to Houng Khe – Westwards into the Jungle

Road to Houng Khe, Vietnam

Leaving early without breaky I was starving by noon. I had already passed through a big town, Vinh, and could not see any decent looking shacks for grub. I had to settle for a horrible little dark, damp shack. The people were very nice to me but the place seemed to breath disease. Despite leaving half of my noodles and beef I felt very ill after (the only time on the whole trip, and after living in Shanghai eating street food for nearly a year!)

Truck fail, Vietnam

Luckily the riding from then on was great, only light traffic and beautiful countryside. I saw a truck upended in the road, completely stuck, some locals laughed when I got the camera out.

Don Loc intersection, Vietnam

I rode to the Don Loc intersection then on to Houng Khe town. The only hotel in town was fairly terrible, but cheap. Upon entering I found 2 big cockroaches in my room, and a giant centipede in the tiolet. At least the shower was hot. 
I went to the town centre for a snack, my stomach still hurting, so I sat by a lake and ate 2 big bags of crisps. I had some fun with the locals who all kept measuring their height against me.

Back at the hotel I got myself moved to a VIP room on the top floor after showing off my captured cockroaches and a flooded bathroom. The new room seemed nicer, but there was plenty of company in the ceiling, with rats scurrying and bumping around constantly. At 2am a storm kicked off, and apparently tore a hole in the roof, making a terrible noise through which it was impossible to sleep. I didn’t pay any money to stay at that particular abode.

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Old 09-26-2012, 08:23 AM   #5
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what the fudge

more coming soon :)

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Old 09-27-2012, 02:38 AM   #6
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$ ?

How much was the rental price for the motorbike?
Great post.
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Old 09-27-2012, 12:20 PM   #7
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Talking bike rental

Quote:
Originally Posted by atravlr View Post
How much was the rental price for the motorbike?
Great post.
I believe it was around $25 or $30 a day, + $2 for a helmet from Voyage Vietnam.
http://www.voyagevietnam.net/eng/7.php
I was supposed to get Honda Baja, but got a Yamaha Raid instead, think there was a problem with the Baja they had set aside for me.

I rode off road and motocross for only 2 years before quitting to fund University, that was 9 years ago, so my experience with bikes is relatively limited in the company of these forums at least. However, the Raid seemed a solid ride, no issues at all, nice and zippy.
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Old 09-27-2012, 03:50 AM   #8
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Old 09-27-2012, 12:46 PM   #9
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Subscribing to this one for sure. ;)
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Old 09-27-2012, 12:57 PM   #10
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Good RR

So many times I've wondered what certain parts of this country looked like so it's really interesting for me to see some of it. Thanks for taking the time to bring joy to others......

Gary "Oldone"

Grampa’s Lake Superior Ride
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Old 09-27-2012, 01:58 PM   #11
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A lot of Vietnam



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Old 09-29-2012, 01:31 AM   #12
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Talking Day 6

Day 6 – Dong Hoi to Hue (the hard way)

I will never forget this day, bit of an epic.

After a roadside baguette, I first rode South to Dong Ha on standard crazy roads with big trucks, wobbly mopeds and murderous tour buses.

Brunch with the locals near Hien Long, Vietnam

Then I headed out West past Camp Carrol, then Hien Long bridge where I had a snack of sesame and syrup cakes, coffee and 2 bottles of Huda beer with some lovely local blokes who insisted on photos.

In spitting rain I continued West, towards the Laos border where I was chased around by two huge dogs. Then I headed back to Khe Sanh to take tourist photos of memorials.

Road to Khe Sanh, Vietnam

At least is has Sky TV -

Humble riverside home, Vietnam

I crossed a bridge onto the HCM trail again, bound for Alouri, where I would then head East for Hue. Although immesnse fun and extremely challenging and rewarding to ride, the road was slow going. It started getting dark long before I got to Alouri.

Road to Alouri 1, Vietnam

Road to Alouri 2, Vietnam

The rain was steady and riding through clouds and the humidty of the dense jungle just got me soaked. I felt great, I was well out of my comfort zone, a long way from home up on mountains in a jungle with a motorbike, completely knackered with a long way to go. I did not see people for hours, and I knew I could be in trouble. I couldn’t give a dam either.

Road to Alouri 3, Vietnam

After manically beeping through a herd of buffalo I found the road out of Alouri towards the coast. The surface was one of the worst I had seen, which is saying something, the daylight was very nearly gone, it was getting cold. It looked bad. I stopped to gather my energy at the top a steep descent -

Out of Alouri towards Hue, Vietnam

It got a lot worse before it got better as construction across the hillsides had turned the roads to mud and caused huge landslides. Large vehicles had created ruts deep enough to swallow my wheels and the rain was creating rivers across the roads. Add potholes, fallen branches and bowling ball sized wayward rocks.

Arms, back and bum aching, as the road descended further into chaos I shouted at myself ‘you are f*cking up for it!’ repeatedly. As if waiting for some hideously cruel cue, no sooner had I finished boosting my resolve than the heavens truly opened and I found out just how heavy rain can be. It seemed the hillsides were shifting -

Mudslide fail, Vietnam

Riding through the pitch black, villages were sparse, riding insanely difficult, my headlight attracting attention from the untold millions of flapping nocturnal jungle denizens, many of which I would have to pull squirming from my the gap between my helmet and head. My choice for an open face style helm not so great now.

After hours without seeing any traffic and very few people, after darkness fell here was more traffic. Ancient trucks with malfunctioning lights and badly loaded wood cargo slowly struggled up and literally slid down the muddy tracks.

I entered a small village, but like the others before it seemed dead. Then as if from behind a shroud a shining LED speckled café appeared from the darkness. I squelched and dripped my way to a comfy seat where a wonderful young lad, Lao Minh, sorted me out with a coke and some hot tea which he gladly refilled. I was a spectacle for the local teens hanging out there watching football, listening to hard house, drinking tea and chain smoking. Part of me wanted to stay, but with Lao Minhs helpful advice I thought I could get to my destination, Hue, in half an hour.

After 20 minutes in the dark on heavily potholed roads in pouring rain, dodging oncoming scooters without lights, some Vietnamese guy on a well beaten ped pulled up beside me, pointed somewhere in the distance and shouted ‘Hue!’ I nodded and replied ‘Hue!’. We rode together all the way to Hue, him on my left or up front, constantly on his horn. My own entourage! We passed an accident where a logging trucks cabin has folded itself around a huge tree, spilling logs onto the road. A lone policeman stood staring up into the cabin.

A random acquaintance, Nueng, Vietnam

I offered my mystery companion a beer so we stopped at a little café on the outskirts of Hue. Nueng introduced himself and we got pretty smashed on Huda beer. The lady at the cafe kindly grabbed me a plate of very tasty rice with shrimp and spicy diced veg from a place down the road. Nueng and I had difficulty communicating but would shake hands a lot and laugh at general things. Four of us (we were joined by the café owners toddler) sat and watched some football, drank and ate.

Hard earned grub, Vietnam

Random friends, Vietnam

I felt very privileged to to be in the company of such genuinely lovely human beings. The lady and her family of 5 sleep on a single mattress behind a stack of shelves from where they sell the drinks that buy them food and clothes. I am not a writer so it is hard to express how and why when I considered their life and their personality in comparison to my own, and most English peoples, I felt a bit rotten. I think a lot of people go on holiday to these places and if they can even bring themselves to communicate with the 'peasants' it’s a brief and fleeting affair. Documentary photos are taken, the sort that say nothing other than ‘a rich person took a photo of a poor person at some point in the past.’ When the traveler leaves, the peasants no longer live in a filthy shack, struggling for the basics every day, they exist only in memory.

After thanking our host, offering a fair tip, Nueng and I headed into town together and after a handshake parted ways on a quiet, ornate bridge overlooking the bright lights of a busy central district, it was like a scene from a romantic tragedy.

I found the Crown Hotel where they looked on in thinly veiled terror as I parked my soiled bike in their pristine bike lot and then dripped, splatted and squelched my way across their lobby to ask for a room. I slept very well.

* I hadn't noticed before when I first wrote this entry as a blog post, but although the best day of my trip does include some exceptionally enjoyable riding, it starts and ends with people.

More random friends, Vietnam

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Old 10-30-2012, 12:26 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by roly1 View Post
Day 6 – Dong Hoi to Hue (the hard way) Then I headed out West past Camp Carrol, then Hien Long bridge where I had a snack of sesame and syrup cakes, coffee and 2 bottles of Huda beer with some lovely local blokes who insisted on photos.

In spitting rain I continued West, towards the Laos border where I was chased around by two huge dogs. Then I headed back to Khe Sanh to take tourist photos of memorials.
Oh, how does one ever forget hwy 9 aka "bloody route 9". Thanks for mention of Camp Carroll which we referred to as "Charlie Charlie". West through the Rock Pile to Khe Sanh, points west and south all serious Indian country. To me it's Hallowed ground.

I signed up...Good RR
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Old 09-29-2012, 04:44 AM   #14
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It's always the interaction with the locals that makes it worthwhile, even if you can't understand each other
give us beer and food and we're all the same
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Old 09-29-2012, 10:35 AM   #15
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Laugh

Quote:
Originally Posted by gavo View Post
It's always the interaction with the locals that makes it worthwhile, even if you can't understand each other
give us beer and food and we're all the same
Agreed, hoping it is the same in Ecuador when I go there next year.

I really enjoyed reading about your Vietnam trip Gavo, all the photos of food is making me hungry! How did you take the on-board pictures? I'm looking for an elegant solution to this for my next trip.

+ more on this adventure incoming...
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