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Old 01-03-2014, 04:14 PM   #61
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Thank YOU for your Vietnam RR!

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Originally Posted by Josh69 View Post

Hey Josh - thanks for your RR too, it was a very inspiring read before our Vietnam trip... thanks for following ours.
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Old 01-03-2014, 04:21 PM   #62
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First Crash and Red Dzao massages (with happy endings?)



Day 9 - Wednesday, November 13
Distance - 140 kms = total for day ~ 6.5 hrs
Trip Odometer = 641 kms
Route - Dong Van south on Hwy 4C to Ha Giang
Hotel - Truong Xuan Resort - ~5km from Ha Giang (500,000d = ~$25)
Weather - Morning cloud, followed by mist, thick-dense fog and rain. Afternoon dried out a tad at lower elevations but stayed cloudy with mist and rain on both mountain passes.






This was a longer day on the road as we wanted to push from Dong Van along 4C into Ha Giang. We had some excellent riding, but unfortunately there weren't too many photos as the weather shit-out on both of the mountain passes we went over. Just one of those things as you can't see much in Vietnam when the weather is filled with mist, dense fog and rain. We felt lucky that we had a couple of days of great weather prior to this, but this is another stretch of road that I would love to revisit on a nice, clear day. It is literally 'rolling the dice' with the weather, gotta take what you get, adapt and go...


(Hard to say good-bye to this Dong Van cutie... she was running the show at our hotel. )


The roads out of Dong Van were slick and wet and as we climbed higher and higher out of town, we got more and more into the misty mountain drizzle action and dense fog. With that, the views disappeared and we started getting quite cold. We both had layered with our rain gear right out of the gates in Dong Van, but high up on the first pass we had to slow right down as we couldn't see much in front of us due to the fog and it seemed to get colder and colder. We pulled over, threw on all of our thermals that we had luckily packed from Canada, and we carried on down the slick roads.












Amanda pointing at a billboard with a stunning view of our surroundings. I'm positive this was here to show us what it 'should' look like in this area. Maybe it is misty and foggy most of the time??




As we approached the town of Yen Minh, we dropped in elevation and it started to clear up. We were ready for a pit-stop, so we pulled over at a typical Vietnamese 'everything' store and I ordered up a Vietnamese coffee while the better half picked out some tasty crackers. When my traditional cup of Vietnamese 'Joe' came to the table, she brought out x2 servings assuming we both wanted a cup. Well, seeing that Amanda doesn't drink coffee, I took care of both of them and was right-jacked by the time we got back on the road. It is very strong coffee with sweetened condensed milk in the bottom of the cup. I was toasty, warm and jittery, perfect for riding the next stretch of road.




The road out of Yen Minh was great for an hour or so as the weather was holding. Sections of the road remained wet with the odd dry patch here and there.












Amanda was riding ahead and I decided to pull over to shoot a couple of photos of these girls with umbrellas walking in the opposite direction from us. I showed the girls the pics on my phone as they walked by and they had a good laugh.


As I pulled around the next corner, the first thing I see is Amanda staring down at her scoot, which is taking a nap on the side of the road. She is standing there, staring at it in disbelief wondering how on earth her motoscoot could choose such an inappropriate time to take a nap. I pulled up behind her and immediately asked her if she was ok and what had happened. Sounds like a car had passed her which put her in the rhubarb a tad just on the edge of the road and as she tried to pull back on the road, the bike just washed out beneath her. The road was indeed quick slick and particularly on the very edge where it was off cambered before the ditch.


I picked the bike up and all looked good aside from a scuffed foot peg, a bruised ego and a startled heart. Very lucky as she was rolling quite slow when she hit the deck and fell off the bike and also that there were no other vehicles or obstacles around.


As we were regrouping and getting sorted to get back on the road, we had a few locals come by to see if we were all good. I think this was the first-responder group in the area and it was like they were there all along, just monitoring the situation to make sure things were fine and that the tourists were ok.




A couple of the first responders at the crash site










Our first responder team at the crash site, wishing us a fond farewell and safe passage back on the roads...






Highway 4C continued down in elevation until the Song Mien river which we followed south for a stretch. This was a really great section of road, we were very lucky it was dry and we were able to enjoy the curves and the views at the same time.






























Stopping for a break above the Song Mien River just north of Tam Son.












Fueling-up in Tam Son


As we headed south from Tam Son, we again started up in elevation and yet again, progressed into misty mountain, foggy conditions. We finally came across another mountain pass where there was a tourist centre and the works which we pulled into briefly. We pulled in, didn't get off the bikes, and had a look at a large billboard map of the area and then decided to push down in elevation as we couldn't see much anyway. As we were looking at the map of the area, this young couple pulled up to have a chat with us. They were also tourists (from Saigon), and had rented a bike from Ha Giang - travelling in the opposite direction from us. We had a quick hello and both carried on our separate ways.




Our decent into Ha Giang put us into a literal 'snail's-pace' as we could barely see a few feet in front of us. We continued down switchback after switchback along these roads and I was really wondering what the area would look like with clear conditions - I'm certain it would have been stunning.


We finally rolled into the Throng Xuan Resort around 2:30pm (roughly 5kms north of Ha Giang). We decided to splurge and said YES! to the river-side, stand-alone bungalow option (a splurge at a whopping $25/night - as non-river-view rooms were roughly $15/night)


The young man at the front desk walked us to our room along a beautiful garden path and we followed behind him with our bikes which we were able to park alongside the bungalow. After unloading the bikes and decompressing on the deck, I noticed a flyer from the hotel offering 'Spa Treatments' in an adjacent building. We walked down to reception to inquire and 30 min later, we were brought down another path at the resort over to the Spa and Sauna building. Perfect!






We started with a wet sauna together which was a great way to relax and unwind after a long day in the saddle. After a full hour of sauna, we were collected and brought down another corridor of the spa for Red Dzao full-body massages. Neither of us were too sure of what to expect for the massage, and whether or not we would be in separate rooms or the same room, but we decided to go-with-the-flow and try it out. Two women promptly brought us each into separate rooms that were beside each other. The massage was very interesting to say the least with unique techniques involving a great deal of palm-slap-knuckle-crack-pinch-and-pull motions that were very noisy. I could hear the loud motions and noises in the room next door while experiencing the same thing at the same time.


Now, one never knows how things will transpire with an unknown foreign 'massage' and/or what the protocol or etiquette may or may/not be. I was somewhat leery of the Red Dzao massage at first wondering if any sorts of attempts would be made for a massage with a proverbial 'happy-ending'. I, myself escaped with minimal awkward advances whereas my better half did not. Apparently, in the room right beside mine, my better half's much younger masseuse was hinting at a 'happy-ending' more than once. I'm guessing that she was quite disappointed when she wasn't given the green-light to show the nice Canadian girl her mad massage skillz. Hilarious.






River side Bungalow for $25/night.... 'We'll take it!'








The resort restaurant was a great option for supper as we didn't want to ride the motos into Ha Giang town and search out food after our relaxing afternoon. We had a set meal brought out to us with a few different courses including pumpkin soup to start, a dish of morning glory spinach, chicken and rice followed by a watermelon dessert. It was delicious.


For our next day of riding, we had to re-visit our proposed and planned route. Due to the heavy rains the past few days, we decided that our route west to Vinh Quang and then south to Bac Ha might be a bit more sporty and unknown than we wanted. Also, seeing that we were days away from the famous Bac Ha market (which is on Sunday), it would be something we could pass on this trip.


It was always a tough decision to change the route slightly and therefore miss a segment originally planned for, but with a set number of days to travel it was something that was also necessary in order to achieve our final goal in time - Saigon, and it was still a long way off.






Next up - a very long day of riding from Ha Giang to Sapa









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Old 01-03-2014, 05:01 PM   #63
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Thanks!

I'm sitting in a hotel in Ha Noi right now and I just got caught up on your thread. Good lazy morning after 2 days and 5 flights to get here after being with family for the holidays.

My friend is flying in from the states tonight. Unfortunately he hast to fly out of Ho Chi Min on the 15th to go back to work so that only gives us 10 days or so of travel. The northern part looks amazing, but you had way more time then we will have

Great pictures, great read. Keep it up!
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Old 01-03-2014, 05:44 PM   #64
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Rock-Star of ADV!

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Originally Posted by RoninMoto View Post
I'm sitting in a hotel in Ha Noi right now and I just got caught up on your thread. Good lazy morning after 2 days and 5 flights to get here after being with family for the holidays.

My friend is flying in from the states tonight. Unfortunately he hast to fly out of Ho Chi Min on the 15th to go back to work so that only gives us 10 days or so of travel. The northern part looks amazing, but you had way more time then we will have

Great pictures, great read. Keep it up!
Holy Crap... Noah just commented on my Lil'Nam RR! It's like the JonBonJovi of ADV just plugged my RR... I'm crapping my pants like a school-boy

Have a great time in 'Nam Noah, you and your Buddy will love it, I look forward to your posts as well.

Cheers
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Old 01-03-2014, 09:00 PM   #65
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great pics, I love the Vietnam ride reports.
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Old 01-05-2014, 04:15 AM   #66
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A great adventure

You two are an inspiration. I have just got completely caught up on you RR. Great pic's and stories well written. I an so looking forward to the rest of the trip.
I am currently on work travel in Tanegashima, Japan and am really wishing I had my bike here. Too expensive to rent one here. Scooters are $50 a day.
weather is better that DC / Baltimore area at the moment though.
Keep up the great RR.
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Old 01-06-2014, 06:36 AM   #67
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Great update!

Loving this RR..
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Old 01-06-2014, 02:18 PM   #68
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The long, cold schlog to Sapa...

Day 10 - Thursday, November 14
Distance - 247 kms = total for day ~ 8.5 hrs
Trip Odometer = 888 kms
Route - Ha Giang - Sapa. South on Hwy #2 from HaGiang, then West on #279 to Pho Rang. West on #70 to Lao Cai and #4D up, up, and up to Sapa
Hotel - Sapa Paradise View Hotel ($55US x2 nights)
Weather - Misty wet and soggy wet including wet-wet with brief moments of higher cloud and less wet for only a few moments of the day.






It is difficult to get motivated and excited about riding a motorbike through a foreign country when you know you are going to get wet and probably cold. I'm sure with this look on my riding partner's face (see above) that she should would have preferred transport by any other means than by motorbike on this particular day. It was a day after her first crash on wet roads and the roads were wet again. She was a trooper, I'll give her that, she deserves all the credit in the world for keeping her chin up each and every day and in particular, on the rainy, wet days that neither of us looked forward to.


A holiday is sitting on a beach and relaxing. Travelling by motorbike isn't a holiday, it is an adventure and sometimes a very challenging one at that. At this point, we were both wishing for a holiday, maybe on a beach, with warmer temps and clear azure water. Our reality was a long way from that beach, the beach we would eventually encounter, but on this particularly wet day in Vietnam, it was a long way off.










Hand-made plywood drying (or getting wetter) on the roadside








'These little piggys go to market'...







As we were a day or so behind our original planned route and because the weather forecast didn't look too great, we decided to cut-out a portion of our original itinerary I had planned from Canada. The section that would have brought us West from Ha Giang up in the mountains to Xin Man and then down into Bac Ha was a section that we'll have to put on the back burner for next time.


Instead, we opted for the most direct and quickest route from Ha Giang into the tourist mountain town of Sapa. Right out of the gates and once fueling up in Ha Giang, we encountered long, dry, straight roads where we were cruising at speeds of 50-60kph consistently for about an hour. We covered just over 30kms in roughly an hour, a grand record in all our days of riding.


The weather slowly got worse as we gained in elevation over our first pass of the day. All seemed to be going well weather-wise out of Ha Giang as we were keeping elevation following a river valley, but the minute we started heading up into the mountains, things changed which wasn't a surprise.


We stopped for lunch in Yen Binh for a very welcomed steaming hot bowl of 'pho-ga'.




Lunch stop in Yen Binh.










Wet, cold, prune-hands - so nice to wrap them around a hot steamy bowl of pho...




South of Yen Binh, we came to the town of Pho Rang. From here, we travelled northwest along Hwy 70 towards China. The #70 was a very busy road, the type that we hadn't encountered since the beginning of our trip. There was loads of heavy truck traffic as this was a main transport route north linking Vietnam with China.


I could see on my GPS and maps that there was a secondary road 4E to Lao Cai which too linked with Sapa, our destination for the day. I figured we could avoid the heavy traffic of the 70 and get onto a smaller road with less congestion. About 2kms into 4E, we both realized that we were indeed on a much smaller road with less traffic but with the state it was in, we probably wouldn't be arriving to Sapa before nightfall at that speed. The road was much smaller, but was a mix of choppy pavement, potholes and dirt sections that hadn't been maintained. We were barely able to ride 10kph, so we turned our bikes around and headed straight back to the #70 and B-lined it with the busyness for Lao Cai.


Lao Cai is essentially right, smack-on, the Vietnam-China border. I'll now let the Lonely Planet do the honours: 'The town was razed in the Chinese invasion of 1979, so most of the buildings are new. The border crossing here slammed shut during the 1979 war and only reopened in 1993. Now, it's a bustling spot fuelled by growing cross-border trade. Today, Lao Cai is also a destination for travellers journeying between Hanoi and Sapa, or further north to Kumming in China. With Sapa just an hour or so away, Lao Cai is no place to linger, but it offers everything China-bound travellers will need for an overnight stay.'


We had read that Sapa was one of Vietnams's highlights and that it wasn't to be missed. With that, we knew that it too would be filled with tourists. Being the savvy tourists that we are ('toot-toot' >> tooting my own horn here), we also know that touristy areas and tourist centres are normally there for a reason, they tend to be beautiful, there are normally things to see and do, and there tends to be a plethora of services including good restaurants and accommodations. We were both looking forward to all of this. We were tourists after all and we were craving the simple luxury of pizza and beer, well, maybe I was.
The road from Lao Cai to Sapa was incredible. Another stretch that I would love to ride with dry roads and nice conditions. At times, I still opted to open my bike up as much as possible weaving in and out of the twisty corners while gaining in elevation. Eventually, I had to slow right down due to the heavy mist and fog we encountered as we gained higher and higher in elevation. The last 10km into Sapa was the thickest mist and fog yet. We had to almost ride in 1st and 2nd gear only, just crawling along, and it felt like ages to cover that final 10km.


When we pulled into Sapa, we literally couldn't see a thing. It was starting to get dark and it was wet, misty, foggy and cold. We weaved along the narrow, steep streets looking for our hotel (that I had booked online due to a fellow moto traveller tip and the Trip Advisor recommendation http://www.tripadvisor.ca/Hotel_Revi..._Province.html )




We were ecstatic to check into the Sapa Paradise View Hotel. We had planned to spend x2 nights in Sapa so we figured we could stay in a nicer place with all the amenities and really live large. It was wonderful.




The minute we pulled up to the Sapa Paradise View hotel, we were treated like respected royalty. The managers and staff were so friendly and helpful, it was just what the 'doctor ordered' for both of us, their service was exemplary. We were given passionfruit juice welcome drinks, cakes, and a bottle of Dalat wine to enjoy, and we chose a more expensive upper floor room with valley views - all for $55/night, expensive for Vietnam but just fine with us.




Pizza, beer and a beautiful riding partner to share it with - perfect!







A couple of cocktails after dinner, tucked in a travellers bar complete with fire place to take off the chill.




We had planned to stay in Sapa for x2 nights to take it all in. We wanted to take care of laundry, see what cheap North Face knock-offs we could find, drink good coffee, peruse the markets, eat good food, and chill, rest and relax.


Sapa was a perfect stop over for all of this.







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Old 01-06-2014, 02:28 PM   #69
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Picture sizes...

Sorry about the HUGE pictures. I cut/copy/pasted over from my blog as-per-usual and for some reason this time around, the pictures posted WAY big... oh well, hope this isn't a problem
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Old 01-06-2014, 04:31 PM   #70
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Fantastic. Thank you for taking the time.
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Old 01-06-2014, 11:46 PM   #71
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Sapa was nice, friendly good food,beer, and things to do touristy or not.
I don't know which way you're going but the road to Lai Chau is great and goes over Vietnams highest pass Tran Tom, Great bike road.
Enjoying the report
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Old 01-07-2014, 07:17 AM   #72
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Tran Tom Pass

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Sapa was nice, friendly good food,beer, and things to do touristy or not.
I don't know which way you're going but the road to Lai Chau is great and goes over Vietnams highest pass Tran Tom, Great bike road.
Enjoying the report
Yes, I hope to SEE Tran Tom one day. When we went to Sapa, we were delayed by rain and new road being dynamited into the mountainside, so we went over the pass at night.
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Old 01-07-2014, 10:28 AM   #73
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Tran Tom Pass

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Yes, I hope to SEE Tran Tom one day. When we went to Sapa, we were delayed by rain and new road being dynamited into the mountainside, so we went over the pass at night.

YES! The next post will be pictures of a 'day-off' in Sapa and the following one is when we headed West out of Sapa and right over the Tran Tom, it was spectacular...

Stay tuned...
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Old 01-07-2014, 11:37 AM   #74
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#68

See the raised left eyebrow in #68.......find yourself a beach house for a week; quick!
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Old 01-07-2014, 12:34 PM   #75
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Lol

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See the raised left eyebrow in #68.......find yourself a beach house for a week; quick!
HA!

I know, right?!
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