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Old 04-07-2008, 07:16 AM   #1
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Eek Easter Mekong Tour, Vietnam

Hello everybody, this is my first trip report.

I've been working in Ho Chi Minh City aka Saigon, Vietnam for the last year and 4 months.

A while back I bought a Chinese made 125cc road bike - actually 125cc is big for Vietnam. The most common motorbike is the 97cc Honda Wave. Up until quite recently, bikes over 175cc were illegal. They are now legal again, but with almost 100% import duty, they are (i) hard to find (ii) double the price of anywhere else. I learned to ride a bike in Vietnam. At home in Australia about 10 years ago, I got a motorcycle learners permit and had a few lessons, but I never got around to getting a bike license. I day rented a bike elsewhere in Asia (sans license) a few times, but it was only when I arrived here, that I got a Vietnamese motorbike license. The Vietnamese transferred my overseas car license straight over, but I had to do a practial test for the bike.

Everybody in Vietnam rides bikes, I would guess that 90% of the vehicles on the road are motorbikes.

They are used to transport all sorts of stuff:

Like a bit of pottery :
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Old 04-07-2008, 07:17 AM   #2
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Or some random vegetation:
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Old 04-07-2008, 07:20 AM   #3
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Or just some boxes around downtown Ho Chi Minh City - aka Saigon:

(note these three pics are just randoms from my time in Vietnam, not from the main subject of my thread, my Easter Tour around the Mekong Delta).
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Old 04-07-2008, 07:26 AM   #4
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With increasing incomes in Vietnam, particularly in the big cities and what with it being quite problematic buying a bike over 175cc* a lot of people are buying imported scooters.

Here's a random hot girl with a scooter!!



* above (there is also a different class of license for >175cc which is harder to get - although I know several Vietnamese who have been riding for a decade or more and still haven't bothered to get a license)

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Old 04-07-2008, 07:33 AM   #5
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Anyway, I'm only in Vietnam for a limited time so I decided to stick to a cheap starter bike:

Here it is, a Guangdong (China) made Haojue 125cc road bike which I bought new for 20 million VN Dong, or about US$1250, including the Givi tail box. You can get them cheaper than this in China, however Vietnam has 10% VAT + 90% or 70% (think it went down recently) import duty, so this jacked the price up.
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Old 04-07-2008, 07:39 AM   #6
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I notice everybody is wearing helmets.
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Old 04-07-2008, 07:48 AM   #7
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A mandatory helmet law came into force in Vietnam in December 2007. Helmet use went from about 10% to about 99% overnight. Everybody wears helmets now, only in the countryside you occasionally see some people riding with no helmet.

====

On Good Friday, I checked into a hotel in My Tho. This is part of the Mekong Delta region of Vietnam. The Mekong goes through Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos but in the delta it splits into loads of smaller rivers which lead to the coast. Here you can see a view from the hotel room, looking down on a market with the river in the background.
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Old 04-07-2008, 07:49 AM   #8
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Gotta love the Vietnamese' utilitarian use of 2 wheeled transportation.

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Old 04-07-2008, 07:49 AM   #9
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It's your typical SE Asian outdoor market. Here's the dried fish stall:
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Old 04-07-2008, 07:54 AM   #10
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And the overhead view. As you can see accessed is designed for bikes or carts, not cars:
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Old 04-07-2008, 07:57 AM   #11
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The overhead power lines can get a bit complex in Vietnam - they can get 3 times as crowded as this power pole:
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Old 04-07-2008, 08:01 AM   #12
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A popular dish in Vietnam is "Pho" or noodle soup with beef (Pho Bo) or chicken (Pho Ga) or occasionally seafood. You can buy it everywhere and it is really cheap and tasty.

I eat a lot of pho. It's quick, tasty and easy. But the other reason is I only know about 8 Vietnamese words and one of them is PHO.
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Old 04-07-2008, 08:06 AM   #13
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Quick tangent: here's a scene from Dong Khoi, one of the main drags of HCMC last year before the mandatory helmet law came in. You can see the difference to today where everybody is wearing helmets.

(note everybody is still wearing flip-flops on their feet though)
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Old 04-07-2008, 08:12 AM   #14
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Vietnam is rapidly industrialising, but it's still a poor country. The lack of economic resources plus wide rivers in the Mekong Delta mean that there are few bridges. In this case I crossed over by ferry from My Tho, the main deal in Tien Giang province over to Ben Tre province.

Now I said before that there is a licensing difference between bikes under 175cc and over 175cc and that in practice, there are very few bikes over 125cc. Well on the ferry, what did I see but a local Vietnamese bike club with big bikes.

For some reason there is some dude in a suit. Why I don't know, it's Easter Saturday. Maybe he is still wearing his Church gear.
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Old 04-07-2008, 08:14 AM   #15
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Elvis is on the ferry

Elvis was also part of the biking entourage:
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