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Old 02-26-2012, 11:18 AM   #46
Jedum1 OP
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Originally Posted by aDave View Post
I'm really enjoying your report. Being a son of a bitter Vietnam veteran, this is helping me to see the beauty of this country and its people in a new light. Very nice eye with the camera. I admire your courage to push through your fears and stereotypes.

Keep it coming...
Dave
Thanks Dave. Glad you are enjoying the report.

My dad was a Marine with two tours under his belt. When he found out what I was thinking of doing, he flipped out. He was convinced that at the very least I'd be ostracized, maybe even assaulted. He couldn't have been further off the mark. I was welcomed every where I went. Even in areas that were still scarred by U.S. bombing sorties. In fact, the rice farmer that was feeding me snails on Day 3 was a veteran of the war, and proudly displayed a picture of "Uncle Ho" in his tiny home.



Even though I'm sure many of the horrible memories of war were still fresh in his mind, he welcomed me into his home as an honored guest. Needless to say, I'm happy to have proved my father wrong!

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Old 02-28-2012, 02:44 PM   #47
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Fantastic

Taking my son and a friend there this June July. Will finally meet my daughter's family. Keep up the great posts. You are setting a high bar.
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Old 02-28-2012, 06:41 PM   #48
Adv Grifter
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Fantastic shots! How did the D-7 hold up? I've had 4 Canon's ...all broke on Moto rides. I've gone back to my low budget Lumix. I've had 3, no problems.

I did get your deposit $$ for your Minsk (man ... is the bike even worth that much?) ... but not sure if you mentioned the daily rental rate?? Any discount for One month or more? What are the best bike choices in your opinion?
Can you put deposit on a CC ? Do they keep you passport? Can you cross borders on a rental bike? ... or too much hassle?
Better to buy than rent ... or too much hassle?

How was the power on the Minsk compared to the modern 125cc four strokes? Are Minsk oil injection or must you mix at every gas stop?

What sort of range does that bike have? Sorry for all the Noob questions.
I'm planning an Asia trip. I've done Thailand on bikes and visited Cambodia and Vietnam NOT on bikes. Vietnam is top of my list.

Thanks for the effort!! I rated you 5 stars!
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Old 02-28-2012, 07:04 PM   #49
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Havn't had time to read the whole RR so maybe this has already been mentioned but Top Gear UK did a film traveling through vietnam, one of the presentors was on a minsk IIRC, other had a supercub IIRC
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Old 02-28-2012, 09:05 PM   #50
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dannyboydesigns View Post
Taking my son and a friend there this June July. Will finally meet my daughter's family. Keep up the great posts. You are setting a high bar.
Thanks for checking it out! You guys will love it there. I highly suggest renting something on two wheels, even if only for a day. It's amazing how different things are only a few miles out of the big cities.

Have a good trip
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Old 02-28-2012, 10:16 PM   #51
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Adv Grifter View Post
Fantastic shots! How did the D-7 hold up? I've had 4 Canon's ...all broke on Moto rides. I've gone back to my low budget Lumix. I've had 3, no problems.

I did get your deposit $$ for your Minsk (man ... is the bike even worth that much?) ... but not sure if you mentioned the daily rental rate?? Any discount for One month or more? What are the best bike choices in your opinion?
Can you put deposit on a CC ? Do they keep you passport? Can you cross borders on a rental bike? ... or too much hassle?
Better to buy than rent ... or too much hassle?

How was the power on the Minsk compared to the modern 125cc four strokes? Are Minsk oil injection or must you mix at every gas stop?

What sort of range does that bike have? Sorry for all the Noob questions.
I'm planning an Asia trip. I've done Thailand on bikes and visited Cambodia and Vietnam NOT on bikes. Vietnam is top of my list.

Thanks for the effort!! I rated you 5 stars!
Thanks for rating. I really appreciate the feedback. I'll answer everything I can.

The 7d held up fine, but I wasn't really tearing up the dirt out there. A lot of the shots from the road were taken on a Lumix. The 7d was just too hard to get at most of the time.

The bike only cost me $12 a day, but that was negotiated on the fly with a guy that doesn't normally rent it out. That may be why the deposit was so high. The bike was probably only worth about $300-$350, but I could either pay it, or spend my whole trip hanging out in Hanoi.

I origionally wanted a 250cc XR Enduro from Offroadvietnam.com , but they didn't have one available while I was going to be there. These guys do have monthly rates.

I don't know if most rental companies take your passport. I can't imagine they would. You need your passport to check into hotels, so not having one would make traveling on a bike pretty useless.

You won't be allowed to take a bike out of the country. It might be a different story if you are with a touring company on a group ride, but don't attempt it on your own.

Buying would definitely be an option if time is not an issue for you.

An old Minsk is going to be underpowered compared to any modern 125cc four stroke. For me, the Minsk just seemed to be more in line with the trip I wanted to take.

No oil injection, so you're pouring oil in every time you fill up. Gas stations always have oil, but some of the roadside spots don't. Good idea to carry extra.

As for range, I heard 300k on a full tank, but I don't know if that's accurate. I had a crappy map, and the Minsk doesn't have any instrumentation, so I never really knew how far I was traveling.

Hope that helps you out. Good luck with the trip planning. I got the sense that Off Road Vietnam has their 250's booked pretty consistently, so if you want a bike that big, I'd jump on it. Good luck with the trip. You're going to love it out there.
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Old 02-28-2012, 10:19 PM   #52
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Originally Posted by roverchild View Post
Havn't had time to read the whole RR so maybe this has already been mentioned but Top Gear UK did a film traveling through vietnam, one of the presentors was on a minsk IIRC, other had a supercub IIRC
I saw that episode when I got back. They didn't seem to have nearly as much fun as I did.
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Old 02-29-2012, 10:36 AM   #53
Adv Grifter
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Thanks so much for the great feed back. All has been noted!
I was in the Santa Margarita area last Summer, camping at the lake and running all the great roads in the area.

My riding group do a ride down to Pismo twice a year, one is a dual sport ride, the other more a road ride. We do big loops out of Pismo and get as far South as Ojai, coming back on Carrizo plain. We come down from SF Bay area, 3 or 4 day ride. Great area, roads. We love it. We always stop in Pozo and do the dirt roads in the area.

Cheers!
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Old 03-01-2012, 08:06 PM   #54
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Day 6

Off to a bit of a lousy start. I was planning to head out of town early, but pushed my departure time so I could meet up with the two guys I met at the coffee shop the day before. It seemed to take forever to get packed up, but I still managed to make it to the cafe by 8am. The place was empty, and the owner that was so personable the day before, seemed to be upset with me. I ordered a coffee, and waited patiently. By 8:30am it was clear that I had either been stood up, or there was some confusion about the time. Did they mean 8pm? Did I stand them up? Great!

I tried to ask the owner if they had been there the night before. Without the aid of Google Translate, this proved difficult. I kept pointing at the chairs weíd been sitting at yesterday, then at my watch. All I got from him was a somber shake of the head. He had no idea what I was asking him, nor did he seem to care. His newfound sense of contempt made things pretty clear. Iíd unintentionally become the ugly American. Not only was I in town later than I wanted to be, but I had the pleasure of knowing that Iíd pissed off three of the locals. The fact that it wasnít my fault didnít make me feel any better about it. All I could do was put it out of my mind and hit the road.

Finding my way back to the main highway was a bit difficult, but I wasnít stressed about it. I just followed a path that felt like it might get me there. Along the way I found a street vendor selling the baguette sandwiches I liked so much. Her cart was just across the street from a picturesque waterway, so rather than sit at her makeshift table; I made my way to the bank of the river.

My Meal


My View




With a happy stomach and a clear head I decided I was probably heading in the right direction. There were mountains in front of me, and Bac Can was in the mountains. No brainer. I mounted the bike and pointed it towards the hills. Just before I got to the edge of town, self-doubt crept in. Those mountains were a ways away. If I was wrong, who knows how far off course I would end up. I pulled up next to the first person I saw. After pointing to the name on the map, she quickly started shaking her head and pointing behind me. After so many inaccurate directions the day before, I decided to get a second opinion, and then a third. They all came to the same conclusion. Iíd come to far. One man tapped my map three times with his finger then used his hand to swerve to the right. I took that to mean three streets down, and to the right. It was worth a shot. I could always ask someone else if I misunderstood him. Unlike the folks in Hanoi, these guys knew what was what. Five blocks after taking the right, I rolled right on to the #2. Day 6 was already shaping up to be a good one, and it just kept getting better.

Hereís an example of Highway #2.


About twenty minutes into my ride I came across a street vendor selling fruit. I picked up some plantains, a bottle of water, and these little green things that didnít taste like much of anything. All of it cost me about fifty cents.



The food vendorís daughter.


Saw some villagers planting rice a few miles away, and decided to have some water, and remind myself why I should NEVER complain about how hard my life is.




Youíre going to see a lot more of this bike.



After my nice break watching others do back breaking labor, it was time to move on. The ride today was much more relaxing than day before. There was absolutely no stress. Just long winding stretches of paved bliss. The scenery was amazing. A nice combination of rolling hills and rice paddies. Unlike the day before, traffic was pretty much non-existent. Just the occasional scooter or small truck. This did change later in the day, as the tour buses (mostly Chinese) started to make there way north, but for the time being I loved the lack of congestion on the road, and in my head

Something I failed to mention about the road out of Hanoi was the ridiculous amount of dust being kicked up by the traffic. Iíd always seen people in South East Asia wearing little masks, but I guess I never really understood why. Swine flu? Monkey pox? Nope, itís the dust. When I got to the hotel the hotel that afternoon, I looked like a fire fighter that had just exited a burning building. My nostrils and the corners of my mouth were black with the airborne crap Iíd been breathing in all day. I was severally stuffed up the entire evening. Today I had wrapped a spare t-shirt around my face, and it was working like a charm.
I had two really great encounters after my rice patty water break, but I already touched on these at the beginning of my RR, so Iíll give an abridged version, and let the pics do most of the heavy lifting.

After riding a few more miles on the highway, I decided to take the dirt path less traveled.






After a few miles I came to this hand written sign.


Just off the road past the sign, I found this lone house.


This is who I found inside.





None of them spoke English, but we had a wonderful time drinking tea, and laughing about how tall I am, and how short they were. The young kid with the hat kept playing Vietnamese music he had downloaded on his phone. I realized he was trying to find out what kind of music I listened to, but the ITouch I had didnít have any music on it. I was pretty bummed about that. It would have been nice to connect on that level. The homeowner took me by the hand at one point and led me outside. He held his hands up to his face in the way we would imitate looking through binoculars. This was how the Vietnamese simulated the taking of a photograph. He kept pointing at the rice fields, so I started shooting, but he began to look frustrated. He clearly wasnít getting his message across. A few more minutes of hand gestures, and I realized that he wanted the camera. What was funny is that he had no desire to take a picture. He just wanted to see the view on the LCD screen. I flipped it to video mode and handed it back to him. For the next couple of minutes he just walked around, fixated on the screen. When he handed it back, I got a big thumbs up, and a giant smile.







I said my goodbyes and made my way back to the pavement. Not more than a few miles on the tarmac and I found another reason to stop. There was a river off to my right, and I was trying to decide whether to risk taking the Minsk down the hill that led to it. I hadnít seen a spot that looked safe. Out of nowhere a young kid came running across the road with a bushel of bananas, or whatever you call a bunch of bananas. He handed them off to an old woman selling fruit by the side of the road, and then ran back towards the river. There was obviously a way down, so I decided to follow his lead. Half way down I began to worry about the bikes ability to pull itself back up. At this point I had already committed, so there was nothing to do but keep going.

The bananas came by boat.




These shots donít do the location justice. It was a beautiful spot.






This little girl watched me the whole time I was at the bottom, but every time I waved at her she hid her face with the umbrella. I finally got a wave out of her as I was leaving.



Getting myself and the bike back to the road was harder than I would have liked. Excessive horsepower isnít something the Minsk is known for. I struggled for fifteen minutes to push that thing to the top. I can look back fondly on it now, but in the moment I was pissed at myself for pushing the limits of the bike. Just a few miles up the road I entered Ha Gaing province.



I still donít know the name of the town I stopped in for lunch, but this was the place I met the teachers from the boarding school.










Second floor dining experience. When I say floor, I mean sitting on the floor.






Small guy in a giant coatÖ


They invited me to watch a volley ball game. I had no idea it was going to be at the boarding school. That was a very pleasant surprise. At first the kids didnít know what to make of me, and were a bit shy. This changed as soon as I flipped my camera around, and they could see the pictures Iíd taken of them. For the next hour I was the main attraction on campus. It was yet another highlight of my trip.







Believe it or not the Minsk is in this picture.


At one point I was showing the kids the ITouch I had with me, and they went crazy. I was kneeling down so they could see it, and there was so much heat being generated by the kids crowding around me that I began to drip with sweat.


There were five or six teachers at the school that were playing volleyball at an Olympic level. That is not an exaggeration. It was insane. These tiny guys were spiking balls that could take your head off.


After the match they invited me to coffee that consisted of beer, rice wine and absolutely no coffee. I also got the chance to meet a few more of the schools teachers.







From the coffee house it was off to meet up with the volleyball players at another spot, for beer, rice wine, and some kind of weird energy drink. The vibe changed a little bit here. The players didnít seem happy to have me there, and my new friends became noticeably uncomfortable by it. I tried filter questions to them through the English teacher, but they offered up quick one or two word answers. For a good portion of the time we just sat quietly.


The side of the place had a few diners.


Up until this point my new pals had invited me to lunch, ďCoffeeĒ, and drinks. This meant they were obliged to pay for everything, as I was their guest. The best way I knew to show my appreciation was to ask them to dinner. Earlier they had insisted that I stay at the ďBestĒ hotel in town. It was supposed to be very luxurious, and just so happened to have a restaurant. They graciously accepted my invite, and we headed out. The English teacher took off to change her clothes, which meant I had to give one of the guys a ride. Just before we reached the hotel I ran out of gas. A hundred-yard push, and of course the hotel was on a hill. Lame!

My back was on fire. I couldnít have asked for a better day, but it was slowly destroying the disks in my lower spine. I wanted to repay all of the kindness that these people had so eagerly shown me, but a part of me just wanted them to go away. I had to get through it. I couldnít just blow these people off. Once I got the bike situated, the group waved me over to some benches just outside the hotel. One of them was smoking tobacco out of a giant bamboo bong, and insisted I try it. Smooth. After a few hits I got a bit light headed. It was helping to take the edge off the pain. We were waiting on the female teacher to show up, so I decided to head inside and book my room.
Three men sat inside eating food, and yes, drinking rice wine. They immediately waved me over and pulled out a seat at the table. Three mandatory shots later, I was no closer to booking my room, so I excused myself and I headed back out. Just then my final guest arrived. We each found spots on the front benches, had some more tea, and hit the bamboo pipe while the food was being prepared. The English teacher ordered everything and insured me that this place had good food and ďGood price!Ē

Our chef for the evining.


The food.


Dinner was okay, but a little of the uneasiness that we experienced with the volleyball group had followed us here. The level of pain I was in didnít help matters. Our interactions felt more forced. Three bottles of rice wine helped a bit, but it was a long day, and I think they were probably just as exhausted as I was. After my bill came, we said our goodbyes, and I made another attempt to book a room

This was the best hotel in town, so I was hoping for clean linens. When I saw how much the room cost, two things became clear. I would not have clean sheets, and ďwhite man pricingĒ was put into play for our dinner. My bill came to $30. When it arrived, it was hard to know if it was high because the prices werenít listed anywhere. They could charge whatever they wanted. The room rates however were clearly listed above the check-in counter. The room was a mere $3.50. Iím no math wizard, but that seems to be a pretty stark contrast in pricing. Iím not complaining mind you. My entire day had been paid for, and being able to have that experience was priceless. I just hate knowing that something so blatant is taking place. I was over it almost immediately. All I wanted to do now was fall asleep.

The lobby of the best hotel in all of Ha Giang province!


I donít know why, but I always feel the need to have a shot of booze thatís got shit stuffed in it. I went for the one with the snake in it. Didnít charge me for it. Maybe they felt guilty for overcharging me for dinner. After downing it, the guy behind the counter pointed at my junk and flexed his muscles.



This is what my bed looked like when I first walked into the room.


My living area.


My sitting area.


My bathroom.


Day 7 soon
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Old 03-03-2012, 10:52 PM   #55
nicholastanguma
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Jedum, you give us:

1) Wonderful narrative!
2) Many, many landscape photos
3) Useful details for our own Vietnam travels


What you yet sorely lack giving us:

1) Many, many landscape photos with a Minsk in them!


Please rectify this oversight poste haste, sir. Vietnam is depending on you.
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Old 03-04-2012, 10:23 AM   #56
Comrade Art
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Enjoy your storytelling!
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Old 03-04-2012, 05:44 PM   #57
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keep it coming...loving the pics and story.

Dave
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Old 03-05-2012, 03:59 PM   #58
Jedum1 OP
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Thanks guys. Starting day seven tonight. As for more shots of the Minsk, I'll post everything I've got. Being a first time rider I was unaware of the proper bike/landscape ratio. I can assure you that on upcoming journeys, the oversight will in fact be corrected.

Cheers
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Old 03-05-2012, 05:34 PM   #59
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What an Adventure!

Thanks for the excellent report. Your photographs and narrative are top notch.
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Old 03-05-2012, 06:23 PM   #60
nicholastanguma
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Originally Posted by Jedum1 View Post
Thanks guys. Starting day seven tonight. As for more shots of the Minsk, I'll post everything I've got. Being a first time rider I was unaware of the proper bike/landscape ratio. I can assure you that on upcoming journeys, the oversight will in fact be corrected.

Cheers

We would also like to see more of you in the photos, as well. Wearing something lacy, please.


Hurry up wit yo story, homey!
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