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Old 01-06-2013, 11:34 AM   #1
elwood206 OP
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Solo Vietnam december 2012

Long time lurker, fist time ride reporter here. Please bear with me, I tend to let pictures speak as much as possible, but I really should get some practice at light narration. Please to feel free to critique the style/structure/format, I am always willing to learn.

Some background for this trip :
I know nothing of, and no one in Vietnam. Apocalypse Now is probably what I base most of my preconceptions on. Some of my favorite movies are about the Vietnam war, after watching the movies, documentaries, and reading vietnam war era books, I go the itch to see for myself what the country is like today. I had two uncles serve in the war, I was never able to talk about it in depth with them, and the rest of the families thoughts about Vietnam were mostly relief that both uncles came home alive.

I felt very ignorant preparing to leave, wishing I knew something more about the country besides the war, the trip was a little last minute so I grabbed the rough guide to read on the way over, starting from my home in NW Arkansas.
I had heard about locals who would take you out in the rural countryside on motorcycles, and my plan was to find one of those outfits once I landed in Hanoi and go from there.

I work in the airline industry, and fly standby, so sometimes the trips over can be an adventure, the flights over went smoothly. The day before I left, I applied for a VOA Visa on Arrival from one of the many online sites that provide this. 12$ and 18 hours later, I had the .pdf in my inbox that should let me into the country. Fedexing paperwork back and forth to a Vietnamese embassy seemed time consuming and as it turned out, would not have saved me any money. When I touched down in Hanoi, they have a special line for VOA passengers, where you present your paperwork, a photo, and 25$ US in order to get a Visa. Many people who had actually got a visa back in the states, were told to go through the same line and pay. Some tried to argue, but that is not exactly negotiating from a position of power, either they pay again, or you can leave.

I found a ride into Hanoi and a place to stay at the tourist information desk. The guys at the desk also happily converted my US$ to VND$ when I asked where I could convert it. Lesson learned, next time count it out and make sure it adds up, I figure now that they gave me about 200$ equivalent for the 300$ I gave them. No matter, get angry for a while and then chalk it up a newbie mistake and get on with the adventure.

In the AM, it turns out that the hotel was right across the street from a highly recommend motorcycle outfitter, Flamingo Travel. I wandered around a little before they opened and shot some of the street.











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Old 01-06-2013, 11:50 AM   #2
tbird649
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Good luck on your trip. My wife and I did a 6 day trip round the North last November, Hanoi to Sapa, with Explore Indochina. Good outfit. A beautiful country, lovely people. We are hoping to return this year for a longer trip. Have a great time, I will follow with interest.
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Old 01-06-2013, 12:06 PM   #3
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When the small shop opened, I went in and met the very friendly staff who were very busy. In between the hustle and flow of people and guides coming and going I asked about upcoming tours to the rural areas. It gets much cheaper the more people that are in a group, so I asked about any upcoming group trips that I could tag along with, they has one starting the next day but I only had 10 days in country and wanted to make the most of it. I set up a 4 night trip and went back to the hotel across the street to pack up.

When I returned to the outfitters, I began transferring everything I though I might need to the saddle bags that would be installed on the YBR125 that I chose to ride. As I was finishing up packing, a guy around my age walked into the shop and started looking at the trek route maps, we talked and introduced ourselves. Fred was his name, and he was on a limited budget and time frame, having only a few more days left before he headed out to Australia. We quickly figured out that it would be fun, and also much cheaper for both of us, if we went on the same trip. The outfitters were extremely accommodating, and we came up with a 3 day, 2 night trip that worked for both of us. The extra $ that I saved could be applied to my next trip when I returned to Hanoi, or refunded if I didn't want to go on another.

Fred mentioned that he had had a little experience on a moped before, so the guide (Mr. Hue) and I gave him as many pointers as possible : Counter-steer above 20-30MPH, keep your eyes up, look where you want to go, and easy on the front brake when going downhill in mud. We took a short walk across the old quarter to lunch and then on to the outfitters garage and loaded up the bikes. I had told Hue that I do ride back home, so I could ride sweeper on the trip, it did not occur to me that riding in rural America, and riding in Hanoi traffic are two very different things.

I learned quickly that I had to give up trying to follow any of the rules of the road I had learned before and just go with the flow. After half an our or so I finally began to relax and begin to enjoy the craziness of it all. The city began to thin out and we started to see some of the countryside. Fred was handling his bike very well, especially considering his limited experience. We stopped at a few spots to stretch and get local tea, very bitter and earthy, I loved it in the trip, but I am not sure I could enjoy it outside of this adventure.
























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Old 01-06-2013, 12:08 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tbird649 View Post
Good luck on your trip. My wife and I did a 6 day trip round the North last November, Hanoi to Sapa, with Explore Indochina. Good outfit. A beautiful country, lovely people. We are hoping to return this year for a longer trip. Have a great time, I will follow with interest.

Thank you! It really is a beautiful county and people. I ended up taking the bike up to Sapa for a few days on the night train, I should be able to post some pictures and video from that leg too.
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Old 01-06-2013, 12:24 PM   #5
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We stayed with a local family in a small village that night. Everyone in the house was friendly and curious about us. Two little girls were shyly watching us from the corner of the room as we visited with the men, so I brought out my Kindle and pulled up Angry Birds for the kids, they caught on quickly and were soon destroying my high scores. The food started coming in waves, I was blown away and the quality, freshness, and diversity of it all. A couple of the fish dishes were on the "fishy" side of what I like, but that happens often in the states too, being raised in the PNW spoils you for seafood.

After diner, and the obligatory, gracious, and plentiful snips of the local rice wine, we headed downstairs for a local ethnic tribal dance. I'm nut sure if this just happened to be going on that night, or if it was put on just for us, either way it was very interesting.

















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Old 01-06-2013, 12:50 PM   #6
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The next morning I wandered around the village and got a few shots before we headed out for the Pu Long reserve. It felt good to get back on the bikes and deeper into the country.



































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Old 01-06-2013, 01:15 PM   #7
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elwood206

newbie myself but you've sold it to me.

Whilst narratives are good a picture is worth a thousand words and for a shorter report make a pleasure to browse through over a beer on a winters night without taxing the brain

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Old 01-06-2013, 02:09 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 125uCrazy View Post
elwood206

newbie myself but you've sold it to me.

Whilst narratives are good a picture is worth a thousand words and for a shorter report make a pleasure to browse through over a beer on a winters night without taxing the brain

125uCrazy
Thanks! I met a few people from London in Ha Long bay, I'm a huge fan of peep show and enjoyed hearing a locals perspective on the show.
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Old 01-06-2013, 02:16 PM   #9
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Old 01-06-2013, 02:19 PM   #10
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I love it, nice going!
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Old 01-06-2013, 02:59 PM   #11
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Thanks for the comments everyone!

The road went from two lane, to one, lane, to gravel to tight jungle trail the further we went. Downhill muddy sections were challenging on street tires, everyone stayed shiny side up. At the bottom of the steepest section we stopped for lunch, and to check out a rice wine still.
The local dogs are well behaved and love any attention or table scraps you can slip them, the locals treat them more as utility animals as opposed to pets. They are still eaten in certain places and during festivals form what the locals told us, although we didn't see any butchered dogs on the trip. I don't think I could eat dog voluntarily, but I have a hard time judging those that do, after all some cultures think eating cow is bizarre.













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Old 01-06-2013, 03:08 PM   #12
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We came to the very small village where we would stay the night. It had been a long and great day of riding, we hiked down to a small pool, Fred was the only one bold enough to jump in. My blood has thinned too much already from living in the south, to be jumping into cold pools in the evening.

Dinner was once again excellent, in the morning the local kids showed up to check out the strange travelers. The country was breathtakingly beautiful in spots, the locals seemed proud and content to be living there. This was about the time I think I realized that the trip was money and time well spent. I would probably have to return the GoPro to bestbuy when I got back to the states, but at least I would still have the video memories from it.



















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Old 01-06-2013, 03:10 PM   #13
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Old 01-06-2013, 03:13 PM   #14
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Old 01-06-2013, 03:26 PM   #15
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This trip looked quite interesting. I like that it was a bit ad hoc and not fully planned before you started. Great photos. It makes me want to go now (and also be very glad that I didn't get to go at Uncle Sam's pleasure about 40 years back).
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