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Old 02-13-2014, 09:39 PM   #121
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Old 02-14-2014, 11:37 AM   #122
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Last day of riding in Vietnam! From Mui Ne to Saigon (HCMC)

Day 26 - Saturday, November 30
Distance - 205 kms = total for day ~ 7 hrs
Trip Odometer = 3291 kms (Total for trip)
Route - Hwy #1 west of Mui Ne (through Phan Thiet) into District 1 - Ho Chi Minh City!
Hotel - Bich Duyen Hotel ($17 US)
Weather - Excellent. Sunny and hot.

Last Day on the road in Vietnam.

Bitter sweet.

We were up and at 'em at 5 am and on the road before 6. It was a cool morning leaving Mui Ne and as we were pulling out of the resort town, the sun was slowly coming up. We had a beautiful first few hours of riding. It was busy at times and more relaxed at other times traveling along the #1. The road was similar as we had sections that were somewhat narrower, and other sections that were quite wide with big open shoulders with tons of room to pass which was a nice treat. With that, we had the angry truck traffic and buses with their big, angry-loud horns. The local mini-buses were the most aggressive and the worst when it came to passing. These drivers would pull out to pass lines and lines of semi trucks coming in either direction, they didn't seem to care. It was amazing to watch it and unnerving to be right in the mix of it all.

Above: This girl had a duck in the pink bag. I was hoping the duck would pose for the camera, but it was being shy.

The Vietnam map book showed a HUGE highway off-shoot in bright yellow that looked like a main artery into the city with a direct route. As we got close to this area, I looked left and could see that this route was under construction and would probably take years to finish. Instead, we had to travel through the area of Bien Hoa (outskirts of HCMC) before heading into the full-dizzy-crazyness of Ho Chi Minh City. Embracing it's 9 million people was fun to say the least.

As we got deeper and deeper into the city, the traffic intensified and became more and more congested. It was manageable for the most part, and we both kept our wits and focused on our riding skills obtained over the month of being in Vietnam. I had booked our hotel in the backpackers area of HCMC and knew we had to get into 'Quan 1' or District 1 of the city. This was fairly easy. My GPS showed that we were entering District 1 and then I had to narrow it down even further to our exact location. Rather than fighting the traffic and weaving in and out of streets, I figured if we pulled over, got some WiFi, loaded Google Maps, we would have a much easier time finding our hotel. I pulled into a small parking lot that had a huge 'Travel Office' sign and figured this would be a decent enough place to get WiFi and maybe some help. Well, what happened next was incredible. A young woman was just getting off work and her husband was there to pick her up on a scooter (remember, HCMC has about 9 million people and almost as many moto-scoots). He suggested we follow him as he knew the area so we agreed to follow him. I tried to tell him to take it slow as he jetted out of the parking lot. I then told Amanda to keep on the throttle to keep up... it was intense. We eventually arrived to a small alleyway as our pilot guide hopped off his scoot and started walking down to double check. He pointed down this alley and told us to ride our bikes right in (although it was barely wide enough for foot traffic). This young couple was a saving grace for taking us out of their way and I offered him some money for helping us. He refused the money and said in perfect English, 'Vietnamese people are known for their hospitality'. I gave him a man-hug and highfive and thanked him profusely for helping us out.

We negotiated our bikes down the alley and arrived at our final destination of the Bich Duyen Hotel. Amanda and I had a good huge hug with some loud 'WE MADE IT!' and 'WE ARE ALIVE!' We were greeted with enthusiasm from the young man at the front desk and we started unloading our bikes. Amanda wanted to head up to our room for a shower, but I said we should stay in our sweaty clothes as we were not quite finished our work for the day. We still had our final challenge... to find Flamingo Travel's HCMC office and to drop the bikes.

We were both very ready to be finished with the ride, but we still had to drop the bikes at Flamingo and the company could them ship them back to Hanoi (which was included in our agreed upon rental price). I wasn't really excited about navigating more of the city, but knew it had to be done. I showed the uber eager front desk Flamingo's address, and he said it was easy to find... he came into the alley, pointed down and said, 'Continue down the alley to the end, turn left, ride down a couple hundred meters and it'll be there on the right'. Wow and wow. It WAS that close and THAT easy. We couldn't believe it. We were thrilled. The Flamingo Travel HCMC office was literally right there... we couldn't have booked a better, closer hotel (and at a GREAT price of $17/night for a double w/private bathroom).


It took us just about 1-2 minutes to get to the Flamingo Office and I immediately started taking my GPS mount off the bike. The guy at the office called the Hanoi office and put me on the phone with the woman we booked the bikes through. She originally told me that our cash deposit for the bikes was to be waiting for us in the HCMC office but she knew we were flying back to Hanoi the following day on the plane (she also booked these flights for us). She told us we could pick the deposit up the next day in Hanoi upon arrival. We also 'donated' our helmets to Flamingo Travel. Seeing that we bought them in Hanoi, we thought we might be able to sell them, but instead, we just added them to the pile of helmets in their office... hopefully a couple of fellow Canucks will be able to appreciate the flags on the back.

We had our thumbs-up-high-fives with these gents, had one final look at our trusty bikes that we became quite close to and we started walking in the opposite direction back to the hotel. It was a weird feeling, walking away from the bikes after 3291 km with them, but equally, it was a great feeling of accomplishment and success. Our travel adventure wasn't quite over, but with the bikes, in the chaotic traffic of Vietnam, it was over.

Nice custom bike above...

The first thing I did when I got back to the Bich Duyen Hotel was shoot a picture of my Travel Log that I had been keeping. I was meticulous in documenting the trip for myself and for ADV Rider once we got home. (I also plan to write a final summary at the end of this RR with more detailed information on hotel costs, trip costs etc.)

My chicken-scratch Travel Log of our little scoot trip through Vietnam

Our afternoon was super chill. After showers and a relax, we found a smoothie shop where we ordered up a couple of fresh-fruit smoothies and then we went and sat in the adjacent park and watched HCMC life-go-by.

Later in the day, after walking around the backpackers area of District 1, we found a perfect spot for a couple of beers and another welcomed relax. Amanda and I both really enjoyed people watching and relaxing during our only afternoon in the city. We parked our butts at a corner-bar perfect for our viewing pleasure. I decided to shoot another video with my phone and included it below. Notice how many bikes go by with more than x2 people... some with 3 and I think you'll notice a bike with x4 people at one point making the corner. Also, notice that this 4 way intersection doesn't have any traffic lights, and people just go.... truly amazing how it all 'works'. Enjoy.

After beers at the corner bar, it was time to find some eats. We took a peddy-cab (pedal bike with cart) ride to the city centre and took the elevator up one of the higher buildings. We both figured we deserved $7 cocktails with a view.

We went to the Nha Hang Ngon restaurant which was pumped-up as a Top Choice in the Lonely Planet. It was an excellent choice indeed. The menu had pretty much any style of 'street-food' you could imagine with various cooks working at stations around the circumference of the establishment. The prices were good, the food was delicious and the ambiance was perfect for our one and only dinner in HCMC.

We had booked a flight at the beginning of our trip from HCMC back north to Hanoi for our final couple of nights. I was originally interested in taking the train from HCMC to Hanoi as I love trains, but after further research, this wasn't the way to travel. Turns out, the painful train journey is over 32 to 40 hours north and the ticket is about $40 for a higher class cabin. Our one-way flights from HCMC to Hanoi were about $50/each and took a grand total of 2 hours on a jet... kind of a no-brainer decision (as much as I love trains).

We were looking forward to traveling back up to Hanoi where our trip started. I had booked a plush hotel for our final x2 nights and we were both looking forward to Hanoi as we really enjoyed it from the start.

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Old 02-14-2014, 12:31 PM   #123
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The video is really cool!

Everybody has the right of way, and nobody has the right of way!! The cab making the 270 in the middle of the intersection is amazing. I was there this time 42 years ago and would really like to go back.

Thanks for taking us along.
Oh what fun it is to ride!!!!
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Old 02-14-2014, 03:31 PM   #124
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A random question solosurfer. Back in 2006 did you do A trip to Las Vegas on a Ducati?
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Old 02-17-2014, 01:30 PM   #125
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Nope and nope.

Originally Posted by HoodZ View Post
A random question solosurfer. Back in 2006 did you do A trip to Las Vegas on a Ducati?
I've only ever ridden a Ducati (1098) once and it was back in 2011. It was a very short love-affair. Took her for a zip north of Encinitas and back - a loop totaling ~8 miles mostly on the PCH. It was yeehaw-fun, but not the bike for me. I think I'd be more of a Monster or H.Motard kinda-guy.

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Old 02-17-2014, 06:26 PM   #126
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Long shot

My wife and I were in NorCal back in 2006, Cailastoga CA to be exact. We meet a couple from BC touring two up on a Ducati on their way back from Vegas. You reminded me of them, I thought it might be you.

BTW Great ride report
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Old 02-18-2014, 12:30 PM   #127
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HCMC to Hanoi ~1700kms in x2 hrs!

Day 27 - Sunday, December 1
Distance - ~1700 kms = 2 hrs (flight from HCMC to Hanoi)
Trip Odometer = 3291 kms (Total for trip on bikes)
Route - Up, up and away. Flight from HCMC to Hanoi on Vietnam Airlines
Hotel - Hanoi Charming 2 Hotel ($80 US)
Weather - Sunny, warm and amazing.

With our route through the northern loop and then slowly south through Vietnam, we managed to ride 3291 km in total. It was an incredible adventure that I would highly recommend to anyone. Yes, the traffic and roads in Vietnam are crazy, but at the same time there are areas that are truly breathtaking. My advice - take your time... smell the roses, ride slow, make good decisions, cross your fingers, pray, and enjoy.

Below is our final route which includes our tracks through Ha Long Bay at the beginning of the trip. We had a Spot GPS tracker which worked ok, but at times the tracking function seemed to lag therefore there are some straight-lined sections of our route tracking. Below is a quick screen-shot of the route, but you can click on the link below the map to zoom into the map itself for more detailed route information.

It was a no-brainer decision to fly back to Hanoi versus taking the train. It wasn't much more money and the flight was about 2 hours in duration (at a total of under $50/each for the flight).

We arrived back to Hanoi safe-and-sound and took a taxi to the Hanoi Charming 2 Hotel which we pre-booked before arrival. We decided to stay somewhere different for our last couple of days in Hanoi and we chose well. The Hanoi Charming 2 Hotel was a fair bit pricer than our last stay in Hanoi, but it was an excellent hotel with top-notch customer service and a fantastic breakfast which is included in the room price.

Amanda and I then made our way over to the Flamingo Travel Office to pick up our cash deposit that we put on the bikes before our trip. It was there waiting for us as were our drivers licenses from BC that we also left with the rental agency. I really shopped around with a bunch of the rental agencies in Hanoi and was very pleased with Flamingo. I would recommend setting everything up in advance therefore you will be set to go upon arrival.

They have a huge selection of bikes which are listed on their website above, and here are a few examples on the sign below that is posted in their Hanoi office. If you rent 'long term', all of their prices are negotiable and they provided us with a great rate on both bikes, repair kits, tubes and a cell phone for emergencies. (I will go into greater detail with bike costs etc. in a final summary a few posts from now).

They had this shiny new CRF 250 L parked right in front of their Hanoi Office (below):

We enjoyed our time being back in Hanoi at the end of our trip. We shopped around for Xmas gifts for family and to pick up a few things for ourselves. We sat in cafes, watched Hanoi life-go-by and we relaxed. We did have to hunt around Hanoi for a large duffel bag as we had acquired a few things on the trip and didn't have room in the small luggage we originally brought with us. I managed to find a nice roller duffel for about $30, the guy was originally asking $120 - and it was perfectly suitable for us to load up for our trip home.

Hoan Kiem Lake - in Hanoi's Old Quarter (above):

Similarly to my video in HCMC at the corner bar, I decided to shoot a quick video of the traffic in Hanoi from a roof-top cafe. Again, no traffic lights and no rhyme-or-reason... people just go in the direction they want to go and they make it work. Look closely for people walking and bicycling through the chaos. Amazing. Video below:

We made sure to stop at Bun Bo Nam Bo - one of our favourite restaurants in Hanoi's Old Quarter. It was cheap and SO delicious. (For x2 bowls of Bun Bo, and x2 beers, it was under $7 US) I also recommend trying the banana-leaf-wrapped tofu (can't remember the Vietnamese name). Delicious.

We arrived back in Hanoi in the early afternoon of December 1 and our flight out of the country was December 2 at 11:35pm. The Hanoi Charming 2 Hotel was very accommodating to us. We checked out of our lovely room on Dec 2 after breakfast. After shopping around Hanoi, we headed back to the hotel for an afternoon relax and they had another room set up for us for the afternoon/early evening before our departure. We were able to relax, shower and use the room for a few hours before our airport shuttle.

The next post will include photos of our final day in Hanoi in addition to our stopover in Seoul, Korea.

Stay tuned...

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Old 02-18-2014, 04:20 PM   #128
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Hanoi chaos!

Originally Posted by JNXPILOT View Post
Everybody has the right of way, and nobody has the right of way!! The cab making the 270 in the middle of the intersection is amazing. I was there this time 42 years ago and would really like to go back.

Thanks for taking us along.
You are welcome. It was a great trip.

I just added another traffic video from Hanoi in my most recent post, I'd like to call it 'organized-chaos!'. (I also have another one I'll add 'by night'.)

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Old 02-18-2014, 04:35 PM   #129
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I really enjoyed your excellent trip report on Viet Nam. Thanks for taking us along.
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Old 02-18-2014, 05:57 PM   #130
Will ride for food.
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Thanks for sharing your adventure with us!
What if there were no more hypothetical questions?
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Old 02-18-2014, 09:41 PM   #131
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I have to say, after I watched the top gear episode I wanted to make the trip. After reading your RR I want to do it even more.

Great read and glad you had a awesome, safe, trip.
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Old 02-19-2014, 06:12 PM   #132
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Hanoi to Seoul, Korea

Day 28/29 - Monday/Tuesday, December 2/3
Distance - ~2740 kms = 4 hrs (flight from Hanoi to Seoul, Korea)
Trip Odometer = 3291 kms (Total for Vietnam trip on bikes)
Route - Flight from Hanoi to Seoul on Korean Airlines
Hotel - No Hotel - stroll around Seoul for the day during a layover
Weather - Hanoi = beautiful and warm. Seoul = cold, chilly 'Canada-like-weather'.

Our final day in Hanoi was spent relaxing and shopping around. Our flight home was at 11:35pm, therefore we had the entire day to stroll around and spend the last of our hard-earned Dong.

Shoes! Shoes! Shoes! You could pick up a pair of whatever your heart desired and generally you could work them down to about $10-$15/pair.

Above: 'In my shop - you get what you pay for (4 sure)'.... hmmmmmm, oh realllly?!?! I actually bought my Dad and Sister North Face Jackets from this shop, it was fun negotiating down the prices.

A mango-lassi.... delicious! We spent more time at the 'City View Cafe' watching Hanoi life-go-by.

City View Cafe (above): Our go-to-hang-out.

Above: We noticed bird cages all over the city in front of residences and shops. The alleys were 'alive' with beautiful bird songs and chirps...

Below: More birds in cages along sidewalks

Below: Another video - this time Hanoi traffic by night... shot from the City View Cafe:

As mentioned, we were able to relax for part of the afternoon at the Hanoi Charming 2 Hotel even though we had already checked-out. They gave us a room to rest and to have showers before our evening flight from Hanoi to Seoul, Korea.

We arrived to Seoul at about 5:30am local time and didn't fly back to the USA (Pacific Northwest) until 6:30pm. We had the full day to tour around Seoul. From the airport we took an express train direct from the airport to Seoul Station in the heart of the city.

Seoul Station. Most shops and businesses were closed upon our early arrival, but we did find this cafe 'Beans & Berries' open for business. I ordered up a latte, smoothie and a couple of pastries for a grand total of $15.72. I think this was the point when we missed Vietnam prices...

15,300.00 KRW
15.7212 CAD

Above and Below: The new and old Seoul Station - train station

Above: Clothing store for plump-children?

Namdaemun - officially known as Sungnyemun - or gate of exhaulted ceremonies. It is one of 8 gates in the Fortress Wall that surrounded the city of Seoul in the Joseon Dynasty. The gate is located right in the heart of the city between Seoul Station and Seoul City Plaza (with the historic 24 hr Namdaemun market next to the gate)

Above - Gangnam Style Psy! Korea's most 'recent' famous Pop-Star. As far as I understand - Gangnam is actually a district in Seoul... I guess the song is based on this area or the 'Style' of the area perhaps.

A couple of Korean scoots.

Above: My guess is that there isn't much 'Style' in this 'Stylish Bar'. I don't think this would be an establishment I would want to take my mother to...

Above: Some shopping around at the Lotte Outlet stores in Seoul - one word: expensive!

More Seoul Station....

Around lunch - we decided to try out the Food Court in the Lotte Outlet. It was a very interesting and unique procedure.

First - we decided on the number that we were interested in. They had numbered sections 1-14 and under each of these numbers, there were another 8-10 odd choices. For example, you could order a 8-2 or a 5-1 etc. Luckily, they had english descriptions of the food-plates although they were quite vague as to exactly what you were getting.

We then paid a cashier after giving our numbered choice. We had printed receipts that had numbers on them, each main number #1-12 would then have a booth where you would pick up your selected and paid for choice. You knew your choice was ready when you saw the number on your ticket flashing on one of the many flat screens. As mentioned, it was quite the process and it turned out that the food was very good.

After a good taste of Seoul, we decided to take the train back to the Incheon International Airport. We headed back to the airport in the early afternoon as we were exhausted with the time change and the rest.

I couldn't believe the Incheon Airport, it was the nicest airport I had ever been to in my years of travel. Turns out, for 7 years in a row (2005-2012) it was rated the best airport worldwide by Airports Council International. I can see why it was awarded this for 7 years in a row. The airport has a golf course, spa, private sleeping rooms, ice skating rink, a casino, indoor gardens, a movie theatre and a Museum of Korean Culture. It was amazing.

At one point, I noticed a sign that stated 'Relaxation Center' pointing up an escalator. The sign was beside a 'First Class Lounge' sign and we both thought that they might be the same thing and that we wouldn't be allowed in with our measly regular coach-class tickets. We headed up to the relaxation center anyway. We then saw a sign for 'Free Showers' and thought a shower would be a perfect way to warm-up after a chilly morning in Seoul City.

A young man at a desk gave us x2 towels each and gave us separate numbered rooms to have a shower. The individual rooms were nicely tiled with glassed in showers and rain-shower heads with all the hot water and pressure a tired traveler would want. Perfect!

We then made our way deeper into the 'relaxation center' and found some nice lounges to nap on. I strolled around and also found a bank of 'free' massage chairs which I spent a good hour enjoying. They also offered banks of computers with free internet, Skype headsets and video, and free WiFi throughout the airport as well. It was a great place to spend a few hours during our afternoon layover. We were both very impressed.

It was a long flight back to the northern U.S. followed by a 3 hour drive back into British Columbia and finally home sweet home. We arrived to a good dumping of snow which we were both excited about - you can take a Canadian out of Canada, but you can't take Canada out of these two Canadian Kids, especially when it comes to snow.

Thanks for following our Vietnam Top-to-Bottom Blog.

It was an excellent adventure that I would highly recommend to anyone.

I'll include a final Trip Summary and some final thoughts in a separate post.

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Old 02-19-2014, 06:52 PM   #133
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How much of a pain in the butt was it not knowing the native language?
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Old 02-20-2014, 08:08 AM   #134
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Home again! Home Again! Jiggity jig!

Thanks for the trip!
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Old 02-20-2014, 02:39 PM   #135
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Spent the last couple of days thoroughly enjoying this one.
Incredible, loved it.
Great photos!
And of course thank you for taking the time to share this
wonderful experience.
2008 KLR rider
Lets ride !
"The poets down here don't write nuthin' at all
They just stand back and let it all be." Springsteen
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