Wild Dog Adventure Riding

Riding: Plan, Report and Racing => Ride Reports => Global Reports => Topic started by: MrBig on April 22, 2013, 03:49:32 pm

Title: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die >> PART 8
Post by: MrBig on April 22, 2013, 03:49:32 pm
(http://images.wikia.com/jet/images/e/ea/Flag_of_Vietnam.png)

This will be less of a ride report and more some random ramblings about Vietnam and our experiences in riding from south to north (2-up) on a 125cc Suzuki over 3 weeks in March 2013. If you ever thought of doing these writings perhaps this could in some way help you to figure out the why’s and how’s.

Why did we choose Vietnam? Pure chance really – just a place we haven’t been to and considering that our dates were fixed we looked around South East Asia for suitable weather during March. After discovering Emirates added a direct flight to Saigon mid 2012 our minds were pretty much made up. March is spring time in Vietnam and although it’s always warm in the South there’s less chance of rain and the North holds cooler weather. We had no desire to ride day in and day out in monsoon like torrential downpours and figured this time of the year would give us the best possible chance to do it. A very nice resource for weather conditions and trip planning is available on the weather guide page of Selective Asia (http://www.selectiveasia.com/vietnam-holidays/weather/march)

In November 2012 our research started and the decision to do it independently by bike wasn’t a clear choice from the start.
Once you browse the mountain of info on the web and read others opinions on forums such as Thorntree and TripAdvisor you will notice there are mixed opinions on the idea of biking Vietnam.
Many will tell you about their amazing experience and will be encouraging - but even more will tell you their horror stories...
Huge language barriers; insane traffic; zero road rules; no respect or tolerance for bikes on the highways; no legal way of driving on a tourist visa; horrible accidents with poor medical care; hugely corrupt police and traffic officials. The list goes on.
However, whether you choose to bike there or not should depend on what you want from the experience as a whole and you should approach it well informed and not only be comfortable with you ability to handle a motorcycle under difficult circumstances but understand (and make peace with it) that there are and will be risks. Yes, in all likelihood you will be riding there “illegally” and the implication of this should be understood. Make sure you have adequate medical cover for international travel as well as good liability insurance to boot if worse comes to worse.  

Nevertheless - we pegged some destinations and compared travel options.
Biking vs public transport (trains, busses) vs Flying to select destinations. All of which are feasible.
What swayed us in the end was that N[]va lives in Ho Chi Minh City and he offered assistance with the bike issue.
Having a friend there made all the difference as we knew we could pretty much arrive and find everything ready considering our limited time-frame of three-and-a-half weeks.
Besides, biking sounded like a lot more fun and interesting way of seeing the country.  :biggrin:

The only remaining question was whether to buy a bike or rent one. One way rentals are possible with a few motorcycle touring agencies but those offering rentals rarely have bikes suitable for 2-up.
Depending on what bike you rent and for how long the cost could be anything from $20-35 per day. There is thus a point where it starts making sense to consider buying a bike. For a solo rider the Honda Win (Chinese) is perfectly suited and good samples can be found for under $300. They are cheap to run and very cheap to fix with parts available everywhere. Virtually all the foreign riders we encountered (not many btw) was riding a Win.

Being held liable for damage to a rental bike also didn’t exactly appeal to me so we decided to take the plunge and buy something. Buying a motorcycle in Vietnam is pretty straightforward and the custom is not to transfer ownership but merely to pass on the original registration papers to the next owner.
This proves ownership satisfactory to all including the police.

Our biggest challenge was finding a suitable bike at a reasonable price. From the info I could gather on various forums and blogs the best way to go would be to buy a bike form a fellow traveler in HCMC.
Plenty of 2nd hand options are available - something like a Suzuki GS 125 seemed to be well suited to carry a pillion.
Craigslist Vietnam is a pretty popular source for travellers and after keeping an eye on it for a couple of weeks spotted a winner. http://vietnam.craigslist.org/mcy/
(If you’re looking also keep an eye on http://www.travelswop.com/ for some options.)

N[]va made contact and the very next day I was the semi-proud owner of a Suzuki GN125!
(http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/Vietnam00185_zps89cc5292.jpg)

Now planning could start in earnest.

We sent passports off to the Vietnamese Embassy in Pretoria for Visa applications. http://www.vietnam.co.za/
They confirmed that Saffers do not require proof of accommodation and all that's needed is a filled in application form, confirmed flight bookings and some colour ID photos.
The Visa fee is dependent on duration and number of entries. 1 Month Single Entry was R800 – a bit of a rip-off but that’s after all the Vietnamese way =)

The itinerary took shape and we managed to squeeze in a few days so total length of the road trip will be 23 full days (plus arrival and departure days  either side)
Realistically it left  us with around 20 days to make it from Saigon to Hanoi.

Rough route as follow:
HCMC to Phan Tiet (Mui Ne)
Phan Tiet to Da Lat
Da Lat to Nha Trang
Nha Trang to Tuy Hua
Tuy Hua  to Pleiku
Pleiku to Kham Duc
Kham Duc to Hoi An
Hue to Cu Nam
Cu Nam to Huong Khe
Huong Khe to Yen Cat
Yen Cat to Hanoi

So the plan was pretty much 11 days riding + 9 days for sightseeing and chilling then fly back to Saigon for a day or two

(http://www.wilddog.za.net/forum/index.php?action=dlattach;topic=112429.0;attach=252358;image)

In the meantime N[]va had Jerry (the Suzuki) checked out by his mechanics over at Hien Moto  (highly recommended as far as Vietnamese workshops go!)
New oil & filters, new clutch plates & clutch cable, new cam chain and tensioner, new fork seals, new sparkplugs, new grips.
Also fitted new tyres front and back and reupholstered the seat for more comfort with the total cost of work coming just under $200


more to come...

(http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/Vietnam00012_zpsf4250a0f.jpg)



edit - photos embedded using PhotoBucket so let me know if you can't see them


PART 2 here (http://www.wilddog.za.net/forum/index.php?topic=122779.msg2375986#msg2375986)

PART 3 here (http://www.wilddog.za.net/forum/index.php?topic=122779.msg2376817#msg2376817)


PART 4 here (http://www.wilddog.za.net/forum/index.php?topic=122779.msg2377645#new)

PART 5 here (http://www.wilddog.za.net/forum/index.php?topic=122779.msg2380376#new)

PART 6 here (http://www.wilddog.za.net/forum/index.php?topic=122779.msg2381491#new)

PART 7 here (http://www.wilddog.za.net/forum/index.php?topic=122779.msg2381838#msg2381838)

PART 8 here (http://www.wilddog.za.net/forum/index.php?topic=122779.msg2429405#new)
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die
Post by: ZooDog on April 22, 2013, 03:58:17 pm
subscribed
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die
Post by: Hentie @ Riders on April 22, 2013, 04:06:35 pm
 :happy1:
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die
Post by: lonerider on April 22, 2013, 04:13:11 pm
Been waiting! ;)

 :thumleft:
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die
Post by: WP on April 22, 2013, 04:24:06 pm
 :ricky:
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die
Post by: Operator on April 22, 2013, 04:26:35 pm
Been waiting! ;)

 :thumleft:

Me too (http://www.saforums.co.za/rlt/Smileys/default/ino.gif)
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die
Post by: Karel Kat on April 22, 2013, 04:43:15 pm
Jippie, uiteindelik!
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die
Post by: TheAnt on April 22, 2013, 04:45:20 pm
Whoooohoooo!  :ricky:

 :sip:
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die
Post by: Crossed-up on April 22, 2013, 04:46:58 pm
This will be good!  Bookmarked.
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die
Post by: Crop Sprang on April 22, 2013, 04:51:58 pm
Fantasic
Looking forward to the memories of an amazing place !!!!!
 :ricky: :ricky: :ricky: :ricky: :ricky:
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die
Post by: buzzlightyear on April 22, 2013, 05:06:53 pm
 :sip:
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die
Post by: Lem on April 22, 2013, 05:15:34 pm
gan dit nie mis nie
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die
Post by: MrBig on April 22, 2013, 05:55:03 pm
Before hitting the road  ;) a bit more on preparations

PART 2

BIKE & TOOLS
By some luck Jerry came ready fitted with some sturdy pannier racks and a very generous rear carrier rack.
I packed a basic toolkit and a handpump for emergency. N[]va had a huge bike lock ready for us and I borrowed feeler gauges and gasket maker as well.
The seating is fairly comfortable for such a small bike but understandable gets cramped after a few hours. The narrow handle bars felt strange compared to the more aggressive position I’m used to.
In retrospect I should have fitted some form of high-way pegs as well.

LUGGAGE
It was very important to keep weight down and we used a small pack on each side for most of our stuff and a 15L drybag on the rear rack for the toolkit and wet weather gear.
Total weight of luggage was around 15kg.

(http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/Vietnam00185_zps89cc5292.jpg)

GEAR
Helmet laws are in place across Vietnam and enforced in the South but less so in the North. The average Vietnamese barely pay attention to what they put on their heads and mostly it’s something resembling a baseball cap.
You can buy these ‘helmets’ for around R20-30 from sidewalk vendors. Suffice to say full-face helmets are far from the norm and we turned heads wherever we went.
Before leaving I fitted Bluetooth communicators in each helmet which really worked a charm.
My recommendation is to bring all your own gear if you plan on riding there. We took our oldest full-face helmets along (with the idea to pass it on along with the bike when selling).
Waterproof boots (our only shoes apart from flip-flops so they have to be comfortable); Richa Deep Summer jackets with armour removed;  Gloves;
It wasn’t feasible to deal with riding pants due to the bulk and heat so we took some lightweight pants and had Kevlar/Cordura patches put on the lower legs/knee area.
We each had rain pants as well as a waterproof jacket to wear over gear as well as for general use if need. We got extremely lucky and never had any rain on the road and it also was never cold enough to need a jacket anyway.
The heat, in fact, can become rather exhausting especially in the South so keep that in mind when choosing appropriate gear.
Now you can always argue “do as the locals do” and ride around in sandals but do so at your own peril. The sun will burn the living daylights out of you if you have any exposed skin and I reckon some sort of abrasion protection is the minimum you should have. We saw and met quite a few tourists with bloodied hands, elbows and knees.

(http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/Vietnam00017_zps72b3ca17.jpg)

MAPS
Some of the paper maps on sale in Vietnam is indecipherable and pretty damn useless but if you’re persistent you will find a good one.
I wasn’t prepared to risk it and especially having to navigate cities filled with alleys and one-way streets decided on taking a GPS along.
Garmap South East Asia 2012 proved to be pretty accurate and even gave turn by turn routing when necessary - I ran it off my trusty eTrex Legend mounted on the bars.

(http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/Vietnam00152_zpsfbe557d3.jpg)

GADGETS
We met a Dutch couple with humongous backpacks at a train station where they were contemplating the main cause of their over-sized (and hefty) luggage.
She proclaimed with some shame that it was mostly due to all the “computerapparatuur”.
Never being one to shy away from the odd gadget we realised it was our curse as well.
Internet connectivity was surprisingly good and available virtually everywhere – mostly for free – so having the odd gadget makes sense if you need to stay in touch with home, backup or upload some photos or do some online booking or research.
Electricity sockets accepts both the round 2-pin plug and the US flat 2-pin plug so charging was very easy.
N[]va kindly arranged a local SIM with some airtime for us which came in very handy throughout the trip.



(http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/Vietnam00002_zps71024c92.jpg)

SAIGON
Finally the day came and we arrived in Saigon around 8pm on a sweaty Friday afternoon.
Great was my surprise when we stepped outside the airport to find N[]va standing there to welcome us.
We had our first encounter with Vietnamese taxi ranks and finally made it to the city and onto our first beer.
The heat was overwhelming and feeling the effects of the long trip I was really relieved we had decided to not hit the road the very next day but to stick around to find our bearings until Sunday.

Saigon was an assault to the senses - one of the first things you notice when arriving in Vietnam is the absolutely ridiculous number of motorcycles on the streets. Like in most Asian countries bikes here are used to transport the whole family as well as whatever else crap you need to carry.  
Saturday we got our stuff together and headed over to N[]va’s place to give Jerry a shakedown and sort our kit out.
It must have been a very long time since I’ve been on a 125 as the less than .. ummm.. explosive power of these bikes took me by surprise.
That being said it never really is necessary or safe to go very fast in Vietnam. (I will get to the overall driving experience later though).
We swung buy Hien Moto so I could meet the mechanics and also pick up a spare spark plug for the road. We took the plug out and it was clear the bike was running a bit lean so they adjusted the jetting.
That evening N[]va treated us to a proper braai on the roof of his building along with he’s missus and a friend. What a great way to start our journey!

(http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/Vietnam00014_zps7b4496ae.jpg)



With a lot of excitement and some trepidation we hit the sack that night........
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die
Post by: weskus on April 22, 2013, 06:32:47 pm
Looking forward to the rest..
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die
Post by: Sir Rat on April 22, 2013, 06:56:33 pm
Wow I am in on this ride. More Bigboy!!  ;D
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die
Post by: Would I? on April 22, 2013, 07:31:31 pm
Keep it coming  :biggrin: :thumleft:
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die
Post by: woody1 on April 22, 2013, 07:47:12 pm
Sub... sounds lekker...
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die
Post by: KiLRoy on April 22, 2013, 07:48:44 pm
Would love to see a pic of you on that 125 ;D

Subscribed
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die
Post by: Andy660 on April 22, 2013, 08:51:23 pm
Subscribed
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die
Post by: Hinksding on April 22, 2013, 10:12:10 pm
 :sip:
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die
Post by: IDR on April 22, 2013, 10:57:41 pm
 :ricky:
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die
Post by: landieman on April 23, 2013, 12:26:58 am
looks good so far :thumleft: :thumleft:
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die
Post by: MrBig on April 23, 2013, 06:42:04 am
Would love to see a pic of you on that 125 ;D

Subscribed

it's not pretty - poor bike   :biggrin:
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die
Post by: N[]vA on April 23, 2013, 08:34:30 am
Would love to see a pic of you on that 125 ;D

Subscribed

it's not pretty - poor bike   :biggrin:
Will post some of the pics I took :p
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die
Post by: Dwerg on April 23, 2013, 08:41:28 am
:happy1:
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die
Post by: N[]vA on April 23, 2013, 08:45:40 am
MrBig on his not so MrBig  :P :P
(https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-RjAGhvZEID4/UTrX9dLLSII/AAAAAAAARVs/V7fyW3O9TRU/s640/20130309_133301.jpg)

MrsBig
(https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-s85hyp3PYtg/UTrYUh5BuQI/AAAAAAAARWE/4lqUQPTEX-g/s640/20130309_133502.jpg)

Testing out a two piece rain poncho that came  with the bike
(https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-GSZu3fOPEhI/UUXG5A33xWI/AAAAAAAARb8/jXEw337btXQ/s640/20130309_125200.jpg)

This was the point on the highway where I would turn and head back home
(https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-eCPLhYSbm4s/UTv_XSX9biI/AAAAAAAARXM/ORKeo6sKky0/s640/20130310_103425.jpg)
(https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-JdRjXQxF1mE/UTv_UhgGz9I/AAAAAAAARXA/viOAO0hT3is/s640/20130310_103419.jpg)

Will see if I can dig up some video
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die
Post by: CHorse on April 23, 2013, 08:50:09 am
Subscribed - following with interest  :thumleft:
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die
Post by: MrBig on April 23, 2013, 09:32:56 am
PART 3

Ho Chi Minh City to Mui Ne

Distance: 245 km

As early as could be expected after the previous night’s ‘activities’ we packed our stuff and hit the road.

(http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/Vietnam00017_zps72b3ca17.jpg)

N[]va offered to escort us out for the first 15km’s or so to at least make things a bit easier getting out of the city.

(http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/Vietnam00018_zps636ef9ea.jpg)

Being Sunday morning made no difference as the traffic was insane. However, after filling up with fuel and saying our goodbyes to N[]va we left the highway and headed in the direction of Vung Tau where traffic thinned out and slowly buildings and sidewalks made way for rice paddies.  

Within an hour it became quite apparent that we might have set ourselves a too tall an order for day one. Going was excruciatingly slow with maximum speeds around 60 km/h and an average of less than 50km/h.
The quality of the road surface varies with some loose gravel and potholes added to the erratic driving style of locals. Rear-view mirrors are purely decorative and they clearly cannot distinguish left from right as the 20% who uses indicators usually does it incorrectly. The only certainty is that nothing is certain and absolutely anything can happen. It changes the game a bit when it dawns on you that ‘your’ side of the road doesn’t necessarily belong to you!

We tried to stick to the lesser roads and for most it meant little traffic and beautiful scenery.
Around 2pm we were starving and kept an eye open for a roadside eatery. On day one we learned another important lesson wrt Vietnam.
Your window of opportunity for finding food is rather limited once you leave the bigger towns and cities.
The Vietnamese are early risers and they get going around 05:30 in the mornings.
This meant an early lunch from 11:30 to around 12:30 and early supper from 17:30 to 18:30.
If you miss this time either you will find most places closed or you will have to accept the last scrapes of the pot (of whatever there is).
 (http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/Vietnam00019_zps8239a549.jpg)

On this specific day we found ourselves on a small winding road between dragon fruit fields and rice paddies with nothing resembling food in sight. We finally spotted a place with a sign saying “Café” where a few people were sitting on tiny chairs drinking ice tea and stopped. We should have taken it as a bad sign when the proprietor indicated that they don’t usually serve food only drinks.
But we were desperate and they offered us some Banh Tet (for the record any place displaying a Café sign is for drinks only).
Not knowing what Banh Tet is and being early on in our trip we still had an appetite for adventure so gave it a go.  
You may ask when seeing it for the first time “Is it a brick or doorstop wrapped in banana leaf?".
 The leaves encase sticky rice, in the center of which there's mung bean paste and bits of pork and pork fat.  
Apparently it’s quite a skill to make it in the desired shape and is considered a must-have food for Vietnamese Lunar New Year celebration.
The banana leaves impart a tea-like aroma and flavour to the rice which becomes incredibly glutinous as a result of the 8 hour cooking process.
Sounds delightful hey.
Unfortunately my palate was far from adjusted and I could barely nibble on a piece before giving up.
Lisa was clearly a bit more hungry as she gave it a good shot. Yum.

(http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/Vietnam00020_zpsa4c8479d.jpg)

It was getting very late and we cruised through the last major town of Phan Tiet just before 6 pm.

(http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/Vietnam00022_zpsfc5bb42d.jpg)

Minutes before sunset we stumbled into Mui Ne and set about finding a place to stay. Mui Ne is a pretty cool place.  It’s a nice beach town, and a super popular spot for Kite boarding and Windsurfing. However, it’s very much a resort type town and extremely touristy. We looked at a few places but everything was full.
Lesson nr 2 for the day – if you know where you will be the next day pre-book your accommodation.
Not only does is save time not having to hunt around for something suitable but generally online offers are much better than walking in.
 There is also the added benefit of relying on reviews of past travellers.

Mui Ne Backpackers came to our rescue and we got a small but comfortable double room with en-suite for $32
(It was a rip-off by Vietnamese standards and by FAR the most we spent on accommodation for the duration of our trip but more on that later).

There are some really good eats along the main strip and with especially seafood freshly prepared at open air restaurants along the beach front.
(http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/Vietnam00029_zpsd71b5048.jpg)

The next day we spent around Mui Ne seeing some sights and relaxing on the beach.    
 (http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/Vietnam00032_zps0f4b6f33.jpg)

(http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/Vietnam00039_zpsde150c14.jpg)

(http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/Vietnam00049_zps9ad4cce2.jpg)

(http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/Vietnam00048_zps5b123baf.jpg)
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die
Post by: RobC on April 23, 2013, 09:42:25 am
Good stuff!
I notice you passed a Dragon Fruit plantation too!! http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/Vietnam00019_zps8239a549.jpg

Amazing trip. :thumleft:
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die
Post by: Shangali on April 23, 2013, 09:47:43 am

   Joooohhhhhhh, here comes a trip to trip .....  :drif: :drif:

   subscribe ....

   i remember a trip with the boys from Top Gear .....  :lol8: :lol8:

   you can better this perhaps with south african humor and african thinking ...


   bring it on ....
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die
Post by: Brink on April 23, 2013, 09:58:19 am
 :sip:
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die
Post by: Lourens ツ on April 23, 2013, 11:14:08 am
 :sip:
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die
Post by: zawillow on April 23, 2013, 11:47:28 am
 :happy1: :happy1: On my bucket list
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die
Post by: Slingervel on April 23, 2013, 12:08:04 pm
 :sip:
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die
Post by: GPW on April 23, 2013, 03:48:18 pm
this looks like fun!!!!!!!! sub.
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die
Post by: I&horse on April 23, 2013, 04:48:04 pm
 :sip:
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die
Post by: Wolweseun on April 23, 2013, 05:01:30 pm
 :sip:
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die
Post by: MrBig on April 23, 2013, 05:07:24 pm
PART 4

Mui Ne to Da Lat

Distance: 200 km

We knew that the next leg would take us to almost 2000m above sea level and considering the slow progress of the previous leg the thought of hills made me very nervous.
 
 (http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/Vietnam00061_zps80cde393.jpg)

If you’ve ever ridden a 125cc before you would know that even under the best circumstances it’s not going to win any races.
Now chuck two people on the back along with luggage and add a shitty Chinese carburettor (long story) to the mix and it sure as hell won’t get any better.
To top it all off:  ride uphill – for a few hundred kilometres.

So we got up early to get going – too early for any breakfast places to be open.
Thirty minutes down the road we found a small café opposite a college and sat down next to the youngsters for ca phe sua da and some sweet vetkoek-like bread.

(http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/Vietnam00160_zpsfbcf8899.jpg)

Vietnamese coffee proved to be something really special unlike in most other Asian countries.  
Coffee was introduced into Vietnam by French colonists in the late 19th century and Vietnam quickly became a strong exporter of coffee – currently only second to Brazil. Because of limitations on the availability of fresh milk, the French and Vietnamese began to use sweetened condensed milk with a dark roast coffee.
The cheaper beans were usually a Robusta variety and to provide more flavour they would be roasted very dark.
This strong roast is usually individually brewed with a small metal French drip filter (cà phê phin) into a cup containing about a quarter to a half as much sweetened condensed milk  (then stirred and poured over ice for the iced-coffee version).
You can find coffee like this almost anywhere even at a small roadside shop.
The cheapest we have found it was 10 000 VD a cup with the average about 15 000 VD (The Vietnamese Dong is roughly 2000 to the Rand).
Suffice to say we came home with a handful of drip filters and a togbag of coffee!

](http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/Vietnam00065_zps4387723d.jpg)

The road from Phan Tiet to Dalat is truly amazing and after you go inland from the sea it travels first through green farmlands then onto the mountains as the road starts narrowing - keep  climbing and eventually it becomes tight and twisty.

(http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/Vietnam00066_zpsf50b3643.jpg)
 
(http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/Vietnam00063_zps7b08f12a.jpg)

It’s still very hot and I feel for the poor bike. At times we barely travel over 20km/h up the steepest parts.

(http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/Vietnam00070_zps64998b53.jpg)

Still, it’s a heavenly drive with little traffic and breath-taking scenery. The thick jungle almost spilling over the road in places.
We couldn’t help but think about what it must have been like trying to wage a war here on foot.   :o

Careful to not make the same mistake again and miss out on lunch we stopped in good time  in a medium sized town.
Com Ga (chicken rice) is a staple along with Pho (noodle soup)  and a popular lunch amongst locals.
It’s as close as you will get to fast-food as it flies out of the kitchen. Served with the most delicious and delicate fish-sauce it makes for a great meal.

As we got closer to Dalat the larger road from Saigon joined in and we entered a never-ending pine forest.
The air was noticeably cooler -  a huge relief. I took a wrong turn though and had to strain poor Jerry up some ridiculous steep and narrow alleys.
When we finally stopped I could smell oil.  
There was a slight oil leak at the valve cover and escaping oil was sizzling onto the hot motor. Oops.

(http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/Vietnam00091_zpsc4d4f863.jpg)

Dalat was originally the playground of the French who built villas in the clear mountain air to escape the heat and humidity of the coast and of Saigon.
It’s one of the more beautiful cities in Vietnam, but very touristy.  
We stayed at the Gold Night Hotel at $18 for a nice big en-suite room (breakfast included) right near the market.

(http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/Vietnam00075_zps3aabbdb1.jpg)

We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the market area and wandered around the lake near the city centre.

After dark all the locals put on jerseys and beanies and we joined them sampling delicacies from food stalls at the night market.  

(http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/Vietnam00079_zps795ddbce.jpg)

(http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/Vietnam00083_zps8be26795.jpg)

(http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/Vietnam00089_zps6a5fd76a.jpg)

Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die
Post by: zetman on April 23, 2013, 05:42:22 pm
Lekker Ry...verslag :ricky: :ricky: :ricky:
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die
Post by: SACK on April 23, 2013, 07:20:17 pm
Nice! Looking forward to the next installment.
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die
Post by: Misty on April 24, 2013, 10:57:02 am
Awesome stuff, what a lekker adventure!!!  :)
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die
Post by: BjornB on April 24, 2013, 07:24:59 pm
:sip:
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die
Post by: Phula on April 24, 2013, 07:47:37 pm
 :sip:
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die
Post by: Would I? on April 24, 2013, 09:16:26 pm
 :thumleft:
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die
Post by: landieman on April 25, 2013, 12:24:28 am
awesome!!safe travels
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die
Post by: Fuzzy Muzzy on April 25, 2013, 01:25:22 am
Vietnam is on my bucket list..  :sip:
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die
Post by: LouisXander on April 25, 2013, 08:12:10 am
Lekker Andre. Gooi daai fotos. Dis nou een RR wat ek na uitsien.
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die
Post by: MrBig on April 25, 2013, 12:11:31 pm
PART 5

Dalat to Nha Trang

Distance: 160 km

The oil leak worried me but I knew that today’s ride would mostly be downhill towards the coast and as long as it doesn’t get any worse we should be fine.
I also had a tube of liquid gasket maker with me and worse case could do a repair if needed in Nha Trang.

Before checkout we rode up the hills to the outskirt of the city and took the cable car to a Monastery on the other side of the valley.
The Thien Vien Truc Lam Monastery is known for its amazing gardens full of landscaped shrubs in animal form.
It also offers a magnificent view over the dams and farmlands below.
We figured as it’s still early (and we’re at 2000m) it won’t be very warm but damn we nearly cooked in our riding kit!

(http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/Vietnam00092_zps6a584e51.jpg)

(http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/Vietnam00095_zps36cd2fea.jpg)

I’ve heard about the road from Dalat to Nha Trang and also remember seeing it featured in the Top Gear Special a few years back.
Although those guys had it bad and had to endure torrential rain -  for some reason they only made it to Nha Trang after nightfall as well!  ???

It truly is a stunning road with wonderful scenery and by a long stretch the best leg of the trip so far.
The landscape shifts from rocky outcroppings to highland desert on winding, made-for-touring-bike roads.
The first 15km or so from Dalat is a bit gravely and bumpy but it opens up after that into a beautiful ride.
The road is only about 5 years old and although there is the odd bus it’s not nearly as crowded as the highway route and you mostly only see the odd scooter.

(http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/Vietnam00099_zpsf4c76182.jpg)

(http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/Vietnam00101_zpsb5c14186.jpg)

We stopped a few times along the road just to admire the scenery.

(http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/Vietnam00103_zpsb92166b6.jpg)

As we came down in altitude we could feel the air warming up  –the bike kept running nicely and we kept going without any drama.
We stopped for a cool drink in a small village about an hour from Nha Trang. The heat was only barely durable when moving and we were looking forward to get back to the coast.

(http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/Vietnam00104_zps23219279.jpg)

Nha Trang is Vietnam’s most famous seaside resort-town.
It's more lively and urban in character than other beach destinations like Mui Ne and Phu Quoc. It's also the scuba diving center of Vietnam.
It has developed into a popular destination for international tourists, attracting large numbers of backpackers, as well as more affluent travellers on the Southeast Asia circuit;

(http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/Vietnam00107_zpsc1e6b928.jpg)

One thing that you notice immediately is that especially in the southern part of town where most of the tourist infrastructure is shop signs are in Russian as well as Vietnamese.
Almost all restaurants have menus in Russian and we found Russian speaking guides at all the dive shops and travel centres.
I’m not sure if the Russians are bolstered by old military ties but they seem to be streaming to Nha Trang in hordes.
I’m not exaggerating when I say that Russians outnumber other tourists by 4:1  :biggrin:
Even the locals will open a sales pitch with some Russian lines!
It’s probably pretty good for the local economy but sadly ruins the feel of the place a bit. 
(We later learned that there are four direct flights a day to Nha Trang from Russia.)

(http://theselfishyears.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/nha-trang-01.jpg)

It’s also a place that can be a bit hard on those that consume too much alcohol and frequent the late night bars.
Most of the city shuts down by 10 pm and all the opportunists and thieves go where the tourist money is.
A common tactic is apparently for beautiful women to rub up against you while relieving you of your possessions on the sly.

Not that we had any of these problems though as by day, the city has plenty of charm and most people are very friendly.  ;D

(http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/Vietnam00111_zps9051c9ad.jpg)

(http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/Vietnam00113_zpsa10dc181.jpg)

We stayed for 2 nights in a great little hotel down an alley right next to the foreshore promenade area called City Lights for $18 (double room en-suite Breakfast included)

Just down the road we found dozens of dive shops and booked ourselves for a double-tank dive the next morning.
Close off-shore from Nha Trang sit a series of islands that offer decent diving and snorkelling, easily accessible by day trip.
The city has loads of dive shops, making for fierce competition and great value.
We were extremely impressed with the quality of the trip and for a total of $60 per person (gear, dive guide, transport, meals and drinks included) it was an outright bargain.

As can be expected fish life is sparse due to decades of over fishing but most diving is around Hon Mun Island Marine Park which offers protected waters which helped tremendously to stimulate sea life.
We were lucky with weather conditions – visibility was up to 30m and the coral is some of the beat I’ve ever seen.

(http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/Vietnam00117_zpse1975910.jpg)

(http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/Vietnam00125_zps2832c3b2.jpg)

After our dive we contemplated our next move..
In theory it’s possible to ride from Nha Trang to Hoi An in one day but it’s a 500km slog on the national highway (A1)
It will take the best part of 12 hours and will be a constant battle for survival. It was a kak idea and never part of the plan.

The alternative was to head inland from Tuy Hoa and ride via Pleiku and Kon Tum – effectively stretching the distance to just under 700km.
Although this was the original plan the knowledge from the last weeks’ worth of travel has taught us it would take at least 2 days and in all likelihood 3.

We hatched a scheme to book ourselves onto an overnight train to Danang instead and hopefully convince them to load our bike on the same train.
It was optimistic but worth a shot and we swung past the station. Language proved to be a major stumbling block but eventually we walked away with 2 tickets for the following nights train.
There were no sleepers left and we had to settle for “air conditioned soft-seats”  - how bad could it be? We had to go past the Goods Platform to reserve a space for the bike which surprisingly went without a hitch.
Very chuffed we treated ourselves to some amazing Bun Thit Nuong at the night market. It literally means "grilled meat on noodles" and is a popular Vietnamese cold rice vermicelli noodle dish topped with grilled pork, fresh herbs , vegetables roasted peanuts and dressed in a nuoc cham sauce. You will only find it in the South of Vietnam by this name but there are similar dishes in the North.

(http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/Vietnam00135_zpsd9fcd17b.jpg)

Our last day in Nha Trang we spent sleeping late (bliss!) and going for an early lunch after which we went to drop off the bike at the train station for ‘packing’.
The exchange with the Goods Master went something like this:
“We bring moto to put on train tonight”
“Okay”
“It’s okay?”
“Okay but  cannot tonight”
“What?”
“Cannot put moto on train tonight”
“But we booked space yesterday – here is ticket”
“Sorry we cannot”
“But we booked space!”
“Sorry cannot – no space”
“But…”
“Sorry but we put moto on next train – get to Danang 2 days later”
“No we booked space for train tonight!”
“Sorry cannot”
“Yes you can”
“Sorry cannot”
“YES YOU CAN”
“Sorry cannot”
“YES YOU CAN”
 “Sorry… okay wait here”
(5 minutes later)
“Okay we put moto on train tonight”

Fark me that was almost a serious disaster.
The irony was that we speculated on this as a possibility the previous day and voila!
I watched them wrap the bike in cardboard and stuck a waybill on it before finally feeling semi-certain that the bike might actually make it.
We still didn’t REALLY know for certain though as they could’ve told us anything to get rid of us at that moment and there was no guarantee that our bike would arrive in Danang with us.

(http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/Vietnam00136_zpsdbce331d.jpg)

Nevertheless, crisis averted for now we took a cab to Thap Ba Hot Springs  (http://www.thapbahotspring.com.vn/hotspring/)which was a fun place to get dirty in a mud bath! 
There are loads of mineral water baths and swimming pools to hang out at after a good mud soak. Great place to relax and spend an afternoon for as little as $7 per person. Highly recommended. They also have a shuttle service which will pick you up and dropp you off at your hotel for around 60000VD

(http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/Vietnam00142_zps72d0ec09.jpg)
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die >> PART 5
Post by: subie on April 25, 2013, 12:40:27 pm
Pragtig!

Ek sien daai ou met die blou scooter met sy seuntjie voor is ook n Wilddog. Sticker voor op vurk.

 :ricky:
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die
Post by: Karel Kat on April 25, 2013, 01:09:25 pm
Even the locals will open a sales pitch with some Russian lines!

That's what you get when you look like an old-style KGB enforcer from the movies, Mr Big! Enjoying the RR very much.
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die >> PART 6
Post by: MrBig on April 26, 2013, 08:33:38 am
PART 6

Nha Trang to Danang

Distance:
470km by train


The train to Danang was due for departure only after 10PM and we had to hang around the station for a couple of hours.
It gave us the opportunity to watch people on the platform going about their business and witness a Vietnamese phenomenon we have seen all over on our trip…

In Vietnam QEUEING is a four letter word
Queuing is a nice idea that is widely practised in many western countries but it is little understood in Vietnam and certainly rare.
Western people are famous for queuing. We queue everywhere. We queue just to get into another queue!
We queue to ask about where we should queue. We separate queuing people with ropes and guide them with signs.
We spilt queues when they get too big and start them again on somewhere else. We zig-zag queues to accommodate all the queuing people.
In some countries like India people pretend to queue. They form orderly lines until the bus or train arrives, whereupon it all collapses into a mad scrum but they still queue.
The Vietnamese people do not queue. AT ALL.
They will push and elbow their way to the front and even if another person is in the process of being served by someone behind the counter they will shove they’re hand / ticket / whatever in between and demand attention. They will not wait for others to get out of an elevator before pushing inside. They will squeeze past people trying to exit a doorway - whether it’s a bus a train or a shop.
They do it to foreigners and they do it to their fellow Vietnamese. It doesn’t matter if you are trying to put in fuel at a garage, draw money from an ATM, check in at the airport (I kid you not), pay in a shop or buy a ticket at a booth - prepare yourselves for the worst.
There is no aggression – merely stupendous oblivion and a total lack of respect for others.

This attitude is indicative of the way they drive as well – almost like an extension of the culture if you will (with hooting added).
There is no order on the roads and if you believe someone will give you a gap you will wait until hell freezes over before that happens.
Stops and traffic lights are treated as optional and it’s a mad jostle to squeeze past each other at intersections. If the intersection is full – no problem – just hop on the sidewalk and hoot pedestrians out of the way!
It’s a peculiar phenomenon and unfortunately for the semi-organized westerner a completely mind-boggling experience.

There are plenty of explanations around as to why this happens as Vietnamese supposedly used to queue a lot during the era of rations and government subsidies 30 years ago.
Some say that it’s a “lack of awareness” or perhaps a “lack of self-discipline” or “cultural rebellion against forced queues” or even “the belief that if you are in front you’re status is better”..

Frankly I reckon it’s mostly due to a lack of consideration and respect for each other. Even the most civilised or disciplined nation won’t work without consideration and respect for fellow citizens.

So if you come to Vietnam leave your manners at home and get in there elbows first! If you can’t beat them join them.

(http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/Vietnam00147_zpsddaf1d06.jpg)

Our train arrived on time and we jostled our way into our assigned carriage. Just to find other people in our seats ;D
It proved an arduous but interesting 11 hours. The smell of noodles and loud talking woke us up just before 6 am.

Fortunately the views from the rolling train were sublime rolling green farmlands and villages passing by.
Not a moment too soon we arrived in Danang.
First thing I did was walk down the platform to the goods cars to see if I can spot Jerry.
It was with great relief that I saw the familiar silhouette being offloaded next to the train. Phew..

 (http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/Vietnam00149_zps4c7c9983.jpg)

We exited the station and near the goods area found a Café serving coffee.  Lisa was left guarding our kit while I went to find the Dispatch Manager.
When the bike eventually arrived I first had to cough up a ‘release fee’ (ja right) after which they promptly started unwrapping.
As soon as the first piece of cardboard came off I spotted the broken clutch lever taped to the seat. You have to be kidding me!
Ranting and raving only got me blank stares and I eventually gave up and wheeled the bike to the Café where Lisa was waiting.

Fun fact – before putting a motorbike on a train by law it needs to be drained of all fuel. As you need to actually ride it there you can’t exactly arrive with an empty tank.
So the station workers do you the favour of emptying the tank for you – in a communal container - for free.
Now when you arrive at your destination you have a problem. Your bike’s tank is empty. But fear not! Someone (guess who) will sell you the content of a 750ml bottle at three times the price of a litre of petrol!
Failing that you’re welcome to push your bike down the street in search of a fuel station.

(http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/Vietnam00150_zps792de533.jpg)

I digress..
With nobody speaking a word of English someone eventually grabs me by the hand and lead me down the road;
pointing to a small, dark, grease and oil covered Sua Xe ( something like our local garage mechanic back home with a little less equipment and a lot more ingenuity). Usually I can easily find rapport one-on-one with the Vietnamese but this time it was different. A friendly chubby chap was sitting on the greasy floor surrounded by parts from a starter motor he was umm… fixing.  Another guy (who appeared to be the boss man) was less taken by my presence and gave me some evil stares.
Through the magic of sign language we agreed that they will fix/replace (who knows) the broken lever for the princely sum of 100 000 VD. (About R45).

Mr Angry jumped on a scooter with broken lever in hand and disappeared down the street. I hung around not sure what exactly was going to happen next.
After about 20 minutes I gave up and walked back to the station to tell Lisa what’s going on. She just had to sit tight until I can get the bike running again.
Upon my return the angry one came back – wielding a decidedly 2nd hand and slightly rusty clutch lever. Not one to be put off by such minor details and excited at the prospect of getting back on the road I walked closer to express my enthusiasm as he fiddled with the clutch cable. I was met with furious gesturing towards a stool in the far corner and what I figured the Vietnamese version of ‘shoo-ing’.

Clearly the guy didn’t appreciate me watching his every move.
Which is understandable but these guys aren’t exactly known for their finesse.

In fact another peculiarity of the Vietnamese is their ‘quick fix’ mentality.
You know, if it works it works no matter how you get it to work! Or what it looks like.  ;D

The lack of attention to detail is rather astounding and visible almost everywhere in Vietnam. Just look around you and you will soon realise what I mean.
Regardless whether it's a up-market hotel or inside a family shop. I have found the origin of all those "There I Fixed It" (https://www.google.com/search?q=there+i+fixed+it&aq=f&um=1&ie=UTF-8&hl=en&tbm=isch&source=og&sa=N&tab=wi&ei=px56Ue3qEcHPhAeVj4HwDQ&biw=1585&bih=742&sei=2h56UdGOA8SIhQfPsIDYCA) photos!

The ‘new’ lever didn’t fit but it didn’t seem to be a problem as Mr Angry immediately started adjusting it with a hacksaw and old file.
With the file clearly not producing the desired results he proceeded to rub the lever vigorously on the sidewalk..
When he brought out some more tools – a hammer and vice grip – I really started to worry.
After what felt like hours he grunted something and motioned me over.
The lever was so stiff that Hulk himself would’ve had a hard time changing gears but I faked a smile, paid them and hurriedly pushed the bike away before he came back for more hammer time.
Back at the Café I got my tools out and adjusted the clutch as best as possible and we finally got out of Danang. Phew.

I wish I had taken some photos of this little episode but alas when the going gets tough the cameras remain forgotten in the bag.  :P

Danang’s a major port city and the largest city of the South Central Vietnamese Coast. It is located close to a number of UNSECO heritage sites and tourism is a big part of it’s industry.
We didn’t plan on staying over but instead drove about 50km south to the Old Town of Hoi An.

 (http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/Vietnam00188_zpsd0df85de.jpg)

Once over the bridge we followed a wide dual carriage road out of the city and soon saw “Marble Mountains” or Ngu Hanh Son (Five elements mountains). It’s a cluster of five marble and limestone hills just south of Da Nang. The five 'mountains' are named after the five elements: Metal, Water, Wood, Fire and Earth. All of the mountains have cave entrances and numerous tunnels, and it is possible to climb to the summit of one of the peaks. Several Buddhist sanctuaries can be found within the mountains, making this a famous tourist destination. After our delayed departure from Danang, lack of sleep we weren’t up to much sightseeing and settled for stopping next to the road below one mountain where various artisans produce marble and limestone sculpture and artwork. Direct rock extraction from the mountains is banned and all materials are now being transported from quarries further away.

(http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/Vietnam00151_zps62d3c39e.jpg)

Next up Hoi An - the Disney World of Vietnam  ;D
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die >> PART 6
Post by: N[]vA on April 26, 2013, 08:59:48 am
Quote
Quote
This attitude is indicative of the way they drive as well – almost like an extension of the culture if you will (with hooting added).
There is no order on the roads and if you believe someone will give you a gap you will wait until hell freezes over before that happens.
Stops and traffic lights are treated as optional and it’s a mad jostle to squeeze past each other at intersections. If the intersection is full – no problem – just hop on the sidewalk and hoot pedestrians out of the way!
It’s a peculiar phenomenon and unfortunately for the semi-organized westerner a completely mind-boggling experience.

hahah we call it the Vietnamese "Fuck you , me first!"

Honestly I still feel for the most part its a shitty passive aggressive place... not even gonna get started on that rant :-p
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die >> PART 7
Post by: MrBig on April 26, 2013, 11:57:56 am
PART 7

Danang to Hoi An

Distance: 45km


A few kilometres further down the coast from Danang we came upon Non Nuoc Beach. It’s a long, white sandy beach renowned for both its spectacular beauty and for its history as an R&R destination for American troops during the Vietnam War, when it was known as "China Beach". Nowadays its home to mostly fancy resorts and sections of it is pretty much deserted.

 (http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/china-beach_zps2099abe7.jpg)

(http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/Vietnam00152_zpsfbe557d3.jpg)

It was well past lunch time and as we rode into Hoi An we decided to grab something to eat before checking into our hotel. We found a local eatery next to the river serving only a handful of dishes.
All delicious!

By now we were all too familiar with “Pho” (pronounced Ffua) – a staple of Vietnam apart from rice.
It consists of broth, rice noodles, a few herbs, and some meat.
Very simple but you will find good renditions and also some very bad ones.
In the region of Hoi An there is a local variation called “Cao Lau” - also rice noodles but not quite as slippery as ‘pho’ and a bit closer in texture to pasta.
It’s topped with slices of roast pork and dough fritters. Absolutely delicious and by far the best version of Pho in Vietnam!

(http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/Vietnam00156_zps2d69d67b.jpg)

We found a good deal at the Pho Hoi Riverside Resort (rather swanky) for 2 nights.
Double room en-suite with buffet breakfast for $25 per night.
They also had a lovely pool and is located right next to the river across the bridge from the Old Town so we could walk everywhere.

(http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/Vietnam00183_zps66e845ac.jpg)

Hoi An Ancient Town is (was?) an well-preserved example of a South-East Asian trading port dating from the 15th to the 19th century. Its buildings and its street plan reflect the influences, both indigenous and foreign, that have combined to produce this unique place. The heart of the city is the Old Town, full of winding lanes and Chinese-styled shop houses, which is particularly atmospheric in the evening as the sun goes down. While almost all shops now cater to the tourist trade, the area has been largely preserved as is, which is unusual in Vietnam, and renovation has proceeded slowly - it's mercifully absent of towering concrete blocks, neon signs and karaoke parlours.

If ever Disney wants to build a Vietnam Theme park it will probably look like Hoi An.  ;D

However I’m certain the culture & heritage that UNESCO World Heritage Site status for the old Town was trying to preserve has long since gone - because these things happen. The community, and with it their culture and heritage, has gone and in their place are only shops, restaurants and art galleries, etc. There are literally hundreds of tailor shops in Hoi An all selling similar products to ever reducing numbers of Western foreign tourists.

Literally almost every building in the downtown area of Hoi An that isn't a restaurant is a shop selling one of the following: clothes, shoes, souvenirs, bags, or jewellery. These places are pretty much entirely geared to sell to tourists – definitely not to Vietnamese. Prices are often inflated compared to the rest of Vietnam because of this, and are quoted in dollars (the 1st place we found where this was the case during our travels and usually a bad sign), so haggling is very necessary.

Hoi Ann was also the place where we found the ‘sales technique’ of shops owners and assistants to be the MOST aggressive of anywhere we have ever experienced before. Generally Vietnam is quite bad but here it was on a level approaching absurd. We often speculated how it could possibly be a successful tactic and how they could not realise that by giving patrons a bit more space (and less pressure) sales may actually be more forthcoming.
Even merrily walking down a street don’t be surprised if someone approaches you wanting to guide you to a shop. On every street corner there’s a guy offering the same thing “you want moto?”.  ::)

Walk past a shop (or heaven forbid the market) and a chorus will sound out: “Madame! Madame! You buy! You buy! What you looking? You want!? You want!?”. It’s utterly exhausting. When you DO spot something and you stop to have a look the frenzy is taken up a couple of notches. Even when holding something in your hand or looking at something specific, assistants will attempt to shove items in front of you or try to hand it to you chanting the familiar “You want? You want? “.  ;D

Bargaining in Vietnam is a lot trickier than what we have found in other parts of South East Asia. Custom dictates that if you ask for the price it means that you are ready to buy and all that is left is negotiation. Asking for a price and merely walk away is considered to be rude and you will feel the wrath of the shop owner following you. Unfortunately opening prices are sometimes ludicrously high and gives no incentive to start bargaining - which complicates matters further.

If you are used to the Thai way of friendly bargaining you might also be surprised at how different the approach is. It may be because we are tourists but the general feeling is that they’re doing YOU a favour – not the other way around – and even when you buy something the attitude is less than forthcoming.
Unless you really know what you SHOULD be paying for certain items you are probably better off sticking to “fixed price” stores. We have seen the same items for sale at “touristy” markets like Ben Tanh (in Saigon) for 500% more than other places. Even if you manage to bargain it down you’re still being ripped a new one.

That being said there are some real bargains to be had all over Vietnam. Hoi An has a long tradition of copying and then rapidly making up new garments for travellers.
You can bring in clothes (or even a picture of clothes) that you want copied to any tailor shop and they will try to imitate it. You can often choose the type of fabric and the colour you want. All the shoe shops in Hoi An will make custom shoes for you. You can ask them to make you a style that you see there, or one in a catalogue or picture – ready for collection the following day.

But I digress..
Hoi An as a tourist destination is extremely pleasant.
Parts of the Old Town are pedestrianized after a certain hour every day and there are often live music and games on the streets.

Loads of restaurants offer great value or you can sit next to the river on tiny chairs and enjoy the sunset with a couple of beers and amazing food.

(http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/Vietnam00166_zps8e155733.jpg)

(http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/Vietnam00167_zpsc19b0c34.jpg)

After dark the Old Town lits up under hundreds of lanterns and Vietnamese girls in traditional dress sell floating lanterns to tourists.

Truly a stunning spectacle.

(http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/Vietnam00168_zps99548fea.jpg)

(http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/HoiAn1_zpscf918a26.jpg)

(http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/hoian2_zpsbd4398b8.jpg)

next up - Hai Van Pass to Hue

Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die >> PART 7
Post by: Would I? on April 26, 2013, 07:01:44 pm
 :thumleft: :thumleft: :thumleft: :thumleft: Great keep it coming!!! :thumleft:
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die >> PART 7
Post by: EssBee on April 30, 2013, 12:31:14 pm
Brilliant RR mr. Big....so nicely written....have had some good chuckles :biggrin:
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die >> PART 7
Post by: TheAnt on April 30, 2013, 12:39:14 pm
 :sip:
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die >> PART 7
Post by: grizz on April 30, 2013, 11:05:52 pm
Great RR

Great avontuur.
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die >> PART 7
Post by: GenXX on May 01, 2013, 12:06:11 am
 :sip:
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die >> PART 7
Post by: Dirt Junkie on May 01, 2013, 03:50:34 pm
 :thumleft: very interesting
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die >> PART 7
Post by: Highlander on May 01, 2013, 09:07:24 pm
Great ride report man :ricky:

Ek sing sommer die Intenationale  :confused2:
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die >> PART 7
Post by: eSKaPe on May 03, 2013, 08:15:28 am
Amazing trip of adventure - you really punished that little bike too!

Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die >> PART 7
Post by: MrBig on May 03, 2013, 09:47:03 am
Thanks for the comments  :thumleft:

Reality has caught up with me and writing slowed down as a result but I will be posting more shortly
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die >> PART 7
Post by: SACK on May 16, 2013, 06:57:58 pm

... I will be posting more shortly

Your definition of "shortly" amuses me.

Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die >> PART 7
Post by: MrBig on May 17, 2013, 07:22:53 am

... I will be posting more shortly

Your definition of "shortly" amuses me.



Africa time?  :biggrin:
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die >> PART 7
Post by: LouisXander on May 17, 2013, 08:09:39 am
HAsta MAnjana!!
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die >> PART 7
Post by: RobC on May 17, 2013, 08:35:55 am

Africa time?  :biggrin:
That is why Afrikaans coined the term "nou nou" which can mean anything from within the next 5 seconds to eternity... :biggrin:
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die >> PART 7
Post by: TheAnt on May 17, 2013, 11:32:00 am

Africa time?  :biggrin:
That is why Afrikaans coined the term "nou nou" which can mean anything from within the next 5 seconds to eternity... :biggrin:

 :spitcoffee:
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die >> PART 7
Post by: GStry on May 23, 2013, 11:12:03 pm
What a trip, thanks for sharing.  :thumleft:
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die >> PART 7
Post by: Wayne Duck on May 24, 2013, 08:09:35 pm
Really interesting, and entertaining! Thanks.
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die >> PART 7
Post by: Snafu on May 29, 2013, 10:42:30 am
 :BangHead::BangHead::BangHead:
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die >> PART 7
Post by: TheAnt on May 29, 2013, 11:10:04 am
 :director:
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die >> PART 7
Post by: N[]vA on May 29, 2013, 05:56:39 pm
to be fair in true Vietnamese tradition the last bit of anything will always drag on :-p
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die >> PART 7
Post by: MrBig on May 29, 2013, 07:28:40 pm
to be fair in true Vietnamese tradition the last bit of anything will always drag on :-p

 :lol8: aint that the truth

apologies for my tardiness - lost my mojo a bit but getting back on track and will finish this before the end of the week
*Vietnamese promise*  ;)
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die >> PART 7
Post by: michnus on May 30, 2013, 08:38:26 pm
beeeeeeeefok!!  :thumleft: :headbang: :hello2:
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die >> PART 7
Post by: chickenbadger on May 30, 2013, 09:50:50 pm
Epic trip Mr. Big!!! Makes me seriously miss Saigon, and bring up fond memories of my bike trip through the country in 2010!!!
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die >> PART 8
Post by: MrBig on May 31, 2013, 10:07:48 am
Hoi An to Hue

Distance: 170 km

We left Hoi Ann early – looking forward to the ride ahead as it would take us along a winding coastal road as well as take in the famous Hai Van Pass.

Rice Paddies outside Hoi An
(http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/Vietnam00185_zps89cc5292.jpg)

Egg Delivery
 (http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/DSC03777_zpsed7b1710.jpg)

Some Propaganda
 (http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/Vietnam00189_zps203838d6.jpg)

As we passed through Danang on our way North we crossed over one of the old Dragon bridges and rode alongside the magnificent new 6 lane Tran Thi Ly bridge which sadly opened for business 2 weeks later along with the new Rong (Dragon) Bridge. This brings the number of bridge to cross the Han River in Danag to seven.

Danang Tran Thi Ly Bridge
(http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/Vietnam00188_zpsd0df85de.jpg)

Fire Breathing Dragon Bridge

http://www.youtube.com/v/MhSW7lRHmXs

Jeremy Clarkson called the Hai Van Pass "a deserted ribbon of perfection—one of the best coast roads in the world."

Amazing  Hai Van Pass
(http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/Vietnam00205_zps7a04ffee.jpg)

The Hai Van Pass has long been seen as a major bottleneck along the main route from South to North Vietnam.
Visibility on the pass is often reduced by the eponymous mists that rise from the sea.
Along with the road's winding route through the pass, this poses a serious challenge for drivers.
During 2005 the new Hai Van Tunnel was opened for traffic – at 6.3 km the longest tunnel in South East Asia - which not only reduces the distance between Da Nang and Hue by 20km but more importantly saves up to an hour of travelling time.
Even though motorcycles are not allowed in the tunnel there is a shuttle service on which motorcycles, bicycles and pedestrians can make the journey.

All this has effectively reduced traffic on the original pass to virtually zero and although I wouldn’t quite agree with the “perfection” part of Jeremy Clarksons statement it remains a remarkable road and a must drive for motorcycle enthusiasts.
It’s quite common to be offered a “Top Gear Tour” from local motorcycle tour companies (like the Vietnam Easy Rider group) in which trip over the pass is the main focus.

Halfway up the pass we stumbled upon a small roadside café – although shack-like in exterior - served a remarkably decent iced-coffee with a killer view to boot.

Drinks on Hai Van Pass
 (http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/Vietnam00192_zps3f837cc8.jpg)

It’s refreshing to stop in these smaller places as it’s easy to get sucked into the ‘tourist’ stops along major scenic routes serving exclusively as a rest stop for tour busses and the like. They tend to be nothing more than overgrown curio shops with the added convenience of semi-clean toilets. A lot of drivers and guides have arrangements with these places where they receive free lunch and drinks if they stop there.

Saltwater lake
 (http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/Vietnam00196_zps7885a192.jpg)

Fisherman on lake
 (http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/Vietnam00193_zps573c1e3b.jpg)

The tyres are used to grow farmed oysters and after harvesting it’s common practice to lay the tyres in the roads  as the passing vehicles loosens the hardened growth
 (http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/Vietnam00201_zps84193069.jpg)

We weren’t keen on following the A1 Highway the rest of the route and as we came down the pass took a small side road past a lake which turned back to the sea to take us over two ‘islands’ all the way to Hue. Although it was very hot and dusty this was to be one of our best days of riding of the whole trip.
The quality of the road itself is poor but it winds its way through jungles and farmlands just to spit you out onto a long bridge with spectacular views of the surrounding lakes area.

Dusty road through a small village
(http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/Vietnam00211_zpsd950ef5f.jpg)

Roadside Shop
 (http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/GOPR0418_zpsa843ef6d.jpg)

Schoolgirls on bicycles
(http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/P1020952_zpse1d244cb.jpg)

Having a Break
(http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/Vietnam00213_zpse9b89bdf.jpg)

As we got closer to Hue the surrounds became cluttered with temples and graves.
Quite clearly our way into the city was a back route and we even found ourselves on some dirt every now and then.

(http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/P1030017_zpsb5a0e33d.jpg)

Hue is well known for its historic monuments, which have earned it a place in UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites.
The seat of the Nguyen emperors was the Citadel, which occupies a large, walled area on the north side of the Perfume River.
Inside the citadel was a forbidden city where only the emperors, concubines, and those close enough to them were granted access; the punishment for trespassing was death.

Today, little of the Forbidden City remains, though reconstruction efforts are in progress to maintain it as a historic tourist attraction.
Lisa was extremely disappointed to find the Forbidden City only consists of a few foundations and some grassy patches.

Dragon Boats on Perfume River (Not sure where the name comes from but it sure as hell doesn’t smell like perfume to me!)

(http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/Vietnam00219_zpsc3488b25.jpg)

Main Entrance to Citadel
(http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/Vietnam00222_zpsedf422a5.jpg)

Remnants from Vietnam War
(http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/ResizeofP1030289_zpsf6ae858b.jpg)

(http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/P1030291_zps741c9604.jpg)

 (http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/P1030295_zps26344eed.jpg)

Imperialist Pigs!  :biggrin:

(http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/Vietnam00228_zps22ccd5f4.jpg)

We spent a day or so riding around Hue's sights and hanging out in the backpackers district at night.
Food and drink is remarkably cheap and it’s easy to meet some interesting people.
Remarkably it’s also possible to keep seeing familiar faces every now and then.
In Hue we ran into 2 girls for the 3rd time since we first met them a week before in Nha Trang.

Hue is also a good place for handmade silk clothing at excellent prices.
The best part of it is you can choose a dress (well the girls can anyway) and have it tailored while the husband have beer across the road.   :biggrin:

Funky Bike - wouldnt mind one for buzzing around town!
 (http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/DSC03964_zps667b80d5.jpg)

Local Beer
 (http://i145.photobucket.com/albums/r233/MrBigSa/Vietnam2013/DSC03965_zps49691e16.jpg)



Next up - Hue to Phong Nha Khe Bang
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die >> PART 8
Post by: TheAnt on June 20, 2013, 07:18:13 am
Keep it coming PLEASE!  :sip:
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die >> PART 8
Post by: Sir Rat on June 20, 2013, 06:46:51 pm
Keep it coming MR No typing for long time.  ;D
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die >> PART 8
Post by: onderbroek on June 26, 2013, 08:53:21 am
Awesome Report!


!!
!!
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die >> PART 8
Post by: mountainboy on July 01, 2013, 03:41:18 pm
hey, lekker J!!!!!!

nice report

I'm positive I stayed at the same hotel in Hoi An - great country for scoot around  :thumleft:

so, how about some pics of them pretty tan lines  :biggrin:
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die >> PART 8
Post by: Would I? on July 01, 2013, 09:27:32 pm
Nice Report !!! :thumleft: :thumleft: :thumleft: :thumleft: :thumleft:
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die >> PART 8
Post by: JustBendIt on July 02, 2013, 10:17:34 am
WOW !!!

Must have been an awesome (yet daunting) trip - I would love to experience a place like this from the saddle of a 125

Well done to you both for undertaking a trip like this - it is something you will never forget and look back on with fond memories in your "oudag"

keep it coming please
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die >> PART 8
Post by: TheAnt on July 12, 2013, 09:02:26 am
 :director:
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die >> PART 8
Post by: Pullaway on July 16, 2013, 09:17:29 am
 :peepwall:
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die >> PART 8
Post by: RobC on July 16, 2013, 09:18:14 am
Nice Report !!! :thumleft: :thumleft: :thumleft: :thumleft: :thumleft:
One of the best! :thumleft:
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die >> PART 8
Post by: TheAnt on July 16, 2013, 10:42:04 am
Nice Report !!! :thumleft: :thumleft: :thumleft: :thumleft: :thumleft:
One of the best! :thumleft:

And one of the slowest  :pot:
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die >> PART 8
Post by: MrBig on July 16, 2013, 03:17:39 pm
Nice Report !!! :thumleft: :thumleft: :thumleft: :thumleft: :thumleft:
One of the best! :thumleft:

And one of the slowest  :pot:

I'm trying to set a new record  :biggrin:
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die >> PART 8
Post by: michnus on July 16, 2013, 10:35:18 pm
Nice Report !!! :thumleft: :thumleft: :thumleft: :thumleft: :thumleft:
One of the best! :thumleft:

And one of the slowest  :pot:

I'm trying to set a new record  :biggrin:


 :sip: :lamer:

 :deal:
Title: Re: Vietnam - how to ride 2000km and not die >> PART 8
Post by: White Rhino on July 17, 2013, 06:35:23 am
Awesome - maybe on the cards for next year ..... thanks :thumleft: