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Offline Gasman

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Vietnam on a Russian Minsk
« on: March 16, 2012, 07:17:03 pm »
Day 1:
One of my best mates since school left SA after University to go and work in Vietnam for a year, that was 6 years ago. So I thought it would be great to go and visit him in Vietnam and see the country while he is still over there as he should know the ropes after living there all this time. With my girlfriend persuading me that I won’t have this opportunity again, my flights were booked for mid January and I was off to Vietnam to do a bike trip with my best mate for 10 days, it doesn’t get any better than this...
Knowing that we will have to travel light I just packed a day bag with a pair of jeans, couple of shirts, tekkies, flip flops and some other stuff.


The check-in lady at OR Thambo International was rather confused when I told her I have nothing to check in and only hand luggage on me.
From Joburg to Kuala Lumpur to Hanoi. When I arrived in Hanoi, Vietnam I was expecting it to be humid as hell, but that wasn’t the case. Got myself a taxi and had to first bargain my price down to what I thought was a legit price (not knowing how strong their currency is). Gave the guy the address to my hotel and 45min later we arrived. I couldn’t believe that the taxi driver didn’t crash once or didn’t even kill anyone along the way. And I am use to Joburg traffic!! The Taxi drivers in Joburg will not know what hit them if you drop them off in Hanoi... it is crazy to say the least.


Dropped my bags off at our hotel (Lucky 3) and waited for Camp to arrive.




This was the first time we saw each other since our trip through Namibia and Botswana in June 2010. What an awesome feeling to see your mate after such a long time in a weird country and city that you have never been before. First things first, let get a place where we can have a couple of beers, there is catching up to do.


We quickly had a loose trip planned after a couple of beers and went over to Flamingo Travel where we got some bikes for USD 13.00 a day. These guys are seriously good and I can recommend them if you want to do a trip in Vietnam.
Sorting out the paper work


These were the beasts that would take us through the country side of Northern Vietnam for the next week or so. 2 Russian Minsks, 125cc, 4 stroke.


The guys were going to check the bikes out the rest of the day and we could then pick them up the next day. So off to have another couple of beers and talk kark for the rest of the night. The only real planning we did prior to this trip was to decide that I should come during the Tet festival (which is similar to Chinese new year in Vietnam).




This is a good indication of what the streets look like. And the crazy thing is you just walk and don’t look left or right, because as soon as the people on the scooters make eye contact with you they believe that you will stop or get out of the way. Crazy, but it works.


We ended up in Le Pub for dinner where two Aussie girls were trying to make conversation, but couldn’t really as they were smashed on Rice Wine. The one stumbled into the road (I seriously thought someone was going to run her over), while the other was sitting at the edge of our table chundering  everywhere. Welcome to Vietnam, where tourists give it their all!

Day 2:
Woke up the next morning feeling sick from the food we had the previous night (not even local food, but Burgers and chips). Walked around Hanoi dodging traffic and had my first Pho meal, which would end up being our staple diet along with coffee for the next week or so.

Taken from the rooftop of our hotel.


Picking up the bikes from Flamingo Travel. The first time you ride a bike in the city streets of Vietnam, you totally shit yourself. You ride on the right hand side of the road and there are no rules except for “try not to get killed”. We saw a guy who was already in the festive spirit of Tet that was so drunk that he couldn’t keep his scooter up. He fell down against cars and other scooters shouting at the people as if it was their fault, brilliant!


The guys from Flamingo Travel organised overnight train tickets for us and the bikes to Lao Cai and even dropped our bikes off at the train station as this was on the other side of the city and no one thought it was a good idea to have our introduction ride in Vietnam to be one across Hanoi in the evening as Tet was about to start.
We stopped at the coffee shop across the street from Flamingos before we set off to the train station to start our journey.






Next thing we knew we were on our way North into the mountainous country side on a train. At the last minute of leaving the station we got a fellow passenger in our cabin who was a local girl on her way to Lao Cai for the festive season. Seeing as she couldn’t speak one word of English, the conversation ran dry rather quickly.


This is really happening!




Offline Hinksding

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Re: Vietnam on a Russian Minsk
« Reply #1 on: March 16, 2012, 09:10:10 pm »
crazy stuff, bring the rest on! :thumleft:
Eet vleis! 'n 1 000 000 jakkalse kan nie verkeerd wees nie.
 

Offline Rooies

Re: Vietnam on a Russian Minsk
« Reply #2 on: March 16, 2012, 09:37:40 pm »
 :happy1:
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Offline Heimer

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Re: Vietnam on a Russian Minsk
« Reply #3 on: March 16, 2012, 10:15:28 pm »
Waiting for more  :thumleft:

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Offline Whethefakawe

Re: Vietnam on a Russian Minsk
« Reply #4 on: March 17, 2012, 06:59:37 am »
Excellent!

Hey Gasman - I'm considering going to work and living in Vietnam - any advice from your mate?

How does it compare to Africa? Specifically the filth and stupidity aspects?

cheers
You been using dogsh*t for toothpaste, Mullet?
 

Offline madmax

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Re: Vietnam on a Russian Minsk
« Reply #5 on: March 17, 2012, 07:08:03 am »
looks like adventure
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Offline J-dog

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Re: Vietnam on a Russian Minsk
« Reply #6 on: March 17, 2012, 07:12:24 am »
 :happy1: :happy1:
 

Offline Crossed-up

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Re: Vietnam on a Russian Minsk
« Reply #7 on: March 17, 2012, 07:12:35 am »
Excellent stuff!  Look forward to the next episode.
 

Offline madmike999

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Re: Vietnam on a Russian Minsk
« Reply #8 on: March 17, 2012, 07:22:44 am »
 :thumleft:
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Offline BMWPE

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Re: Vietnam on a Russian Minsk
« Reply #9 on: March 17, 2012, 07:23:09 am »
 :thumleft:
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Offline Kerritz

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Re: Vietnam on a Russian Minsk
« Reply #10 on: March 17, 2012, 07:59:54 am »
 :happy1:
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Offline Gasman

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Re: Vietnam on a Russian Minsk
« Reply #11 on: March 17, 2012, 01:44:16 pm »
Excellent!

Hey Gasman - I'm considering going to work and living in Vietnam - any advice from your mate?

How does it compare to Africa? Specifically the filth and stupidity aspects?

cheers

Vietnam is an amazing country, but the cities are rather filthy if I can call it that. It is difficult to explain, best is to go and check it out. There is a nice expat community so I am sure you wont get too home sick. drop me a PM and I will get you in contact with my mate.

cheers

Offline Gasman

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Re: Vietnam on a Russian Minsk
« Reply #12 on: March 17, 2012, 03:13:59 pm »
Day 3:
After two days I picked up the basic stuff like saying thank you “gum urn”, happy new year “chip ming nam oi” and the rest like Hi and Bye which I have already forgotten. People do appreciate it when you at least make an effort to communicate to them in their home tongue, but some (more in the country side) find it very funny that you can actually say Happy New Year. Tet is a very sacred time for the Vietnamese people and they close all the shops and head into the country side to their family etc.

4:30am and the train conductor  knocks on our door as a wake-up call, we have 30min until we arrive in Lao Cai. 5:15am and we are standing on the platform with our bikes next to us. What an amazing feeling not knowing what the road ahead holds for you... Next thing we see the whole platform is empty and we are the only two people left in site.






This is the train station in Lao Cai and you can see how deserted the parking lot is as everyone has left the bigger towns to be with their families in the country side.


Time to get cracking! First things first, we need to find some fuel as the guys had to empty our tanks before they uploaded the bikes onto the train. With a bit of directions from some of the few locals still in Lao Cai we found the petrol station and filled the beauts up to the brim. Off to Sapa!
I couldn’t believe the quality of the roads as I was expecting much worse. The scenery is amazing, but let the photos do the taking.








People drive past you on scooters with live ducks, chickens, pigs you name it strapped on the back of the scooter. Every now and then you see a whole family of 5 people on one scooter! It is very seldom that you see a scooter with only one person on it, usually two or three people are cruising along.
You will find these road signs every kilometre on the highways showing you how far you are from the next town. Sapa is just around the corner and that is where we will be spending the remainder of the day. I am still trying to take in everything as it just seems like one huge, amazing dream!


Next thing we were in Sapa which felt to me like little Switzerland...  Awesome little town in the northern mountainous area of Vietnam. We found this little place open where we decided to have some breakfast and coffee as Camp was seriously cold as you can see from how he appreciates soaking up some of the morning sun.


Now this is Pho (pronounced something like “Fur” with a bit of a silent “r”). In Vietnam this is seen as a quick snack and not really a meal, but this was to be our staple diet for the next week or so. It is basically noodles with beef, fresh herbs and water. Then you can spice it up yourself with chillies, garlic, lime and whatever you feel like. Takes a bit of getting use to, but you learn to love it quickly. Camp was going on about finding the right Pho seeing as it is like a potjie as we know it. The longer it takes to make on the stove the better it is and especially if it has lots of old stock in it.


Just a quick note on the coffee in Vietnam: it is AMAZING!! I drink about 5 cups of coffee a day back home, but the stuff you get here is something else! Especially Coffee with condense milk (pronounced Cafee Sui or Cafee Vietnam).

After we had some food in our stomachs we decided to explore the little town of Sapa and its surroundings a bit. This is why I like to call Sapa the little Switzerland of Vietnam.






Duty calls without knocking and the one thing we ALWAYS had with us was a backup roll of old trusty TP aka white gold. An abandoned lodge was the perfect place for this, what a view...


We decided to unload the bikes and find a place to call home for the day. Naturally we thought it might be optimistic thinking that we would get accommodation easily as it was Tet and we haven’t book anything in advanc. The first place we inquired they offered us a double room with our own bathroom and a little balcony on the 5th floor. All of this for USD 10 for the night, which included free internet.
View from our balcony 


We decided to explore the surroundings further for the remainder of the day and ended up at this nature reserve where we were told to go and check out the waterfall in the mountains which was about a 3km hike.










What a nice little spot to just chill and talk kark for a while.






We cruised along to arrive at the highest road in South East Asia if I am not mistaken. What a view.




Cruising back to Sapa as by now we were starting to get a bit thirsty...


If you like twisties and turnies, then Vietnam is THE country for you and your bike! It just carries on and on and I remember screaming in my helmet with joy not believing the landscape and the awesome ride!







These little guys were herding their water buffalo down the mountain pass towards Sapa and seriously enjoying the ride. As soon as we took out the camera they wanted to perform a bit (as a boy or man would naturally do) and the one brother almost got thrown off by the water buffalo, clinging for dear live.




There is no way that you can ride at high speeds as the road is hugging the mountain around every bend and every now and then you are greeted by a water buffalo or 6 standing in the middle of the road just looking at you. These animals are really chilled out. There is also no reason to try and get somewhere in a haste as you will be missing so much.
Quick light lunch in Sapa before we headed back to our hotel.
As we got back to the hotel the clouds were settling in for the afternoon and we decided to get a couple of local beers from the hotel bar and chill out on the balcony with some of our tunes and just talking kak like only two close friends can do after not seeing each other for a year and a half.


Here you can see how the clouds are actually settling in behind me and it feels like light mist the whole time, but not enough to bug you. The beers were flowing freely for the rest of the afternoon.


Early evening it was time to find a place to get dinner, which we ended up having in one of the more upper market places in Sapa. Some pho, beer and rice wine. Back to the hotel where we got some coke from the bar to drink with our bottle of bourbon that Camp brought along from Ho Ci Ming city. Back on the balcony talking about old times, getting smashed on more beer, bourbon and good tunes. Just before we wanted to hit the sack we decided we should just check out the bar again. This time there were a couple of Aussies and Brits playing pool, so we joined them till late into the night.

Offline Sharingroads

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Re: Vietnam on a Russian Minsk
« Reply #13 on: March 17, 2012, 03:39:31 pm »
 :thumleft:  this is one amazing journey
 

Offline goingnowherequickly

Re: Vietnam on a Russian Minsk
« Reply #14 on: March 17, 2012, 04:28:18 pm »
Very Cool
Cant wait for the next installment... :thumleft:
 

Offline Klomper (RIP)

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Re: Vietnam on a Russian Minsk
« Reply #15 on: March 17, 2012, 05:11:45 pm »
Gooi pappie!!!  :thumleft: :thumleft: :thumleft:
 

Offline Ian in Great Brak River

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Re: Vietnam on a Russian Minsk
« Reply #16 on: March 17, 2012, 09:15:22 pm »
Looks great... 8)
1978. It's 6am, mid winter...two up on a XL 185S ... off to my first casino ever with all of R40 and we've got a full tank of fuel, so enough to get there we reckon.... that's determination...

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Offline Swanniebraai

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Re: Vietnam on a Russian Minsk
« Reply #17 on: March 17, 2012, 09:40:17 pm »
I like! :thumleft:
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Offline Smidty

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Re: Vietnam on a Russian Minsk
« Reply #18 on: March 18, 2012, 08:36:29 am »
 :happy1:
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Offline edgy

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Re: Vietnam on a Russian Minsk
« Reply #19 on: March 18, 2012, 10:15:45 am »
 :thumleft:
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