Vietnam…. What an amazing country
We headed off in the rain for the Cau Treo Border Pass this proved very tricky in some spots where you couldn’t see the fresh spray tar again (this time I managed to stay upright). We arrived at the border and processed ourselves out of Laos with no dramas and then met the tour company at the Vietnam border. Thank god we had paid for the permits as this still took 2 hours or so to process and to be able to get back on the road. Well worth the money for the ease of crossing. Once all formalities were completed and we had arranged sim cards for the phone we headed off into Vietnam. Luckily the rain had stopped to make it more pleasurable entry. We rode to Thanh Hoa just finding a hotel on dark (stator is still not good on the KTM). We spent the night here.
Early the next morning we rode to Ha Long Bay to get a ferry to Cat Ba Island unfortunately we had missed the last ferry so went into Ha Long Bay town for the night. The traffic he is quite insane (not to Indian standards of crazy) you seem to overtake at any side place or space you can find as the trucks will take the smoothest line in the road they can find. The traffic certainly keeps your concentration levels up. After the night in Ha Long we caught the ferry across to Cat Ba Island for a few days. Whilst there we drove around the Island and did a day cruise around Ha Long Bay islands which was amazing. The limestone islands just pop out of everywhere.
After a few days relaxing on Cat Ba Island we headed back on the ferry to reach Hanoi as the parts had arrived to fix the stator (crossing fingers they are right this time).
We arrived in Hanoi early afternoon and the tour company dropped the parts off to the hotel to which I went straight to the bike and replaced the blown parts. They were correct and the bike is now back charging properly. As you can see one of the coils was completely burnt out. YAY back to a normal bike !!!!
I would also like to thank Lawrence and Rupert for hanging about and ensuring I kept going (especially Lawrence for always being willing to jump start the bike or go anywhere to find bit and pieces) It was appreciated.
We set off mid-morning to reach Cao Bang headed North to the China border as this road had been recommended to us by a lot of other travellers as a great biking road. We spent this night in Cao Bang and then off the next morning to Dong Van which is the start of the loop recommended. We all spent the night here. I left early the next morning to get a long day in riding and taking in the scenery which did not disappoint. Awesome twisty mountain roads with never ending scenery.
The road to Sapa had everything from brand new surface to 50km plus of non-existent road full of bike swallowing potholes back to perfect roads. It seems to be related to provinces and how much they invest in the roads. I made Sapa with rain falling and decide to spoil myself in an upmarket hotel (that was a mistake as it was nothing special and worth ¼ of what they wanted to charge.
I headed out of Sapa the next morning back to a motorway to try and get the other side of Hanoi. The motorways are not meant to have bikes on them but I decided to take the risk and managed to pass all toll booths and not get pulled over. I reached a town called Ninh Binh as it sounded like Nimbin in NSW to me. Let’s just say they are nothing alike not a hippy in site. I pulled over and decided to have some lunch to find a place to stay and ordered chicken legs (expecting drumsticks) they turned out to be chicken feet which is a whole different experience to what I had in mind. I found the Vancouver Hotel that was recommended on Trip Advisor, hard to find as it is down an alley way with no signs, they looked after me fantastic nothing they couldn’t do to help and the place was spotless and upmarket (what I expected the Sapa hotel to be) cheap as well. They even put the bike into reception for the night.
The next day I headed down the Ho Chi Minh West highway following some on the nicest roads I had ridden with the most amazing scenery to a place called Phong Nha. This town wassurprisingly full of westerners and backpackers. They hire/buy scooters from Hanoi or Saigon and ride Vietnam. There is trekking and caves all around here. I met Ben and Mike local Ex-Pats that own the Phong Nha Farmstay and they offered me a night out there, but, I was already settled into the hostel in town. I visited the farmstay the next morning and spent a couple of hours chatting and getting some pointers on where to go places, what to visit and they also gave me a list of people to catch up with on the way. I would thoroughly recommend the farmstay if you are ever in this area.
The next day on the way the Khe Sanh the bike ticked over 40,000 Kilometres and with only the big problems (piston in Uzbek and stator in Laos) I was impressed with how far I had been.
I arrived in Khe Sanh listening to Jimmy Barnes (it had to be done) and found the hotel recommended. I ended up missing out on food as was catching up online with things and didn’t realise the whole town shut down by 22:00 in reality this was 21:30. Oh well still carrying enough storage (i.e. gut) to last one night and will get something for breakfast.
Next morning I followed the recommended route from the guys and the scenery was nothing but spectacular and the roads are very quiet hardly any traffic.
I arrived in Da Nang that afternoon to meet up with Anthony the Kiwi as Ben had suggested he has KTM 690’s. We sorted out a place for me then got down to some chatting. I decided to stay a couple of days as he offered me a place to work on the bike. It needed new front brake pads and an oil change. I also added a relay to the spotlights at the front to make sure that I was covering all the electronics to not cause me anymore issues. Bike sorted now sit down and relax. I was invited to Chicken Vegetable soup that Greg an Aussie had made and a few bottles of red wine. We chatted about routes and best way to get down the coast. Armed with heaps of suggestions I marked out a route and ran it past them few tweaks and I was good to go the next day. They had sent me to some of the quietest roads and best scenery I had seen so far. Local knowledge does go a long way.
I was advised it would be a big ride to Kon Tum and got in just after dark and found a place to stay that again put the bike into reception. I ask for a place to eat and they sent me around the corner. It was a cook it yourself BBQ place so I ordered squid and a beer. They place a hot carton beside you and give you a bucket of ice. You only pay for what you drink J. As I was attempting to BBQ and eat the waitress decided to come and cook it for me (must have thought this Aussie doesn’t know how to cook a BBQ). The BBQ is a small grill on your table full of hot coals.
The next was another big ride to Dalat the romantic town. I was actually captured coming into town by one of Anthony’s friends and had this sent to me within minutes of arriving J
What a lovely town could have spent a week here just chilling very beautiful.
The last few days I had spent riding alone and reflecting on what I was doing on this trip and aiming to get out of it. So, I pulled over and took the photo below and pasted on facebook, Nifty and I taking in the scenery of the Ho Chi Minh Highway. This trip was about seeing the world at my pace and taking in everything around me as a promise to my dad Neville (Nifty). He was taken by Melanoma (skin cancer) a couple of years ago. This form of cancer is very vicious cancer and I urge everyone to donate and help fight this.
I then headed towards Vung Tau as Anthony and Greg I met in Da Nang were going to be there for the weekend. I was now back on the coastline and in very strong winds so stopped in the coastal town of Mui Ne for night. This was another town full of westerners/backpackers as it was on the beach. I found a nice hotel as recommended by Trip Advisor and my budget J
The next day I made Vung Tau and caught up with the guys from Da Nang and a few others from Weasels club. Had a great couple of days with them exploring the town and bars. Hope to catch up with them again one day.
They rode these bikes 150kms to Ho Chi Minh city.
After a couple of days’ rest, I took off towards Can Tho and ran into a group of 4 American lads on scooters headed for the same town. They were still a long way off and had no Sat Nav to help them to find their hotel that night. I must say travelling at scooter pace and through traffic with guys that had been riding only one day was entertaining. One come off on mud, one was too far behind and lost his way. We ended up getting in quite late at night and they now knew about planning their days a bit better J. I spent a couple of days here exploring around but there wasn’t that much to see at the Mekong Delta.
I decided to head back to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) and catch back up with Lawrence and Rupert for the last nights in Vietnam. Finding hotels with secure parking is quite a challenge in the city centre but I found myself a hotel with underground parking to wait out till the border crossing. Saigon is a very busy town with a few things to see but was happy to head to the Moc Bai border where we met up with our tour company. Min processed us through with no issues and one of the fastest exits yet. Here I would say goodbye to Rupert as he was on an express run to KL to ship his bike back to UK.
Roop thanks for the great memories and the time we spent together, from finding you on a highway in India to fixing your bike (a few times J) and heading through Myanmar, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam. Hope to see you back in blighty at some point when I return.