20 Days In The North

Discussion in 'Vietnam - Road Trip Reports' started by feejer, Apr 30, 2012.

  1. feejer

    feejer Ol'Timer

    Finally got something put together. Lots of material to sort, convert from .mov to .wmv, compile, and upload as you can imagine. But we had a great ride over there and anytime you can ride 3 weeks in Vietnam without an accident or mechanical or tire issue, I would say it was a successful effort. The roads, the scenery, and interaction with the locals was just a bonus.

    We did a counter-clockwise loop out of Hanoi as follows:

    Hanoi to Bai Chay (Ha Long)
    Bai Chay to Dinh Lap
    Dinh Lap to Cao Bang
    Cao Bang to Meo Vac
    Meo Vac to Dong Van/Lung Cu
    Dong Van to Ha Giang
    Ha Giang to Bac Ha
    Bac Ha to Sa Pa
    Sa Pa to Nghia Lo
    Nghia Lo to Mai Chau
    Mai Chau to Hanoi


    Very sorry about the shaky video footage. At the last minute I decided to pack my old beatup Arai helmet instead in case of theft or crash. Only problem? It did not have the Contour adhesive cam mount installed. Doh! Minor detail. So I shot it all while riding one handed and holding the bugger as still as I could. Tried to rig up a mount with hose clamps and twine on the bars but no good, didn't want to lose the thing so I gave up. We will definitely be going back next year to rent from Hung's Flamingo shop in HCM and ride up to DaNang/Hoi An along the coast and loop back down through the mountains. Hope you enjoy the vids. Rhidian also has a ton of material that I have not seen yet, he's trying to put something together so will post when/if he does.

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  3. Rod Page

    Rod Page Ol'Timer

    Eric - well done; a great report & some excellent advice for others planning a similar adventure (for example, it takes time to ride in VN).

    When you first contacted me you mentioned you'd hired 160 Pros elsewhere - I'm happy you looked up Flamingo as suggested & found them to be excellent. My wife & I both ride YBR's purchased from Hung - great reliable bikes for what VN will toss at you - for the extremes as well as what's in between.

    How good is that run between Meo Vac & Dong Van - sensational is an understatement; there's truly nothing like it. (I did not have the sound on whilst looking at your videos & wonder if you had any concerns with permits for the area?)

    You were blessed with good weather - not easy given the variations you can get on the very same day in seasons between Ha Giang & Lao Cai.

    I'll be doing the same loop clockwise from Da Nang (heading up the HCM Road) in September/October. Will post a report. Look forward to seeing you in Da Nang.

  4. feejer

    feejer Ol'Timer

    Thanks Rod, there was a lot of good stuff missed because as you can imagine there were many places where it was impossible to ride one handed and Rhidian's camera got wet on the 2nd day and fizzled so all he had was the iPad for photo/video (not really it's strong points) so there were some photo/video technical difficulties.

    We did reserve some GL160 but when we went to pick up the bikes, it was a sick joke. No way we were going to take what we saw there into the far North for 3 weeks so we bailed on that guy. He turned out to be more of a Minsk specialist which is not what we were looking for. Luckily Flamingo had a few bikes not out on tours and we were good to go with solid Japanese bikes. The YBR was a perfect choice for all the paved conditions but would have liked more ground clearance when we ventured off pavement. The suspension was really soft and little travel, so slow going through the rocks/ruts.

    Weather was dry except for that 2nd day where we rode all day in the rain. The last week things really heated up and Rhidian was pretty wiped out from it. Never been in SEA before and not too happy. Believe it or not, we actually had a ice/hail storm 30 minutes after booking into our hotel in Mai Chau. Then that night the wind was threatening to blow down the walls, then next day it was clear, still, and 35C. Crazy weather!

    But crazy automobile/van/truck drivers scared us more than anything. These idiots have no regard for anyone passing in ridiculous fashion on curves, forcing you completely off the road and still missing you by an inch. To them if they flash their lights and sound the horn if you are not out of the way, off the cliff you go! They constantly tried to kill us and we saw a few moto fatalities which were gruesome/sad scenes to ride by. I had no fear at all riding in the GT & did not experience anything like that there. Vietnam is on another level and not in a good way as far as that goes.

    We did not get permits prior to venturing up in the Frontier/Border areas. When we got to MeoVac, there was a little problem understanding what they wanted from us until I remembered the permit issue. Luckily, the hotels up there can issue them on arrival now. I think it was 200,000 dong for both of us to be listed on the paperwork. We then had to present that to be allowed up to the monument at Lung Cu and also to check into the hotels in Dong Van and Ha Giang. So yes, they are required but you don't have to get them before arrival anymore it seems.
  5. Rod Page

    Rod Page Ol'Timer

    More good news, great news, in fact for those that know riding in northern Vietnam.

    Formerly you could only get the permits in Ha Giang - if you rode 'the loop' anti-clockwise then 'bad luck'! If you were found without a permit your bike would be taken & transported across to Ha Giang; you had to find your own way across, get your permit & start all over again! that permits can be obtained in other areas & that there seems to be a more 'understanding' attitude is tremendously positive news.

    Pleased also to have you reconfirming the mayhem on the roads in VN. Anyone, & I mean anyone irrespective of their experience or ability, needs to fine-tune their riding for VN.

    Pleased too to read your comments concerning the YBR to the extent that they reconfirm that big bikes are just not suited to the conditions here. All things considered riders would be well advised to leave their bike at home (stop trying to avoid the relevant regulations) & hire from Flamingo if they wish to be properly mounted for the task at hand.

    I trust Rhidian is fully recovered & can post some shots....eevn from iPad.
  6. feejer

    feejer Ol'Timer

    The hotel staff was understanding and had the permit readily available for us. But no way to know how things would have gone down if confronted by authorities without it. But we only witnessed a few checkpoints and they waved us through seeming to only be interested in checking autos/trucks for contraband or whatever. I would imagine one would have to have an accident or do something really stupid to have any contact with the police in North VN. They pretty much ignored us when we saw them, and that was very rarely even in the cities. In fact, I don't think we saw a single policeman or vehicle in that whole Cao Bang, Meo Vac, Dong Van section. But they didn't seem to be needed either, everyone gets along fine and takes care of each other. They know they are on their own way out there.
  7. feejer

    feejer Ol'Timer

    A LONG day by day journal/diary of this trip if you care to read it. More detail/introspection than the movie maker/slideshow.

    Vietnam Moto Trip – April 4-24, 2012

    After temporarily whetting my appetite for International adventure by motorcycle in Northern Thailand in 2008, I decided after a 3 year hiatus that another trip was in order. Vietnam had always beckoned to me as a land shrouded in mystery and danger. With my American perspective of the war looming over it, I just had to finally see it and interact with this land and its people first hand. What better way to do this than on a motorcycle? After communicating my plan to make this happen over a few pints, my friend decided he would also like to give it a go.
    This was a welcome development as I had few reservations about riding alone for 3 weeks in Thailand and did so, but Vietnam has been warned to be a much different and more challenging environment. For this one, a wingman was mandatory IMO in case things really went astray in the remote frontier areas. After some initial reservations about making the trip in April after the dry season (dusty & dry) and possibly waiting for November, the stark reality of the rising cost of fuel/airfares and dark/damp of the Pacific NW winter urged us along to get our asses on a plane sooner rather than later.

    Planning and Departure
    Cathay Pacific is considered to be a 5 star airline that luckily has reasonable fares out of Vancouver ,
    BC and I live equidistant between there and Seattle International so I am lucky to have that choice. In this case, the fare was over $300 cheaper to fly out of Vancouver, so it was an easy decision which way we were to go. Only purchases needed were Visas and an updated SE Asia microSD card for my Garmin GPSMAP 60Cx. I had pre-arranged for the bike rentals, the airport pickup, and first 2 nights stay in Hanoi by email. Just needed a wired deposit of $100US to prep and hold the 2 bikes for us. Was a bit of concern by my friend regarding the small size of the bikes that we were to use (Honda GL160 Pro) as he is 90kg and was used to riding a C14 Concours . I tried to assure him that if SHTF, he will be happy to have a 115kg bike vs. some tall/heavy beast to manhandle for hours on end.
    This issue was my biggest concern in general. He has decades of riding experience, spending his youth blasting around the UK and the last 20 years doing the same in America. But he had virtually ZERO off-road experience and definitely ZERO experience riding anywhere in Asia. I am the inverse, spending my youth riding motocross and deciding not to venture onto the road until my early 30’s. It took that long for me to finally develop some sense of self-preservation and a waning interest in drinking to excess. So it was to be an interesting mix of skill and experience heading off into the relative unknowns of Vietnam.

    The experience at Vancouver international was effortless and no negatives to mention. But upon entering the aircraft, I knew it was going to be a hellish 12 hours. We had the great misfortune of being sandwiched between 2 families with toddlers. And the young Indian boy in front of me cried nearly incessantly and was inconsolable for most of the flight. Noise cancelling headset did help but at some point you need to sleep. I resorted to getting up and bringing a few pillows with me and actually lie down along the emergency exit door near the mid section of the plane. It was more comfortable and quieter than my assigned seat and I remained there for ¾ of the journey. The other problem is the seat design for the 777 Cathay Pacific chose is horribly uncomfortable and does not recline the seat back at all. Instead the ass section of the seat slides forward to simulate a recline, but you are really just “slouching” and it is a back killer and total ergonomic disaster. Needless to say, we were both elated to get off of the toddler tube and onto solid ground in HK. The connecting DragonAir flight was fantastic and more representative of the service, comfort, and quality I have come to expect from an Asian carrier. Bottom line is Cathay Pacific and their affiliates are a fine regional carrier but avoid them like a bad rash on the No. American routes to Asia until they sort out the seat design.
    The passenger demographic on the connecting flight to Hanoi was 180 degree switch and was 100% adult and probably half were 60ish American men. Obviously Hanoi is a popular destination at the moment for veterans to come and see while they still are around to do so. I would say 80% of the passengers were Westerners which is predicting what I have been reading regarding the extreme tourist presence now in Vietnam. This is what put me off on coming to Vietnam back in 2005 as I had and still have the impression that Vietnam has already happened and is now just about the money to most of the locals vs any genuine curiosity about us. The main reason I have changed my mind to come is the motorcycle aspect of this journey that will enable us to visit areas that are not easily accessed by the package tours and bus fleets. Even though the “real” Vietnam is probably long since ruined by mass tourism, at least we can hope to get a glimpse of how life once was 20 years ago before the opening up to the tourist dollar and the irreparable damage that has caused to the innocence of the people and culture.
    Day 1 (Hanoi)
    No problems at Hanoi airport and our hotel driver is there as agreed. The drive over was a bit comical listening to and watching Rhidian’s reaction to the traffic and the general appearance of a SEA country. So we arrive at the hotel and find that the power is out and the front lobby is being powered by generator. We have come from the Pacific Northwest and are sweating so it was a great disappointment to know that an A/C room was not forthcoming. Anyway, the hotel staff were great from start to finish and very helpful with everything we requested. After getting checked in and dropping off our stuff in the room, it was time to go see the bike rental guy. This turned out to be a real shocker. We had reserved 2 Honda GL160 bikes, but only one was there and it was in bad shape. No way it was going to make the distances/terrain we had told him. So we went over to Flamingo travel and what a difference, very helpful and much better condition on the bikes. So we reserved them to be picked up the following morning. The rest of the day just amounted to walking around Hoan Kiem lake and having dinner nearby. Obviously, it was an early night as we had just endured a long trip and desperately needed some shuteye.
    Day 2 (Hanoi)
    Today is the day to get the bikes, so we head over there and they were there as promised. This was to be my first time riding in Hanoi or Vietnam and Rhidian’s first time riding in Asia at all. So it was a baptism of fire I can assure you. Very little can prepare you for this experience, you just have to jump out of the nest and fly or you crash, that simple. I had my GPS but it really is quite useless to use while riding because 100% attention is required constantly, a second of looking at the screen and you are toast. No joke. Also, no signs are in English so even if you are near a site/place you want to visit, you are not sure if you are there or not. So we decided to park the bikes and just tour by foot which is a great way to see the real city anyway. Problem was, every motorcycle parking spot in the area of the hotel was full. We had to ask the bike rental company to hold them overnight. Hard to imagine that parking a motorcycle could ever be a problem anywhere. So they let us keep them at the garage and we set out on foot to see the B52 crash site, the Pagoda on West Lake, the Ho Chi Minh museum/mausoleum, and the military museum. We got to see them all except the military museum as it had closed before we got back there. We plan to see it upon return to Hanoi when dropping off the bikes.

    Day 3 (Hanoi to Ha Long)
    We get breakfast and then a taxi over to the bike garage and the guys were great in getting us setup and on our way. They also offered to guide us out of the city for $15 but with the GPS, I declined because I had a good idea where we were going and was now much more comfortable riding in the city than before. We headed out on Hwy 5, then connected with the 1A, then the 18 all the way over to HaLong. This is a stretch of road I will not soon forget. Tour busses/vans galore with white faces looking out at me as I passed probably thinking what kind of nitwit would ride a motorcycle in this madness! Basically anything goes. From busses/tour vans driven by amphetamine fueled drivers riding your ass, to wealthy Vietnamese in their Mercedes, Cayenne, and SUV’s passing and coming COMPLETELY in your lane with lights flashing saying “your life isn’t worth a sack of rice to me, move out of my way or I’ll kill you, pay your peasant family $1000 and carry on with my rich life”, to kids on bikes weaving into your path, people 4 to a moped crossing into the highway, to cows, to pedestrians, potholes, trash, you name it. Every one of them could set you off your bike and end your trip or your life. Is it worth the risk? For me yes, because it is something that these people do every day and they do it well enough for most of them to survive and live a decent life. I should be able to do the same and have some fun and satisfaction knowing that I could do it and have some great memories as well seeing the country at my own pace and my own schedule. Plus, if you don’t follow your dreams now, when will you? When you are too old and worn out to enjoy it resorting to the “Experience Vietnam in a bubble” package tour experience? That is just boring as hell to me and frankly would rather stay home and watch it on Blu-Ray than do it like that.
    We arrive in HaLong and incredibly a guy on a motorcycle rides up next to me trying to get me to stay at a hotel he gets kickbacks for. I couldn’t believe it. We couldn’t even get off the bikes before someone is trying to get a piece of us. I told the guy no several times and he kept following us and wouldn’t leave us alone until I had to get pissed off. I hate being that way but these people are just incredibly hard headed and WILL NOT take no for an answer. I have never seen anything like these people and I have done some traveling through Asia. Unfortunately, this has been the #1 disappointment for me on this trip so far. After shaking this guy off of us, I saw some recommendations in the guidebook for some budget hotels. The Viet Hoa on 35 Vuon Dao street looked a good choice so I entered into the GPS and I took us straight there. The owner and her sons were nice folks and they brought our bike into the lobby locked and secured at night so no worries there. The rooms were $10 and decent with A/C. Considering the major hotel chains are running $180-220/night right across and down the street, this is the way to go. Let the package tourists get raped for their convenience.
    We strolled the night market and the surrounding areas and found Bai Chay to be not much to look at since the “beach” is an ugly sight and the ocean is not clean enough to swim in along with trash everywhere. There was a lot of fog/haze and we could barely make out the islands in the bay. We did get 2 hour massages and they were good for $35 and exactly what I needed to relax and soothe sore muscles after the stress of Hanoi and the crazy ride over.

    Day 4 (Ha Long to Dinh Lap)
    The next morning the sky turned to night in a matter of minutes and cast a very ominous feel on things. Well in 5 minutes we were witnessing a downpour the likes of which I have not seen. After 15 minutes of this, the street in front of the hotel was totally flooded and became a small river. Fortunately, this happended before we had set out on the bikes because we would have been in a bad spot. We watched this with Ahn the hotel owner for a while until it slowed and the street cleared enough to leave. It was still raining and unless we wanted to stay over another night, we had to tough it out and get on the move. So we waterproofed everything the best we could and headed out over the bridge on Hwy 18 with the intent to get as far as Lang Son. The GPS auto recalculated the route when I was not looking and directed a turn to the North to road 326 and it was rough and raining. We did stop for fuel near the end of the 326 in Bang Tay and the girls at the fillup station were friendly and very helpful in getting us dried out. This ended up being a 1 ½ hour stop since word spread that a couple foreigners were in town and a few more locals came by to “talk” and check us out. They gave us chairs, slippers for our feet while we changed socks and our boots dried out. They also gave us water and bananas while we gave them some Clif bars/granola bars etc along with showing them pictures on the laptop of America and our life there. I also printed out some pictures of them on my PoGo portable printer and they got a kick out of that. It was a fun experience and our first taste of the REAL Vietnam and the friendly nature I have come to appreciate in my travels to this part of the world. The first few days here were quite shocking as I was not prepared for the mercenary attitudes we encountered in Hanoi and Ha Long. That was on a level beyond anything I had experienced in any prior trip to South East Asia.
    We said goodbye to our new friends and connected with Hwy 18 heading North to the 4B. This was a very scenic ride but the drivers in automobiles are the most dangerous people I have ever seen. Passing in completely inappropriate locations and willing to run people off the road just to get by. It’s almost like they are raised riding motorbikes and once they reach a certain level of financial means to get a car, they go crazy with speed and feel superior to all the “peasants” on bikes and treat them accordingly.
    The road condition on the 4B was variable as was the weather. It rained half the time and the road was decent for about half the journey as well. The rest of the time it was rough and slow going. I began to realize that any plan or itinerary was pointless because there was no way to predict or know how long it would take to get anywhere. You just have to go until it is almost dark and stay wherever you end up. Well this time we ended up in Dinh Lap about 15 minutes before sunset. It is a small town with only one hotel and we stayed there for $8/night. It was not pretty, but the rooms were of decent standard with A/C and any place with a bed and shower was good enough for us after that wet day on the road. We were soaked through and cold. The next task was finding something to eat and all we could find was a small village store with some packaged snacks and water. We did sit down outside at a place that had chairs/table with beer and juice setup. After 10-15 minutes about 7-8 local high school guys showed up and we had a lot of fun talking, smoking, and drinking with them. I took some pictures of them and printed out a few on the PoGo printer. One of them spoke minimal English but the rest were unintelligible and it didn’t matter , we were able to sit and have a fun night out for several hours like we would back home. Pretty amazing really. So we called it a night about 11:30 and I slept great all the way through.

    Day 5 (Dinh Lap to Cao Bang)
    We wake to the sound of roosters and a very nice morning with no rain but mostly cloudy skies. Still bright enough to give a cherry feel to the new day and I was ready to hit the road early. Rhidian successfully hunted down some food in the form of a hot sandwich on a French roll and Chinese pork buns. We scarfed those down on the balcony of the hotel discussing our plan for the day. Unfortunately, his Blackberry stopped working and was giving a battery status error. This was his only camera/video and our connection to the outside world. So first stop was to be Lang Son city to hunt down a new battery. We arrived in Lang Son about 10 AM and get some coffee and excellent fried rice on the top 12th floor of the main hotel in town right off the 4B. After this, we see a cell phone store and luckily the kid there had spare batteries that would work in his phone but it did no solve the problem. We concluded that it must have gotten wet the day prior. I had heard that putting the phone in a bag of uncooked rice would dry it out so we searched for rice but could not communicate what we wanted and maddeningly we could not see any to point at to buy some. We went to half a dozen stores and even roadside food stands and not a grain of rice to be had because we could not tell them what we wanted. I even tried my guidebook phrases and still no good. They kept trying to sell us pre-packaged noodles. It was one of the most bizarre situations I have ever been in to be in a country that is the worlds 2nd largest exported of rice and not being able to obtain a single grain. We wasted a lot of time doing this and I regret that. But we also gave the bikes a little TLC by pressure washing the dirt/grime from them and the chain. We pulled up to a shop and pointed at the chain and his pressure washer and off they went to work. Well what we got was a total wash/detail service. Those bikes looked almost new after they got done and only 30000 dong per bike. They even adjusted my chain and lubed them up. My plan was to head North on the 4A, then connect with the 208 over to Hoa Thuan, then north on the 3 and stay the night in Quang Uyen. This would have brought us closer to the Ban Gioc falls the following day. But it was very slow going on the 4A with mud and road construction and we were short on daylight. Knowing that the 208 likely would be a very rough stretch and not knowing the level of accommodation in Quang Uyen, I had to decide to stay on the 4A and head for Cao Bang. The last few hours of our trip were spectacular with great scenery and finishing off with a beautiful new stretch of road into town. We arrived in the dark and saw a sign that said hotel and headed straight for it. It ended up being the Tay Giang and it was OK with nice rooms but after we checked in, I discovered that the main city area was about 4 km away and we were a bit isolated with no few food options other than that at the hotel we were in. No matter, we had a bed and shower and got a good nights rest after a long day in the mud.

    Day 6 (Cao Bang to Ban Gioc loop)
    We woke to a sunny, but slightly misty morning with the local farmers tending the rice fields and plowing with the water buffalo. Our plan today was to get to Ban Gioc falls from our base in Cao Bang. I looked at the map and the guidebook that said it was a 2 hour journey to get to the falls so planned a circular route consisting of Hwy 3, then to 207 at Quang Uyen continuing on to the falls, then looping back on the 206 to Hwy 3 again. This 200 km loop took us 11 hours on the bikes and we spent the last hour and a half riding in the dark on rutted roads and over the Ma Phuc pass which was a hair raising experience to say the least. There are people walking in the dark on the side of the road, people riding scooters along the side with no lights, there are dogs lying in the road, rocks, trucks with their brights on blinding you and you own fatigue working to kill you in an instant. It was stupid and I regret doing it but we had little choice vs. sleeping in the rough or asking to shack up with some villagers. Looking back on it, I would do that if ever in similar circumstances.
    Anyway, the loop itself is spectacular and I have a hard time imagining anything better for a motorcycle loop. The scenery is really out of this world literally. If you have seen Avatar and the floating mountains, this is exactly what we rode through. Combined with endless rice terraces around every corner and peaceful villages, it really is a world removed from the life we live in the West. The people here are “poor” farmers in the modern sense but they live in a paradise on earth and probably don’t even know it. They have been living the same way and tending the same land for centuries and I hope they always can. But I know in 100 years there will be some highway running through there and it will be a major tourist attraction to glide along in comfort watching the beauty pass by but the people will be long gone. Consumed by progress and quest for material things.
    We arrived back in Cao Bang about 8pm and checked into the Hai Au hotel on the main road along the river. The front desk was helpful and actually walked us to a night sandwich vendor down the street. We had a few Heineken at a small bar across the street but were beat up from the long day and did not stay long.

    Day 7 (Cao Bang)
    Slept all night and woke up to the sight of the Bang Giang river below and the sounds of the city. The plan today was to try to make it to Meo Vac but after yesterday we decided to take a day off to rest and just enjoy this pleasant city of Cao Bang. The weather looks to be shining on us today so we strolled the streets looking for a place for breakfast for me since Rhidian had already found a street vendor and bought some morning soup. We had no luck with that but did have a very nice cup of coffee and then walked through the markets looking at all the various fare on offer. Pretty much anything you need is here, just need to find it since it is segregated into sections like grocery store or department store. Just under a corrugated tin roof or tarp. The meat area was most interesting with the ladies all chopping meat on 100+ year old wood tables and making fresh sausage right there on site. Certainly was not the most sanitary with flies and other things finding their way onto the meat but these people eat this every day and survive so how bad could it be? We finally had some luck getting lunch at the Huong Sen hotel restaurant and had spring rolls, tofu squares, bok choi, fried sweet potato chips, rice, and Halida beer. Was nice to have a real sitdown meal after surviving on snack food for several days.
    We dropped off our laundry as it was pretty muddy and stinky by now and spent a few hours taking a nap or working on getting Blackberry to work. About 5:30 we went on an evening bike ride through the town to see the sights and I bought a pair of sandals. Stopped in the town square near the statue of Ho Chi Minh to enjoy the evening scene with people walking, jogging, talking with friends and generally having a good time. No sign of police or any other security the whole time we were there. Just a peaceful town that works without the need and expense for force or intimidation or deterrent. After that we stopped at our favorite spot to have a few beers and watch the people go by from our table with a view. A group of guys came up and we had a little small talk with them and shared a smoke and they gave us some sunflower seeds to snack on. We called it a night about 11PM and headed back to the rooms.
    Day 8 (Cao Bang – Meo Vac)
    Woke up with a bit of the runs. Nothing dramatic with cramping or anything but definitely loose so a bit of a concern since this is to be another long day on the bikes. Going to bring a roll of toilet paper along just in case. We depart CaoBang on the 34 and it was pretty rough going for the first few hours with poor road conditions. It was a good thing we took a day off to rest because it also gave time for the mud to dissipate. The road eventually improved and we made good time into Bao Lac for a quick stop for some water and a bit of a snack. Not a friendly place was our experience as Rhidian was immediately denied service by some lady selling fruit. She just said “No!” as soon as he approached. We continued on and came upon the connection to the 4C at Na Phong. Rhidian fueled up at the hand pumped tank and we were invited for a sitdown for a beer and I offered a few Macanudo to the guys there. They were interested in my GPS and Rhidian was showing them some pix/video on the iPad. A friendly group and interesting how our experience can change so dramatically in just a few dozen kilometers. We continue on the 4C and were very impressed with this stretch of road into Meo Vac. Beautiful vistas around every corner and could be described as a motorcyclists dream road with lots of turns and scenery to match. We also came upon a group of ethnic Hmong and stopped to “talk” with them and took some pictures and printed out a few for them on the PoGo and they seemed to enjoy that and were happy and smiling to see themselves on there. Rhidian got some great shots and video of them while I was doing this so good to have 2 people doing photowork to catch the moment. We descend into Meo Vac through some interesting geology with black basalt outcroppings and quite different than what we just rode through. It was getting late as usual and we initially had some trouble finding lodging as the first two places we tried were booked up. The 2nd place that turned us down helped us out by calling a neighboring hotel and the girl came to get us and escorted us back to her place. It was the MaiDao and a good value for 200,000 dong/night. We took badly needed showers and found a good pho/noodle place and had a good meal for a change. On the way back to the hotel we discovered a place that had “Massage” listed outside so Rhidian decided to walk up the stairs to check it out. We were warmly greeted and offered chairs and tea while we wait for an available masseuse. This is a popular place with about 8-10 guys showing up after us looking for a rubdown. I got a good soothing massage with the tiger balm on the muscles but it was only an hour and 2 hours would have been better. But for 100,000 dong ($5), it was a good deal so I tipped her 50,000 dong and went home to sleep very well.

    Day 9 (Meo Vac to Dong Van/Lung Cu)
    The next morning we revisited our noodle shop for breakfast and had an egg/onion omelet with sweet French bread and several Vietnamese instant coffees. Upon return to the hotel and packing I discovered my helmet had gone missing and was not in the room. I then realized I had left it downstairs while we were checking in. So with great concern that I will probably have to purchase a sub-standard helmet for the duration of the trip, I walk down the stairs to see my helmet sitting right on the side stand next to the lobby couch. Who said there was a crime problem in Vietnam? So with great relief I get the bike out to the street for a bit of chain TLC and wait for Rhidian to come down. We leave a bit late at 10AM and heading out of town on the 4C, we see rows of housing with virtually everyone dressed in ethnic hill tribe wear. About 15 minutes out of town the scenery really became impressive along with the people that live there. We saw houses perched 1000+ feet on the side of sheer cliffs and mountain sides with foot paths leading from the main road up to their homes. Since there is no fresh water up there, they must go down to the river below and walk it back up there every day along with whatever else they need. These people are real mountain goats and we witnessed their climbing skill first hand a day earlier when a lady and her daughter scaled the side of a mountain in their sandals right in front of us to access some trees up above. Very tough and hardy folk in these parts as we saw endless examples of them on this road hauling huge payloads either on their backs on on scooters. Even elderly people that look 80+ are still walking up these grades carrying all manner of vegetation and/or walking their cows/goats.
    The 4C road from Meo Vac to Dong Van really is the most scenic road I think I have been on carving through vast valleys and canyons. It is a dream to be able to ride a road like this before it becomes discovered by the masses and ruined from too many people crowding it. Very lucky to have been able to see it now in the current pristine state. We arrive in Dong Van about 1PM and the plan was to try and get to Ha Giang today but we decide to stay in Dong Van and make the quick 50km round trip up to Lung Cu and the Chinese border. It was a nice ride up there with lots of ethnic people lining the roadway but the scenery was not quite up to par with the 4C coming into Dong Van. We stopped to visit with some kids and took pictures with them and did the PoGo bit for them. We got to the Lung Cu monument, handed over our passports/permit, and paid the 30,000 dong (10000 for each of us and 5000 for each bike), and scaled the 500 feet up the steps for the view. It was nice to look into China to the North and Vietnam to the South and we took some photos of ourselves, the monument, and the surrounding countryside from up there. We made it back into town about 5:00 and got showered and ready for dinner. We began to see many more white folks coming into town by SUV/van at the hotel across from the restaurant and they all poured into it with 4 separate groups all there together. Seemed to be Aussies/Kiwis, some Germans, a French couple, and maybe a Dutch guy with his Viet girl and her family. Anyway, the meal was not very appealing with my stir fried chicken and veggies coming with black chicken skin and I barely touched it. Something about black chicken just turned my stomach so I concentrated on the fried spring rolls only. We then ventured to a Karaoke place for another beer and watched the locals stream in to get their private rooms below to sing with their friends/girlfriends. The waiter guy came to try Rhidians pipe and actually took a puff from it much to Rhidian’s dismay. He then came back with a satchet of local tobacco and wanted to exchange it for some of Rhidian’s captain black. So the trade was made and he disappeared. We called it a night early as I was nodding off. Didn’t sleep too well with a few mosquitos pestering me so I had to get on some DEET to keep them at bay. Also still a bit runny hoping it does not get any worse.
    Day 10 (Dong Van to Ha Giang)
    Woke up with no power in the room so no shower or a cold shower seems to be the choice. I decided that I was clean enough and got on some shorts to go on the morning search for our daily water and my pre-packaged breakfast as I had no interest in eating at our dinner establishment again after the experience with black skinned chicken and my intestinal condition. Rhidian ordered an 3 egg scramble and some banana crepes of which I did have one as they looked pretty good. We then suited up and were quite happy to bid Dong Van farewell, not really too appealing to us with little on offer and indifferent service by most establishments. We stopped for about 15 minutes in Yen Minh to observe a very active street market with just about everyone dressed in their traditional tribal clothing. Got quite a few pictures but the people were quite indifferent to our presence and just went about their business of buying what they needed and then walking miles down the road and then hundreds of feet up the mountainside to their homes. On the 4C at Lao Va Chai there is a “shortcut” road that the GPS found and we decided to risk taking. It turned out to be a challenging off road adventure with some quite technical conditions. Lots of rock and opportunity for bottoming out the little YBR I was on so I had to really take it slow to avoid knocking a hole in the gear case and being in a world of shit. Rhidian fared much better with his dual sport and its 3” ground clearance advantage although he did go down once in a muddy rut but no harm done and he did very well for his first real off road riding. The trail itself started off as a 4X4/Jeep track but then turned into single track with some very remote villages up there and more evidence of the local people farming some rugged landscape. I stopped for pictures of a few kids, printed them some pictures, and gave them some peanut brittle candy. The oldest boy was impressed and walked up the hill to show the picture to his parents who were working the land up above. We then descended slowly down the single track and around the bend when the 4C and the river came into clear view. It was a welcome sight to behold and a pretty view as we worked our way down the grade to the highway. We stopped for a break and 3 British guys on motorbikes pulled up to stop and chat. Rhidian said he had seen them at a prior hotel we stayed at but I don’t recall seeing them. Anyway, we exchanged a few tips on what was ahead for each of us and they went on their way. We pulled into Ha Giang about 5PM and stayed at the Hoang Hoa hotel which was clean and had a nice shower and good A/C. The bed was hard as a granite slab but I did end up sleeping pretty well. We went on a search for food and it was a frustrating task as all of the places were setup as buffet style where they have pre-cooked fare on display in front and you pick what you want and go sit down. Not what we had in mind as we wanted fresh fried rice and a cold beer. We walked around in the humid heat and not happy until we finally came upon a café and got what we wanted and it was good with a fried egg on top. After that we got some groceries and instant noodle for breakfast so we wouldn’t have to search again in the AM. Dropped off the goods at the room and decided to check out a Karaoke beer place the GPS said was nearby. Turned out to be a guy and his kid watching TV, but he got a fan and made us feel at home. One beer was enough and I was tired and wanted to call it a day so off to bed we went.

    Day 11 (Ha Giang to Bac Ha)
    Rhidian made an email inquiry to the Cong Fu hotel in Bac Ha the night before for Saturday night so we would be in town for the Sunday market scene with all the ethnic hill tribes coming to town for trade. Unknown if we will have a room or not but the itinerary depends on knowing prior to setting out. The owners son at the Hoang Hoa hotel called ahead for us to the CongFu and confirmed that they had 2 rooms available so we were relieved we would have a bed that night. We set out at 9AM and Rhidian was anxious to get rolling as he was already dripping in sweat. Ha Giang is only at 180 meters elevation so it is hot and humid 24 hours/day this time of year. We set out on Hwy 2, connecting with the 279, then the 70, and then the 153 up to Bac Ha. Not particularly impressive scenery compared to what we had already been through but pretty nonetheless with rice paddies and thatched roof houses throughout the lowland countryside. We did stop at a very authentic hill tribe street market near Bac Quang with virtually everyone dressed in their traditional clothes. They didn’t pay us much attention though and just went about their business.

    We continued on to Bac Ha and got there about 3PM and were checked in quickly and had nice rooms waiting for us. Rhidian had a balcony room looking out over the street and I chose a quieter room in the back looking over the market . We got on the bikes and cruised around town a bit and stopped for a few Tiger beer where some Aussie or Kiwi guys were watching a rugby match and pounding copious amounts of Bia Ha Noi. A few older hill tribe ladies curiously came in and sat to watch the TV with us as well. Maybe they are as interested in our ways as we are of theirs? We also had some long awaited fried rice and then got on the bikes again in search of much needed massage. We found such at the Sao Mai hotel and were told to wait for a bit while the 2 girls showed up. They arrived about 5 minutes later and we got a good soothing after days on the bikes. After that and the beers, I was pretty much done for the day and needed to sleep so we parked the bikes under the hotel in their garage and called it a day.

    Day 12-14 (Bac Ha to SaPa)
    I woke up feeling good and ready to see the Sunday market. Went down with SLR and zoom lens to try and get as many candid shots as possible without being intrusive/obvious to the locals. It was obviously busy, busy with lots of locals trading everything they need for the week until next time. It is becoming quite touristy as well with some fairly aggressive selling going on to the foreigners being bussed in to view the spectacle. It remains quite authentic however and the live animal section of the market is not for the squeamish or easily upset as there is ample evidence of cruelty going on. Crowded cages and poking with sticks and holding piglets by the ears is un-necessary. If the animal is going to give its life for your nourishment, at least treat it with some dignity before it’s demise for ****’s sake. Anyway, we strolled around a bit until it began to get too hot and needed to get rolling and some wind on our bodies. We set out about 11 AM and stopped for a few beers in Lao Cai and saw a disabled/deformed guy walking on all fours like an animal. He did get a drink and a smoke from some locals when he reached his destination across the street so it seems there are some compassionate folks helping him survive. But a disturbing sight nonetheless. We got into Sa Pa and began the search for rooms and decided upon the Cat Cat Twilight hotel. Somehow I was given room 504 which IMO is the best room in the place with fantastic views of the Muong Hoa valley and Fansipan as well. It has a private patio in back with a granite table/benches for morning coffee and an evening drink/smoke.
    Sa Pa was initially a welcome break since there are ample restaurants and good quality food which had been our biggest challenge thus far. But this positive was quickly tarnished by the constant and persistent sales pitch by the Hmong on the streets. They will not take no for an answer and will follow you down the street until you either buy something or start to yell at them. We did venture out into the Muong Hoa valley road on the bikes for a sample of the villages but quickly realized this was futile when kids start running out at you with their hands out and tapping on your wallet in your pants. The following day we rode out to Ta Phin village and were taken down over a foot bridge and up a hill to a Red Dao home and were shown around their place and sat down for a cup of tea. Then the woven handicrafts came out and the hard sell. I did buy 4 items as they were good quality and authentically handmade. But as soon as the sale was made, they quickly made it clear we were to head back to the road ASAP so they could snare the next cows to be milked. Up to that point, it was a nice experience to sit and chat with them and see how they really live. But it is abundantly clear it is all about the money to them and no sincere interest in us at all. All for show. We did have a good foot/leg massage here and a few good meals but overall I would give Sa Pa a miss. Far too commercial and touristy now to be enjoyable for more than a day. We stayed for 3 days to recharge and get some good food but should have moved on sooner.
    Day 15 (Sa Pa to Nghia Lo)
    We left Sa Pa on the 4D connecting with the 32 heading South. We got up to about 2050 meters elevation as we went over the pass and it was noticeably cooler as we did so, then a nice descent into the valley below. As we went through Tan Uyen we began to see the tea plantations along the hillsides. Everything was arranged in terraced rows as is done with rice. But overall the landscape was not particularly impressive as it was the end of the dry season and not fully green and lush. Also the air was quite hazy so the mountains were obscured by this and detracted from the views but the road itself was pretty good with nice twisty turns when it was paved. We stopped for a quick drink/ass break and continued on until Rhidian could not go any further due to sore bum. We found what appeared to be the best hotel in Nghia Lo and booked in. It had a full Karaoke suites setup with impressive lighting schemes and a massage/pool listed on the in-room booklet. But neither were available. Rhidian also tried to get a glass of scotch but was told he had to buy the whole bottle so he settled on a Heineken after waiting 20 minutes for some ice. For dinner, there was no restaurant in the best hotel in town so we wandered as usual like stray dogs looking for food in this country. We happened upon the typical mamasan and her streetside kitchen. She took us into the kitchen and asked us to point at what we wanted and we ended up with rice and fried eggs with some ice cream for dessert. Nothing going on in town at night as usual except for the karaoke scene which we are not into at all. Sat in the hotel bar looking at maps planning our possible early exit from this no-fun zone.

    Day 16 (Nghia Lo to Mai Chau)
    Woke up and strolled the morning market and found a bakery shop to purchase some bagels with a sliced hot dog on top along with a cookie and iced coffee in a can. Got packed up and were on the road at 8 AM. Took the 32 South and then connected with the 37 which turned out to be one of the nicer roads we have been on in recent days. Very nice and green with lush valleys below and a great twisty road to match. We fueled up in Phu Yen and bought some oranges and drinks to hold us over. We then continued South on the 43 towards the ferry to bring us over the Black river to the other side. It was a nice ride along the lake with the fishing boats and friendly locals all waving and saying hello to us as we passed. We arrived at the ferry dock and were the only ones there going South with no ferry in sight. I walked up to the dock house and showed the guy the map and he nodded and said yes you can take motorbike across and the bring the bikes down to the water. Soon the ferry showed up and we drove them on with no hassle. It was a fun but short trip to be balancing our 2 loaded bikes on a small unstable boat. We arrived on the other side and the boatman helped us unload them while a group of locals looked on waiting for us to disembark. We got off with no problem and continued on the 43 towards Moc Chau and the Hwy 6 connection. Once on the 6, the road was in great shape and we could finally make some good distance at speed as the skies were darkening with the threat of rain. It was a pretty ride through the mountains and then we came into the Mai Chau valley to stop and consult with the GPS and guide book on where to find a bed. The GPS was no help and did not list any accommodation in town so we just continued through town until we came upon the Mai Chau Lodge which is a very nice resort/hotel. Unfortunately, they did not have any rooms available as a large New Zealand contingent of High School girls were on site for a school trip. The front desk guy was very helpful though and called a guesthouse just 200 yards down the street and they said they would have rooms available in an hour or so and we went over to check it out. We got checked in and then the downpour started including fairly large hailstones! Did not expect to see that and we were lucky to be off the road in time. We were starved so we walked over to the Mai Chau Lodge for dinner and were relieved to see that the restaurant was up to Western standard and the food was excellent as well. I had a Tom Kai Gai soup and chicken curry while Rhidian had the same but got the mushroom chicken soup instead. It was a welcome meal and we thoroughly enjoyed it along with the air conditioning unit right behind me. After dinner, Rhidian reserved a full body massage and I went back to get my stuff into my room now that it was ready. After Rhidian’s massage, we took a walk down the street to see what was going on and not much other than a Karaoke place where we stopped to watch the local teenagers chatting/drinking and then piling 8-9 people into a small compact taxi. We called it a night and I slept very well after reading the guidebook for things to do the following day including visiting a cave up in the mountain behind our guesthouse and visiting some villages in the surrounding areas.

    Day 17 (Mai Chau)

    We decided to make the trek up the stairs into the cave and it was a 250 meter climb in 35 degree heat so we were dripping wet by the time we got to the cave entrance. There was a lot of steam coming off of my body from the colder air emanating from the depths of the mountain. We ventured into it and took quite a few pictures inside and then of the Mai Chau valley below. After that we got on the bikes and cruised up to Luong Lo and the surrounding villages. The ones closest to town were very touristy since there are many tour groups bussed in to do “authentic” homestays in a village stilthouse. We did sit down for a cold one and met a Vietnamese lady who was a business admin teacher at a university in Hanoi. She had interest in me contacting her about teaching there and gave me her card. I might pursue this further when/if the time is right. After this we rode back to the hotel and to our disappointment the power was still off and no A/C. Rhidian was soaked with sweat and not happy. I just stood under cold water in the shower to cool off and then we went for dinner at the Mai Chau lodge which was good but fairly overpriced for Vietnam. Not much going on in Mai Chau at night so we turned in early.

    Day 18 (Mai Chau to Hanoi)
    We woke to some light rain after a very windy evening but the power was on. Said goodbye to the nice family that runs the green guesthouse 100 yards from the Mai Chau lodge on the other side of the street. No English and no Vietnamese for us but we got along OK and had a few laughs and got on well regardless of language barrier. We took Hwy 6 back into the city and saw a gruesome sight about 20 KM out of town where 2 scooters were twisted up together. There was also evidence of cranial impact on the road with a very large blood splatter as if a melon had been dropped there. Then 20 meters down the road we saw the pieces of human skull and skin laying there in the sun and the reality of riding in Vietnam was right there in sight. I am fairly immune to seeing this type of thing but what I was not prepared for was the wailing and obviously anguish the family members on site were in while cradling the deceased who was no longer recognizable. It was a heart wrenching scene and sound that will take some time for me to get out of my head. I certainly wish I would have never seen or heard such a terrible thing. But it happens all over Vietnam every day.
    We got into the city and the stress and apprehension we felt before was not nearly as great. Mainly because it was a weekend and mid-day so the amount of traffic was less along with our familiarity with Viet road rules (or lack of). We arrived at our former GH with intent to stay there again but were intercepted by the manager of the Essence Hanoi hotel and the $45/night rate sounded reasonable considering the higher standard offered. So we booked in for the final 3 nights and were happy with the level of service and comfort in this hotel. We also were surprised at how much more livable Hanoi seemed to be since our absence. The traffic and the food and the overall vibe of the place seemed downright civilized compared to where we had been over the prior 2 ½ weeks. We had some excellent Thai curry chicken and phad thai at Thai Express restaurant at the North end of Hoan Kiem lake which was very welcome since we almost starved eating the horrid food available in the provinces. We then strolled around the lake taking in the scene with families and couples having a great time out on the town with their comrades. No fights or hassle with no police presence at all. Just a harmonious scene that was refreshing to see and sorely lacking in the West these days.

    Day 19 (Hanoi)
    Woke and got breakfast then walked to the Hoa Lo prison to see where John McCain and other pilots and POW were kept during the war. Lots of propaganda and revisionist history on display but it’s their country and they “won” so I guess they get to write history as they see fit. Regardless, it was interesting to see their perspective on the conflict and how they portrayed themselves as gracious humane hosts to the American pilots detained there. The beatings for “confessions” and political statements were glaring omissions but they really played up their victimization by the French when they used it for political prisoners and freedom fighters. We then walked over to the military museum which had a lot of interesting history about ancient Vietnam and battles the kings of that time had with the Mongols and invaders from China and Campuchea. They also had weapons and tactics displayed that were used against the French along with captured weapons and those used by Viet heroes to defeat French troops. The back half of the complex was devoted to the American war with a Huey helicopter and an A4 jet along with an assortment of American bombs used including cluster bombs and napalm canisters. They also had a full scale SAM on display that was used to down B52 bombers and other aircraft. They created a large “sculpture” of American scraps from downed planes. Sort of a monument to the waste of time and money the war was along with a bit of a warning to others who might contemplate doing the same in the future. Kind of saying “Mess with us and you too can have a sculpture of scrap with your name and flag on it”.

    Day 20 (Hanoi)
    Booked a trip to the Perfume pagoda through the hotel as we did not want the hassle of driving there or taking a bus tour and got a private car. It was a 2 hour drive there and a 1 hour rowboat ride to the “pagoda”. We walked up some stairs past the endless vendors to the cable car and rode it to the top of the mountain to the cave. It was basically a medium sized cave with 3 shrines with fake plastic offerings and chocolate pies and money stacked in front of them. Not particularly impressive to a non-Buddhist not making merit or a pilgrimage. We then walked down and got some lunch. We then walked to another larger series of buildings with a few shrines in them and walked around them taking some pictures. Compared to the typical wat in Thailand or the Angkor complex, this “attraction” is not really up to snuff. Unless you are Vietnamese/Buddhist and feel the need to come there to pray for good health and fortune, skip it! IMO not worth the time or money to go there at all. Got back to the hotel to shower and check in for our flights back home.


    Any time 2 guys can ride for 3 weeks in a developing country with no accidents or mechanical breakages on rental bikes, this can be considered a successful motorcycle holiday. The fact that we were able to ride through some spectacular countryside and interact with the people that live there is just a bonus. But Vietnam is not Thailand and it has some serious issues that should not be downplayed. The first is that the drivers of automobiles in this country are the worst I have encountered anywhere. They have no regard for anyone or their lives and will quite literally run you off of the road and off of a cliff just to pass another vehicle. It matters not whether they are on a curve or if anyone is in the other lane. The mere fact that they have sounded their horn and flashed their lights means they are coming through and if you are in the way, well………too bad for you. Every day we were on the road we feared for our safety and that was just not the case for me in Thailand or Cambodia or the Philippines. Viet drivers really are in a class of their own and not in a good way. This gives me pause to recommend it to anyone I care about that may be considering a motorcycle holiday there. I obviously have no issue with taking some risks for adventure/fun but IMO Vietnam in its present state remains beyond the reasonable risk/reward ratio for most riders.
    We met many very nice and considerate/helpful people in the remote areas when there was not the expectation of financial gain. But in the cities and heavily touristed parts of the country we felt like pieces of meat in a sea of sharks circling to take a bite. Compared to the Thais, or Cambodians, or Filipinos the Vietnamese just have a much harder edge to them and straight to the point and businesslike. The city dwellers simply did not seem to be as much fun as their SEA neighbors and unless there was something to be gained from engaging with us, they afforded little hospitality or conversation.
    It was a definite adventure and I don’t think you can say that you have ridden SEA until you go through Northern Vietnam. But of all the SEA countries I have visited (Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Philippines) I must say that Vietnam was quite different and some negatives with the overall vibe/culture of the place tainted some of the good aspects of the trip. The Vietnamese have endured terrible hardships and they are tough customers, so be prepared for a much different experience there than anywhere else in SEA. But that is why we travel, to see and experience places and people different than ourselves. If we wanted everything to be like home all safe and comfy in our little worlds, we should just stay there right? Wrong. That is why I will be returning to the South on a solo trip and explore the bottom half of the country at my pace and schedule. Looking forward to another look at this very complex/fascinating country.
  8. Rod Page

    Rod Page Ol'Timer

    There is so little solid travel information available on Vietnam, especially the Vietnam less travelled, that this report is a most welcome addition. In amongst the diarised entries are pearls of wisdom, invaluable to others that will follow.

    What I glean from my limited experience riding in Vietnam & from reading this post is the utmost importance of trip planning. 200kms in 11 hours from seasoned motorbike riders should be a warning to all.

    I see that you did not have the best trip across to Vietnam and am intrigued that you would use Hanoi as the base from which to 'learn' to ride in Vietnam - nothing like getting in at the deep end. To follow this up with a trip to Ha Long, Vietnam's most visited tourist destination, along a correspondingly choked access road as your first taste of highway riding 'a la Vietnam' is another intriguing choice. Gutsy! In my humble opinion this is a road I'd avoid like a rash if not heading that way specifically to visit Ha Long Bay by water.

    So by Day 6 you arrive in Cao Bang via 18, 4B & 4A. Given what you encountered, maybe the run straight to Cao Bang overnighting at Ba Be Lake might be a better option for certain riders? You wrote of the marvels of Cao Bang, Meo Vac, indeed of the trip right over to Bac Ha - I agree & feel riders should focus on this area.

    Sa Pa - sad to read of your experience, but there remain many who just love it. What I found interesting is that you took the 32 via Nghia Lo to Mai Chau rather than heading down via Dien Bien Phu.

    Small things can lead to a vastly different experience - both ways. I was very pleased to read in your conclusion that you'll be returning; "looking forward to another look at this very complex/fascinating country".
  9. feejer

    feejer Ol'Timer

    Thanks. I hope it is helpful info. Riding to HaLong right out of the gate was not so much gutsy, just ignorant of what was in store for us. Riding in Hanoi actually was a quick study and I/we felt pretty comfortable in short order. But as you know and advise, that Hwy 18 to HaLong has to be ridden to be believed. 4 hours of pure white knuckle adrenaline and I don't know if I could ever get used to that level of danger. It's just constant and from every direction. We intended to spend a few days in HaLong to go out into the bay and do the regular stuff but the weather turned against us and was far from scenic or pleasant. Yes, in hindsight going straight North through BaBe would have been a better route.

    Dien Bien Phu was on the itinerary for sure. But Rhidian was getting severely hammered by the heat & dual sport seat (used to Seattle weather and a big comfy Sport Touring seat!) by this point in the trip and it limited our daily progress significantly. We had to decide to trim back our Westerly incursion and head South sooner than I had planned. But it was a nice road anyway and leaves DBP and the area open for a future trip.
  10. hs0zfe

    hs0zfe Ol'Timer

    I've read it all in one go. What you say about car drivers is true. They won't wait. Hell, it 40 cars have to come to a halt because 1 impatient guy wants to cross the busy lane? So be it!

    Bikers are unimportant.. Beware of vehicles pulling into your lane. Or other bikes crossing from the left without even glancing to see if the road is free.

    There can be a deadly crash at midnight, as waiting is not an option. Once, in a long stop-and-go rush hour traffic jam in CAM PHA, a Vietnamese driver I was with pulled out, endangering a biker who was overtaking that moment. We were in his lane and he had to do acrobatics to avoid a head-on collision (or crashing to be run over by the car he had overtaken). WHY? There were all these big rigs heading to the Chinese border in Mong Cai. We didn't gain 10 meters, but could have killed that biker for it.


    One sees so many unexpected things. Stinking pigs kept at a language school! One morning, when I was eating a raw carrot, a young girl was ogling me hungrily. I gave her the carrot and she wolfed it down. That was a shock. A kid going hungry when parents have money for a language school?!

    I want to ride around Moc Chau, where lots of hill tribe people live. They speak Lao, to my surprise. And it costs money to send kids to a government school... It's not an easy life most people have.
  11. hs0zfe

    hs0zfe Ol'Timer

    Am very disappointed. Want to see them. Could you upload them to Youtube? Or can someone ask the Thai censor to review this decision?
  12. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    I can see all of the vdos except the first one.

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