Chiang Mai - Hanoi Back Part 1

Discussion in 'Vietnam - Road Trip Reports' started by DavidFL, Apr 5, 2010.

  1. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    To test the waters: A "Genghis Khan" Master Plan to Conquer North Vietnam in a week from Chiang Mai.

    DATES:
    Sunday 14 March – Friday 2nd April 2010
    19 nights 20 days (for David Unk)

    THE RIDERS
    Armin Schoch: BMW F650 Dakar
    Dave “Silverhawk” Early: Suzuki DR650
    David “FL” Unkovich: Honda Africa Twin 750
    Joe Sauerbraun: Honda AX-1 250

    THE WEATHER
    Generally stinking hot 35+ plus, with 1 exceptional cool wet dense foggy ride.

    THE WAY
    Chiang Mai – Chiang Khong
    Chiang Khong – Houei Xai – Luang Nam Tha –Oudom Xai – Muang Khua
    Muang Khua – Dien Bien Phu
    Dien Bien Phu – Muang May
    Muang May – Sapa (3 nights)
    Sapa – Bac Ha – Hanoi (2 nights)
    Hanoi – Mai Chau
    Mai Chau – Xam Neua
    Xam Neua – Nong Khiew
    Nong Khiew – Luang Prabang (3 nights)
    Luang Prabang – Vientiane (3 nights)
    Vientiane – Nong Khai – Chiang Khan - Loei
    Loei – Dan Sai – Nakon Thai – Chat Trakarn – Uttaradit - Chiang Mai

    Note once back in Laos from Xam Neua we split up.
    1. Silverhawk & David Unk going to Nong Khiew from where we split again & David Unk continued onto LPQ – Vte – Loei – Cnx (no rush to get home), Silverhawk going Nong Khiew – Pak Beng – Muang Ngeun – Nan- Chiang Mai.
    2. Armin & Joe going Xam Neua – Phonsavan – Luang Prabang – Hongsa – Chiang Mai


    DISTANCE
    Approximately 4,400 kms by David Unkovich.

    Lots coming.....got 1,500 photos to sort & select from. Stay tuned. ........
    :) :) :)
     
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  3. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    DAY 1 CHIANG MAI – CHIANG KHONG. 14 MARCH 2010.
    A lazy getaway, meeting at the PTT on R108 at 10.00AM for the run up to the Mekong. Nothing special & Chiang Khong it was at 4PM.

    DAY 2 CHIANG KHONG – HOUEI XAI – MUANG KHUA. 15 MARCH 2010.
    A real Genghis Khan ride for the day. Up at 6.45AM, breakfast & pack up & check out the bikes to be down at the Customs Office at opening time.

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    7.50AM "early" morning over the 'Khong from Chiang Khong customs. Note the dull smoky sky & burning sun.

    And indeed we were there right on the dot, 5 minutes before opening at 8.00AM - to watch the staff turn up at 8.30AM! Oh well go with the flow, but it was to a big day; both Silverhawk & I would have preferred a more leisurely ride aiming for either Luang Nam Tha or Oudom Xai to be at Muang Khua on the 2nd day in good nick & spirits for the Muang Khua – Vietnam border trail. But MK it was!

    Chiang Khong port waiting for your boat (car ferry) to come in....
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    Note the low water level!

    With 4 bikes there was no waiting for a ferry, except the ferry could not get in. A couple of poor (pathetic?) drivers in their semi-trailers were having trouble getting up the ramp from the ferry causing a traffic jam on the dock with trucks banked up on the ferry unable to get off or another ferry get in. It was amusing watching the first truck struggle to get up the ramp with little grip & wheels spinning; but the 2nd driver was almost lynched by the waiting mob & 45 minutes were lost with tempers getting frayed by the waiting drivers. Jai yen yen was nowhere to be seen. Ho. Ho.

    Across the other side, Lao customs were relatively fast & efficient & we were soon our way downtown to immigration & get stamped in (don’t forget now.)

    The last Laos Customs checkpoint. A car / truck yard above the ferry landing where you get your bike numbers - engine / frame / rego checked & import papers stamped.
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    Magic we were on the road by 10.30AM, not bad with a 390 kms ride planned, of which 140 kms were road construction.

    First drink stop 90 kms out of Houei Xai, after the first 60 kms dirt section. Funny isn't it? Only 18 months ago the road was complete & the asphalt in race track condition, now it's stuffed!
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    When & wherever you stop with a big bike the kids will always come out for some fun & a giggle.
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    R3 Ban Xot.
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    Manychan in Luang Nam Tha it was for lunch at 2.30Pm
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    Queued up on R13 Na Teuy - Oudom Xai on the black top, waiting for the lads to clear the road again..
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    Oudom Xai it was 5pm for dinner: then Muang Khua 7.30Pm with only an hour in the dark.

    Day two was gone.
    :) :)
     
  4. Jurgen

    Jurgen Ol'Timer

    Great first bunch David, waiting eagerly for the 1492 remaining pictures and descriptions. I only regret that the route is not yet open to "common" people :D
     
  5. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    DAY 3 MUANG KHUA – DIEN BIEN PHU. 16 MARCH 2010
    Entering Vietnam from Laos.

    If all this sounded easy on the 1st day, it wasn’t as it was a full on day in the heat. Route 13 from Na Teuy – Oudom Xai – Pak Mong sucks big time because of the road construction & is as enjoyable as it was 15 years ago.
    I reported on this just a few weeks earlier here
    a-quick-luang-prabang-loop-t7254.html

    However the day 2 was the big one – 70 kms of seriously heavy road works, where they are bulldozing a road following the original goat track through the mountains, for the new Vietnam – Laos’s highway. Scheduled to be finished in 4 years = they’ve just started.

    Now before departing Cnx I was as sick as a dog with a nasty sinus infection( Chiang Mai’s nice air). I'd been bed ridden for a week & honestly did not feel like going on the trip, but it was a golden opportunity not to be missed if you could make it. I’d even told my riding buddies that I did not feel up to the ride, but would suck it & see, making my decision on the day in Muang Khua.

    En route to Muang Khua from Oudom Xai, we’d stopped at Sinxai bridge at our favourite restaurant for a snack & drink. By chance we met a Lao ADB employee in his Jeep just returning from Dien Bien Phu, the same day. It was 6.30PM & he had left DBP at 7.00AM? only 141 kms away. The information provided probably saved the day & trip for me!
    1. The road absolutely sucked.
    2. It was deep dust.
    3. The road is closed for hours at a time while they bulldoze through mountains
    4. The trick is to leave before dawn, to negotiate the rough sections & road works before they close it for construction.
    I knew what to expect.

    Dinner the night before wasn’t much, but we reckon we got the best fish steaks in a restaurant overlooking the Nam Ou.
    And this was only after we’d tried 3 places & opted to stay at the last one because we were already weary & could not be bothered to trudge around Muang Khua in the darkness to end up with a meal of mama noodles. So be it.

    We were tucked up in bed by 9.30PM with an agreed wake up time of 4.00AM to be on the road by 4.30 AM, hopefully at the head of the supposed queue on mini buses all making the frantic thrash down the dirt track before they closed the roads.
    I did not sleep well that night still feeling weak & with strong memories of my last crash in Laos, resulting in a broken shoulder (head of the humerus in 4 pieces) & 2 days before I got to see a real doctor! The MK – DBP trail was even more remote & more difficult to get out of with the bike, should things go wrong. It was a huge worry, & I thought if I dropped it twice that would be it - pull out while you're still in one piece; but I also prepared in my mind a little escape speech should my commitment be questioned in the morning. The next morning in the fog & darkness it was silence only - no one said anything. It was on & we / I were doing it. I locked myself in.

    500 metres from our hotel down at the ferry landing it was pitch black dark & not a vehicle to be seen. Where was the mad rush of vehicles in the race for the border? Zero. Just us crazy farang on 4 bikes. We were alone, AND the ferry was on the other side of river. Suddenly some guy jumps up from nowhere & asks if we want the ferry. Yes we certainly do, we aren’t riding across the river in the dark. He yells out in the night & a voice answers from the other side. A torch light comes on. It feels like a scene from the twilight zone. The torch light walks up the hill, more voices & 2 more torch lights. The torch lights come back down the hill, then suddenly the engine starts thumping & our ship comes in across the river in the dark. Still no lights! We ride on, pay some money, the boat crosses back to the other side, we ride off & that’s it. We are on our way in the dark & fog, riding an unknown dirt trail. WTF?

    It was a truly eerie feeling. The road to hell or nowhere? Tracks had been bulldozed all over the place & in the dark it was not easy to find the right one. There were a couple of stream crossings at the start, but after that it was all uphill climbing into the mountains. Max speed was 35 KPH, 2nd gear was a privilege. And so we chugged along in the night. The road varied from the old trail, to wide new dirt, to just bulldozer tracks. You never quite new where you were going or even what surface you were riding on. Several times I stopped to double check the surface – was it damp from dew or was it muddy from rain? I’d be totally stuffed if it was wet. My bike was only shod with Michelin Anakees, the Bridgestone Trailwings I had ordered did not arrive in time. Nerve racking & tense it was. Please don’t make a mistake in the dark. It took 1 hour for the first 18 kms….

    Eventually some light came through
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    this was the easy stuff (& true to form there are no photos of the start in the dark, or the rough stuff buried in the fog & night! Sorry folks.)

    A little further on the fog was so think my glasses fogged so badly & I was riding blindly at 10KPH, hitting all the bumps & holes, but still plodding along just to keep up the momentum & beat the road closures.

    We chugged on past Muang Mai (where there is a guesthouse if you ever get stuck.)

    No one wanted to stop or take photos – let’s just get to the border.

    And after 2 ½ hrs riding & 17 kms from the border they got us....
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    Road closed - construction. Please wait - 3 hours!

    It was 7AM & Sop Houn village was just 3 kms back down the road. Let's go & meet the locals for breakfast & kill time....

    Sop Houn city
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    The locals at work in Sop Houn
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    Making whisky
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    The kids were as friendly as ever
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    Everyone got looked after
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    I found a mate
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    & joined "the village idiots."

    Plus a new girlfriend
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    But she did not quite come up to spec
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    This little guy kept a close eye on proceedings
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    At 9.30AM it was time to plod along back to the road closure & w-a-i-t.
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    This guy was also waiting for the road to open
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    A cool guy & a perfect gentleman
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    but why he stopped I don't know. He was on foot & could have probably walked past the road works. Perhaps he was just looking for company & wanted to chat with the farang? :roll:

    Tobe continued of course...
     
  6. SilverhawkUSA

    SilverhawkUSA Ol'Timer

    As I am sure you expected, I can’t just sit back and let Davidfl tell his side of the story without getting my 2 baht in. Even with his excellent 1,500 photos there is always something more to add. :lol:

    The ride from Huay Xai to Muang Khua was quite a long stretch. David and I always preach about not being over optimistic as to the distance one can travel in a day. Not following our own advice proved to be one of the few downfalls of this trip. But; it did add to the excitement.

    When we stopped at the restaurant near Muong Khua, the proprietor was preparing a meal. Although I was quite hungry, I decided I could skip the food until later.

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    Although we saw little of Muang Khua due to our late arrival, this is what it looked like when I was there in 2005. It doesn’t seem to have changed much. At least now they have full time electricity, which they had for only a few hours a day in 2005.

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    The main hotel really isn’t bad.

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    This is what the ferry crossing looked like in 2005.
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    And this is what it looked like on our trip.
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    Damn it was dark!

    I joked with the guys that the last time I was here, I had to cross a number of streams, but I was sure they must have bridges now. Wrong! It hasn't changed. (Another 2005 photo of David and Mai. )
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    One of the crossings is fairly deep and certainly gives you a “sinking feeling” when doing it in the dark.

    While in the village and waiting for the road to open, we surprisingly saw a couple of westerners accompanied by a group of Laos in uniform. They approached and said hello and of course the usual chat ensued. It turned out to be not so usual;

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    They were spending a number of weeks in the village clearing Unexploded Ordinance in the area. They advised this area was very heavily bombed in the war and they located 50 bombs already. They said we shouldn’t stray too far from the road or beaten paths and don’t do any off road riding (take note). They then wandered off into the hills.

    Not long after they left, the village was shook by an explosion from not very far away. I assume this was a controlled detonation, but it made me less bashful of taking my “relief breaks” a little closer to the road. http://phoenixclearanceltd.com/

    Now as David says, he was terribly ill before our trip. It so seemed quite gentlemanly of him to lead the way through this very tricky night time riding. There is always a reason for David’s actions. Note the condition of his riding gear in comparison to us “followers”.
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    That’s OK, as a former boat Captain it was comforting for me to have his coughing and sneezing out there in front as a “Fog Horn” :lol: . We later reversed roles (the followers, not the coughing) and David paid his dues.

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    All kidding aside, I really have to give David credit (which doesn’t happen often). This was NOT what you would call Africa Twin territory. In conjunction with his “wonky arm”, from one of our past great adventures, he did a commendable job under really rough conditions. I was thankful to be riding my DR and not having the weight of the AT.

    This was only the start of what was to be many days of riding in similar road conditions, over zealous plans, and late arrivals. But it was fun……..

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    Back to you David....... :shock:
     
    DavidFL likes this.
  7. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    continued..............

    DAY 3 MUANG KHUA - DIEN BIEN PHU . 16 MARCH 2010.

    Road works were the order of the day (& for several consecutive days.)
    Once you got past one there was another one & another one & another one....

    In the distance a bulldozer & another wait
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    Eventually the Lao border checkpoint appeared....on the door steps of heaven I thought - Vietnam & asphalt roads were "on the other side?"

    Pang Hok is the official name of Lao international border crossing
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    and I'd been well & truly dusted down
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    You think you're a big tough motorcycle adventurer on a world conquering bike & then you spot a couple of local bikes that have just done the same trail
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    perhaps neither you nor your two wheeled beast are so great after all.
    :roll: :roll: :roll:

    The locals do it every day on whatever they've got, loaded up even more than we were! Silverhawk could not wait to test out one of the local RTW adventure machines.
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    Getting stamped out of Laos was easy, but like other Laos / China / Viet border crossings you can't ride across once your paperwork is done, but P-U-S-H your bike through
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    We arrived at Pang Hok at 10.36AM, & left at 10.50 AM.

    Then you remount & ride another 5.4 kms through road construction to the Vietnam side. It's quite a distance between countries & you would not want to stuff up on the road construction between countries.
    :lol: :lol:

    Tay Trang is the official name of the Vietnam border crossing.
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    Our local agent & tour operator was waiting for us the border: & had indeed been there since 8.00AM when we had predicted we might arrive having beaten & escaped the road construction.

    Arrival time at Tay Trang was 11.02 & 45 minutes later we were inside Vietnam........after pushing the bikes through.
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    it's unbelievable what you can do with a good agent, who know's his stuff & is well connected!!
    :D :D :D

    What you've got to do Muang Khua - Tay Trang.
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    Doesn't look much either does it?

    There was a lengthy celebratory lunch in a shack by the border, then back on the bikes......to push on.
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    Shyte not quite heaven & asphalt road either I thought!

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    But it did improve
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    and there was hope in the distance
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    First stop in Vietnam was for fuel
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    both Silverhawk & Joe had smaller tanks & Joe needed to top up every 150 kms as a precaution. Getting fuel however was never a problem. We carried no extra & as Joe later found out riding in Laos you get extra kms per tank (not that this was Laos.)

    :shock: :shock:
    After only 15 kms inside Vietnam I admit to almost falling in love

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    & she was only the "pump attendant."

    Good morning Vietnam....

    :D :D :D

    On the flat & on the final stretch into Dien Bien Phu
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    The green rice fields were incredibly refreshing after the heat & smoking mountains!

    Entering Dien BIen Phu city
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  8. David Learmonth

    David Learmonth Ol'Timer

    Very interesting report & photos so far. I admit to being envious when I heard about this trip - however, seeing some of the roads has changed my mind! Dont think Bonnie & more especially my right leg would have coped very well with this ride at all. I take my hat off to you gentlemen - intrepid explorers indeed.
     
  9. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    DIEN BIEN PHU CITY

    Our hotel
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    The Cong Doan.

    A happy hour drink
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    Later on a MASSaGE beckoned
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    And if you spoke Thai, I think the name might have been particularly interesting / inviting?
    :) :)

    but earlier on we went down town to checkout DBP city
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    Buying a Viet Sim Card
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    It didn't take long to attract attention
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    Silverhawk thought he was a winner
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    but which one
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    Reality soon struck & we were dragged off to the compulsory Dien Bien Phu “HISTORYCAL” War Museum
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    We thought we were the lone victors
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    but it was not to be
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    the kids soon swamped us for a photo session

    The French took a massive defeat at Dien Bien Phu. The Vietnamese are proud of it & the start of their subsequent battle for a unified nation & want you to know about it.
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    FROM WIKEDIA
    The Battle of Dien Bien Phu (French: Bataille de Diên Biên Phu; Vietnamese: Chi?n d?ch ?i?n Biên Ph?) was the climactic confrontation of the First Indochina War between the French Union's French Far East Expeditionary Corps and Viet Minh communist revolutionaries. The battle occurred between March and May 1954 and culminated in a comprehensive French defeat that influenced negotiations over the future of Indochina at Geneva. Military historian Martin Windrow wrote that ?i?n Biên Ph? was "the first time that a non-European colonial independence movement had evolved through all the stages from guerrilla bands to a conventionally organized and equipped army able to defeat a modern Western occupier in pitched battle."[10]

    As a result of blunders in the French decision-making process, the French began an operation to support the soldiers at ?i?n Biên Ph?, deep in the hills of northwestern Vietnam. Its purpose was to cut off Viet Minh supply lines into the neighboring Kingdom of Laos, a French ally, and tactically draw the Viet Minh into a major confrontation that would cripple them. Instead, the Viet Minh, under Senior General Võ Nguyên Giáp, surrounded and besieged the French, who were unaware of the Viet Minh's possession of heavy artillery (including anti-aircraft guns) and, more importantly, their ability to move such weapons through extremely difficult terrain to the mountain crests overlooking the French encampment. The Viet Minh occupied the highlands around ?i?n Biên Ph? and were able to accurately bombard French positions at will. Tenacious fighting on the ground ensued, reminiscent of the trench warfare of World War I. The French repeatedly repulsed Viet Minh assaults on their positions. Supplies and reinforcements were delivered by air, though as the French positions were overrun and the anti-aircraft fire took its toll, fewer and fewer of those supplies reached them. After a two-month siege, the garrison was overrun and most French forces surrendered, only a few successfully escaping to Laos.

    Shortly after the battle, the war ended with the 1954 Geneva Accords, under which France agreed to withdraw from its former Indochinese colonies. The accords partitioned Vietnam in two; fighting later broke out between opposing Vietnamese factions in 1959, resulting in the Vietnam (Second Indochina) War.


    THE OFFICIAL VIET DIEN BIEN PHU WEBSITE
    http://www.dienbienphu.org/english/index.htm
    has more info. It’s a fascinating story & worth knowing.

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    It wasn’t only the French that the Viets battled with, but also the good ol US of A.
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    (something that the Viets like to remind people of - how they got where they are today.)

    Even the good French general’s bath tub proudly captured by the Vietnamese is on display in the museum.
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    Here’s how they supplied their troops
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    And some of the leading figures
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    Not to forget two inspiring leaders
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    If this was not enough to digest, our first meal in Vietnam that night was absolutely superb (& for me the best on the entire trip.)
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    although this may been influenced by the delightful waitress who, unrequested, insisted on hand-feeding lung all night.
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    Sorry about that guys :p :p

    Life really is tough on the road at times! :) :)

    Next morning breakfast was not quite as lavish.
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    although it was still incredibly delicious, yet just a bowl of noodles!
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    Back at the hotel the girls were doing the laundry, sans Whirlpool.
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    However I suspect that their own "wo"manual whirlpool was more reliable with the local power supply.
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    To be continued of course..
     
  10. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    DAY 4 push on…...DIEN BIEN PHU – MUANG LAY 17 MARCH 2010
    via the Vietnamese Dien Bien Phu Battle headquarters.

    Another “compulsory” tour - The Vietnamese Dien Bien Phu Battle Headquarters - suggested by our Vietnamese hosts

    Gen Giap & the Vietnamese directed their capture of DBP from a jungle camp hidden in the mountains in Muang Phang district 33 kms north-east of Dien Bien Phu. The way there is quite pretty & a pleasant enough ride (Slash), & once you’re there it is easy to understand why the site was selected, but the identical reconstruction of the fresh bamboo huts & bunkers leaves you wondering. We did not think it was a place of great value / interest (to us.) Such was my excitement that I did not get any photos there.

    It’s only a 55 kms loop out to the old HQs, but the narrow winding nature of the road ensures you don’t go very fast.
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    Average speed on the way there was 55KPH via the main way
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    & on the return 22KPH on a lovely rural back road.
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    The main highway leading out of town
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    at the turn off
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    Onto the tight twisting road to the HQs
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    The highlight of this morning’s escapade was the villages & people. And these indeed made the trip well worth it!

    Rural back roads
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    One worker & one mobile phone addict
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    I wish I had a hat like that?
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    Lunch was in Muang Phang city
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    Where we learned the “art” of good Vietnamese coffee
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    Silverhawk was so impressed that he picked up a set (& some coffee) in Sapa later on.

    The rural back roads wound their way through the mountains
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    And varied in condition
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    It was at this “main” road junction
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    that love found me again
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    the villagers were impressed & all came out to inspect the bike & happy couple
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    but I was not so sure
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    Confused I did not even know what day it was & asked for help.
    Help buxomly appeared
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    The road signage was good, even on the smaller roads
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    Back to Dien Bien Phu it was, pack up & on the road to gorgeous Muang Lay, site of a massive new dam under construction….

    There was a bit of a delay leaving DBP as someone had to go the post office. This however provided some time for a few pix outside the market in the centre of town
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    What impressed me was the level of helmet protection – almost everyone wore a helmet. Even the Thai Dam ladies with their top knot hair styles.
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    Eventually we were on the road
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    but we did not get far
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    flat tyre.

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    It did not take long for Joe to get the rear wheel out & then the back-up vehicle arrived. It was easier for them to take the wheel 4 kms back down the road to the truck tyre shop to get it repaired / rather than do it beside the road.

    Whilst waiting for the return of the wheel I sat beside the road snapping away. (Why waste a photo opportunity?)
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    Back on the road
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    It wasn’t all easy riding though, & the good old road construction soon reared its ugly head
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    Sometimes asphalt, no matter what was welcome
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    But the dust was never far away
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    A breather on a bridge
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    At a drink stop in Muang Cha “half-way” between DBP & ML.
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    Joe ready to top up your bike with Viet go-juice.
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    Local vendors
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    Muang Lay is the site of a huge dam being built; the closer into ML the road was a massive construction site, tens of metres wide. In the dust, fading light, then darkness the last few kms became an endurance test bouncing along from bump to bump totally smothered in dust & blinded by oncoming headlights. It was an unreal ride – the night ride to hell I thought.

    Arrival on the edge of Muang Lay city (a junk yard rat hole) & waiting to regroup to find the one & only hotel.
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    a celebratory beer
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    Silverhawk doing the right thing for Ally & Slash
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    The wonderful Lan Anh hotel in Muang Lay city
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    My room
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    Food & dinner that night was again G-O-O-D
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    Dien Bien Phu – Muang Lay
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    we left DBP at 3.55PM for the 97 kms to Muang Lay (ex Lai Chau); & arrived in Muang Lay at 8.45PM.

    The end of another day.
    :twisted: :twisted:

    I enjoyed the photos stops & the ride was "interesting."
     
  11. David Learmonth

    David Learmonth Ol'Timer

    By heck David FL - your'e a boyo for the "birds" (Old & Young)
    Good to see how you've all mastered chopsticks - an art still alien to me.
     
  12. SilverhawkUSA

    SilverhawkUSA Ol'Timer

    :?: How many people does it take to change a wheel? 5 and 1 to take the photo.
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    Before leaving Dien Bien Phu we were required the obligatory visit to one of the battlefields. You can tell by the look on our faces we were duly impressed. ( I just noticed when doing this post the spelling “Headquater”).

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    Part of the confusion in navigating parts of Northern Vietnam is town names have been changed or moved. My GPS showed Muang Lay to be approximately 26km closer than it actually was. This was not appreciated as we navigated what we nicknamed the “Gobi Desert” after dark.

    We are not sure exactly what we crossed as it appeared to be a vast expanse of dirt and rocks with tracks going in many directions. We had to regroup, more than once. and discuss which way to head. The best plan was pick a ‘local’s’ taillight and follow in that general direction while navigating around the earthmovers and trucks through the huge dust clouds.

    The town of Muang Lay really is a pit. It is on it’s last legs as it is soon to reside at the bottom of a huge reservoir.
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    While at the “hotel” we met these guys from Malaysia. They are friends of Robert Heikel, and have traveled many places on their BMW GS’s. This time, they chose to rent some step-throughs for their Vietnam tour. I am now very inclined to think this may be the smart way to go. (Robert; the "Penang Gang" says hello).
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    The next morning we had a better idea of what we had been riding through as it was more of the same, but at least we could see where we were. I suggested going back to see what the “Gobi Desert” actually was, but this idea was not well received. :oops:
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    Some, I guess, considered it necessary to carry extra fuel. “Where there is a will, there is a way”. :wink:
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    A little bit of line up as David gets that “one more photo”.
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    The morning was more of the same, but at least we could see where we were. We were stopped numerous times and had to wait while a section of road was cleared in front of us.
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    All we could do was turn it into a social event with the locals and make the best of it. It actually had some enjoyable moments as the people were not shy at all, and came straight up and started talking or touching our bikes and riding gear. (Note in the photos rain gear was the apparel of choice for many of the Vietnamese to keep the dust at bay).
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    Some of these riders were really incredible. A couple of girls in particular, riding two up in full rain outfits, were ready to bump elbows and jockey for position.
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    When it appeared as though the work was ready to subside, everyone would line up like the start of a Supercross race. As soon as they said OK (or before), everyone gunned it to get out ahead of the dust clouds.
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    And we were on our way again………….. :shock:
     
  13. BignTall

    BignTall Ol'Timer

    Awesome report guys. Love that you eventually made it over despite the red tape complications and glad to see Joe out and enjoying himself on the bikes. I only ever see him wrenching so its good for him to get some wind in his face...and some dust :D .

    Silverhawk - I fly out tonight and looking forward to a chinwag at Wat David to hear more about this trip when I land.

    So guys how was Vietnam different from Laos/Cambo/Thailand in your eyes?
     
  14. Moto-Rex

    Moto-Rex Ol'Timer

    Great reports there Dave and David.

    Good to see the old veterans still doing the trailblazing.
    Hopefully one day soon it will be easier for everyone to ride into Vietnam.

    PS. That dog sure looks tasty. :shock:

    Moto-Rex
     
  15. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    DAY 4 Push on…….MUANG LAY – SAPA

    Still in Muang Lay at the Lan Ah hilton, Silverhawk with the Penang guys
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    Kenny if you’re looking at this, please drop me a line re China.

    Breakfast, fried eggs, baguettes & g-o-o-d coffee
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    Muang Lay, the “dump” city on its last legs before it well & truly goes under.
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    Queuing up for fuel in ML
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    Pumping fuel for you.
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    note the size of the gloves!

    On the road for the “constructors title”..…..
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    The new bridge being built & it’s going to be high!
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    Crossing on the old bridge
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    Loaded up ready to tackle the dirt. These guys know no fear on their two-wheeled beasts.
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    Killing time & looking at the view
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    The dirt highway ahead
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    Joy oh joy
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    dust was the order of the day.

    Next road block
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    Patiently waiting
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    Silverhawk dusted down & patiently waiting too
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    A local rider, kitted up patiently waiting
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    Two others killing time & patiently waiting
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    Waiting for the lights to change
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    no warm up lap necessary

    Could be a bit of jockeying for track position
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    Further on up the road
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    the good stuff

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    water +a dash of green

    It doesn't last forever, back on the crap roads
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    No doubt there was a drought on & we weren't touring in the best season, but had it been wet at all, more than likely we would definitely not gotten through from Muang Khua - Dien Bien Phu & then on on, even more dirt. You can't win them all & the dirt & poor scenery was all part of the challenging adventure...

    A pleasant drink stop (waiting for the service vehicle & guide to arrive)
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    I enjoyed the drink stops & used the time for photos
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    a drinking spot? for one of the locals.

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    The butchers
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    was or wasn't this dog. The riding jury was negative, but could not identify exactly what!

    A budding photographer
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    Ho hum, back on the road
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    Welcome to Phong Tho
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    Yeah yeah
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    ride on

    A better surface, heading back into the mountains
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    Next stop: lunch in wonderful Lai Chau city.

    The main street into town
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    We found a restaurant,
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    but we lost Silverhawk.

    It was one of those embarrasing funny ones. I was riding tail end Charley, with Armin & Joe at the front with Silverhawk in the middle, except there was no Silverhawk.
    We all rode around Lai Chau eating dust looking for Silverhawk, but no one had any luck, so we gave up after 20minutes; & had lunch.

    It was a fine establishment & the only one we could find in LC!
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    The hospital was across the street
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    but no Silverhawk, only goldie
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    visiting a sick relative

    The local lads enjoyed the bikes in town & had to have a play & sit
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    A note re our missing comrade, the driver of the service vehicle went back to see if Silverhawk had somehow gotten lost or was behind us; & the guide rode pillion on Armin's bike. A brave man indeed on such a road with such a rider. He was however protected by a new 150 baht Vietnamese helmet!
    Exiting Lai Chau, with our Viet guide preparing to mount.
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    Back on the road
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    surprise, more construction!

    Fresh fields & life coming back
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    The main road junction betwen Lai Chau & Sapa.
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    and busy with canine traffic!

    And the reason for little traffic?
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    It was while stopped here that my phone rang & on answering the phone it was Silverhawk, advising he was in Sapa but where the hell were we?
    Oh, about 30 kms behind you i guess. I SMS-ed the driver & Armin up front to give them the good news.

    Onward I went, the highway (& Sapa) beckoned...
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    You think you're doing it hard: It was hot & a "long & winding road" still to conquer.
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    And then you realise, it aint so bad after all. You've actually got it easy.
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    These guys provided some passing entertainment
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    It was showtime for the farang
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    The road started to climb into the mountains again
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    The Fansipan pass was next on the menu
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    Vietnam's highest? mountain pass

    And what a climb it is
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    1983 metres
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    3 lonely riders atop the pass
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    Sorry we missed you for this shot Silverhawk!

    Silverhawk was here
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    cooling his heels in delightful Sapa

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    We departed Muang Lay at 8.30AM & arrived in Sapa at 5PM. Distance 178 kms.

    The hotel in Sapa
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    Name: The Darling.

    Happy hour at The Darling
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    The Darling View
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    And my darling room
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    note the fireplace fore cold season!

    Dinner was a well deserved treat that night
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    More salmon
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    and a dash of wasabe ++
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    And not surprising & contrary to my expectations, I did not lose any weight on this trip.

    GO TO NEXT PART (2) SAPA
    Chiang Mai - Hanoi Back Part 2 Sapa
     
    Last edited: May 15, 2016
  16. jerome

    jerome Active Member

    What a trip! :clap: nice photos! David,I can see by the smile on your face that you were having good time there!!maybe more fun riding with Conti tkc! I m sure this trip will inspire many others!see you!
    jerome
    I
     
  17. SilverhawkUSA

    SilverhawkUSA Ol'Timer

    I've been waiting for this one to come up. As in any group, there are riders of different calibers and speeds. As opposed to Thailand, here in Vietnam Davidfl was often bringing up the rear. Reason being the unwielding AT in some very rough stuff, and his taking of "1,500" photos. Meanwhile, Armin and Joe would race off ahead, having no more idea of the road conditions than any one else, and stop "somewere" down the road. But it was usually WAY down the road. I worried a number of times that David would have a problem with the AT and it would take a long time to a) realize he was in trouble, b) get back to do anything about it. This is no reflection on David, as I said before. This was not AT country. I would normally endeavor to stay within close proximity to David, but at times I was fairly alone "in the middle".

    When we did stop and regroup, the routine was have a "few" drinks, cigarettes, wait for the support vehicle, shoot some more photos, maybe eat, and ride like crazy again. 3 days of this on shit roads and three arrivals after dark. I am sometimes not a patient person (my bad). :crazy:

    We agreed that we would wait for everyone BEFORE the town of Lai Chau. David and I left, Armin and Joe later roared by. I soon found myself IN Lai Chau, even though I didn't know until I asked a local. They showed me three different ways to get through or around town, due to the construction, and continue to Sapa. This was not good, so I doubled back. No one to be found. We had not done any pre planning for this very likely set of circumstances.

    So; did they stop first and I missed them? Unlikely. Did they pass me in Lai Chau? Possible. I rode back and around Lai Chau. I tried to call DavidFL on the phone, but there was no signal, same with Armin. OK, I will call the guide. I don't have his number. Call the office? I don't even know the name of the company. Call Armin's office and have them relay? The phone number was not on the itinerary letterhead. Ride in circles or wait on the street corner for the next couple hours and again ride into the night? No way! See you in Sapa......... :thumbup: From Sapa I finally got a message through to David. It took some 20 minutes more before the others read their forwarded text. I layed back on the lawn of the park in Sapa and relaxed. Lessons to ponder.

    [​IMG]

    (We later figured that we had all done this similar arrival and turn around. Unknowingly we were so close to each other we did it at about the same time, but not the same place, and missed each other while turning around).

    Days later in the ride; Armin stopped to wait for the group to catch up after a police point (worried someone may have been nabbed). I saw Armin stop and did the same. Minutes later, Joe and David blasted by us as they passed a truck. They didn't see us, Armin didn't see them. It was then a mad dash to catch David and Joe who were also racing to catch us, though we were now behind them........see how confusing it can get? :crazy:

    Like many relationships I have had, no one was lost, we were just "seperated"!

    Lesson learned; have a plan if seperated, be sure everyone has exchanged WORKING phone numbers and knows the itinerary and hotels (if possible). Stay in touch with your other riders.
    :happy2:
     
  18. SilverhawkUSA

    SilverhawkUSA Ol'Timer

    I look forward to seeing you at the "Wat", Justin. You will get the "inside story", and a cup of Vietnamese coffee.

    Rex; kindly watch how use the word "OLD" :wink: But, when Justin gets to town maybe you can come out to the "Wat" also if you are around.

    How is Vietnam different? It is hard to describe. I feel like I have just read the inside jacket of a book cover, but I am far from knowing the whole story. One would have to spend more time and cover more areas with more freedom. We were on a specific mission, survey a possible route for a future tour (answer: no way on that route). The time of year could not have been much worse for scenery and great views. But, you sometimes have to grab the opportunity WHEN it presents itself. Thanks Armin for that opportunity.

    In short, I felt Vietnam is much more of a hectic pace. The people more in your face, mostly in an unshy, inquisitive way. I was much more conscious of being in a controlled, communist environement. The routes we took I would equate to doing the Mae Hong Son Loop in Thailand, or riding to Luang Phrabang in Laos. Interesting, but everyone else has done it too. They seem to take better care of their ethnic peoples and we were told so by our guides. There was never the "natural" feeling like one gets in a Lao village. Here everything seemed orchestrated and for show. There is so much that I haven't seen, and areas to explore "off the tourist route", that my opinions are really baseless and irrelevant on the whole, at this point. I do feel taking your own bike is NOT the way to go. Perhaps more on this later.

    I will say, I enjoyed most: our 4:30AM dash from Muang Khua to the Vietnam border, our last 2 days ride leaving Hanoi to the border were quite nice and I would do that again. My ride back from Na Meo border crossing INTO Laos and onto Nam Nguen border crossing Laos/Thailand was splendid. Real ethnic villages, some decent roads and I just happen to LIKE Laos a lot.
     
  19. Franz

    Franz Ol'Timer

    Guys, what an epic trip & report !!! I liked the way whiskey is distilled in one of the first fotos and it is still drinkable ?? I think dog for blind is provided for free !!! :smile1:
    How did Joe on his 250 keep up with all you bigbore guys ?? I think as he is the most skilled mechanic in CNX he might have sooped up the AX a litten bit .......55555.
    Roads, David what roads ?? I only see tracks but no roads.......and it seems that there is not one single Dream or Wave that isn't overflowing with merchandise from Fridges to living food........Well Dave if you like that overloaded Dream so much, I can pack you my Step with as much as crap as possible and borrow it to you for riding around town......55555.
    Armin has it with flat tyres doesn't he and not having a quick fix repair kit under the seat ?? Well Swiss planning isn't precise anymore 555555555!!!!
    Had a real good laugh and enjoyed that report very much !! Cheers, Franz
     
  20. Jurgen

    Jurgen Ol'Timer

    Hi Fellows ! This is a great story, just what I needed tonight before going to dream! It's fabulous to have people taking time to shoot and write about such breath-taking adventures. Vietnam is still a wonderful country and if the trail gets it's improvements, more people might be able to follow in your steps (or actually tracks).
     
  21. burnjr

    burnjr Ol'Timer

    DAvid nice and best story entre vietnam with our own bike...will contact u soon .how to entre vietnam with our bike.
    what is the procedure..

    keep it up bro. :happy3: :happy3: :happy2:
     
  22. Iwantablackrz

    Iwantablackrz Ol'Timer

    Just got around to reading through this. A great read David. I have to say I really enjoyed reading through it and mapping out your route. There's a few of those roads I have no doubt that I'll be on in a few more months and it's good knowing what sort of conditions we could expect.

    That hotel in Sapa looks pretty colourful! Talk about burnt retina's!

    I was under the assumption you would need a Vietname licence to ride in Vietnam?

    Off to read the other threads now... :smile1:
     

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