HCMC - Vung Tao - Mui Ne - Nha Trang - Quy Nhon - Quang Ngai - Hoi An.

Discussion in 'Vietnam - Road Trip Reports' started by Rod Page, Sep 26, 2011.

  1. Rod Page

    Rod Page Ol'Timer

    We are presently holed up in Quang Ngai, some 100kms south of Hoi An, at the mercy of Tropical Storm Haitang; our hotel in Hoi An telling us to stay put as Hoi An is flooding! We'll make a dash for it tomorrow early subject to the weather; weather which, as fate would have it, gives me the chance to make this quick post covering our initial days in this most magnificent of countries.

    We have returned once more to Vietnam via wonderful Saigon, to the mayhem that is the roads of HCMC, to the French layout of the city, markets without end............. Our eyes are wide open, our senses fully stimulated - we feel quite at home.

    Our agent (Flamingo/Hanoi) has organised all our accommodation. For the next few nights we'll bed down at the Dai Hoang Long Hotel on D.Pham Ngu Lao (# 173) - smack-bang in the middle of an area which hums 24/7 & certainly later into the wee hours of the morning than the rest of HCMC. At $20/night inc b'fast, its good value - quiet, with cable TV & the best hot shower & huge bath! Be attentive when walking in the area - along D.Bui Vien I was, for the first time in my life, subject of a 'bag-snatching' (camera bag) attempt by 2 fellows on a motorbike - clearly I'm not as daunting as before!

    Our hotel is in the middle:

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    Our 'other ladies' were waiting for us & we were keen to meet up:

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    There are massive hassels - not just taxes but complex issues surrounding residency which are difficult for foreigners to meet - associated with importing a bike into VN & even more so if its over 175cc - in this case it involves additional licencing requirements, membership of clubs & so on. We found it was easiest to simply buy two bikes here (& sell them when we leave). There are reportedly certain monetary disadvantages in not looking inconspicuous!

    The recommended bike is the Honda Fortune - reliable, serviced everywhere, parts available across the country; Honda has around 80% of the market. Being taller (194cm) I felt compelled to take something where I could at least find the back brake pedal in a moment of need; where after a day's riding I could not be mistaken as having worked my whole life bent over in the rice fields! The Yamaha YBR 125 has proved an excellent choice with a record for reliability, a 13.7 litre tank giving a range of in excess of 400kms, & a seat & riding position offering comfort for the bigger rider.

    We picked up 'the girls' & headed to lunch nearby at a radomly selected restaurant - K5 (244 D. Tran Hung Dao) & it was an excellent choice:

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    Well fed, we headed out to find '4 Bike City', 480 D.Nguyen Thi Thap which has appeared on several posts here. We were unable to find it despite the help of a taxi driver & also the assistance of the owners of 2 large cc motorbike shops - Honda & Kawasaki. No-one had any idea where mesh riding gear could be bought! It would seem that demand for such things is not great in VN so the shops open & close in quick succession. Best to bring ALL your needs with you.

    We returned to the bar atop the Sheraton before heading out to dinner at the extremely popular & always packed Onha Hang Ngon (160 Pasteur) to celebrate the bride's birthday.

    Strolling past the Hotel de Ville from the Sheraton en route to Onha Hang Ngon:

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    (More follows..........................)
     
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  3. ronwebb

    ronwebb Ol'Timer

    Good on ya Rod. Pleased to hear that the travels are going on and well by the sound of it. Did they get your hand bag?
     
  4. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    yeah welcome back. Good to know things are working out ok so far. Watch out for the bag snatchers though by the sounds of it.
     
  5. Rod Page

    Rod Page Ol'Timer

    (Continued...................)

    We also dined at La Fourchette (D.Ngo Duc Ke), a cosy & very french restaurant where we levered from the proprietor that the best chocolate in HCMC can be found through Marc Moynot at chocoastair@hcm.fpt.vn chocomoynot@gmail.com
    This is seriously good chocolate for those amongst us that like the dark stuff!
    Its a great spot to eat if walking the Saigon riverfront:

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    The most impressive Biteco finanacial tower, heli-pad readily apparent:

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    Took 'the girls' sightseeing - Opera House, Hotel de Ville, Reunification Palace, Notre Dame Cathedral........with a coffee stop atop the Caravelle Hotel:

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    A new place to visit in HCMC is definitely the Bitexco Financial Tower. At 262 metres & 68 floors with its signature helicopter pad hovering around 50 floors above street level its VN's tallest building & now defines the city's skyline. Almost complete (due in November of this year) the Saigon Skydeck on the 49th floor was recently opened to the public as a viewing deck overlooking Saigon & what a view it offers:

    Looking east:

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    The roads above & below will join via an under-river tunnel:

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    West along the Saigon River:

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    Below, miles below, you can see the rooftop bars of the Sheraton & Caravelle hotels, previously prized for their height/views:

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    The Pham Ngu Lao area:

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    There's a Hog's Breath Cafe under the tower where we watched Ireland flog Australia in the rugby.The result was enough to see us depart HCMC early the next morning heading for Vung Tao & the coast.

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    (More to follow................................)
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  6. Rod Page

    Rod Page Ol'Timer

    (Continuation.....................................)

    VUNG TAO

    We were heading north along the coast - the run from Saigon/HCM City & on up to Da Nang between emerald green ricefields & along sands of red, white & yellow is a trip for the sensations, a trip through authenticity.

    Riding in VN is definitely an experience no-one could ever forget. Its not just the stunning scenery in a country where every 100kms or so you feel you may well have crossed over into yet another country, a feeling matched by a sense that the culture of the inhabitants changes simultaneously with the topography, but its also the total mad-house, the no-holds barred approach to riding & driving along roads the surfaces of which change with great regularity, the almost total lack of signage, inaccurate maps, places with the same name, where 6 lane highways can simply stop in a muddied track heading forward, where chooks, buffalo & cattle cross constantly at will.......It was with much relief that we arrived in Vung Tao.

    This caught our attention on heading out past Saigon's riverfront :

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    We'd been caught in an afternoon downpour forcing us to take shelter & ensuring a late arrival. Sammy's was to be our place of rest ($33/night inc b'fast). Conveniently located the hotel lies across from Back Beach (Bai Sau), a wide, sandy beach which immediately took us in her arms - despite overcast skies & pounding seas nothing could detract from the moment; it had been 3 years since I was last on the coast!

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    Strolling along the beach, locals would emmerge from the surf & at water's edge sit on their 'tubes' taking a breakfast of soup from one of several 'mobile shops' offering this delictable start to the day:

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    Further along the beach fisherman considered their catch beneath Jesus, at 32m claimed to be the highest in the world & some 6m taller than the statue in Rio. If you decide to climb to the statue, hoping for those great shots at sunset be aware that access closes at 5pm:

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    Other fishermen preferred to be overlooked by Hon Ba Temple:

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    VT is a popular seaside escape from HCMC; quiet mid-week, it hums on the week-ends. There's petrol to be found off-shore & Russian oil technicians are to be found aplenty. VT can be reached by hydrofoil from HCMC; certainly a safer conveyance than the roads! Two prominent mountains, Nui Nho (little mountain) & Nui Lon (big mountain), with a prominent structure upon each peak - the Hai Dang Lighthouse on Nui Nho & the Statue of Christ on Nui Lon - separate Bai Sau (Back Beach) from Bai Truoc (Front Beach) though there's little sand on the later. There's a way up to the lighthouse & its well worth taking (take the small road almost opposite the new ferry terminal building swinging hard left after around 100m) offering more sensational views.

    Much of the action, however, takes place on Bai Truoc overlooking a scenic harbour setting:

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    South of Vung Tao the Du Lich Cap Treo Vung Tao cable car dominates the skyline & offers sensational views over Vung Tau as it climbs Tuong Phung mountain from water's edge (120,000dong/$6). You can see the Statue of Christ in the distance with Hai Dang Lighthouse slightly closer on an adjoining hill; the large white building at the foot of the photo was the French Governor's retreat:

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    There's a theme park of sorts at the top, but its completely overshadowed by the views offered from the summit & the 30m Maitreya Buddha:

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    We followed the road along the coastline to Mulberry Beach, the chosen spot for the soon to be wed to be photographed:

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    It was an interesting juxtoposition to find a monk celebrating the life of someone recently passed away on the same beach at the same time as the couple above were being photographed:

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    It is also an area favoured by those who earn a living from dried fish. The layout of the fish along the road & their varying colours begs a photograph:

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    We returned mid-way to Bai Truoc stopping at Binh An for lunch. Its a truly magic spot with an equally pleasing restuarant from where you can watch fishermen, fishing boats, the hydrofoil, tug boats & tankers:

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    As enticing as the setting was, we found ourselves again trapped in the afternoon downpour. One final interesting facet to life in Vung Tau is that every Saturday greyhound racing is conducted, the dogs imported from Australia!

    (More to follow................................)
     
  7. Rod Page

    Rod Page Ol'Timer

    (Continued)

    MUI NE

    The downpours we were encounting were not by hazard, following, as we were, the remnants of Tropical Storm Haitang & ultimately of Typhoon Nesat. Being caught by rains each afternoon had become disconcerting & we decided to depart henceforth before 7am & head straight to our destination. This would mean that trip reports would be somewhat reflective of a reconnaissance run, lacking in tales of adventure & quality photos, but we knew we would be riding these same trails again in mid-november. Let me say from the outset that the countryside we have passed through is sensational & we are eager for november to arrive.

    We took the coastal road north from Vung Tao; it takes in a wonderful stretch of coastline alongside the beaches of Long Hai, Loc An, Ho Tram & Ho Coc on the way to Pan Thiet.

    Long Hai; Bao Dai (VN's last emperor) built a 'palace' here (now the Anoasis Resort):

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    A shot from Ho Tram:

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    The run out past Ho Coc is stunning but developers are starting to make their mark (a massive MGM facility is currently under construction on the otherwise deserted coastline). It makes one reflect on how such a beautiful stretch of coastline can have been left untouched for so long & I can only conclude that it must stem from a cultural perspective where the Vietnamese, unaware of the 'value' of tourism until recently were uninterested in sandy areas lacking in agricultural value. in any case it only reinforces the urgency to see it now before it becomes engulfed in resorts as it surely will - its just that good!

    Part of the long stretch of sand with a distant isolated fishing village its only sign of mankind:

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    To arrive at Phan Thiet & see the fishing boats moored calmly in the city centre is a gobsmacking sight (even when overcast):

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    Sideroads were suffering from the recent deluge:

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    We headed on quickly to Mui Ne past fishing boats sheltering in-land & the occassional fish-market:

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    Even the cattle pay their way:

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    Mui Ne hums. Its clearly set-up to cater for tourists come beach hedonists. The bigger hotels lie at the southern end as does the better beach. The hotels line the shoreline; the restaurants & bars the opposite side of the street.

    We were booked to stay at Nhan Hoa (128 Nguyen Dinh Chieu) - $10/night, cable TV, AC, b'fast not included - its good value but the place will shortly be in need of an update:

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    Some early morning shots the next day before we set off show how life continues at the local level. The shots also show the retaining wall which covers much of the beach - be sure to book a hotel at the southern end of the beach or from Hai Yen Guesthouse northwards:

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    Hai Yen is a good spot with a great pool, gregarious operator, good snack bar all for $15-$20/night.

    The fishing village of Mui Ne at the extreme north of the beach is worth a visit - during the day to see the activities at water's edge or in the evening to see the locals all out strolling the main street chatting amongst themselves:

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    (More to follow................................)
     
  8. Jurgen

    Jurgen Ol'Timer

    This is a stunning story Rod, with awesome illustrations. I am really envious and tempted by a Vietnam trip (even without a Thai bike). Your report wakes up nice memories. I am eager to see even more, as you are now very centrally located :problem:

    I hope that you do not mind if I squat a small post on your thread, with vintage pictures (22 years ago). Of course the technique (old scanned slides) show their age, but also the changes in Vietnam

    Cap Saint Jacques, as Vung Tau was known to the French, was back to just a sand bank, twenty two years ago. I have not returned to this beach in the meantime and your pictures are amazing.

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    From high or from low, roads in HCMC were nearly deserted, and a paradise for cyclists

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    The „Floating Hotel“ was the deluxe accommodation at that time. It had been hauled from Australia's Coral Reef Barrier. It is not in the Saigon river anymore, no idea were it has gone!

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  9. Rod Page

    Rod Page Ol'Timer

    Jurgen,
    Give us more! If my hastily taken shots under threatening skies make you keen to return, yours fill me with regret that I was not here earlier. The speed of development is staggering; I'm almost sure I will not recognise parts of the roads just ridden when I return in november. Come now, before, as Nick Ray (Lonely Planet) says, it transforms itself into another Thailand or Malaysia.
     
  10. Rod Page

    Rod Page Ol'Timer

    (Continuation.....................................................)

    NHA TRANG (via enchanting Ca Na)

    It is uncontestable that Hwy 1 presents a constant challenge; it is equally uncontestable that the detour/loop from Phan Thiet to Mui Ne & onwards past Hon Rom to rejoin Hwy 1 at Luong Son is a sensational one.

    We headed out of Mui Ne whilst many still slept. The road out past Hon Rom presents what the beaches of VN have to offer in all their glory:

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    There was a sensational run of beaches to follow & an associated level of development in place along the waterfront photos of which will have to wait for kinder skies in November. The road climbs to a plateau akin to the english moors before arriving unannounced at Bau Trang (Hong Lam) billed as an eco-development. From here there's a track, impassable in the rain which cuts across to Phan Ri Cua following the coast; I will definitely attempt this route in november. The sealed road takes you 16 kms down 'from the moors' & back to Hwy 1 at Luong Son.

    Looking down over Luong Son:

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    Its a shock to be back in the reality of VN traffic but not more-so than to the total turn-around in countryside that follows the fabulous mountain-side route around to Ca Na - from lush rice paddies to a sheer cliff-face & on to mountainous countryside riddled with boulders. There's accommodation on the beach at Ca Na - we stayed at the green hotel in the photo, Mailinh Ca Na, which also has a good beachfront location for meals:

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    I would also recommend travelers look at Pandaran to stay; its just a little further along the beach (better seen in the background of the following lunch-time photo two below) & great value.

    Opposite the hotels & beach is a most interesting Chua (wat/temple) across the railway line:

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    Lunch on the beach at Ca Na to celebrate:

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    For some reason the authorities would not let me take photos of the boats in the harbour, a splendid scene to witness.

    From here it's an easy run giving a varied insight into life in this part of VN - from rocks to rice; from rice to buffalo & ibis, ducks & geese! Salt 'mining' will catch your eye:

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    There's a coastal option of some 40kms around Cam Ranh harbour to get to Nha Trang, a good alternative to Hwy 1A. In Nha Trang we stayed at Cuong Long (62 Nguyen Thien Thuat), well placed 'in the thick of things'. We had a front room with a massive balcony offering views out over this part of Nha Trang. At $15/night (no b'fast) was great value (not so sure rooms without the balcony would 'fit the bill'):

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    We ate at several establishments in the area, an area which offers much choice, & all met our expectations. The nearby Red Apple Club was absolutely pumping each night. There was another bar the name of which escapes me just down from Lanterns restaurant offering all the beer you could drink for $7.50; every establishment in fact offer 2 for 1 or whatever Happy Hours which actually extend for most of the night.

    Nha Trang beach is truly a beautiful beach in a spectacular setting; it warrants its reputation as the beach capital of VN:

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    The Sailing Club & the Louisiane Brewhouse are both situated at water's edge nearby the hotel. We opted for the later, a fabulous choice offering bars, restaurants, pool, a magical beach setting, an extensive menu of quality food options & its own micro-brewery.....could this be paradise...................

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    Ah, a Pilsener & a Dark Beer thanks!

    (More to follow................................)
     
  11. Rod Page

    Rod Page Ol'Timer

    (Continuation.....................................................)

    QUY NHON

    After 2 most enjoyable days in Nha Trang we left somewhat reluctantly but we were there on this occassion en route to Hoi An to find a place to rent, a place to call home for the next few years of our travels in VN. We left early, ready to dodge threatening skies as we charged non-stop to Quy Nhan, starting on the pleasant road along the waterfront which takes you some way before rejoining Hwy 1.

    There's much along the way that takes your eye including this scene from the countryside:

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    Almost 75kms out from Nha Trang the road rose to offer a magestic view over the coast, beckoning us to take a pit-stop. We sighted a little sand to our right along a road signposted 'Dam Mon'. A small track took us here:

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    Dam Mon lies just short of 20kms along the road & its a scintilating ride with an abundance of secluded beaches. The stretch of sand can be made out in the background of this shot taken from Dai Lanh:

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    Dai Lanh from 1A heading north:

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    A spectacular mountainside run follows photos of which I'll suppply in a later report - it was not just the rain that made me eneasy to stop, but rather, the sheer drop-off!

    A further chance to deviate from Hwy 1 came just north of Song Cau carrying us car free through mountains of sand-dunes along a breathtaking coastline spotted with deserted beaches some 40kms to Quy Nhon. Around 15kms from Quy Nhon shortly after delightful Bai Bau Beach is the Life Resort, a great spot for a cappuccino en route:

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    As you can see travelling during this, the rainy season, especially with typhoons threatening to lead to you having quality stop-overas all to yourself!

    On the other side of the headland shared with Life Resort sits this pretty fishing village:

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    Its a quiet run into town, the road offering glimpses of the beachside blessings enjoyed by Quy Nhon (in the distance):

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    The beach above, Quy Hoa Beach, backs off a small, well-kept leper colony; its a popular spot with locals on the week-end.

    We would spend the next 2 nights at Anh Vy, a roomy, comfortable hotel with views out over the seaside run by a charmingly helpful couple who are unusually well acquainted with travel in the area. At $10/night (no b'fast) it represents great value:

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    Another option is Lan Anh (forget the guidebook!) great value at 300,000vd/night under the watchfull eye of Tran Hung Dao:

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    Quy Nhon is off the tourist route but it offers it all - great beaches, wonderful seafood restaurants, cham sites, no tourists (of course) & even a supermarket:

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    There's a recently opened (massive) bridge heading out along the coast north of the town. Despite persistent rain I headed out (without camera given the conditions) to explore for a potential route north. The bridge has been built to reach an extensive area of sand-dunes which the VN government trust foreign companies will develop into a light-industrial area. Its a fascinating area where surprises abound - I came across a small fishing village - Nhon Ly - where the same families have lived for many generations whereby there are more cemeteries than houses around the village. The quaint older-style houses have only sand for a 'garden'! A great surf was pounding onto the wonderful beach on which the village is built.

    I followed the newly constructed mega highway to its end, not seeing another vehicle, person or building throughout its length - four newly sealed lanes of dual carraigeway just stopped dead without warning! I took the muddied track ahead, reaching some kilometres later coming R635 & ultimately Hwy 1 just south of Ngo May. My intention had been to find the way through to Tam Quan but language barriers proved fatal. This is a tantalising route, offering the opportunity to avoid some 100kms of Hwy1 & I will find my way through in November.

    (More to follow................................)
     
  12. Rod Page

    Rod Page Ol'Timer

    (Continued)

    QUANG NGAI

    It was time to press onwards - Tropical Storm Haitang was rapidly being joined by Typhoon Nesat. Our destination would be Quang Ngai, 100kms short of Hoi An should the weather block our path. A saving grace of this section of the trip north is the wonderful beach of Sa Huynh right on the highway some 60kms south of Quang Ngai. Its an excellent place to stop, to take in the scenery, have lunch & at the time of writing only 300,00vd/night to stay:

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    On to Quang Ngai, an uninspiring town built on petro-rubels from nearby exploration sites. There are a couple of large (3 star quality) 'petro' hotels built down along the river Song Tra Khuc. Its the best place to stay with views over the river & its bridges, easy access to the remarkable Son My Memorial, beaches & restaurants. At night the riverside is transformed into a large colourful market place with an abundance of tasty food-stalls setting up on the banks of the river below the market:

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    In the following photo taken at a small fishing market on the opposite side of the river to the hotel, you can see the hotel (Son Tra) in the background top left, off the bridge:

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    A call to Hoi An confirmed our worst fears - the typhoon had dumped her water on the village some of which had already flooded........we'd have to wait it out in Quang Ngai. It was an opportunity to visit Son My Memorial & lovely My Khe Beach.

    The shock presented at Son My Memorial warrants its own link which I will attend to separately after this post. A couple of kilometres down the road from the memorial lies My Khe Beach, a long stretch of sand shaded by casuarinas photographed below with fishermen going about their work:

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    Mid-way along the road which follows the beachfront is an extensive array of simply constructed seafood restaurants. Judging by the number involved one has to assume its a great spot to eat (given the weather there was little traffic when we passed); the setting is certainly magical:

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    (More follows..........................)
     
  13. Rod Page

    Rod Page Ol'Timer

    (Continued......................................)

    HOI AN

    Hoi An is one of those mythical places, a 'must visit' stop on anyone's itinerary who is travelling through Vietnam, & so it was that two early risers hit the road at first light beneath threatening skies in a charge 100kms north to reach our intended destination of the last week.

    Hoi An is such a beautiful spot that it warrants its own link, a post I will furnish in the days to come. Its something that should not be too difficult as a new storm in the form of Typhoon Naglae is closing in restricting our adventuring greatly! So here we are, confined to a town who's visual delights are matched by its culinary marvels..........

    We would stay at Thien Trung, suitable at $10-$15/night (no b'fast), cable TV, AC, but it lacks the feel, the warmth of a hotel actually run by the owners rather than staff:

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    A couple of quick shots to set the stage, to at least substantiate the recent rains. The first shot shows D. Bach Guan where it meets Thu Bon River. Flooding along the street is clear; the sanpan literally floated between river & roadway at will:

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    The second shot is of the same road taken from Cargo Club Restaurant whilst we enjoyed lunch:

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    A GREAT ride up despite the rains.................cant wait to return in mid-november & enhance the above report with some much merited photography.

    POSTSCRIPT: A number of wonderful 'side-rides' off the beaten track but associated with the enjoyment of this trip follow. For those wishing to continue the ride north to Hanoi along the coast see: http://www.gt-rider.com/thailand-motorcycle-forum/showthread.php/36183-NORTHERN-VIETNAM-The-Ultimate-Trip-(broken)
     
  14. Jurgen

    Jurgen Ol'Timer

    I am still under the charm of the report and more and more attracted to enhance my limited biking experience in this country, particularly along the coast. Even since my last trip, about 3 years ago, I can see the changes through Rod's pictures.

    I never had a thief problem till now (just lucky), but 2wheels recommendations are to be taken seriously, to reduce the risk to be sorry.

    I am looking forward to see more pictures ... once the camera is dry again :)
     
  15. Rod Page

    Rod Page Ol'Timer

    A closer look at coastal back-road options/alternatives to Hwy 1A:

    LA GI to PHAN THIET via Cape Ke Ga (66kms)

    This is an absolutely fabulous ride, particularly now before much of the beach is taken up with mega hotels in the rapid development currently sweeping VN. It forms part of the magical coastal run from Vung Tau up to Phan Thiet & continuing along the coast for those heading to Mui Ne & onwards.

    After the fantastic run from Vung Tau up to La Gi passing Long Hai, Ho Tram, & Ho Coc covered earlier in this report, at La Gi take the road to Tan An & then on to Ke Ga (rather than the route back to Hwy 1A at Tan Nghia/Ham Tan - yes the policy of having 2 separate names for so many villages continues apace).

    The run out to Ke Ga is a great one through hectares of dragon fruit set against a backdrop of high sand dunes before you break from the orchards to the spectacle that is Cape Ke Ga lighthouse (where there's a great cafe near the small seaside fish market from which to enjoy the specatcle):

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    Follow the coast to Tien Thanh on the way to Phan Thiet. Tien Thanh offers an alternative to the perhaps 'killed by the guidebook' Mui Ne. The view riding into Tien Thanh:

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    There are some good accommodation options - here the Eco Spa Village Resort (next door to Rock Water Bay (resort):

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  16. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Stunning beach vistas & photos; & I'm forcing myself to stay here & work on the computer, but I reckon come hot season - March 2012 - I will be on the road in Vietnam for a break....
     
  17. Rod Page

    Rod Page Ol'Timer

    DOC LET Beach - Another Coastal Backroad Option

    The turn-off to this paradise is found around 40kms north of Nha Trang on the northern side of the small township of Ninh Hoa. From the turn-off its another 10kms or so to the beach. This sensational little visited & little developed beach with just a few easy-going resorts & a wonderful authentic fishing village is a great alternative to Nha Trang & should be visited even if you are staying in Nha Trang.

    The absolutely stunning beach; life as it should be 'on the coast':

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    The panarama of another morning's fishing on Doc Let:

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    The larger, long established fishing village is set towards the southern end of the beach. The village's character has been fashioned by the winds with buildings designed to block the north-easterlies that can pound in from the seas whilst opening out gently towards more protected areas of the beach:

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    The beach, needless to say, is central to life in a fishing village. Temples peer down narrow laneways to the beach & sea 'to ensure' a good catch & safety to the village's boats & fishermen:

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    Almost of another time in many places nowadays, life here passes so naturally from generation to generation, as all await the catch:

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    A morning stroll along the beach is intriguing as the villagers await the catch. Waiting to carry the catch:

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    Activity aplenty once the catch has reached the shoreline:

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    Check it out if cruising along the coast.
     
  18. Rod Page

    Rod Page Ol'Timer

    The CAPE VARELLA - DA DIA run.

    There's another wonderful 'alternative to Hwy 1A'. There are many factors that contribute to a great ride, but for us this is one of the most enjoyable rides we've had to date.........anywhere!

    The run which will cut around 70kms from your 1A experience is convenietly broken up into two legs with a pit-stop available on the beaches of thriving Tuy Hoa; you'll need the stop as the excitement will be jumping right out of you!

    The first leg starts at Dai Lanh where 1A climbs steeply offering splendid views of the coastline (the road is up on the top left where you can see a truck):

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    You'll quickly arrive at Vung Ro Bay & see 'industry' pumping away to your right. Dont be put off; take this newly sealed road on to Cape Varella for a magnificent run past wonderful untouched beaches. You'll pass through Hoa Hiep ultimately arriving at Tuy Hoa.

    The alternative is to continue along 1A for an absolute 'hell-ride' winding through the mountains & cliff-faces reminding me somewhat of the "'Death Highway' - run to Umphang" of which I wrote on this site's Northern Thailand Forum; you need two sets of eyes - one for the stunning scenery at every bend & the other for the traffic, ALWAYS on the wrong side of the road. Get it wrong & this is the result:

    [​IMG]

    Whichever way you chose you'll arrive after some 40kms in Tuy Hoa. Head straight to the beach for coffee, or something stronger if needs be:

    [​IMG]

    The second leg is around 30kms according to the maps..............but it will be much more as in all possibility you'll get lost somewhere & certainly being inquisitive you'll dart off on many a rewarding detour. The run takes you along the coastline, through villages & ricefields where life goes on untroubled, untouched by the outside world.

    'Somewhere' along the way, but towards the Da Dia end of the route, probably near O Loan Lagoon - sorry but there is no signage in this area, no details on GPS, no-one speaks a word of English (or French or Japanese, let alone Tahitian!!!), & even the best maps are of little use - we found a small fishing village where the laneways were clearly established years before the car was even thought of; 1.5m max snaking each & every way. Backtracking to a shaky bridge we'd seen earlier; this must be the only way forward................
    The joy on the face of a rider who has suddenly found the courage to cross!

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    The crossing in greater detail with the restaurant in the background, then followed by a close-up of the 'passing bays' if ever the traffic was to become 'heavy' - say 3 motorbikes at once, I suppose!

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    We were running late for lunch; it was almost 2pm but there were still some 30 plus patrons in the restaurant & the beers atop the tables were enticing enough. The restaurant would seat around 200 people. Given the patronage still at the restaurant as we approached & knowing it was inaccessible by car over the bridge, the signs for 'top tucker' were good.

    It was indeed an excellent choice. To give you an idea of the isolation of this area, however, & knowing this
    is a travel/road trip forum, I need to post a shot of the loo. There was only one, & remember this place seats around 200 & was clearly regularly packed. Its a 'one shot, winner takes all' affair straight into the river!

    [​IMG]

    The hunger pangs satisfied we rode on in search of Da Dia. Its truly an exceptional ride through the most picturesque of countryside. Many of the farmland buildings are constructed from local rock giving the countryside a feeling of being in Europe rather than Asia:

    [​IMG]

    The lighthouse - Da Dia - sits in all her glory at the peninsula along an appropriate pathway:

    [​IMG]

    whilst the surrounds are fabulous:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Its but a short run, though you'll be feeling a million miles away, back to 1A just south of Song Cau.
     
  19. Rod Page

    Rod Page Ol'Timer

    Some Off-Shoots From Hwy1A When Travelling Near Quang Ngai.

    In 2005, archeologist Andrew Hardy come across a reference to "The Long Wall of Quang Ngai" whilst perusing an 1885 Nguyen Dynasty court document. After 5 years of searching Hardy would find the wall winding through valleys & ranges up to 800 metres running parallel to the Truong Son Mountains in Quang Ngai province. Introduced to the world only last year, at almost 130kms in length it is the longest monument in SE Asia.

    The wall was built built of stone & soil by the H're hilltribe peoples, recognised stone masons of their time, & the Viet people of the plains to prevent fighting between them, to facilitate trade through providing security & to thereby exact taxes from users. Reaching a maximum height approaching 5m & a width of almost 3m (on a 6m base) & including 115 military posts each of which could accommodate up to 20 sentries, it crosses several rivers & streams as it runs parallel to an ancient trade route. It was used in the American War as part of the Ho Chi Minh Trail to run food an ammunition to the south.

    Archeologists consider that the wall was constructed over 500 years ago and adapted to military purposes in 1819 by Emperor Gia Long.

    The current edition of Lonely Planet makes a boxed reference to the wall stating: "There are currently no organised tour to the wall & no trained guides to introduce its history. The best chance of visiting the great wall of Vietnam is to talk to experienced Easy Riders....& ask them to incorporate it into an off-the-beaten-track itinerary." Well good luck; why not just go straight to GT Rider!

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    Alas a flat battery in my camera precludes my posting any shots, but.......

    To find this marvel head west off Hwy1A at Song Ve along the 628 just south of Quang Ngai. Head through Cho Chua (Nghia Hanh) & continue west towards Kim Thanh Ha; you'll find the wall in this area. Return to Hwy1A from Nghia Hanh via the 624 & you'll again be able to reach the wall not far from Phu Lam.

    Its as if there's something new in Quang Ngai every day..........http://www.thanhniennews.com/index/pages/20120705-65-tombs-dated-over-3000-years-found-in%20central-vietnam.aspx

    There are also some good surf spots near Quang Ngai. Take the road out past Son My (the Mai Lai Massacre site) & on past My Khe beach (see earlier in my report). Continue down to the 621. Phuoc Thien is well worth a visit as is the area around Dung Quat (off the 622). Finish the outing along the 618 out to Ky Ha - the island at the end of the road is an interesting spot; there's a french resort on the island. If you can find the ferry across you'll be able to ride up all the way to Duy Hai from where you can take the ferry back to Hoi An (see: http://www.gt-rider.com/thailand-motorcycle-forum/showthread.php/35301-Hoi-An).
     
  20. VietHorse

    VietHorse Ol'Timer

    Hey Rod,
    Great photos and very detail write up. Thanks for riding along my Country!
     
  21. Rod Page

    Rod Page Ol'Timer

    Yer VietHorse, its truly a 'hardship posting' to be riding through some of the most scenic countryside I've seen in all my travels.

    Amongst the best of it are some wonderful beaches as you can see from the report. So enticing are these spots that a rider can be easily lured in for a swim. As someone who has surfed much of the VN coastline I was both surprised & intrigued to find the following article:
    http://www.thanhniennews.com/index/pages/20120716-three-shark-species-attacked-swimmers-in-central-vietnam-study.aspx

    The coastline in VN is heavily fished & I was totally surprised to find VN in 4th position of the countries with the most shark attacks world-wide. Interestingly the attacks are centred around Quy Nhon (covered in this report).

    Safe riding.....safe swimming!
     
  22. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Ol'Timer Staff Member

    In the office and fired up my email.. PST corrupted.. Hmm that will take 20 mins to repair.

    Had a quick look at GT Rider and read this thread.. Amazing report Rod.
    A must do trip by the looks of it.. Even if the drivers have suicidal tendencies in Vietnam :)

    Your pics bought back some memories too. I was in Saigon for a business trip December 18 months ago.
    Had not been since New Year 97/98.. What a change..

    Tried to find the old US embassy to show my work mate.. walked up and down and realised it had been replaced by a new big flash consulate.
    Glad I had my pictures of that with the chain around the gate and the helipad visible from across the street back in 97..

    The bar we were partying in at New Year caused a huge traffic Jam.. All the locals stopping to watch the crazy foreigners..
    The traffic couldn't pass around the block.. until 40 police arrived on the back of bikes and moved them along..

    Thanks again for the report and stunning pictures.

    Cheers
    Brian
     

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