Chiang Mai - Hanoi Back Part 1

DavidFL

Administrator
Staff member
Jan 16, 2003
12,483
2,903
113
67
Chiang Khong
www.thegtrider.com
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. ........
:) :) :)
 

DavidFL

Administrator
Staff member
Jan 16, 2003
12,483
2,903
113
67
Chiang Khong
www.thegtrider.com
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.

827443087_5WjZH-M.jpg

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....
827443105_ZLDZZ-M.jpg

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.
827443170_K94Zz-M.jpg


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!
827443161_GWd3H-M.jpg


When & wherever you stop with a big bike the kids will always come out for some fun & a giggle.
827443210_kRY5w-M.jpg


R3 Ban Xot.
827443218_hgcRC-M.jpg


Manychan in Luang Nam Tha it was for lunch at 2.30Pm
827443132_kN47D-M.jpg


Queued up on R13 Na Teuy - Oudom Xai on the black top, waiting for the lads to clear the road again..
827443230_zUCUf-M.jpg


Oudom Xai it was 5pm for dinner: then Muang Khua 7.30Pm with only an hour in the dark.

Day two was gone.
:) :)
 

Jurgen

Moderator
Oct 23, 2009
676
118
43
www.chopard.org
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
 

DavidFL

Administrator
Staff member
Jan 16, 2003
12,483
2,903
113
67
Chiang Khong
www.thegtrider.com
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
827562874_53yRL-M.jpg


827562902_LgqsF-M.jpg

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....
827562929_Dzf52-M.jpg

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
827563014_HhGHY-M.jpg


The locals at work in Sop Houn
827563093_wqAoC-M.jpg


Making whisky
827562980_Xqeu2-M.jpg


The kids were as friendly as ever
827562942_3uodV-M.jpg


827562963_yc3H7-M.jpg


827563071_oBNhX-M.jpg


Everyone got looked after
827563124_xR4VZ-M.jpg


I found a mate
827563077_C7bQn-M.jpg

& joined "the village idiots."

Plus a new girlfriend
827563161_h8moF-M.jpg


But she did not quite come up to spec
827563144_Ts2Xb-M.jpg


This little guy kept a close eye on proceedings
827563188_87dXN-M.jpg


At 9.30AM it was time to plod along back to the road closure & w-a-i-t.
827563218_iRCxf-M.jpg


This guy was also waiting for the road to open
827563240_6p4cG-M.jpg


A cool guy & a perfect gentleman
827563026_WsjVa-M.jpg

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...
 

SilverhawkUSA

Ol'Timer
Mar 15, 2003
1,528
9
0
www.daveearly.com
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.

Civet.jpg


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.

MK2005.jpg


MK2.jpg


The main hotel really isn’t bad.

hotel2.jpg


hotel.jpg


This is what the ferry crossing looked like in 2005.
MKFerry05.jpg


And this is what it looked like on our trip.
MKFerry10.jpg

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. )
MKRivercrossing.jpg


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;

UXO.jpg


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”.
clean.jpg


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.

MKblocked.jpg

MKroad.jpg


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……..

dirtydave.jpg


Back to you David....... :shock:
 

DavidFL

Administrator
Staff member
Jan 16, 2003
12,483
2,903
113
67
Chiang Khong
www.thegtrider.com
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
829251951_L6VbZ-M.jpg


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
829251975_XEnTy-M.jpg


827563231_Hy6Tf-M.jpg


and I'd been well & truly dusted down
829251973_wtJ8J-M.jpg


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
827563303_j8FFr-M.jpg

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.
827563328_bPTx7-M.jpg


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
827563268_8GpAN-M.jpg


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.
829269269_aHKtc-M.jpg


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.
829251983_CVmt7-M.jpg

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.
827588610_wxvBL-M.jpg

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.
829252028_W4ayd-M.jpg

Shyte not quite heaven & asphalt road either I thought!

829252009_n7j3X-M.jpg


But it did improve
827563389_Rsb7u-M.jpg


and there was hope in the distance
827563318_MzAJM-M.jpg


827563340_wy43o-M.jpg


First stop in Vietnam was for fuel
827563385_AScm5-M.jpg

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

827563393_f6DrR-M.jpg

& she was only the "pump attendant."

Good morning Vietnam....

:D :D :D

On the flat & on the final stretch into Dien Bien Phu
827563453_M3G9F-M.jpg


827563433_CixK5-M.jpg


The green rice fields were incredibly refreshing after the heat & smoking mountains!

Entering Dien BIen Phu city
829252012_Rjcvc-M.jpg


827563470_stiwH-M.jpg
 

David Learmonth

Ol'Timer
Apr 23, 2006
513
15
18
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.
 

DavidFL

Administrator
Staff member
Jan 16, 2003
12,483
2,903
113
67
Chiang Khong
www.thegtrider.com
DIEN BIEN PHU CITY

Our hotel
828256013_AnCwW-M.jpg

The Cong Doan.

A happy hour drink
828255934_ArmvP-M.jpg


Later on a MASSaGE beckoned
828255935_T6yfS-M.jpg

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
827563463_tgAhg-M.jpg


827563517_nuMjK-M.jpg


Buying a Viet Sim Card
827563513_Ax68H-M.jpg


It didn't take long to attract attention
829252053_J3LPL-M.jpg


Silverhawk thought he was a winner
827563587_YVPCj-M.jpg


but which one
827563531_pzwEv-M.jpg


827563563_F9aZj-M.jpg


Reality soon struck & we were dragged off to the compulsory Dien Bien Phu “HISTORYCAL” War Museum
827563603_tNwNM-M.jpg


828255938_eSsxr-M.jpg


We thought we were the lone victors
827563670_HqQjx-M.jpg


but it was not to be
827563661_Lr5Cy-M.jpg

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.
829252039_GpEEP-M.jpg


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.

827562893_bQwDn-M.jpg


827583643_eebXz-M.jpg


828255905_WRcLB-M.jpg


828255918_sGPC4-M.jpg


It wasn’t only the French that the Viets battled with, but also the good ol US of A.
827563712_dX5Pk-M.jpg

(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.
827583646_cmxaP-M.jpg


Here’s how they supplied their troops
827583692_sRjPn-M.jpg


And some of the leading figures
827583679_WKFKj-M.jpg


Not to forget two inspiring leaders
827583648_fu2BW-M.jpg


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.)
828255962_uKYNK-M.jpg


although this may been influenced by the delightful waitress who, unrequested, insisted on hand-feeding lung all night.
828255965_LTDAb-M.jpg


Sorry about that guys :p :p

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

Next morning breakfast was not quite as lavish.
828255987_xTnYC-M.jpg


although it was still incredibly delicious, yet just a bowl of noodles!
828255984_usAQM-M.jpg


Back at the hotel the girls were doing the laundry, sans Whirlpool.
828256008_YHhQu-M.jpg


However I suspect that their own "wo"manual whirlpool was more reliable with the local power supply.
828256006_fowRB-M.jpg


To be continued of course..
 

DavidFL

Administrator
Staff member
Jan 16, 2003
12,483
2,903
113
67
Chiang Khong
www.thegtrider.com
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.
829428356_nryge-M.jpg


Average speed on the way there was 55KPH via the main way
829428358_fCkPG-M.jpg

& on the return 22KPH on a lovely rural back road.
829428347_fWakw-M.jpg


The main highway leading out of town
829252070_DnPjH-M.jpg


at the turn off
829252082_MYajs-M.jpg


Onto the tight twisting road to the HQs
829252126_uf386-M.jpg


829252112_tGDNg-M.jpg


The highlight of this morning’s escapade was the villages & people. And these indeed made the trip well worth it!

Rural back roads
828279429_Z8FF8-M.jpg


828255909_kvPmz-M.jpg


828279430_ssRiP-M.jpg


829252122_NuSFx-M.jpg


One worker & one mobile phone addict
828279440_GxdgH-M.jpg


828279483_P428N-M.jpg


828279480_W2Hap-M.jpg


828279469_sPvGW-M.jpg


I wish I had a hat like that?
828279490_kDVdM-M.jpg


Lunch was in Muang Phang city
828279502_qatkv-M.jpg


Where we learned the “art” of good Vietnamese coffee
828279513_VyG3x-M.jpg


828279512_qNbCu-M.jpg


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
829251994_nvRbe-M.jpg


And varied in condition
828279528_MfUqi-M.jpg


It was at this “main” road junction
828279543_kZKdY-M.jpg


that love found me again
828279576_8xupw-M.jpg


the villagers were impressed & all came out to inspect the bike & happy couple
828279587_hvVE9-M.jpg


but I was not so sure
828279554_MP7F5-M.jpg


Confused I did not even know what day it was & asked for help.
Help buxomly appeared
828279594_Zue2r-M.jpg


The road signage was good, even on the smaller roads
829654477_vHQLS-M.jpg


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
829654503_HRABL-M.jpg


829654549_X7B7R-M.jpg


829654612_ytbFp-M.jpg


829654582_ogPeS-M.jpg


829654554_jmoRW-M.jpg


829654667_NDevU-M.jpg


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.
829654666_XNnF2-M.jpg


829654661_HQXim-M.jpg


Eventually we were on the road
829654727_9jK3R-M.jpg


but we did not get far
829654715_cCCz8-M.jpg

flat tyre.

829654735_cGoeR-M.jpg


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?)
829654809_s9nom-M.jpg


829654814_togVv-M.jpg


829654861_fncKF-M.jpg


829654788_HTm9j-M.jpg


Back on the road
829654904_L4Q4G-M.jpg


829654913_aqp8W-M.jpg


It wasn’t all easy riding though, & the good old road construction soon reared its ugly head
829252143_GGs5y-M.jpg


829252168_4RGRG-M.jpg


Sometimes asphalt, no matter what was welcome
829252152_pUPcK-M.jpg


But the dust was never far away
829252164_fhxCt-M.jpg


A breather on a bridge
829654905_KPsXM-M.jpg


At a drink stop in Muang Cha “half-way” between DBP & ML.
829654954_ec6iK-M.jpg


Joe ready to top up your bike with Viet go-juice.
829654992_JSvgr-M.jpg


Local vendors
829654988_bDT2w-M.jpg


829655007_UDY8W-M.jpg


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.
829655050_37aoN-M.jpg


a celebratory beer
829655069_Pjp3u-M.jpg


Silverhawk doing the right thing for Ally & Slash
829655073_itaYi-M.jpg


The wonderful Lan Anh hotel in Muang Lay city
829655233_acjjV-M.jpg


My room
829655113_CvVYs-M.jpg


829655147_gaC3H-M.jpg


Food & dinner that night was again G-O-O-D
829655185_uU8xg-M.jpg


Dien Bien Phu – Muang Lay
829654476_Q8hAe-M.jpg

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."
 

David Learmonth

Ol'Timer
Apr 23, 2006
513
15
18
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.
 

SilverhawkUSA

Ol'Timer
Mar 15, 2003
1,528
9
0
www.daveearly.com
:?: How many people does it take to change a wheel? 5 and 1 to take the photo.
ml5.jpg


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”).

ml2.jpg

ml1.jpg

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.
ml11.jpg

ml6.jpg

ml12.jpg


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).
ml9.jpg

ml10.jpg


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:
ml15.jpg


Some, I guess, considered it necessary to carry extra fuel. “Where there is a will, there is a way”. :wink:
ml13.jpg


A little bit of line up as David gets that “one more photo”.
ml14.jpg


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.
ml16.jpg

ml18.jpg


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).
ml22.jpg

ml17.jpg

ml24.jpg

ml25.jpg


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.
ml23.jpg


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.
ml26.jpg

ml21.jpg


And we were on our way again………….. :shock:
 

BignTall

Ol'Timer
Oct 12, 2005
649
0
0
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?
 

Moto-Rex

Moderator
Jan 5, 2008
944
286
63
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
 

DavidFL

Administrator
Staff member
Jan 16, 2003
12,483
2,903
113
67
Chiang Khong
www.thegtrider.com
DAY 4 Push on…….MUANG LAY – SAPA

Still in Muang Lay at the Lan Ah hilton, Silverhawk with the Penang guys
829655215_nQnPh-M.jpg

Kenny if you’re looking at this, please drop me a line re China.

Breakfast, fried eggs, baguettes & g-o-o-d coffee
829655388_m6pxE-M.jpg


Muang Lay, the “dump” city on its last legs before it well & truly goes under.
829655417_emr8F-M.jpg


829655422_PtmdE-M.jpg


829655446_rendN-M.jpg


Queuing up for fuel in ML
829655467_o4nX7-M.jpg


Pumping fuel for you.
829655496_dXW2F-M.jpg

note the size of the gloves!

On the road for the “constructors title”..…..
829655535_936ue-M.jpg


The new bridge being built & it’s going to be high!
829655507_8qT5K-M.jpg


Crossing on the old bridge
829655536_8Manh-M.jpg


829655540_WwACL-M.jpg


Loaded up ready to tackle the dirt. These guys know no fear on their two-wheeled beasts.
829655573_nJ2UN-M.jpg


Killing time & looking at the view
829655671_d6SmW-M.jpg


The dirt highway ahead
829655622_zA8mp-M.jpg


Joy oh joy
chiang-mai-hanoi-203.jpg

dust was the order of the day.

Next road block
chiang-mai-hanoi-208.jpg


Patiently waiting
chiang-mai-hanoi-207.jpg


Silverhawk dusted down & patiently waiting too
chiang-mai-hanoi-210.jpg


A local rider, kitted up patiently waiting
chiang-mai-hanoi-209.jpg


Two others killing time & patiently waiting
chiang-mai-hanoi-212.jpg


Waiting for the lights to change
chiang-mai-hanoi-214.jpg

no warm up lap necessary

Could be a bit of jockeying for track position
chiang-mai-hanoi-204.jpg


Further on up the road
chiang-mai-hanoi-216.jpg


chiang-mai-hanoi-218.jpg

the good stuff

chiang-mai-hanoi-217.jpg


chiang-mai-hanoi-215.jpg

water +a dash of green

It doesn't last forever, back on the crap roads
chiang-mai-hanoi-205.jpg


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)
chiang-mai-hanoi-219.jpg


I enjoyed the drink stops & used the time for photos
chiang-mai-hanoi-223.jpg


chiang-mai-hanoi-221.jpg

a drinking spot? for one of the locals.

chiang-mai-hanoi-220.jpg


The butchers
chiang-mai-hanoi-222.jpg

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

A budding photographer
chiang-mai-hanoi-224.jpg


Ho hum, back on the road
chiang-mai-hanoi-225.jpg


Welcome to Phong Tho
chiang-mai-hanoi-226.jpg


Yeah yeah
chiang-mai-hanoi-227.jpg

ride on

A better surface, heading back into the mountains
chiang-mai-hanoi-228.jpg


chiang-mai-hanoi-229.jpg


Next stop: lunch in wonderful Lai Chau city.

The main street into town
chiang-mai-hanoi-230.jpg


chiang-mai-hanoi-231.jpg


We found a restaurant,
chiang-mai-hanoi-232.jpg

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!
chiang-mai-hanoi-235.jpg


The hospital was across the street
chiang-mai-hanoi-233.jpg


but no Silverhawk, only goldie
chiang-mai-hanoi-234.jpg

visiting a sick relative

The local lads enjoyed the bikes in town & had to have a play & sit
chiang-mai-hanoi-236.jpg


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.
chiang-mai-hanoi-239.jpg


Back on the road
chiang-mai-hanoi-237.jpg

surprise, more construction!

Fresh fields & life coming back
chiang-mai-hanoi-238.jpg


The main road junction betwen Lai Chau & Sapa.
chiang-mai-hanoi-240.jpg

and busy with canine traffic!

And the reason for little traffic?
chiang-mai-hanoi-241.jpg


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...
chiang-mai-hanoi-245.jpg


You think you're doing it hard: It was hot & a "long & winding road" still to conquer.
chiang-mai-hanoi-243.jpg


chiang-mai-hanoi-247.jpg


And then you realise, it aint so bad after all. You've actually got it easy.
chiang-mai-hanoi-244.jpg


chiang-mai-hanoi-246.jpg


chiang-mai-hanoi-248.jpg


These guys provided some passing entertainment
chiang-mai-hanoi-249.jpg


It was showtime for the farang
chiang-mai-hanoi-250.jpg


chiang-mai-hanoi-251.jpg


The road started to climb into the mountains again
chiang-mai-hanoi-252.jpg


The Fansipan pass was next on the menu
chiang-mai-hanoi-253.jpg


chiang-mai-hanoi-254.jpg

Vietnam's highest? mountain pass

And what a climb it is
chiang-mai-hanoi-255.jpg


1983 metres
chiang-mai-hanoi-256.jpg


3 lonely riders atop the pass
chiang-mai-hanoi-257.jpg


Sorry we missed you for this shot Silverhawk!

Silverhawk was here
chiang-mai-hanoi-258.jpg

cooling his heels in delightful Sapa

830297998_B93oM-M.jpg

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

The hotel in Sapa
chiang-mai-hanoi-259.jpg

Name: The Darling.

Happy hour at The Darling
chiang-mai-hanoi-260.jpg


The Darling View
chiang-mai-hanoi-261.jpg


And my darling room
chiang-mai-hanoi-262.jpg


chiang-mai-hanoi-263.jpg

note the fireplace fore cold season!

Dinner was a well deserved treat that night
chiang-mai-hanoi-264.jpg


More salmon
chiang-mai-hanoi-265.jpg


and a dash of wasabe ++
chiang-mai-hanoi-266.jpg


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:

jerome

Active Member
Feb 1, 2006
30
0
0
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
 

SilverhawkUSA

Ol'Timer
Mar 15, 2003
1,528
9
0
www.daveearly.com
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.
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.

sapawait.jpg


(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:
 

SilverhawkUSA

Ol'Timer
Mar 15, 2003
1,528
9
0
www.daveearly.com
BignTall wrote: 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?
MotoRex wrote: 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.

Moto-Rex
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.
 

Franz

Ol'Timer
Jun 28, 2007
1,660
2
0
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
 

Jurgen

Moderator
Oct 23, 2009
676
118
43
www.chopard.org
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).
 

burnjr

Ol'Timer
Dec 28, 2005
292
0
0
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:
 

Iwantablackrz

Ol'Timer
Apr 22, 2010
65
0
6
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: