Vietnam - The remote North East China frontier

Mar 30, 2010
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Deano747;294197 wrote: Sensational Brian. Both the report and the scenery....just spectacular....can't wait to do it ourselves in a few weeks.

It seems that the back end of our tour is the same as yours from our day 5, and Flamingo has offered us the same challenge for that day.

Looking at the track, even with a guide that will supposedly know the way, I think not.

Can't wait for the rest.....
G'day Deano and fellow GTR posters,

Thanks for the positive feedback..

It certainly encourages this Bangkok Weekend Warrior to ride and post more.

Getting to the interesting stuff next ;-)

Cheers
Brian
 
Mar 30, 2010
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Just when you think. It can't get any better.. Can it?. The scenery just keeps getting better..

Breakfast is served with Vietnamese style coffee at the back of our hotel. .
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Fantastic views...

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We had a bit of rain here and there.. it was cold.. Glad to have my touring gear on.
Over all mainly fine.. just cool up in the mountains and amazing going up, stopping at the side of the road an admiring the scenery...

More to come.....
 
Oct 16, 2011
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Sensational report Brian.. wow what scenery.. nice looking pigs at the market too 555.....
Cannot ride in on ones own bike and do what you did without escort correct ?
Hire in VN.. then OK to go by your own.
Planning to go back ???
Love to ride from Hanoi down via beaches to HCM...
 
Dec 27, 2007
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Simply amazing! Did you take all those pictures with your Sony Xperia? Very very nice!! :clap:
 
Mar 30, 2010
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TonyBKK;294216 wrote: Simply amazing! Did you take all those pictures with your Sony Xperia? Very very nice!! :clap:
G'day Rob / Tony

Each to their own. But no way I would bother with my own bike an hassle associated getting to and into Vietnam.
Flamingo bikes are in great nick. Fly and ride and get right in to the action.

Big heavy bikes on those roads with trucks and cars appearing at any time or crazy traffic in the cities.. Doesn't appeal to me at least.

No plans yet to go back. But will for sure.. There is soooo much to see..

Hey Tony,

Around 30% Of the pics are with the Sony Xperia. The rest with the Nikon AW 100 tough, shock and waterproof point and shoot.. Great little camera.
100 times better than the Olympus Tough.. Used that camera twice and it has been relegated to the cupboard. I might give it to someone I don't like ;-)

Cheers
Brian
 
Mar 30, 2010
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We are about to enter one of the most bizarre landscapes I have seen and certainly didn't expect to see in Vietnam.

What is more amazing is that people live (survive) out on these rocks.
The fences around the houses, everything is made of rock.. there is plenty of rock.

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If you go over the edge of the road you will be ripped apart by the rocks on the way down.

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Adding on a Billiards room to the house.
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Mike riding past.
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This road through the rocky mountains was just amazing.. like you are on another planet..
The pictures don't do it justice.

Arrived Meo Vac... 15 c brrrr time for a beer and hot food
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More to come....
 
Mar 30, 2010
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Final Instalment :-

The last big ride of the trip from Meo Vac to Ba Be before the last days riding to Hanoi and back to Bangkok later that evening.

Should have learnt our lesson from all those Lao trips.
Fill up the night before and avoid the morning queue.. Especially when the only petrol station in town isn't pumping any gas.

So we follow a local in to town and clean a little shop out of pepsi bottles full of petrol.
Not enough, we roam around and find a motorbike shop also selling juice.

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On we go...

Meo Vac on the way out of town and back up through the mountains
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Love that stunned look
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The roads can be very cut up.. in some places.. This would be good.
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Mum looking at these two strange Farang taking pictures of her and the kids.
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Mum relaxing a bit and even a smile breaking through..
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Through the mountains again..
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Following the track or are we a little lost..
Then we look on the OSM GPS and looks like this road takes us where we want to go more or less..
Looking for a bit of adventure and not to follow all the usual routes.. we decide to give it ago.

We named this " The forgotten road "
Obviously at some stage they tried really hard to build a road through here.
But couldn't keep up with the landslides etc and gave up. You will notice kilometre markers in the 'middle' of the road
Markers for the edge of the road now in the middle of the road..

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Didn't take long to find a decent land slide
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It doesn't look that narrow in the picture.. But it was, plus a long way down if you screwed up.

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and more

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We found these mountain bikers in here.. What a surprise for us and them.
Very happy to see us as they were a little lost.. So were we..
Amazingly, we had EDGE out here and bought up Google Maps and worked it all out.

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Stopped here having a "Where the Farkarewe" moment.

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Stopped at this little village.. Again very friendly and all happy to have pics taken.
Loved seeing their pics to lots of laughter.

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We disrupted the schooling a little

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The teacher watching the kids go up the road.
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School finished while were were there and they all trotted off up the road.
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When we passed they came running after us and high fives all around

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More lovely scenery..

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Just before we joined back up with the paved road.
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Having not eaten for around 18 hours.. We were so hungry and it was cold

We stopped at this Pho noodle shop.. Pretty ordinary looking stall, but the best Pho with the most succulent roast port.. Fantastic
Also a pretty decent view

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The meat was real fresh out the front.

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Back to stunning scenery and we are running late.. again worried about day light.
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On the final approach to Ba Be.. We hit road works. The locals are blowing horns and carrying on.
So I joined in to, peep peep.. They all looked around with big grins on their faces..
In the end the road works guys gave up and let us go..

Not before this fella pulled up next to me and started going off his trolly..

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The guy on the bike had both feet down until all was calm.

Good sleep and up early.. Ready to ride at 7 on the last day..
Well coffee and some noodles first.. Around 8 am and we are on the way.

Express to Hanoi.. Nice scenery to start with and then a bit boring after what we had seen and the traffic was heavier as we approached Hanoi.

There is a new express way, runs for 40 km then comes to a dead stop, then you snake your way through the narrow over crowded highway with the mental driving.

Back in Hanoi around 12 mid day.. Expecting to arrive at 3 ish...
We decide we have not had enough dare devil riding and go and explore Hanoi a little.

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After seeing the sites on bike.. we decide that is enough and we are still in one piece..
Lets drop the bikes back at Flamingo

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MISSION ACCOMPLISHED... What a great ride and all that in 5 days..

Time to explore on foot like normal tourists.

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Fun and laughs on the streets of Hanoi.
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Cheers
Brian
 

Rod Page

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Jan 7, 2010
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Great trip & report - a wonderful insight into some of the best riding/scenery in the world, a culturally enriching experience into lifestyles that are fast disappearing all too quickly.

I greatly enjoyed some of the shots with the hidden sun giving a yellow glow through thick cloud & onto fabulous mountain scenery, particularly on the ride out to Ha Giang. Its so different from a sunny day - you'll have to go back & do it again (though riders should be aware that you can cop ALL weather conditions in a single day in this area).

Its a great report too because it shows readers what they can be in for - the dangerous road conditions, the poor signage, the high risk of landslides, the need for light off-road bikes to get through, the ease with which one can get lost, potential fuel problems, language & food difficulties, the possible kilometrage per day........&, under the circumstances, the wisdom of using an agent like Flamingo Travel, not just for having the best prepared bikes but for all the back-up support they can give you. That said, are these not the very conditions that make such a ride such an adventure; half your luck fellas! Never underestimate, however, when riding in VN the need to have efficient help there at hand ready to help in an emergency.

You mentioned markets & I see from your map that you passed through Bac Ha - for other riders looking to follow your trail Bac Ha is a FABULOUS market well documented elsewhere on this site by Davidfl & Silverhawk.

Of course I was interested to see how you found that magical stretch of road between Dong Van & Meo Vac - this is one of the most gob-smacking runs anyone could imagine. What interests me is that you appear to have been able to ride through without permits (or was this arranged by Flamingo?). If you are unsure perhaps Chris or Hung at Flamingo when reading this post can advise riders of the current permit requirements to pass through the area, as before not having such a permit met with quite dire circumstances.

As a last laugh - Meo Vac is just north of Khau Vai the hill-tribe village where couples come annually to 'change their spouses'. It's been invaded by tourists but just wondering Brian/Mike if you have any plans? 5555

Well done guys, that thousands will not follow in your tracks seems unimaginable.
 
Sep 16, 2009
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First up, Brian, wow, let me say, the DEFINITIVE Trip Report for North(east) Vietnam - WELL DONE! Thanks for taking the time to put it all together - trust me I know the effort that goes into making a quality trip report and really appreciate the effort you have gone to. Second - WOW - great PIX! Love them - combined with all the text, they really tell a great STORY. Hey, it was great riding with you on this journey, and I am excited to do it again. As for the Sun, Yes, we never had ANY the whole trip, and I would love go back when it's out in full, with the light shimmering off the freshly planted rice paddy. That would be awesome. But the gray conditions we got do make for an interesting atmosphere, and a good theme. I don't resent the weather at all.

We passed through Bac Ha on the 1st day out of Lao Cai, but apparently not at the right time - we were there about lunchtime on Saturday, and there wasn't much of a market. We pushed on to Xin Man and the Sunday morning market there was incredible! Biggest mistake of the trip was not spending more time at the market (2nd was eating Brian's fried rice...) Since it was the morning of the 2nd day, i guess i expected to see more of same, but we didn't. I do regret not spending more time at the Xin Man market - it was really wonderful, and Xin Man itself is this really cool little town built on the side of a hill in this incredible valley. I could spend a few days there easy.

That said, everyone raves about Bac Ha, so i want to be sure to hit that at the right time next trip.

As for the permit - i am not sure what to think about it. I asked Hung at Flamingo about it, and he did say it's important to have it. If you are stopped and don't have it, they will fine you 10x or more the cost of the permit, and i am sure it will take lot's of time. Anyway, when we checked into the hotel in Meo Vac, the receptionist did ask me if we had one, and i said no. So, she made one up for us. US$20 for both of us. Apparently you can put up to 5 people on 1 permit. So, we gladly paid up and made the permit - and that was the end of that - no one ever asked to see it anywhere. For that matter, i think i saw 1 police man then entire trip - there were no checkpoints/gates either, like you see all over Thailand. I will post a pic of the permit so you know what it looks like.

In Khau Vai, i tried to exchange Brian for a suitable spouse, but no one would have him. Best I could negotiate was a couple of goats. Khau Vai IS a neat little town too and definitely worth a trip, whether or not the festival is on. The drive out there and back was spectacular - we took that "single track" back to the main road, which was an incredible side trip.

Thanks again Brian for the write up and the amazing pix. I will add a few of mine later tonight, but like i say, this report is full on definitive as it is! Well done. And Hung and Flamingo are the bomb. a GREAT experience working with them. HIGHLY recommended.

Mike
 
Sep 16, 2009
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Here are some of my pix from the trip. Hope you like and they get you excited to visit this wonderful place.

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Jul 11, 2007
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Many thanks Brian,
What beautiful scenery and nice to see that the locals can at last live peacefully.
An uncle,artillery officer in the French army,spent some years in this area before Dien Bien Phu.But he only had few B/W photos.Yours are magnificent.
Should I see them may be 10 years ago, I would have ventured in this area. But now,at my age(74),most of the time,a lonesome rider with no GPS,I'll stick to my beloved Northern Laos.
My guess is that after your most interesting story,Flamingo will soon come short of bikes to cope with the demand.....
Cheers,
Lung Jacques.
 

Rod Page

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Jan 7, 2010
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Mike - excellent photos capturing the very essence of the north of Vietnam & a well written note to accompany Brian's wonderful report. The floodgates to this most beautiful country will surely open now.
 
Sep 16, 2009
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As promised, here is a snap of the Travel Permit for Dong Van and Meo Vac...

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Better safe than sorry, I suppose.
 
Mar 30, 2010
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Received this picture from Mike today.

Taken going over the 'Forgotten Road' landslide.

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Can't wait to get back.

Cheers
Brian
 

feejer

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Feb 16, 2007
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Just saw the remaining pix. Really top quality shots, some of the best I have seen. You went through at the optimal time (November) when the greenery was at its peak, makes all the difference. Things were much more brown/dry in late April/May for us. Have to balance fighting the mud (or dust) vs. getting the best scenery on deciding when to visit. But that volcanic stretch on the 4C between Dong Van & Meo Vac is great no matter the season.

We got our permits in our guesthouse in Dong Van as well. The only time we were asked for them was when we went up to Lung Cu very near the border. Luckily we had it, as they would not let us past the gate to the monument without it.
 
Jun 22, 2014
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Hey thanks for the info contained in this thread, it was both very useful and inspirational for a trip we did up to Ha Giang last month. I read it several times before going. We weren't as experienced as you guys on bikes, and your description of someone crashing on the first day made me a bit nervous, but we took it easy and made it safely. It is a really incredible place up there.

I've added a blog, some detailed trip info and photos of of our trip on my website below if anyone needs to know any more
http://www.sendapostcardetc.com/blog/2014/6/2/travelling-by-motorbike-to-ha-giang-in-north-vietnam
 

DavidFL

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Chiang Khong
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Ben Howe;300216 wrote: Hey thanks for the info contained in this thread, it was both very useful and inspirational for a trip we did up to Ha Giang last month. I read it several times before going. We weren't as experienced as you guys on bikes, and your description of someone crashing on the first day made me a bit nervous, but we took it easy and made it safely. It is a really incredible place up there.

I've added a blog, some detailed trip info and photos of of our trip on my website below if anyone needs to know any more
http://www.sendapostcardetc.com/blog/2014/6/2/travelling-by-motorbike-to-ha-giang-in-north-vietnam

Good to know everything worked ok for you & GTR was a big help with your trip.
If you want to post some highlights of your trip on GTR you are most welcome to, as it helps build up the info as well as other riders.
Many thanks in advance.
 
Jun 22, 2014
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Davidfl;300221 wrote: Good to know everything worked ok for you & GTR was a big help with your trip.
If you want to post some highlights of your trip on GTR you are most welcome to, as it helps build up the info as well as other riders.
Many thanks in advance.
Thanks - will do!