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Old 04-09-2012, 12:04 AM   #16
Comrade Art
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Nice pics!
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Old 04-10-2012, 10:16 AM   #17
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These bikes do look amazing! beautieeees!!
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Old 04-10-2012, 02:11 PM   #18
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We stayed in this hotel in Khe Sanh.



The hotel owners made their money in coffee plantations, which I'm told were planted around Khe Sanh after the war. The wrought iron balconies have a stylized civet cat symbolizing the coffee business. As some of you probably know, these cats eat coffee berries and have an unerring nose for picking the most flavorful and perfectly ripe berries. The Vietnamese pick the coffee beans from the cats' shit to make the very best coffee, called c ph Chồn or 'Chon coffee,' which is served at the hotel.

That coffee will wake you up in the morning when served with another local breakfast specialty, noodle soup with egg but the egg is a chicken embryo with tiny feathers and beak.

We had what to my mind was a sad and thought-provoking encounter that evening at dinner. The dining room was empty except for our table and a lone man in his mid-60s at another table, obviously an American, doing his best to kill a bottle of Johnnie Walker. Digby said, "I bet that's a Marine who was at Khe Sanh and has come back to visit." And so he was, as we learned after Digby invited him over to our table (although strangely he had not actually visited the base but was just holed up in the hotel). Digby, who knows volumes about the Vietnam War but takes every opportunity to learn more, quizzed him for hours about the siege of Khe Sanh as we finished off a couple more bottles of scotch. But this guy was stuck in his head at the siege of Khe Sanh. It was like we didn't even exist for him. He had no interest in who we were. And he made clear that the Vietnamese were still the enemy to him, who haunted his nightmares, "gooks" as he called, then and now. Our Vietnamese friends at the table who understood English -- Cuong, Vinh and Ms. Linh -- just shrugged it off. In fact, he couldn't seem to accept the idea that we would be sitting with Vietnamese and insisted on believing they were Filipino. Anyway at the end of the night of drinking he collapsed in the hall on the way back to his room, too drunk even to crawl and tried to drag himself to his room. So two of the "gooks," Ms. Linh and Vinh, each took him by an arm and got him tucked into bed. Vinh told me next morning, chuckling, that the guy had tried to tip him with a handful dong. Vinh, a tycoon in the making who owns a bunch of successful companies.

Next morning we rode toward the Lao border to an old Green Beret camp that was overrun in the early days of the siege of Khe Sanh. The SF guys weren't wiped out, though, they were able to run some miles back to Khe Sanh.



Then to Khe Sanh base itself:







Some of the sandbag bunkers still standing.



Heading out, will ride to Hue this day:



Across the old DMZ and stop at Truong Son cemetery, Vietnam's 10,000 North Vietnamese who lost their lioves in the war are laid to rest.

Cuong and Vinh light incense to honor the dead. Pretty much everyone in Vietnam lost relatives or family members in the war.





Visited the Vinh Muoc tunnels where thousands of villagers lived underground during the war.





We followed the coast line on beautiful, little trafficked roads, south toward Hue. Rode on trails onto this peninsula for a picnic lunch:



The view from our picnic spot.



Curiously, was out on this peninsula was a big, deep hole where the roof of a tunnel had collapsed. So even here, miles away from Vinh Moc, was another network of hidden tunnels, probably unexplored.

On the way to Hue:



I was riding right behind Glen when we came to an intersection to he waved me to stop so I could direct all the other riders coming behind which way to go. Since we were spread out, I was there fro about 15 or 20 minutes. I always king of enjoyed these stops.





Eventually I think every kid in the village came to see my bike. And what a thrill and commotion it caused when I got back on to ride and, luckily, fired it up on the first kick.



I had a near get-off while riding on this beachfront road. There was a dip in the road that I couldn't see the bottom of, and when I crested it I saw that in the trough, a big patch of sand had drifted from the beach across the road, a sand trap. I was going about 60 mph and braking was out of the question, so I just slewed and slithered across the sand before the tires got a bite of pavement on the other side, I definitely got a surge of adrenalin.

Digby on the way to Hue:

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Old 04-11-2012, 08:24 PM   #19
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Torrential downpour in Hue:



The Citadel in Hue:



Leaving Hue:



Plan was to ride west from Hue up and over a mountain pass then south through the A Shau Valley. At the top of the pass on a muddy dirt road a bus was stuck and blocking the way:





We muscled one bike past, no way way to get the rest through (much less the support jeep and the sidecar rig), like a cork in a bottle.



Traffic piling up behind:





We try to help the bus get going:




More traffic stuck:



Passengers:

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Old 04-12-2012, 09:46 AM   #20
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The bus lurched forward and moved up the hill with much slipping of tires. My first thought was that it would go up the road another hundred yards and get stuck again, so I scrambled onto my bike to get ahead of it. As did most everyone else, so their was a mad dash to squeeze past the bus, which of course made no effort to make it easy for anyone to pass. Glen and I got past the bus and to the head of the pack when a road repair crewman flagged us to stop. An excavator was perched precariously up on the hillside trying to clear a slide. Then the side of the hill started to give way and the excavator started to go over. We hastily ducked-walked our bikes backward because we had been stopped within a couple feet of where the shovel came down. The glass shattered in the window and the operator popped out unhurt. Luckily the shovel arm didn't go all the way across the road and there was room to pass.



The arm cut right into the tarmac:





View from the back of the pack:





The origin of bird flu:



Up and over the mountain pass. Unfortunately, on one of the corners coming down the pass, Vinh crashed his sidecar rig quite spectacularly (I'm told -- I didn't see it) and broke some ribs. He finished the day, getting to Hoi Anh, but had to fly home the next day.

Into the A Shau Valley on a very nice, fast, smooth highway with little traffic, passing Hamburger Hill on the west side of the highway, occasional pit stops and rest breaks.

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Old 04-12-2012, 10:44 AM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Suqsuda View Post
Across the old DMZ and stop at Truong Son cemetery, Vietnam's 10,000 North Vietnamese who lost their lioves in the war are laid to rest.
Amazing ride report, but I think the number above may be missing a few decimel points...it's from wikipedia so take the numbers for what their worth.

Quote:
Military Deaths
According to the Vietnamese government, there were 1,100,000 North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong military personnel deaths during the Vietnam War.[4] R.J. Rummel reviewed the many casualty data sets, this number is in keeping with his mid-level estimate of 1,011,000 North Vietnamese combatant deaths.[27] He further calculated a mid-level estimate of 251,000 Viet Cong military deaths.[5] Thus, Southern Forces (i.e.,Viet Cong) were around 22% of the total military deaths. What percentage of the remaining 849,000 North Vietnamese Regulars died in South Vietnam is unknown. The assumption is the vast majority of these deaths occurred in South Vietnam.

Civilian Deaths
R.J. Rummel's mid-level estimated that 65,000 North Vietnamese Civilians died from 1960-1975 from bombing.[28]
The Vietnamese government in 1995 estimated that 4,000,000 Vietnamese civilians on both sides died in the war.[4] Overall figures for North Vietnamese civilian dead range from 50,000[1] to 2,000,000.[29]

Specific Incident
Complete statistics for the American bombings of North Vietnam are unavailable. As noted above estimates of total 1957 to 1975 North Vietnamese civilian deaths caused by American bombing range from Rummel's low estimate of 52,000, his mid-level estimate of 65,000, his high level estimate of 70,000.[1] There is a separate PBS estimate that the 3.5 year Operation Rolling Thunder killed 182,000 civilians, with an additional 20,000 Chinese troops, although it is unclear what these figures are based on.[
The story about the Marine in the hotel in Khe Sanh is heartbreaking. God bless the soldiers that fought in that war and a curse on the bureaucrats here in the states that let their lives be wasted by not supporting them properly either in country or once they returned home.

I never get tired of ride reports of Vietnam or Laos! Please continue!!
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Old 04-12-2012, 12:24 PM   #22
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You're right about the number missing a few decimal points, my wording was unclear, that's just the number buried in the cemetery.

And I second you on your other point as well.

Thanks for reading.

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Old 04-12-2012, 01:10 PM   #23
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Another Great Vietnam RR

Good on ya


I know one day I will ride there. My BFF's wife was born there & I just love their culture & food.
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Old 04-12-2012, 02:12 PM   #24
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I am looking forward to your trip through the Ashau. I was a scout pilot and the Ashau was a large part of my AO. I remember its features vividly after 40 years. I am wondering if there is anything left of the series of fire bases between the Citadel and the Ashau along that road. It was called Rt547 then. Birmingham was just into the mountains, followed by Bastogne, Veghel, Cannon an Rendesvous. Just southwest of Hamberger was Currahee. These were quite active in 1969/70. 101st Abn.

Also there used to be a dirt strip inside the Citadel. I used to practice autorotations on it. That means rolling off the throttle and autorotating to the ground to simulate a power failure. It was fun in a Loach (OH6-A) because everything happened so fast. Fly over at 1000' and kill the power. Set up a steep glide path of 80kts, dropping about 2k'/min. Aim to a crash spot on the strip between the buildings. At 50' pull up the nose in a flair and pull pitch as the rotor speeds up to hold the RPM safely. At 25' yank all the pitch left and run out of rotor speed as you touch down. It was fun!

I tried to Google Earth, but cannot find the little STOL strip inside the walls anymore.

I wouldn't feel too bad about the Marine. He just got drunk. Lots of us drink sometimes. When we do we sometimes tell war stories or moments that still live with us. In my day, we called the NVA Dinks. For years anybody I was mad at I called a Dink too. Maybe it was a Cav thing.

But to tell you the truth, I rarely think about Nam, except for the few times when with fellow soldiers. We have a reunion called the Vietnam Helicopter Pilot's Association. The last time I went was in Philly about 3 years ago. Some guys drove a tractor trailer and parked it next to the Hotel. The trailer was set up like an officer's club hootch. It was packed all night long every night. Plenty of us behaved worse than your Marine. Some of our wives did too. Never saw such a pack of mangey old bastards behaving like they did back in the Nam when they were 21...

Thanks for your report.
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Old 04-13-2012, 08:40 AM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pantah View Post
I am looking forward to your trip through the Ashau. I was a scout pilot and the Ashau was a large part of my AO. I remember its features vividly after 40 years. I am wondering if there is anything left of the series of fire bases between the Citadel and the Ashau along that road. It was called Rt547 then. Birmingham was just into the mountains, followed by Bastogne, Veghel, Cannon an Rendesvous. Just southwest of Hamberger was Currahee. These were quite active in 1969/70. 101st Abn.
.
You must have had an amazing perspective of the war -- quite literally, from the cockpit. My hunch is you could still find traces of these old fire bases if you had coordinates, because this part of Vietnam has not been built up so much like it has along the coast.

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Old 04-13-2012, 11:30 AM   #26
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Aerial view of the A Shau Valley (pulled from the Web):



Mountain silhouettes:



This map shows the Ho Chi Minh Trail running north-south in Laos with infiltration routes fanning out into Vietnam. The A Shau Valley was a major infiltration route from the HCM trail back into Vietnam -- the northern-most of the 3-pronged 'pitchforks' shown on this map.




This map in more detail:



There is an interesting feature at the southern end of the A Shau valley where the original highway crossed the border into Laos and then back into Vietnam -- although it is a remote part of Laos and didn't link up any highways in Laos. No border posts or anything. I suspect this wrinkle in map/landscape probably figured in the Ho Chi Minh trail somehow. It was originally built this way to avoid having to build the original highway up and over a steep mountain pass in Vietnam that would require building a tunnel.

They have since built the mountain pass road and tunnel in Vietnam. But you can still see the old highway running into Laos at what is now a branch in the road. Probably a smuggling route now.

The new tunnel:



We suited up for drizzle. The mountain pass was shrouded in heavy fog, too and we crawled along sometimes with near-zero visibility. But like in much of Western Vietnam the road itself was very good and traffic almost non-existent.



Coming down off the mountain pass we had warm, clear weather again and wended our way through narrow country roads and along river valleys back toward the coast. Bridge crossing:





Brief stop in a village while heading to Hoi An:




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Old 04-13-2012, 11:53 PM   #27
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I just want one of those bikes - they seem like real ADV bikes to me.


...

Ok, not "just" ... I also wish I was there riding with ya, and appreciate the story and pics.
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Old 04-14-2012, 05:35 PM   #28
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I just want one of those bikes - they seem like real ADV bikes to me.
.
The bikes were great, well maintained. Almost all Urals, a few Dniepers. Late 60's-early 70s vintage (North) Vietnamese police and military surplus -- some were likely actually used in the war. Kick-start but usually started right up on the first kick. Low center of gravity and easy to flat-foot. Retrofitted with front disc brakes that caused the nose to dive if you used them too aggressively but much better than standard Ural brakes. I have no idea on the horsepower -- these were 650s -- but my seat of the pants dyno gave me the feeling they were surprisingly powerful compared to what you might expect. And surprisingly sweet and stable handling. They're meant to haul a sidecar and once free of that burden they do really well. And bigger than any other bike on the road in Vietnam, which has size limits from which these are grandfathered for exemption.
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Old 07-01-2012, 02:17 PM   #29
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Not over yet

Couple days in Hoi Anh then through Danang and up and over Hai Van pass. Rock slide on Hai Van pass.





About half-way up the pass my bike quit, Cuong and assistant made a quick repair to the electrics:



Cuong fixing the brakes on another bike on Hai Van pass:



Weather socked in for us on Hai Van pass:







As we ascended the pass, the road turned into narrow one-lane slabs winding along the mountain top, shrouded in fog. Was this the right road?



Hair pin curve on the descent from Hai Van pass:





We ended the day -- and the trip -- on the beach just south of Hue for a couple hours for lunch and a swim before a final ride to the airport and a flight to Ho Chi Minh City.







End of the ride in Hue airport:



Cyclo ride in Ho Chi Minh City:

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Old 07-01-2012, 04:22 PM   #30
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Nice report.

I returned from Vietnam only 3 weeks ago - having followed a very similar route to the one you took and even stayed in some of the same hotels

Great trip , great times.

Thanks for filling in some gaps for me

My ride report with a special tribute to 24hr stomach bug

Vietnam
http://advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=802311
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