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Old 05-25-2015, 09:45 AM   #1
Romanousky OP
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Venturing south through vietnam

I have finally been persuaded by my loyal fan club to post some images and what verbiage I recall of a short trip that Alex (JohnsonAl) and I completed last April.

The 6 month adventure of Latin America is located in my signature and was a life changing adventure that I have dwelled on for the past couple years. The plan is to do an RTW but I was itching for a break from work so naturally I call up Al back in November '14 , "Dude you wanna go ride 'Nam?" Alex, "yeah sure but I don't have any money."

Three reasons I chose Vietnam:
1. Very difficult/impossible to import a foreign bike so rather than parking my steed in Laos for a month on my future RTW I will just get to skip out on Vietnam. Basically just checking it off the list early.
2. I have spent some time in Thailand and really enjoyed SEA
3. It is cheap

Moving forward, I jumped on the computer and snagged a pair of tickets for $1700 total. We fly out March 2nd and return April 6th. I chose the month of March because it appeared to be the driest when looking at precipitation trends and this choice did not let us down.
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Old 05-25-2015, 10:17 AM   #2
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So after I bought the tickets I asked my boss for the time off work...he asked if it was negotiable..."NO". Basically you let me do this or you can let me go...Please keep in mind that he is the one that begged me to come back after the first trip and I explicitly told him that one condition would be me taking semi-extended periods of "time off without pay".

In the meantime Al and I did a little research and tried to make a list of all the things that we wanted to see. Vietnam is interesting in the fact that there really isn't that much to see as far as epic beauty and amazing natural wonders, etc....certainly not empty of such things but the list was rather short; this was a good thing.

We learned a lot on our first ride and laying down too many miles in a day is overrated and you miss too much stuff. We knew we would be on scooters and assumed they would have an approximate top speed of 40-45 mph. We figured 100-120 miles per day could be done in 4-5 hours which leaves us with plenty of sightseeing and party time. We also knew we were going to clock about 2,000 miles in total so that is only 20 days of riding out of 32+ days total.

So I sent our passports and some cash down to the Vietnamese consulate in San Fran and within 10 days we both had 90 day Visas to Vietnam.

Then in preparation for the trip I got to work on a few things. First I built some racks for our Wolfman luggage. I had no idea what size they should be and just guessed hoping that they would slip over the rear end of a scooter. They would also act as a "frame" for checked luggage. Then I bought a road map on Amazon as well as some American flag board shorts, sunglasses, & tank top.



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Old 05-25-2015, 10:34 AM   #3
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With all the prep work taken care of we just had to sit back and wait for March.

Al and I are both busy and we live 4 hours apart so we never ended up seeing each other between scheduling of the trip and departure but like clockwork he shows up on Friday (we leave Sunday) so that we can "Prepare for the trip" and take care of last minute items.

Al, the Michelada connoisseur that he is, shows up with nothing but the good stuff:



After too many of these we hit the sack and then got up for some early afternoon golf....



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Old 05-25-2015, 10:53 AM   #4
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So I got cheap plane tickets flying Asiana and one of the kickers was that it was a direct flight out of Seattle....I live about 300 miles due south of Seattle. I have a good friend that manages a company in Portland as well as one of the other branches in Seattle which means he has to drive up and stay in Seattle every other week and because we are flying out on a Monday morning this ended up working out perfectly....Not! One of his employees quit, one was suspended, and one was sick (out of 6) so he had to stay in Portland for the week.

I found this thing called the BOLT bus that is a direct route from DT Portland to a train station in Seattle for $18/person...perfect. So we spent the night at my buddies house in Portland and he dropped us downtown at 5:30 for the 6:00 bus.

For some reason this is the only photo i have on the bus:




Here is Al waiting at the train station for a short 20 minute ride to the airport:





Really stupid on my part: So my original plan was to buy an ultra cheap duffel bag that I could throw away on arrival to pack extra gear (and check two bags) but I never ended up doing this. Therefore, with my Wolfmans full of luggage my plan was to where my riding gear including boots, pants, jacket, onto the plane. I figured I could stow the boots and I was going to grab a pair of shorts out of my bags before checking the luggage but I totally forgot. I forgot because things got complicated at check in.



The woman at check in, who is also a stewardess and Vietnamese, asked me what this thing was...I responded that it was motorcycle luggage. She thought it was an actual motorcycle and started asking if it had oil and gas in it and then managers had to come inspect and so on and so forth but we got it all straightened out and the Woflman's went onto the plane...in the future I will just call it a suit case.

So then we start drinking in the airport and I'm sweating like crazy in my Sidi boots and Klim pants so I found an Exoficio and bought a pair of shorts for the flight.





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Old 05-25-2015, 11:19 AM   #5
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The Plan

So I originally thought we would just rent bikes and I did pass a couple of emails back and forth with Flamingo bike rentals in Hanoi but Al was more interested in buying bikes just because it would be so much cheaper. Working with flamingo was great so if you want to rent I would recommend them. I think your average scooter style bike was about $15-20/day so you are looking at $500 for the month and then a $80? fee to ship the bike from Saigon back up to Hanoi on the train.

On the other hand we can buy a bike right in the $300 range and recoupe most of that by selling to other travels down south. I'm pretty handy with a wrench and I've read that a complete engine rebuild runs in the $35-55 range. Al wanted more "adventure" by purchasing our own and I thought it would be a good experience as well so lets do it. Don't get me wrong, best case would have been to rent a "big bike" like a CRF230L or something but we were looking at $1200 for the month and you should keep in mind that our end goal with plane tickets, lodging, food, drinks, extra curricular, etc... we wanted to spend $2,500 each....pretty good for a month long vacation huh?

In Hanoi there are tons of ads on Craigslist for the standard Honda Win 110cc bike ranging from $220 to $330. Some from travelers but most from local dealers knowing that this is the "bike of choice" for backpackers.

Here is typical ad:

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Old 05-25-2015, 11:31 AM   #6
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Our flight was decent but I have flown Korean Air and Thai Air and I believe both are far superior to this Asiana flight.

Some local food on the way over:



Complete with little dried fishes. They tasted extremely fishy so opted against them on my meal.



I watched a few movies and then we started to approach our one and only layover in South Korea....you can see the "planned path" on the gps dealio and I'm thinking "I don't think anyone is supposed to fly over North Korea"...I hate flying so all i need is one more thing to be nervous about...

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Old 05-25-2015, 11:57 AM   #7
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We came right up to the tip of North Korea and then swung wide westerly over China and the East China Sea traveling south until we came back east and landed on the island which is Incheon Airport.

A short layover and we were back in the air for a 4-5 hour flight into Hanoi. We were going to land about 11:00 at night so I already booked a hotel online. Thanks to SoloSurfer I just took his advice and booked the Symphony hotel which seemed to be centrally located and it was only $26/night which would end up being one of the priciest places on our travels. The Symphony was fine and worked for what we needed but there are better places to be had.

Walking into the room the first thing you notice is how much cleaner things are than in latin America...the next thing you notice is your cracked tail bone when you plop down onto what appears like a very comfortable bed but ends up being made from plywood and foam....and when I say "foam" I mean like a 4" thick block of styrofoam...not your rolled up foam sleeping pad that you use for camping.

Realizing this we head out for drinks to make sleeping easier...the city is dead! Midnight and there is nothing going on save for a couple guys cruising around on scooters offering "Boom Boom" and "Mare Wanna". Note to self, get up at 6:00 and be in bed at 10:00...these are the operational hours of Vietnam.

We were up at 5:30 AM ready for coffee and some bike shopping:



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Old 05-25-2015, 12:10 PM   #8
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The town is just starting to wake up so we go for a stroll looking for food and potentially motorcycles.





Hoan Kiem Lake:



Then right across the street we see a semi-elderly Michael Jackson dance group work out thing going on at 6:00 AM mind you!!! Al and I just looked at each other thinking/saying "Vietnam is gonna be F*ck'in Great"



There were lots of group dancing and stretching things going on super early in the morning. This was only witnessed in Hanoi but really quite entertaining.
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Old 05-25-2015, 12:34 PM   #9
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Subscribed. I love Vietnam.
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Old 05-25-2015, 12:53 PM   #10
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Thank you for making the effort to write this one as well. Subscribed and looking forward to this one!
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Old 05-25-2015, 12:55 PM   #11
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The first day we just absorbed the town and drank most of the day looking for words to recollect, decide on the Go-To beer, and try to get a feel for the culture we were entering.

The telecom lines of 'Nam are always a favorite; I think the only place I have seen on par or better than this is Mumbai, India....





Nice elevated bar to take in the sights. It is rather difficult walking in the city as it is so so so chaotic and non-stop that sometimes you just want to climb up or or get in a hole and relax for a moment. Don't get me wrong, very interesting/unique but after a while it can get to you a bit.



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Old 05-25-2015, 01:48 PM   #12
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Another good trip?Im in.I see you say you got hurt bummer,heal up
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Old 05-25-2015, 01:51 PM   #13
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Bikes

So we looked at a bunch of bikes and asked about prices just to get a feel for what we could get in the $300 range for our first day of pounding the streets. The next morning we responded to some CL ads that travelers had posted but each one seemed to slip away from us before we could meet up...I had no idea how popular it was to ride a scooter through Vietnam but lots of backpackers attempting this....and i will add that a lot are failing miserably and rightfully so.

Anyway, we found a pair from a shop that appeared to be somewhat taken care of. They had original plastics, paint, stiff spokes, fresh oil changes, even oil in the forks. You have to understand that all of the "Honda Wins" are 1. clapped out 2. Not made in Japan 3. are really just pieces of shit and it is anyone's guess how many each of these have traveled the length of the country.

We decided to test drive them. Our first impression was "WTF did we just get in to this thing is a pile of garbage". Missed shifts, stuttering carb, bent wheels...just seemed like a total piece of garbage...and THESE WERE TWO OF THE NICER ONES!! at this point we had listened to a number run and looked at bunch so we did a little negotiation and picked up each one for $280 which was really quite high but we figured the extra $50 each was going to be well spent primarily of resale as these were two of the best looking WINS in all of Hanoi.

My engine case said "Super Malays" and Al's said "Canary"...When asked, the Vietnamese would give mine the thumbs up and a mediocre hand wobble when shown the Canary. Apparently mine was made in Malaysia and Al's was Chinese according to local's but they share the same design with interchangeable parts, etc...

First thing is first, i break out the Wolfman tool roll and mount up my Garmin 60csx with 'Nam maps already loaded. The local's thought it was hilarious to see traveler's with Tools, GPS, moto luggage, etc...

Next morning we geared up, or in Al's case, slapped on a helmet and rain jacket. The luggage racks fit perfectly! I couldn't have made them fit any better if I had the measurements of the bike before hand...SWEET! While all these photos are "wet" it has yet to actually rain on us.

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Old 05-25-2015, 02:09 PM   #14
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We hit the rode and seamlessly revert to our derelict style riding of south america and are simply smashing through the street of Hanoi. The plan is to head North and do a 10-14 day loop through the high country near China before swinging back down to the south.

I wanted to see the iconic B52 wreckage in Huu Tiep Lake. I did not realize this lake was hidden away in a neighborhood and actually difficult to find. I thought it would have its own park, etc... Anyway, we found a museum on the way and then a short bit later made it to the lake.









After this we break out of town and get to some kind of main road. The bikes came with hardly any fuel and we have yet to see a gas station...??? Another 10 miles and still no gas so we pull off the road and asked some locals where we could find fuel....they say no problem, ask how much we want, and blast off on a scooter. 5 minutes later the lady is back with our fuel. We each got a gallon and we were each charged about $12....Obviously we were getting ripped off but we didn't make a scene, just paid the helpful people and left. 3 gas stations only 2 miles further down the road and gas here is about $3.50/gallon so now I really feel ripped off. I will make an note here that the people of Vietnam are very honest, very hard working, and genuinely good folks. This is the only situation on the entire trip where we were ripped off and there were plenty of opportunities for people to take advantage. This was a big plus over Latin America.

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Old 05-25-2015, 02:23 PM   #15
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In!
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