Advice on Vietnam

Discussion in 'Asia' started by stan.riner, Mar 18, 2013.

  1. stan.riner

    stan.riner Been here awhile

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    Edit:
    I'm living here now and things are going good. I'm really enjoying it. I bought a 2007 TTR 250 with motard wheels and a 2002 XR250 with full off-road knobbies. We also got a little 100cc scooter that's perfect for zipping around town.
    I'll keep posting until I get a ride report that deserves its own thread.


    Original:
    I'm thinking about putting in for a expat job in Vietnam for the multinational company I work for. My wife is all for it but I'm kind of leery about it. I thought I'd at least post some questions in here.
    It's a power plant in Mông Dương which is in the Northeast part of Vietnam.

    I have limited info so far. We would probably be living on the plant site in a community that gets set up eventually. Before that, we may have to live about an hour away. I've heard they're looking for a four year commitment. That seems like a long time. One guy that went over there quit and came back. He told me they were living in containers. The plant is still under construction. I'm not sure if they were finished or actual containers with some cots in them.

    A little about us:
    My wife and I are both in our 40's, kids are grown and on their own. Both are avid dirt and street riders. We both race trail races. I'm and A rider and she's a B rider.

    Some questions:
    • Would it be safe for her to go out and about by herself? She's an attractive busty blond. EDIT: Vietnam is one of the safest places on the planet. Christina rides her motorbike all over the place, even to the next town to teach English. the Vietnamese ladies that sew clothes grope her because they're not used to seeing curves. We've made friends with locals, eaten dinner at their houses, and generally have a fun time when we go out (which is very often). They treat us like celebrities sometimes to the point where it gets annoying. They always want me to drink with them, even when I'm running or riding my bicycle for exercise!
    • Could we bring our bikes? I have a two stroke KTM 300 for dirt and a tarded' 2013 500 exc for the street. She rides a KTM 144 for dirt and a DRZ400SM for the street.
    • Would there be any job opportunities for her? She doesn't have a college degree so I'm not sure if she could teach English. The goal would be for purpose, not money. EDIT: She got a teaching job. The local language school offered her $10.00 cash but she does it for free. She just wants to help and that gives her something to do.
    • Are un-exploded ordinances a real concern for trail riding? EDIT: since there's not a huge off-road riding group here, there's not very well developed single track type trails here. There are logging roads and those will be safe. I think the chances of getting into something is very small. In America, we have to do an environmental impact statement prior to building. Here, you also have to do an UXO survey. Our site only had a couple of them and it's huge.
    • If it's not safe for her to ride, is it at least safe for her to be out by herself. For example, going to the market? EDIT: very safe. Even more so in the small towns like we live in.
    • Are there any organized trail races within a reasonable distance? EDIT: no racing. I've heard it's illegal. Man about 20 guys on Nuovo scooters could really have some fun here.
    • Would there be any other expats in that area to make friends with? EDIT: the only expats inthis area are the guys I work with and their wives. She's made friends with a could of Korean wives. They get along great. She's also got some local friends but the language barrier is pretty tough. Most of the Enlish speakers move to the big city for job opportunities.

    Sorry if the questions are basic. We really have no idea how it is there.

    I've been to Taiwan and Hong Kong 12 years ago so that's my comparison.

    The expat package would be good with a premium over my current salary, travel allowance, paid living expenses, tax equalization, etc. We would keep our place in Hawaii but would not have a guaranteed return job. We love Hawaii and this will always be our home.
    This would be a good way to see a bunch of other stuff on someone else's dime and reduce the time to retirement.
    #1
  2. theshaneler

    theshaneler Adventurer

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    I will give you what info I know. My wife is from Vietnam, and I have spent some time there, so i know a bit about the country. Unfortunately, she is from the south and that is the only part of the country i have visited. The south tends to be more modern as apposed to the north which is more traditional, both in terms of socialization and the economy.

    1) in the cities i was in, i felt more than comfortable going around by my self, probably had something to do with the fact that I'm 6'3. You will get to know which are the better markets and which are the shady ones. If your work is setting up a housing complex, its common that it will be in a "white" neighborhood, where a large portion of the residents are foreigners there for work. So you will meet people, and seeing a foreigner at the market will become common place and not a spectacle for the locals in the area.

    2)You could bring your bikes, but be prepared to pay, there is a 400% tax on importing vehicles that are not made in Vietnam.

    3)you would be hard pressed to find a job unless you speak the local language.

    4) no idea if there is anything in the bushes, but i know malaria is still an issue in the bush in northern Vietnam, better talk to your doctor if you plan on doing some bush riding.

    5) Kind of answered in 1. TBH the roads there take a lot of getting used to, I can't even say its organized chaos, its just chaos. at least thats what it looks like if you are used to driving in america/europe/any non asian contry
    It is infact very safe, everyone on the road looks after one another, as apposed the the american "this is my road, i own it" mentality.

    6) no idea, talk to VietHorse, he resides in Vietnam and may be able to tell you, but if i remember right, he lives in Saigon (ho chi min) city, which is in the southern part of the country.

    7) most major cities have a section of town that foreigners move to, so I'm sure you will see some.

    Like i said please keep in mind that only have experience in southern Vietnam which tends to be less traditional and things may be different in the north.
    I would like to point out, after the first 2 weeks of my 6 week visit did i decide that i wanted to retire there. absolutely the most beautiful country I have ever been to. the lifestyle and daily routine take a bit of an adjustment, but its completely worth it. typing all this really makes me want to go back.
    #2
  3. stan.riner

    stan.riner Been here awhile

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    Thanks so much for taking the time to respond.

    I talked to a friend who works for the same company as I do and he shared some info. I've gotten comfortable that she'll be safe.

    As far as work/purpose for her, he said that anyone with an American accent will have opportunities.
    Housing: We'll be in a very remote area and the plan is to have a community on the plant site. That's about a year from being completed so we'll have to live out in town somewhere. Luckily, my wife is very low maintenance and tough so she's up for whatever.

    We'll both definitely want to ride off-road. We'll bring our riding gear and try to pick up some dual sport bikes there locally. We'll have one or two trips per year back to Hawaii so we'll keep our bikes/set of gear here as well. I plan on coming back to do the big race(s). I can't get a clear understanding on the size restrictions. Most sources say 175cc but then I find a thread with pictures of Harleys.

    I know we'll make friends. That's one of the many great things about the motorcycling community. No matter what cultural, socio-economic, whatever differences, bikes will always bring people together.
    #3
  4. HUNG

    HUNG n00b

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    Hi

    I think, you as an adventurer will not be dispapointed if you come here

    we have a lot of off-road riders and riding here a lot of fun

    it's safe here for you and your wife, I have some friends from Canada, Germany who live here for more than ten years

    I know the area you will be living, for sure you can live in a nearby town or in Halong city. (in June this year we will have an offroad competition (4x4) in this province)

    Here you can get big bikes: Harley, Ducati, BMW... (I have F650GS) if you have $$ to pay taxes

    we dont have race track yet, but riding in the forest or to the mountains would be more interesting.

    hope these can help you to make decision

    let me know if you need more infor

    cheers

    Hung
    #4
  5. stan.riner

    stan.riner Been here awhile

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    I have a 2013 KTM500 exc with motard wheels.

    Can I pretty much rule out bringing it due to import taxes? Man I love that bike.

    Are there other decent dual sports that meet the engine size restrictions?

    Also, I don't race motocross. Just trails.
    #5
  6. explodingmouse

    explodingmouse Been here awhile

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    Hi I lived in Hanoi for 7 years and have found Vietnam to be a very safe country for foreigners , they have very severe penaltys for crime against foreigners.

    The Northern mountains are an extremely beautifull area to ride.
    #6
  7. stan.riner

    stan.riner Been here awhile

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    It seems really safe. I haven't ran across any negative stories about it.

    As far as riding, I looked at motorcycles for sale in Vietnam. Mostly scooters but I saw some bigger dirt bikes. Can anyone shed light on how those are getting in?

    For example,
    Is this an off-road only or could you ride it on the street? Did someone import it and pay the 100% tariff that I've read about? How is that determined?


    begin ad:
    good condition KTM 350 SXF, new cylinder head + cylinder + piston, all stuff is less then 30 hr. some aftermarket stuffs, rest stock. bike runs great with no issue. asking 6k5 usd shipped to your door. contact 0903002308. thanks

    Location: quan binh thanh
    http://vietnam.craigslist.org/mcy/3692503685.html
    #7
  8. geezus

    geezus n00b

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    G'day Stan, sorry about taking a while to get back to you. Just to let you know where I'm coming from - I've lived in Hanoi for the last four years, used to ride a road bike back in Aus, have done quite a lot of travelling around the North/North West on smaller bikes/scooters and just picked up KLX250 last year.

    Yes, generally Vietnam is very safe. Normal precautions about being out alone late at night still apply ofcourse, as they would anywhere else in the world.
    I think you could but as far as I know you would have to pay import duty on them which is very high. I'm no expert on this though. Probably much better to purchase locally - KTM strokers would be difficult to find (anything is possible though) but 250 4-stroke enduro bikes are easy enough to get your hands on and 400/450s can be had too but are less common. Vietnamese licensing discourages bikes bigger than 175cc though, so you won't see many on the street.

    Regarding how a lot of the >175cc dirt bikes get in - I'm not sure of the exact mechanics of it but you'll find a lot (not all) of them are not properly registered. Some will have no papers at all and some have papers saying they are 150cc or less (this is mostly to avoid needing the hard to get big bike license I think). Corruption and long, loosely controlled land borders with even less tightly governed countries probably goes some way to explaining it. Enforcement of having vehicles properly registered is tightening up though so this might begin to change.
    It would depend on where you end up living. I expect she could pick up some classes in Halong City without too much trouble. Technically she should be qualified for the job (TOEFL/CELTA + degree) but there are plenty of schools that will take any native speakers. Keep in mind though that given they are willing to let standards slip in the area of who they hire they will generally be letting other things slip too. Minor complaints by teachers about treatment by their employers are pretty common. Finding something for her to do is a good idea. Depending on what other skills she has other opportunities might pop up too, companies working in international environments sometimes find it useful to have someone with a Western perspective on-staff.
    No, not at all.
    Yes, absolutely safe.
    There's no organised motorcycle racing in the North. I believe there's been a few MX races run around HCMC which if you were really keen you could fly down to. Keep in mind also that the standard of health care is much lower than you might be used to and a medivac to Bangkok takes a long time to organise - so you may not feel as comfortable riding as aggressively as you would at home (I certainly don't).
    That depends whether you are living on site, in town or in Halong City. There's a small expat community in Halong city but the expats I knew living in Halong would still make fairly regular trips down to Hanoi (about a 2-3hr drive) to socialise. I'd be very surprised if there is more than a handful of expats living around Mông Dương. Hanoi has a very active expat community.

    Other general advice:

    - You'll be here for a while so make the effort to at least learn some of the language. It's not an easy and not many (western) foreigners get to the point of fluency but having some basics makes life so much better. You'll need to take lessons and it will be frustrating at times but it pays off.
    - Life's pretty comfortable in VN but come into it with an open mind and flexible attitude or you'll be constantly frustrated by things that don't work the same or as well as you are used to at home.

    @Hung Anh la chu tich CLB Offroad Ha Noi dung khong? Em da gap anh mot lan roi, o bai Song Hong khi lam chuong trinh TV ve nhom Dirtbike.
    #8
  9. stan.riner

    stan.riner Been here awhile

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    Thanks for the detailed reply geezus.
    #9
  10. stan.riner

    stan.riner Been here awhile

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    I emailed the guy with the KTM 350 on the Vietnam craigslist. He said the bike is in HCMC. I didn't ask him how but I sure would like to know if there's a way to get my 2008 KTM 300 in the country.
    #10
  11. Josh69

    Josh69 Uhhh

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    I did 3 years in HCMC working for an oil company. A remote part of VN would be more of a challenge from a point of view of finding things to do but safety in all ov VN is fine.

    You need a VN licence to ride without problems and you need an A2 class licence to ride bikes over 175cc. Basically, the Vietnamese do not like giving out A2 licences to foreigners. It appears to be impossible in HCMC but I have heard of foreigners getting an A2 licence in Vung Tau. An A1+car licence is easy to get. In 2010 it was expensive to permanently import bikes. Temp imports may be cheaper or the rules may have changed, I don't know.

    Overall it is safe for you, safe for your wife but anywhere out of the way there will not be much to do.

    See signature for trip reports.
    #11
  12. Josh69

    Josh69 Uhhh

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    Yes, there are a lot of 250cc bikes with fake registration papers, often imported from Cambodia. There are also >175cc bikes which are genuine imports which Vietnamese with A2 licences buy.

    I almost bought a fake 250cc bike at one stage but as I was going to get the cash, I thought to myself "do I really want to spend $2500 on a 15 year old bike with fake papers".... Then I bought a new 125cc with real papers for half the price instead.

    OP you should bear in mind that travel speeds are much slower in VN. IMHO a 250cc bike would be perfect for VN. You don't need a larger bike.... so if 250cc is perfect, maybe a locally sold 175cc with good spare part availability is sort of ok.
    #12
  13. stan.riner

    stan.riner Been here awhile

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    I'm ok with the slower, smaller bike for the street (even though I'm 6'2"/225lbs). I'm actually more into dirt riding. I'd like to explore some of the other countries in the area so it would be nice just to ride the same bike.

    Thanks for all of the advice so far. I think we're going for a visit before we commit. Maybe it'll be in May.
    #13
  14. VietHorse

    VietHorse Long timer

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    Recalculating... recalculating.... HCMC-Vietnam :)
    Just see this thread.
    Let me take sometimes to read all the content first... :deal
    #14
  15. stan.riner

    stan.riner Been here awhile

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    I looked through your ride reports. I'm from Oklahoma so I thought about what it was like for you to go to Texas. Probably about the same as what it will be like the first time I ride over there!

    My wife and I are coming the first or second week of May for a visit. We plan on staying a few days each in Hanoi, Ha Long bay, and Cam Pha (the area near where the plant is being built).

    Thanks in advance for any advice.

    The biggest thing I'm having to come to terms with is how my dirt riding will change. We'll probably do more backpacking and camping. We've been wanting to do other things but they never compete with riding dirt bikes! I saw a KTM 350 exc in HCMC for $6500. I emailed the guy and he says he has it there. Something like that would be great and even better if I could ride it on the street.

    One thing I wonder, could I apply for an A2 due to my size? I'm 6'2" and 225 lbs so a Minsk is going to be a little cramped!
    #15
  16. Josh69

    Josh69 Uhhh

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    If one province won't give you an A2, try another province, eg Vung Tau.

    Minsks are actually a lot of fun. These days they have mostly been replaced by other bikes however. Google Minsk Club Vietnam.

    Camping in VN would be seen as a bit odd btw. There is always somewhere to stay, even in out of the way areas.

    Hanoi has quite a few tourist oriented petty rip-offs. This is not typical of the rest of VN. Problems are almost always avoided by clarifying the price beforehand. And don't get in no- name company beat up looking taxis. Reputable taxis are new and in good condition.
    #16
  17. VietHorse

    VietHorse Long timer

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    Howdy,
    Welcome to Vietnam and I am sure there will be lots of things for you to explore and have fun with. :freaky
    I was born in the North and moved to South (Hochiminh City) to live and work after graduated from the Uni.
    So, most of the things related to motorcycle I have experienced are in the South. However....

    Ok, living in Vietnam never being difficulty for any foreigners, ref to all the foreigners I 've known. All of them love and willing to stay to live and work here. So that don't worry about the living, just the matter of how you satisfy with sorts of low quality of public transportation, communication, services.... in comparison with other developed Countries.

    Mong Duong thermal power plant is located in Quang Ninh province, not too far from Halong Bay, the World Nature Heritage, just around 50miles.
    The topography of that area is considered highland. There are a lot of mountains and you definitely can have dirt roads to ride on. And further more, raining season there up North is quite hard, and you will have super difficult dirt trails to try.

    For your wife's job: I have no idea. For your wife's safety: I am sure she can hang around without any issue, just do not bring attractive, expensive jewelries, don't bring much cash, and try to learn how to bargain, then she 's safe in every way.

    For the bike. I would say it's not so difficult to get one in here. However you may need to pay much higher than what it supposed to cost, like in the US. Govt wants to develop domestic industry and not to put more pressure to traffic so the import taxes of vehicles here are crazy high. Sometimes, the price you pay here is triple than what you have to pay in the US for the same thing. About the fake title, yup, it's there. You may from the US or EU and think it's funny, but that's not a strange thing around SE Asia, i.e. Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, or even Singapore. That's what I 've known by my own eyes. Don't pay too much time to search for the bike when you are not arrived yet.
    Reason why I say so - because we buying and selling bike in local shops, face to face, or thru our local website, and you can't find them on CL or some other Expat blogs; unless, the bike is own by a foreigner, or the one who know foreigners well.
    So, get your ticket to here, landed, and I can show you some friends at the North and you can ask them more details, or even guide you where and how to buy a legal bike there.

    For the A2. There 's nothing black and white saying that the foreigner can't get the A2. However, A2 is even super difficult to the locals.
    Some requirements I would like to quote here FYI:
    - You have to have the bike registered under your name (>175cc bike)
    - You have to have the Motorcycle Athlete Certification Card (which shows you are the one who in a recognized Motorcycle Sport team) - unless you have the Vietnam Military or Police Identification Card instead.
    - You have to have the Letter of Introduction from Department of Sports to send you to get the A2 Cert.
    ...
    Those three are the most difficult part. And I am sure you can't do the No. 2 and 3 by your own, as well as the normal locals.
    However, don't worry too much on that.
    For the 1st stage, just come, buy a bike to feel it first. Then go to a lawyer office and ask them to translate your (motorcycle) license into Vietnamese and get it official notarized. Now, you can enjoy riding with your own license + notarized translation + passport. If you are busted, show them all those paper you have, then you are Okay! (There is no-where saying that the foreigners can ride with their own license in Vietnam, but as soon as you are foreigner, the Police won't try to mess you up, unless you are involved in an accident).

    Now the 2nd stage, the same with the Bike, the locals there could guide you how to get those.

    Welcome to ride with us if you have chance to be at the South: acemtsg.com
    #17
  18. stan.riner

    stan.riner Been here awhile

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    Viethorse, thanks for the great info.

    You and your friends have really nice bikes. I've always liked that Honda Interceptor that you have.

    It seems like foreigners have a nice time living and working there. I was researching about learning Vietnamese and I read on an expat forum about one guy that gave up learning it after 3 months and has been there 10 years! Another bit if info was that it's more difficult to learn because you're never truly immersed in it because you speak English at work (with other expats for sure and a lot of Vietnamese also speak English) and you don't have to learn Vietnamese to function. I would love to be able to learn it but I understand the challenges.

    The locals must be saying "if you're going to be here, learn the damn language" like we Americans like to say!

    Funny story:
    In the 80's, my mom worked at a wholesaler and several Vietnamese folks worked there. Of course they would speak Vietnamese to each other (just like I'll speak English with other English speakers when I'm around them in Vietnam). She was convinced they were talking about her. In hindsight, they probably could have cared less!

    I'm confident that we'll make new friends especially if we get into motorcycling.
    #18
  19. BitShuffler

    BitShuffler Adventurer

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    They probably were talking about her - Vietnamese love to gossip and commenting on all sorts of 'personal' things to your face is perfectly OK.

    It takes a while to get used to people saying things like "you're looking fat today" as a greeting :)

    Sounds like you've got the right attitude to enjoy yourself here. Give me a yell if you want to chat over a beer when you get to Hanoi.
    (I'm geezus from before btw, not sure how that happened)
    #19
  20. LastWalkman

    LastWalkman Adventurer

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    Hi mate,

    I worked for EPTC before (a brand of EVN) who now is negotiating with owner of BOT Mong duong 2.
    This power plant is placed Cam Pha city - small city in Quang Ninh province, 170km from Hanoi, 50km from Halong city. It is now under construction and its COD is in 2015 but I dont think that their employee is living in containers. No way

    I will respond your questions now:

    • Would it be safe for her to go out and about by herself? She's an attractive busty blond: Yes, it's not dangerous as you think. Most of people is friendly, at least with beautiful woman as your wife LOL
    • Could we bring our bikes? I have a two stroke KTM 300 for dirt and a tarded' 2013 500 exc for the street. She rides a KTM 144 for dirt and a DRZ400SM for the street: No, it could not if your company do not give suggestion to Government of Vietnam. You can buy dirtbikes without registration in Vietnam then sell it before leaving.
    • Would there be any job opportunities for her? She doesn't have a college degree so I'm not sure if she could teach English. The goal would be for purpose, not money: Yes, if money is not your goal
    • Are un-exploded ordinances a real concern for trail riding? Yes. you have to own driving license for big motorcycle ( cylinder of 175cc and above). However, Vietnamese police always ignore foreiners.
    • If it's not safe for her to ride, is it at least safe for her to be out by herself. For example, going to the market? For moving purpose only, you'd better buy a small motorcycle for her (auto or semi-auto motorcycle)
    • Are there any organized trail races within a reasonable distance? No, it is banned in Vietnam but you can travel with it
    • Would there be any other expats in that area to make friends with? Yes. Mong duong 2 is one of biggest thermal power plant in Vietnam. Therefore I think that it has some expats who will work and live around your place.
    Now I live in Hanoi, work for a tour company and travel with our club - Dirtbike Friends. If you love to travel by dirtbike, buy one and ride with us, mate
    #20