Cape York & into Asia via Timor-Leste, Indonesia, etc

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by The Bigfella, Nov 10, 2011.

  1. The Bigfella

    The Bigfella Big Adventurer

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    We headed up the coast road. We had no interest in going near Highway 1, we wanted to see the rural areas, rather than follow the diesel trail.

    We got our first taste of the wet season and stopped for lunch whilst the heavens opened. This is my "bike" getting a rinse

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    We headed up through La Gi to Phan Rang and then had an epic 6+ hour ride up to Da Lat - and that was to do just 107 kilometres.

    Problems were starting to show up with my bike and I was visiting a repair shop every day. This was one of several attempts to fix a dreadful rattle with the tinware around the chain.... and to try and get some front brake.

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    We stayed in La Gi on our first night out of Vung Tau and ended up having a quiet drink at this pub. A woman came over and asked us where we were from. It turned out she and her hubby and kids lived in Australia, not far from where I grew up and they had a couple of nail salon businesses. They were home visiting family, who ran the pub, and would we like to join them. Hell yeah...

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    Only the Aussie-Vietnamese spoke English, but they gave us a damned good rundown on what to do and expect. They also introduced me to "baby-egg", a Vietnamese delicacy that really should be tried. Kylie is vegetarian, so she resisted. Baby-egg is an egg (chicken in this case) that is almost due to hatch... which is then boiled. You eat the whole damn bird. No photos, but let's just say it tastes a lot better than it looks.

    Another bike problem... this time, my rear wheel bearing. Luckily, there was a "Honda" shop across the road from where it finally carked it. I think it cost me $5 to get this and the rubber shock setup in the hub replaced.

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    That meant a late arrival into Phan Rang... after dark. Our hotel in Phan Rang was a shocker. I've been in a lot of prisons in my time (never overnight... just visiting)... and this one sure reminded me of a prison

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    The bike was proving to be a bit quicker after that bearing got replaced, btw. I'd had trouble getting beyond 80 kph... and now I was into the high 80's.

    We'd been put onto that really good coastal road that Luc had pencilled it in for us. He was right, we'd go 10km at a time without seeing another human and that's something that's damn hard to do in Vietnam. No escaping the rubbish though

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    Kylie had managed to source some silk gloves to keep the sun off....

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    There were some nice fishing boats on the coast though in the small towns

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    We'd come into that fishing port on the back road north of Mui Ne and when we stopped to get a drink, the locals said "you must be lost".

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    But we weren't... we'd followed the pencilled in line. We turned of DT176 about 15km north of Mui Ne... and got onto the track that took us to where the boats were... in Phan Ri Cua. So much better that going via Highway 1.... which we then got onto for the blast up to Phan Rang.

    Speaking of Mui Ne

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    We didn't spend much time there, but its worth a look. Too many resorts for our liking.

    The scenery on the road to Da Lat is lovely, but there was a lot of road construction going on and it took us all damn day to get there, with lots of holdups

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    We spotted this fella in a temple heading up the hill to Da Lat.

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  2. loxsmith

    loxsmith Good ol days my arse

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    Love reading your updates, you must spend ages putting them together?

    Anyhow, thanks for taking the time to share

    Glen
  3. The Bigfella

    The Bigfella Big Adventurer

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    Thanks Glen. As it turns out, I've had a bit of time on my hands, in the leadup to my next trip, so I decided to go back through my old photos and videos. I've been stitching panoramas together and a few video clips.

    I found some lovely gems in the photos... like this delightful map of Oz, that was somewhere in Ho Chi Minh City

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    Here's a quick clip of some on-the-water time in Cambodia and Vietnam

    <iframe width="560" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/bB0g2nlGGHU" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
  4. The Bigfella

    The Bigfella Big Adventurer

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    I want to add in a couple of extra boat photos that I think I should have included.

    This one shows a couple of interesting things...

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    ... namely, a straight-through exhaust... and some of them are damn noisy, un-protected flywheels (and her with long hair)... and as is common, a couple working together.

    One of the many fish farms, just off the river

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    Speaking of fish farms... this was a croc farm on Lake Tonle Sap

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    ... and, the one I was looking for, another "boat" from Phan Ri Cua

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  5. The Bigfella

    The Bigfella Big Adventurer

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    Whilst on the subject of fishing boats, there's some huge fishing fleets near Mui Ne.

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    While I was up north, a typhoon came through and a LOT of fishermen were missing. Over 250 were reported missing at the time and I never heard whether they were found or not.

    Da Lat was "interesting". We arrived in town at the start of a holiday weekend. That wasn't good. We must've been knocked back at 15 different hotels and guesthouses before we got smart and managed to ask if they knew where we could get a bed. A few phone calls later and we were installed on the third floor, as usual, of a rather downmarket hotel. We were the only westerners... and the only room, it seemed, with less than a dozen people in it (mostly screaming kids). The noise in the hotel, until very late, was incredible. Its a real pity that I didn't take a photo of the bathroom. It had a western toilet, but it was installed in an alcove with just a few inches in front of the bowl - and I had to sit on it sideways to use it. Weird.

    We had some good scores whilst shopping.... a schoolbook atlas of Vietnam... much better than our single-sheet map... and a cushion for my scooter seat. I was having major leg issues due to the cramped seating position.

    One thing I really wished I could source was better straps for the luggage. Cheap "occie" straps weren't good. The locals use long strips of rubber, cut from truck inner tubes, I think.

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    The street food was good

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    Interesting architecture...

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    Something is telling here..... and I'm not sure if its the exhaustion from the ride, the wine... which I hope wasn't the region's best... or???

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    Yeah chips and mayonaise... something she picked up in the UK.

    This was going on near the markets.

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    We were fairly sure it was to do with helmet laws. Failure to wear a helmet can be punished with confiscation of the bike, for a month, I think. There's scooters being loaded onto the police truck.

    Speaking of the markets....

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    We weren't looking forward to heading back down to Phan Rang.... the road had been truly horrible. Whilst downloading my GPS tracks though, I discovered that there was another way. There was a road direct to Nha Trang, route DT723, that wasn't on our paper map. We had a delightful run down the new road, to Nha Trang. From there, the plan was to transport the scooters on the train with us to Hue.

    There's plenty of pine plantations up in the hills...

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    There wasn't much in the way of eating places... and what there was, was basic

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    This is something you see a lot of.... young kids minding even younger siblings....

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    The road was good, apart from the coastal plain,

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    ... although there were lots of places with rocks and oil on it. Given its steepness, trucks and buses have a lot of breakdowns. The driver will invariably chock the wheels with rocks... and never take them off the road when they get going again. What they do with their oil is even worse.... they'll pull the sump off and just dump it on the road.

    The drop from about 6,000' to the coastal plain was impressive. Here's a section near the top - with a bus up near the centre top to give it some scale

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    ... and here's the chute we were going down

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    ... and stitched together

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    We had a local pass us at one stage... he was hammering, on something small... then we caught him again and he was clowning around. He'd climbed onto the handlebars and was facing backwards whilst riding. No helmet... and doing about 75 kph. Good skills.

    Here's a shot, looking back towards where we'd come down the escarpment

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    It wasn't all brilliant bitumen, and my luggage straps showed their weakness when I hit the bank whilst trying to avoid the mud

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    A backpack on a scooter doesn't rate as my favourite luggage setup... I'm a real fan of my Giant Loop now. Oh yeah.... Kylie asked me to ride her scooter through there...

    That didn't go quite to plan. We booked and paid for the tickets and got ourselves a room so we could relax ahead of the 11pm or so departure for the planned 15 or so hour train trip.... which took 17 hours in the end.

    When we went over to check the bikes in, we were told we could pick them up in a week's time. Oops. Kylie did a bit of jumping up and down but nothing was changing the fact that the bikes weren't coming with us. In the end we changed the bike arrangements and sent them straight on to Hanoi and we went to Hue without the bikes.

    I'll sort out some Nha Trang photos for my next update.... and see if I can find the photo, from a video clip... of Kylie going over the handlebars in the mud
  6. The Bigfella

    The Bigfella Big Adventurer

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    While I think of it... the few trucks that were on that road were incredibly bloody smoky. I'll see if I can find a video of it...

    .... and a little tale.

    After that dinner, I was really keen to get a massage. My legs were in a bad way. We were walking back and passed a massage sign on a big building... so in we went, saw the receptionist on the ground floor and she sent us up to the 7th floor in the elevator. The only one I'd seen so far in Vietnam... and the only one outside of Hanoi that I actually used.

    So... after the massage... Kylie asked me how mine had been. She said "Mine was really hopeless and she was asking me for a big tip". It took me three days to own up to her that the place had been a brothel. Yeah... I didn't know. I'd gone into my room.... lay down, and the woman came in, slapped me on the arse and said "Boom boom?" Quite funny in hindsight... but I sure wasn't telling Kylie while we were still there. And yeah, my massage was lousy too.
  7. The Bigfella

    The Bigfella Big Adventurer

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    I can't find that photo of Kylie going over the bars... so here's a short clip of the mud.... and her falling off

    <iframe width="560" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/M2JDHptndE8" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
  8. The Bigfella

    The Bigfella Big Adventurer

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    ... and after all that... I just found the extracted photo

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  9. The Bigfella

    The Bigfella Big Adventurer

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    Nha Trang was interesting. We did a ride to the south, looking for some salt pans that Kylie had heard about. Nope... apparently they are a lot further south. Oh well.

    We stopped in on the beach, heading back into town (still looking for the salt pans) and saw our first bamboo thatched boat. They range from these little 6' coracle designs, up to 25' long boats

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    More on them later... but here's one in use

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    The fishing village was great

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    Back towards town, we saw a guy on a scooter spear off the road through what looked like an industrial area, so we followed him. We went past an empty guard post and ended up on a wharf. It turned out to be a Navy base. We had a good chat to some of the sailors... and I snapped this

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    I showed some of my photos to a Vietnamese guide later on, further north. He saw that and said "don't show that to anyone... they arrest you for spying". :rofl

    I think I already mentioned that things didn't quite go to plan for our trip north. We booked and paid for the train tickets for ourselves and the bikes and got ourselves a room so we could relax ahead of the 11pm or so departure for the planned 15 or so hour train trip.... which took 17 hours in the end.

    When we went over to check the bikes in, we were told we could pick them up in a week's time. Oops. Kylie did a bit of jumping up and down but nothing was changing the fact that the bikes weren't coming with us. In the end we changed the bike arrangements and sent them straight on to Hanoi and we went to Hue without the bikes.

    We weren't overly impressed with the railways in Vietnam. We went to board the train, showed our tickets to one of the platform staff and got pointed to the train. It took off a few minutes later, but we couldn't find our sleeper beds. The numbers just weren't right... so we found the guard. She grabbed the emergency brake wheel and brought the train to a halt. The other person had put us on the train to the south... not the north. She literally threw our backpacks out the door and told us to get out. We ran the 500 metres or so back to the station, alongside the tracks, and just got there in time to get the train to Hue.

    The sleeper didn't work out for me. I can, and often do, sleep with my feet hanging over the edge of a bed... but I simply can't sleep if my feet are touching the wall. The sleeper bed was at least 6" too short. I ended up out in the aisle, trying to sleep sitting up in a plastic chair. Ugh.

    Here's a typical Vietnamese train... something from the 50's or 60's, at a guess

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    Oh well... at least we made it to Hue.
  10. gavo

    gavo Slacker

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    Yeah the trains are interesting, my daughter did a camel act trying not to go to the loo because it was a local squat type(teenagers:huh) anyhow after about 10 hours she discovered a western style one at the other end of the carriage :lol3 our trip Saigon to Hue took about 18hours but I enjoyed watching the country roll by:clap
  11. The Bigfella

    The Bigfella Big Adventurer

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    Yes, watching the country roll by was good.... once the sun came up... but 17 hours was just a bit much.

    Hue is lovely. Here's the citadel


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    Exploring the Imperial Palace, opposite the Citadel, there's plenty of evidence of war damage, some from the Japanese in WW2, some from the later conflicts, like these bullet holes

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    Massive damage was inflicted during the Tet Offensive, with only 10 of 160 major buildings surviving it. It is still an incredible site and restoration work is ongoing.

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  12. The Bigfella

    The Bigfella Big Adventurer

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    One thing I should add about that train journey.... later on in the trip, when we did the same thing with the scooters from Hanoi to Lao Cai, the drop-off point to get to Sapa, we had the Vietnamese staff at our guest house organise it. Smooth as silk. There was a helper at each end to make sure it all worked and it didn't cost us any more than if we'd done it ourselves (I think). Its definitely better to have locals do the bookings.

    In the absence of my bike, which was taking a week to get to Hanoi by train, I hired a motorcycle guide for the day and had a look at a few temples, tombs and palaces.

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    It was quite good having a guide around a city like Hue, with so much history. This is at the Thien Mu Pagoda, aka the Heavenly Lady Pagoda

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    My guide for the day

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    That bell dates from 1710 and weighs over 3 tonnes. The tortoise and inscribed stele are from 1715.

    Another relic at that pagoda that I was interested in was the car in which the monk Thich Quang Duc rode from his temple to Saigon on June 11, 1963.

    He stepped out of the car in an intersection, sat down in the lotus position, and burned himself to death in protest against the regime's violations of religious freedom.

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    I can recall seeing that on TV although I was pretty young at the time (8).

    More photos from the day trip around Hue. I seem to recall we took in the tombs of Tu Duc and Khai Dinh.

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    Another wedding party....

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  13. The Bigfella

    The Bigfella Big Adventurer

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    I had another rip-off event while I was in Hue.

    A rickshaw driver did the old money swap routine.... hide the 100,000 dong note and whip out a 10,000 and complain

    I cracked a shitty and he drew a pair of scissors on me. I considered planting a size 12 boot (13 USA :wink:) into his chest. I was stone cold sober at the time and seriously thought about it... but he'd have screamed and 50 mates would have come running... so I did another $5 and put it down to experience.

    A few more shots from around town

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    This is another one from the Imperial Palace.... some more bullet holes in the wall

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    Kylie and I did a nice evening cruise around the Perfume River, right on dusk. Its brilliant... well worth doing

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  14. The Bigfella

    The Bigfella Big Adventurer

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    There's lots of little aluminium boats on the Perfume River. They are reminiscent of the "bomb boats" in Laos and are presumably also built from war scrap

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    These three boys were out for their evening wash

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    I took a bus from Hue to Hoi An. Kylie rode down on a pushbike over two days. The scenery between the two cities (with Da Nang in the middle) is brilliant... and it was a significant feature of the Top Gear show on Vietnam

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    The bus driver was the usual "hero". We are supposed to be on the other side of the road here...

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    ... and the road is magnificent... I have a feeling Kylie took this shot, whilst cycling through

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    I hired a scooter to look around Hoi An. They are as cheap as chips to hire and its worth doing.

    I was in the middle of nowhere, in the outlying villages and I came across a girl fight. The cops were there, but these two women were into it. The cops seemed too scared to get in between them. Quite entertaining. I know I had the video on, but I'm damned if I can find it.

    I finally spotted a boat with sails, at Hoi An. I couldn't believe the total reliance on diesels over there.

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    I liked the juxtaposition of the old and the new...

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    I met up with a few interesting characters in Hoi An, which is quite the tourist town

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    The restaurant owner was quite a sport

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    Speaking of sports, I do seem to recall some midnight skinny dipping in here after far too many beers

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    I retrieved my computer from the lovely Swedish lass I'd loaned it to (she had to do an online job interview and I figured she'd be better off on Skype in her room, rather than an internet cafe) and I headed back north.

    While I was looking at that boat with the sails, I'd been approached by Mr T, who is with the famous Da Nang Easyriders. Nice guy. Don't think he's a Harley man... the bike he showed me around on the next day was a 125cc. Looking at his website now, I see he does longer tours. I'd have no hesitation contacting him if I was in the market for that sort of trip

    http://danangeasyriders.com/

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    He took me (and my gear) from Hoi An to Da Nang and on a tour as well. This is on Marble Mountain. Here's a tip... take twice as much water up there as you think you'll need. I ended up buying some off the ladies at the top for about three times the price I could have got it at the bottom.... but didn't complain. Fancy lugging stuff up those stairs every day. Ughh

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    Some random young lady posing for photos on Marble Mountain.

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    ... and the view from the top. Hoi An is that direction... and if anyone wanted to pick over old war wounds (I didn't) the village of Mai Lai is a bit further south.

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  15. The Bigfella

    The Bigfella Big Adventurer

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    I'll finish off Da Nang write-up now... as I want to be fully up to date here by the time I hit Chiang Mai for Songkran on April 14.

    Da Nang has quite a lot of pretty place scenery

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    That fishing net was a long way out, and was one of two. I turned my back, then around again... and there was only one... it'd been dropped into the water. I couldn't see who was operating it.

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    Remember the bamboo thatched coracle I posted from Nha Trang? At Da Nang I started seeing the larger boats. This one is an inboard-powered fishing boat... with a single cylinder diesel in it

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    and a 25 footer... complete with wood strengthening

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    I was lucky enough to see a team doing the waterproofing on one. Pretty much like roller painting... but the stuff stank to high heaven. Vile smell.

    One last thing I did in Da Nang was check out the Cham Museum. It was quite interesting.... and there seemed to be a theme

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    Artistic mob, eh? There was a bit of variety though...

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    My understanding, as limited as it is, of the following statuary is that the bottom piece here represents females and the top piece represents something to do with men

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    You see a lot of the female parts in temples in Cambodia, but the male part of it is normally missing... souvenired by early European colonials.

    I flew out of Da Nang and into Hanoi. I ended up at the delightful Hanoi Guesthouse, but more on that later. There's still plenty of evidence of past use at the airport, btw

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  16. The Bigfella

    The Bigfella Big Adventurer

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    Retrieving the bikes at Hanoi Railway Station was fun...

    There they are... in there, somewhere.... and this line of them stretched on seemingly forever. I, of course, arrived whilst the staff were at lunch... so had to cool my heels at a cafe for 45 minutes until they got back.

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    I had to do the run to the station twice, as Kylie wasn't in Hanoi yet...

    I have to say, I love Hanoi. The Old Quarter in particular. I didn't have any accommodation organised, but I'd picked up a $15 Nokia phone while in Saigon and a call to the Hanoi Guesthouse from the airport had me a room. The Hanoi Guesthouse is at 14 Bat Su Street in the Old Quarter. info@hanoiguesthouse.com One thing to be aware of with them, is that they have more than one place.

    I was lucky and got a room in the place at 14 Bat Su Street when I arrived. When I got back from a trip somewhere else, they had booked me in, but when I arrived they hit me with the "someone not check out... we put you in better room elsewhere at same price" line.... and to be fair, it was a much better room - in a much bigger 3+ star hotel. What I like about the guesthouse though is the nice atmosphere in the foyer and the interaction with the staff. Someone to talk to, things happening. I'm not a great fan of sterile hotel foyers or large, empty rooms. I managed to get back into the guesthouse and made sure they knew that's all I was interested when I came back for my final days in Hanoi too.

    The Old Quarter is full of sights we just don't see in the west

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    My scooter was never interfered with, probably because the whole city is full of organised parking. It was ticket parking from the guard in a side street near the guesthouse

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    Very civilised, eh?

    Speaking of civilised, we took in the Temple of Literature, site of the University, which goes back to the year 1010. This little varmint wasn't too impressed with his parents insisting on being photographed with the big foreign monster.... and we had our photos taken like that at least a dozen times that day

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    Some more from there. This, on the following stelae, from wiki

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    One of the temples we visited

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  17. The Bigfella

    The Bigfella Big Adventurer

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    A fellow Aussie, working in Hanoi at the time, took me out to see some sights. The cemetery.... quite amazing

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    I ran into this mob in a restaurant one night and enjoyed their company. They were marketing staff from, Unilever... in town from HCM City for work

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    I know I mentioned the Long Bien Bridge earlier, and it truly is a jewel. It was designed by Eiffel (of Eiffel Tower fame) and was bombed many times during what was known in Vietnam as the American War of Aggression (now commonly the American War)

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    I did it four times. Twice during daylight, twice at night.... including once at 2am. Well worth it.

    Its a mish mash of building styles now. It would be bombed and repaired as rapidly as possible, because the war materials coming into Haiphong Harbour came down the railway line and over the Red River here, thence onto the Ho Chi Minh Highway (more on it later) towards Dien Bien Phu, the Nape and Mua Gia Passes and onto the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos and Cambodia... and then back into Vietnam via the infiltration trails, down south. There's heaps of bullshit being written these days about the Ho Chi Minh Trail supposedly being in Vietnam - generally as a scam to get people on tours in Vietnam.

    This site has some interesting information on the Ho Chi Minh Trail, and the discovery that it was at one stage being considered as a nuclear target.

    I was lucky enough to be going over the Long Bien Bridge at the same time as a train. The old pylons on the left are due to flood damage, I believe, rather than bombings

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    At night, the bridge is a meeting place for young lovers. They spread mats and get horizontal together.... but I didn't see any funny business. All very proper.

    You can take in the view of local fishermen from the bridge. They have this entertaining style of rowing with their feet

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    There's normally a couple of merchants set up out there too

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    Back in the Old Quarter, the streets are set up with areas of specialisation. One street will be jewelers, another will be bamboo merchants... and so on.

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    I loved this... painting dried bamboo green

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    Local tough guy. His Harley seems a tad small though

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    The lake (Hoan Kiem) is well worth a visit and is nice to walk around

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    Another lake, not far from the centre, but a bit hard to find is B52 lake. The wreckage is from a B52 shot down in 1971. This is where the wreckage actually landed.

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    I was the only westerner there at the time.

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  18. The Bigfella

    The Bigfella Big Adventurer

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    Oddometer:
    3,485
    Location:
    The Golden Triangle
    Plenty of tourists here, of course. The war museum

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    That pile of shot down aircraft sculpture is rather thought provoking.... but don't believe everything you read

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    I saw a couple of these along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, in Laos, in 2012.... one that had been bombed and another still on its trailer from where it'd been hauled to before the war ended.

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    This is reputedly the engine from the F-111 that was shot down with a single AK47 bullet. I had a look around the area where it was shot down, towards the end of my trip.

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    This one is interesting... its a freight bicycle... which is how a lot of gear was carried down the HCM Trail

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    I seem to be looking a bit pensive here. My mate had taken me to one of the restaurants to sample the fish sauce. The waiter was impressed when I tried the shrimp sauce too... something that many westerners won't do. Both are made in barrels - dump the fish or the shrimps in, come back a year later and bottle the stuff in the bottom of the barrel and call it "sauce". Tends to be a bit smelly, but it tastes good.

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    ... and along the lines of the trade streets, there's chicken street... where all the restaurants specialise in... chicken

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    At my friend Rick's suggestion, I visited the tool market. I parked the bike and at the end of my visit, spent 90 minutes trying to find it - including hiring a scooter taxi to drive me around looking for it. Its a really big market. I wish we had one like it at home

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    So... Hanoi. I ended up in Hanoi three separate times on this trip. Another thing my friend had recommended was to take in the raising of the flag at Ho's Mausoleum. This meant getting up at 6am. The first day, I ended up lost and among a whole heap of folk doing their exercises in a park, which was interesting in its own right. I was operating with a pretty crappy tourist map, but once I'd located the Mausoleum, it was easy the next day. I took in the ceremony a couple of times after that.

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    The area in front of the Mausoleum has heaps of locals doing their exercises... up to an imaginary boundary... marked by guards, one square back. At the anointed hour, out comes the troop with the flag and there's a fairly stiff ceremony to raise the flag. All the people stand to attention and its quite a moving ceremony. I was the only westerner there... which is amazing if one thinks of London and the ceremonies there that tourists flock to. There were dozens of tourist buses there, but all carrying just Vietnamese people. I really do think the Westerners miss the best bits of Hanoi.

    We'd learnt our lesson about train tickets down south and we had the guesthouse staff organise our tickets up to Lao Cai, the nearest railhead to SaPa. We were escorted to the station, assisted in draining the petrol and getting the bikes loaded (no crates for this trip) and getting our tickets and us onto the train.... and I don't think it cost us any more than if we'd done it ourself. We were also met at the other end and helped with unloading.

    Its another overnight trip, about 9 hours, and we shared a sleeper with an American couple. They were on their honeymoon and I think I might have saved his life. He was shoveling Imodium in on the basis that if one is good, lots must be very good. My doctor had read the riot act to me on Imodium before departure... one and only one Imodium per diarrhea episode... that's per episode, not per "movement". He said that too much runs the risk of exploding your stomach... and there's no coming back from that in the middle of nowhere. I've been very thankful for whoever invented that miracle cure... and I've listened to the Doc. If anyone has heard different, I'd like to know.
  19. The Bigfella

    The Bigfella Big Adventurer

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2010
    Oddometer:
    3,485
    Location:
    The Golden Triangle
    So we arrived in Lao Cai, had a bit of a look around and then headed up into the mountains and SaPa.

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    The views from the road on the climb to SaPa were stunning... but it was getting dark, so we kept moving. That's Kylie ahead of me....

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    SaPa is an interesting town... a mix of colonial, decay and emerging Vietnamese.... adjacent to the tallest mountains in Vietnam, with the 10,000' Fansipan among them.

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    We stayed at the strangely named Green Guesthouse, which is blue, and a couple of other places for the week we were there. We hadn't booked... so we moved when necessary.

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    SaPa is geared to tourism and it shows, but its possible to have a good time.

    You will be harangued with "buy from meeee..." and that's followed by "you buy from her, now you buy from meeee..." and all sorts of variants of that. You run the risk of being hit up to buy if you take a photo of the local ladies. That gets some people down. A lot, in fact. I was lucky to be travelling with a lady with a fabulous attitude. Kylie often turned those sort of things back on the locals and it would lead to entirely different experiences.

    An example. Michele and Elisa had turned up (more on that later) and hired a scooter. We were doing a ride down the walking trail into the Muong Hoa valley and after the descent to the river we stopped for a coffee and up came the ethnic minority ladies.... "you buy from meee...". I countered with "No, I buy FOR you".... and they all stop and look.

    "I buy you a beer"... silence, then.... "OK".

    So, we sat down and I called a stop to the buying at 9. "No more... that's it".... otherwise I'd have been inundated... but we sat down and most of the ladies went for softdrinks and we had a friendly chat... no selling pressure. A walking group came past and they were being harangued and didn't look like they were enjoying it. They had their heads down, trying to ignore it. We were having a great time.

    Eventually, the young Red Dzao lady (20 years old) sitting next to me asked me if I'd like to buy the fabulous bit of embroidery she was working on.

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    It was incredibly fine stitching and I said I would like to, but it wasn't finished... so I asked if she had any that was finished.

    "Yes at home" ... "How far?" "Five minutes".... so off we went

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    45 minutes and one suspension bridge later, we got to her house... and I bought some stuff off her.

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    The house is in here... quite well built, but the floor is concreted to the lay of the hillside... with plenty of bumps and hollows to it.

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    She invited us to lunch

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    This isn't our lunch, but its the kitchen... the green stuff is being cooked up as pig food

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    ....and this is the bamboo-fired still, cooking up the local brew. Bloody strong stuff.... we had a glass or two with lunch and were neutered

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    This is our friend's 5 yo daughter, out the back.


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    There's a shed to the right of the photo where grandma runs a herbs business and also does hot tea baths. She invited us to stay. We couldn't stay that night, as Kylie had to get back and catch the train back to Hanoi to sell her bike and get back to Scotland... but we came back the next day. Here's Elisa modelling the herbal tea baths

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    I've got some shots of me in one of those tubs too... maybe I'll spare you?

    There's a lot of people living there - four generations of the one family. Great Grandpa, who was 75 looked a bit crook, rattly in the lungs. He had a medal and certificate from Uncle Ho that was given to him in memory of a friend killed in the war

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    More from here later, including a discussion on why there's a very high suicide rate among the young women
  20. OldPete

    OldPete Be aware

    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2007
    Oddometer:
    9,520
    Location:
    SoSoCal
    I'm in my mid-60s, draft number was never called up.

    This RR has a warmth to it that I would not try to define because my words would fall short, be wanting.
    However, meditation music with rain sounds is what I have been listening to as I savor your words and pictures.

    Thank you Bigfella :beer