Easter Mekong Tour, Vietnam

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Josh69, Apr 7, 2008.

  1. Josh69

    Josh69 Uhhh

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    Hello everybody, this is my first trip report.

    I've been working in Ho Chi Minh City aka Saigon, Vietnam for the last year and 4 months.

    A while back I bought a Chinese made 125cc road bike - actually 125cc is big for Vietnam. The most common motorbike is the 97cc Honda Wave. Up until quite recently, bikes over 175cc were illegal. They are now legal again, but with almost 100% import duty, they are (i) hard to find (ii) double the price of anywhere else. I learned to ride a bike in Vietnam. At home in Australia about 10 years ago, I got a motorcycle learners permit and had a few lessons, but I never got around to getting a bike license. I day rented a bike elsewhere in Asia (sans license) a few times, but it was only when I arrived here, that I got a Vietnamese motorbike license. The Vietnamese transferred my overseas car license straight over, but I had to do a practial test for the bike.

    Everybody in Vietnam rides bikes, I would guess that 90% of the vehicles on the road are motorbikes.

    They are used to transport all sorts of stuff:

    Like a bit of pottery :bow :

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  2. Josh69

    Josh69 Uhhh

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    Or some random vegetation:

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  3. Josh69

    Josh69 Uhhh

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    Or just some boxes around downtown Ho Chi Minh City - aka Saigon:

    (note these three pics are just randoms from my time in Vietnam, not from the main subject of my thread, my Easter Tour around the Mekong Delta).

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  4. Josh69

    Josh69 Uhhh

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    With increasing incomes in Vietnam, particularly in the big cities and what with it being quite problematic buying a bike over 175cc* a lot of people are buying imported scooters.

    Here's a random hot girl with a scooter!!



    * above (there is also a different class of license for >175cc which is harder to get - although I know several Vietnamese who have been riding for a decade or more and still haven't bothered to get a license)

    :raabia

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  5. Josh69

    Josh69 Uhhh

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    Anyway, I'm only in Vietnam for a limited time so I decided to stick to a cheap starter bike:

    Here it is, a Guangdong (China) made Haojue 125cc road bike which I bought new for 20 million VN Dong, or about US$1250, including the Givi tail box. You can get them cheaper than this in China, however Vietnam has 10% VAT + 90% or 70% (think it went down recently) import duty, so this jacked the price up.

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  6. Mr Baggins

    Mr Baggins Stinky Feet

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    I notice everybody is wearing helmets.
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  7. Josh69

    Josh69 Uhhh

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    A mandatory helmet law came into force in Vietnam in December 2007. Helmet use went from about 10% to about 99% overnight. Everybody wears helmets now, only in the countryside you occasionally see some people riding with no helmet.

    ====

    On Good Friday, I checked into a hotel in My Tho. This is part of the Mekong Delta region of Vietnam. The Mekong goes through Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos but in the delta it splits into loads of smaller rivers which lead to the coast. Here you can see a view from the hotel room, looking down on a market with the river in the background.

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  8. GB

    GB . Administrator

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    Gotta love the Vietnamese' utilitarian use of 2 wheeled transportation. :thumb

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  9. Josh69

    Josh69 Uhhh

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    It's your typical SE Asian outdoor market. Here's the dried fish stall:

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  10. Josh69

    Josh69 Uhhh

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    And the overhead view. As you can see accessed is designed for bikes or carts, not cars:

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  11. Josh69

    Josh69 Uhhh

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    The overhead power lines can get a bit complex in Vietnam - they can get 3 times as crowded as this power pole:

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  12. Josh69

    Josh69 Uhhh

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    A popular dish in Vietnam is "Pho" or noodle soup with beef (Pho Bo) or chicken (Pho Ga) or occasionally seafood. You can buy it everywhere and it is really cheap and tasty.

    I eat a lot of pho. It's quick, tasty and easy. But the other reason is I only know about 8 Vietnamese words and one of them is PHO.

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  13. Josh69

    Josh69 Uhhh

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    Quick tangent: here's a scene from Dong Khoi, one of the main drags of HCMC last year before the mandatory helmet law came in. You can see the difference to today where everybody is wearing helmets.

    (note everybody is still wearing flip-flops on their feet though)

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  14. Josh69

    Josh69 Uhhh

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    Vietnam is rapidly industrialising, but it's still a poor country. The lack of economic resources plus wide rivers in the Mekong Delta mean that there are few bridges. In this case I crossed over by ferry from My Tho, the main deal in Tien Giang province over to Ben Tre province.

    Now I said before that there is a licensing difference between bikes under 175cc and over 175cc and that in practice, there are very few bikes over 125cc. Well on the ferry, what did I see but a local Vietnamese bike club with big bikes.

    For some reason there is some dude in a suit. Why I don't know, it's Easter Saturday. Maybe he is still wearing his Church gear.

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  15. Josh69

    Josh69 Uhhh

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    Elvis was also part of the biking entourage:

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  16. Josh69

    Josh69 Uhhh

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    More from the bike club:
    :wave

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  17. Josh69

    Josh69 Uhhh

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    And again:

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  18. Indochine

    Indochine 'Bikes are OK, but . . .

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    I also spy Vietnamese ice milk coffee!!! (cà phê sữa đá) Yumm . . .

    I think VN food is the best I've had in SEA, including Thailand and Cambodia. The ingredients are so fresh it's impossible to explain to anyone who lives in a NorthAm city, used to hard, flavourless veg and factory farm meats. Even KFC chicken is amazing (I found it hard to type that but it's true).

    Keep the pix coming Josh69. Really appreciate the local colour from one of my favourite cities in SEA. (Viet girls are . . . :bow See my avatar)
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  19. Josh69

    Josh69 Uhhh

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    Ben Tre province is an island in the delta. It's only 2.5 hours from HCMC but it is a million miles away.

    I used to get lost all the time in Vietnam as the road signage is quite poor. There is a reasonably detailed and accurate road atlas available, however a lot of places use local names rather than the official name (or at least the name in the road atlas), plus once you leave the big cities almost nobody speaks English. Even if you communicate by sign language - which is suprisingly effective - sometimes because of the differenece in local vs offical name, they still can't work out where you want to go. All this means you can get horribly lost, very often.

    I got a GPS and scanned in the road atlas maps. I use a PDA type GPS and the Pathaway software. I've even got a 12V power socket installed on the bike.

    Anyway, I was trying to find a bird sancturay on Ben Tre. With the GPS I knew exactly where I was on the map, unfortunately the location of the bird sancturay was still a bit nebulous. I had 3 x different maps, it was in a different location on two of them and it wasn't marked on the other one.

    All this resulted in me driving up and town Ben Tre for about 2 hours and still not finding it!

    I did see some other interesting stuff though, like this out-of-the-way place:

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  20. Josh69

    Josh69 Uhhh

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    And some temples:

    This is Nguyen Dinh Chieu Temple. The Lonely Planet says "Dedicated to Nguyen Dinh Chieu, a local scholar, this temple is in Ba Tri district which is a 30-min (more like 1.5 hours for me as I was looking for the bird park) 36km drive from Ben Tre"

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