VIETNAM - 30 Day Honda XL 250 Father/Son Ride

Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by stanegoli, May 5, 2013.

  1. stanegoli

    stanegoli Seeker

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2005
    Oddometer:
    236
    Location:
    Portland OR
    Day Eight

    We were now heading south away from the high mountains of the north expecting to descend to a lower elevation.
    When doing my route planning I had read that the ride from Meo Vac to our destination for the day, BaBe Lakes, consisted of great scenery so we were looking forward to more of what we had seen yesterday. But as we climbed up out of the town it became quickly apparent we might not be seeing too much as we soon hit wet and very misty conditions. The mist quickly became very thick and visibility was no more than 20 ft. We proceeded along a twisty road on a mountain pass very, very slowly. The rain was coming down lightly and together with the thick mist made for slick road conditions. My visor kept on fogging up so I kept it slightly ajar but had to constantly wipe the front of the visor with my glove to remove the outer condensation. Conditions were tough but improved considerably as we reached a lower elevation. Visibility improved, the rain and mist lifted, and soon we started to see the lovely scenery we had been anticipating. We rode along two rivers with a lot of rice paddies and small villages. It was not quite the dramatic scenery of yesterday but great nonetheless.
    Then we started to ascend another mountain pass and the difficult wet and misty conditions returned. Again visibility was severely limited and we rode along slowly seeing almost no other vehicles or motorcycles on the road. Same difficulty with outer condensation on my visor. I was coming around a sharp bend exercising care when suddenly I went down, the bike crashing to the road. I landed under the bike on my right side slamming my thigh into the road. As I went down I saw a truck approaching from the opposite direction perhaps 20 feet ahead of me. As I went down it stopped. I bounced up off the road pretty quickly as the driver of the truck jumped out and yelled at me approvingly "nice fall!". Not too sure what he meant by that but I think he meant that I landed pretty well and bounced up fast. Zach was riding behind me and rounded the bend as I jumped back up. He and the truck driver helped me pick up the bike. I was pretty shaken. It had happened so suddenly (yeah I know - thats why I went down :D) and I couldn't figure out why I went down. I dont think I touched the brake/s at all, and I certainly did not crank the gas, so why the bike slid under me mystified me. All I could see was that the road surface in that particular spot was different to elsewhere consisting of rocks about half the size of a fist set into the asphalt creating a cobbled surface.
    The bike seemed OK except for the metal luggage rack frame which had broken at one of the weld points, and a broken mirror. We rode on to the next town and found one of the ubiquitous Xemay (bike mechanic) shops. He could not repair the frame but there was a welding shop right next door and the guy promptly welded the frame back together and charged me $1!! While we were at the mechanic shop he did some additional maintenance helping us adjust chains and the like. Of course our presence attracted a crowd - wherever we went in Vietnam our 250cc bikes were viewed as huge and people loved to come look at them, climb on them and generally make a fuss of us. When done the mechanic declined to charge for any of the work he had performed.

    Xemay

    [​IMG]

    One of the locals enthused at us and our bikes:

    [​IMG]

    By now I was starting to feel the pain from my spill. My leg was starting to hurt pretty badly and I just wanted to reach our destination and hit recovery mode. We stopped a little further down the road at a larger Xemay and bought a replacement mirror, cost $4.

    The next couple hours riding were really quite pleasant. We got wet descending from the mountains as it was still raining but things gradually improved. The scenery was lovely, there was a lot of agriculture - mainly rice paddies and some corn, water buffalo, small but pleasant villages. Road conditions were decent, again the usual fare of the north consisting of pavement broken up frequently with short dirt and rock sections.

    Eventually we reached BaBe which was quite a bit larger than I had been expecting. The last 15 km before we reached the town were really quite special, the vegetation had become a lot thicker, the road was good and we zipped along. We rode through town and then on another 15 km until we reached the BaBe National Park. The park service runs a hotel, more like a lodge, near the entrance and we checked into a room. My leg was hurting like heck and a hot shower revealed severe bruising along my thigh. It was already purple. There were a couple of restaurants nearby and we found ourselves a decent dinner.
    Zach told me that back when I fell he came around the bend behind me and when he saw me lying in the road under the bike with a truck stopped right in front of me he thought the worst had happened, that I had been hit by the truck. He said he was pretty shaken up. Maybe so, but by the time we reached BaBe that son of mine was not showing me much sympathy :cry

    Total distance for the day 220 kms (137 miles)
    #21
  2. stanegoli

    stanegoli Seeker

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2005
    Oddometer:
    236
    Location:
    Portland OR
    Day Nine

    The plan today was for down time, explore BaBe lake, no riding. The timing of this was REAL good :1drink as after my spill yesterday I was hurting pretty bad, the bruise was growing to the point where it pretty much wrapped around my entire upper leg, and I needed some down time.

    We rode off to the lake but as we arrived Zach commented that his brakes were barely working, and then looking at the rear tire I noticed it was almost flat. So we rode back toward town and a few miles outside the park in a small village came upon one of the many Xemays (bike mechanics). He pulled off the rear wheel and in checking the tube we found a leak. I told the mechanic to replace the tube with one out of our took kit, and to repair the puncture and put the repaired tube back into the took kit as backup for later. We then took a look at the brakes and found that the rear pads were completely worn, nothing there, metal on metal. Thinking that back in Hanoi the guy from whom we rented the bikes, Phung, had provided spare brake pads, we dug into the tool kit. Yes we found brake pads but they were front pads and did not fit the rear. Although there are many, many millions of bikes in Vietnam and parts are readily available the XL 250's we were riding are pretty much unknown and parts for them are not available. The mechanic pulled off his shelf every size brake pad he had searching for a pair that fit, but no luck. Keep in mind he spoke no English and we spoke no Vietnamese so communication was a challenge. I was starting to become really concerned as riding with no brakes was not an option. He then took a pair of pads from his supply that were larger than the ones required, he eyeballed them against worn pads and commenced grinding them down to match the old pads using a circular grinder. It took him about ten minutes and in this manner he fashioned a pair of pads that fit just fine. We were really impressed with the ability of this guy running a tiny shop in a small hamlet to improvise and solve the problem, no big fuss! :clap I cant remember exactly what he charged us but it was certainly no more than $4 or $5 for the parts and labor:nod

    We rode back to the lake and took a 2 hour boat tour of the lake and some islands. Beautiful area.

    [​IMG]

    We spent the rest of the day taking it easy. We'd had some real hard days behind us and the down time was greatly appreciated. I must mention here the beds found in most Vietnamese hotels, especially in the small towns. The mattresses are, well they are not really mattresses. They are hard boards, much like sleeping on a sheet of plywood. It hadn't been too bad up to this point dealing with the rock hard beds but now I had a new issue: my right side was really sore from the spill the day before and I just could not lie on that side, it hurt like crazy. So for about the next ten days I had to sleep on my left side at all times :pissed

    That night we ate at a restaurant across the road from the hotel. It was out of season and we were the only diners in this huge room. But they cooked us up a really nice meal and the waitress and chef were super friendly, showering us with handfuls of candy after dinner. We arranged with them to provide us breakfast the following morning.

    Total distance for the day - 10 kms
    #22
  3. stanegoli

    stanegoli Seeker

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2005
    Oddometer:
    236
    Location:
    Portland OR
    Day 10

    From our location at BaBe Lakes due north of Hanoi our route today took us eastward to the town of Lang Son near the Chinese border. Lang Son itself was not a destination, just a way point on the way to our next stop.

    We had constant mist and light rain the first half of the day. It was nothing like the poor visibility we had experienced a few days earlier as we headed south from Meo Vac though, and the road conditions were good. We found that the further south we got the better the roads.

    The area was a verdant green. Lots of agriculture, the usual rice paddies and corn. The entire area was replete with the rounded limestone karst hills that are the signal feature of north and central Vietnam. Small villages dotted the road, and we were riding alongside rivers for large parts of the journey. It was hour after hour of pleasing scenery. As we passed through one small village, within a 200 yard stretch, it seemed to me like a microcosm of rural village life: there was a lady chopping wood, here was a man tending his chickens, over there was a kid leading some water buffalo, over here was a lady carrying a load on her back, over there was a man tending his rice paddy, here was a man leading a pig. It just struck me how much was going on in such a small area.

    We stopped at one tiny village for coffee and this brought the usual response of a crowd of locals coming in to the store to look at us and our bikes outside.

    As we neared Lang Son we rode through and had a great view of a beautiful mountain range. The mountains were not on the scale of the grandeur of the mountains in the far north, they were smaller but they, together with the ever-present karst formations, made for a lovely scene.

    We found a decent hotel in Lang Son, this was the view from our room level:

    [​IMG]

    Over dinner that night Zach commented to me that as we rode through one small village today he had seen many rural village sights in one short distance and it struck him how much was going on in just that one small area. This brought such a smile to my face as he was talking about the exact same location where I had experienced the same aha moment. We had independently marveled at the very same thing. Nice moment :thumb

    Total distance for the day - 250 kms (155 miles)
    #23
  4. swamp

    swamp U lie&yo'breff stank

    Joined:
    Feb 14, 2007
    Oddometer:
    1,926
    Location:
    lower appalachia, Alabama
    great stuff.
    asia rules.


    .. more please.
    yea , and where is that hot scooter guide ?
    #24
  5. stanegoli

    stanegoli Seeker

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2005
    Oddometer:
    236
    Location:
    Portland OR
    Yea everybody keeps asking for pictures of the scooter hottie. I hate to admit this but I was so busy falling over myself looking at her I completely forgot I had a camera! :lol3 Seriously she had on this tight blue leather jacket, looked like an asian motorcycle model from the Ducatti calendar. She was waaay too cool. I keep wondering where the German guy found her......at the local motorcycle tour guide operation.....:huh
    #25
  6. 150ron

    150ron Long timer

    Joined:
    May 4, 2012
    Oddometer:
    1,487
    Location:
    Valencia, ca
    Simply amazing, what great pictures, keep it coming.
    #26
  7. stan.riner

    stan.riner Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2010
    Oddometer:
    146
    Location:
    Quang Ninh Province, Vietnam
    Subscribed. We're going to Vietnam on Thursday (arriving Friday night) for one week to check it out before we take a 3-4 year job assignment.
    We're flying into Hanoi, staying for the weekend, then headed to Haiphong, Cam Pha, and Van Don area.

    We hope to live in Van Don when we move there this summer. We're really looking forward to exploring on bikes. My wife and I both ride and she's a really good dirt and street rider. I hope to be able to get a dual sport 250 like you were able to rent.

    Thanks for posting your ride.
    #27
  8. stanegoli

    stanegoli Seeker

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2005
    Oddometer:
    236
    Location:
    Portland OR
    PM me if you want any info. I'd be more than glad to help. And no need to go to Cam Pha unless you have to. But Van Dong - oh yes!,
    #28
  9. stan.riner

    stan.riner Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2010
    Oddometer:
    146
    Location:
    Quang Ninh Province, Vietnam
    It's actually "Van Don" which is East of Cam Pha right on the coast. Are you talking about "Van Dong", which is South West of Ha Noi?
    The plant my company is building is just North of Cam Pha. Looking at your route map, it looks like you went right through there on Day 10.
    I'd be interested in your GPS tracks if you have any.
    #29
  10. stanegoli

    stanegoli Seeker

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2005
    Oddometer:
    236
    Location:
    Portland OR
    Yes that is the industrial area I was less than complimentary about in my report on passing through that area. We just passed through so I am no position to make a definitive statement on what it would be like to live there. I'm sure you will learn a lot more on your exploratory trip. What I can state with some certainty though is that if you do go live there you will spend most of your free time far north of Hanoi, and also to the west of Hanoi. Both very cool areas.
    #30
  11. stanegoli

    stanegoli Seeker

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2005
    Oddometer:
    236
    Location:
    Portland OR
    Day 12

    Our original plans had called for us to spend two to three days/nights on Ha Long Bay but after one night there both Zach and I felt we had seen enough. It was nice but way too many tourists, especially considering we had just come from the far north where, for most of the time, we were the only Westerners in town. Guess we became addicted to that celebrity status. :D The area was beautiful but we just felt we had seen enough and it was time to move on.

    Also our original route plan had called for Day 12 to be a very long ride to some minority villages west of Hanoi. With our newfound knowledge we realized it would just be too long of a ride - we would arrive at our destination in the evening and then have to leave early in the morning, so what was the point?

    Meanwhile before we started out in Hanoi I met a Russian, Ilya, who had just ridden up on a Minsk from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi on the Ho Chi Minh trail. He showed me some photos from a town called Ninh Binh that looked way cool. I had not heard of Ninh Binh and it was not on our plans, but now we decided to head to Ninh Binh which we could reach sometime in the afternoon. Continuing on from Ninh Binh to our originally planned route would be easy. So we left Ha Long Bay and headed off, our route calling for us to stay primarily on Hwy 10.

    We spent most of the day on Hwy 10, a major highway (and also the first major highway we traveled on our trip), except for short sections when we could detour on smaller backroads. And this is what I have to say: insanity....madness....lunacy. I learned very quickly that, outside of the major cities, the Vietnamese are quite simply the worst drivers anyone could ever imagine. At the top of the madness scale are the bus drivers. They drive at high speed with absolutely no regard for any other users of the road. They overtake at whim, on blind bends, with streams of traffic coming toward them, whatever. As they careen toward you in your lane you have a simple choice: get off the road or get killed. Very simple. A solid no passing line, if such a thing exists, has no meaning whatsoever. The basic rule of the road is "if I am bigger than you get out of the way or die". So next in line after the busses are the trucks. While usually not as bad as the busses they also drive with no regard for others. And then the mini-bus and van drivers....they are perhaps even more dangerous because their vehicles are more nimble so they will pull out into the oncoming lane despite oncoming motorcycles. Of course, above bicycles, motorcycles are at the bottom of the food chain. I am convinced Vietnamese bus drivers are trained killers. They simply have no idea of road manners, road sense, courtesy. And the car drivers too have no clue. Twice, on two-lane sections, I saw cars simply stop in the middle of major highway traffic and execute multiple-turn U turns. So vehicles behind them and those coming toward them all have to screech to a halt while the idiot executes a U turn. Frigging unbelievable!:dog
    For long stretches of highway there was a (somewhat) designated motorcycle lane to the right of the car/bus/truck lane. We used this a lot but it also had its problems. There would be bicycles and pedestrians in the lane. There would be motorcycles coming toward you in the lane! Whatever. So Zach and I used both the motorcycle lane and conventional overtaking techniques to make our way. But the entire day was absolutely horrible, very stressful, and something no sane person should ever do.
    How there are not human bodies strewn all over the road is something I cannot understand because by all rights there should be constant and frequent death amongst this mayhem. Words fail me, and I never want to do that again (but then later we had no choice but to ride similar roads, but by then we were hardened to this lunacy).
    This whole situation brings up quite a paradox - well two really.
    One is that taken as a whole the vast number of Vietnamese we met were nice, considerate, friendly and helpful people. Yet out on the highway its like stepping into a Mad Max on steroids scenario. Nobody gives a darn about anybody else. The driving style is very aggressive, or plain dumb, or a combination of both.
    The second is that up to this point we had marveled at the motorcycling skills we saw from young, old, men, women...everyone. They would handle the very poor road conditions with aplomb, just riding through really bad, broken up pavement, gravel, rocks, steep slopes - all on small roadbikes of 110and 125cc.
    It was very impressive how well they dealt with such poor conditions. But then on main highways they seemed to have very little road sense or awareness of others. Turn signals were seldom, if ever, used. They would make sudden turns left or right without looking behind to make sure there was nobody coming up, they would enter the highway from a side road without looking to see if anybody was approaching - just ride out into the road and everybody else would just have to take evasive actions.

    At one point on the ride we had a ferry crossing. This is the only photo I have of this day:

    [​IMG]

    There were also a number of toll gates, but we watched the other motorcyclists and learned that motorcycles just take the far right slip lane and dont pay. Nice!

    We arrived in Ninh Binh in mid-afternoon and found a nice hotel with a friendly owner who made us feel most welcome. There was a good small restaurant at the hotel and nursing drinks after dinner we met some nice Dutch men, and a cool couple from Australia. The couple had hired two motorcycle guides to show them the local sights the next day and they agreed we could tag along on our bikes so we would not have to spend the day figuring out how to find the different locations. Something else that was to have a profound effect upon our trip - the hotel owner, Xuan, told me he was a guide. He showed me a book of commendations from his clients written in many languages. I really had no interest in hiring a guide but anyway started reading the commendations. To say they were glowing is a gross understatement. Almost every commendation said that the tour they had taken with Xuan had been the singular best experience they had in Vietnam. It got me to thinking.........

    Total distance for the day - 180 kms (112 pretty awful miles)
    #31
  12. SQ Beemer

    SQ Beemer Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Nov 15, 2011
    Oddometer:
    300
    Location:
    Westwood, CA
    I am sooo IN.

    My Mom grew up in Vietnam. Someday I plan to take a trip there with her to see what her neighborhood looks like. Houses/families were regularly blown up in the middle of the night during the war, not expecting to see much there.

    After that, I think I would go on a ride to see some country and send her off to visit family in HK.

    Beautiful photos, looking forward to more!
    #32
  13. Old_Crow

    Old_Crow Been here awhile

    Joined:
    May 4, 2010
    Oddometer:
    146
    Location:
    West Chester, PA
    Love this thread. :clap

    I went to Vietnam in 2000 and traveled primarily by train. When I make it back I'll have to go by 250cc dirt bike instead! This is very inspiring.
    #33
  14. toothy

    toothy Grin

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2005
    Oddometer:
    14,188
    Location:
    Freelard
    Very good reading.

    I'm taking notes, I'd love to tour Vietnam one day.

    Thanks!
    #34
  15. stanegoli

    stanegoli Seeker

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2005
    Oddometer:
    236
    Location:
    Portland OR
    Day 13

    We ate breakfast in the hotel restaurant, very nice, and once again the owner, Xuan, inquired if I was interested in taking an overnight tour with him. We would ride our bikes, and he his. I kept thinking about it. As we were heading south the weather was getting a lot warmer than it had been in the south.

    We met up with the Australian couple, Josh and Samantha, outside the hotel to follow them on the tour. My bike would not start! Try as I might the darn thing just would not start. A number of locals were checking me out on this beast of bike (yes all 250cc of beast:rofl) and then I realized what the problem was - I neglected to turn the gas from "off" to "on". Very embarrassing for this big biker dude:puke1

    Off we went following Josh and Samantha. Josh was on the back of a male guides bike, Samantha on the back of a female guide's bike. Our first stop, about 10kms out of town, was to be rowed up this river. Each small tourist group is assigned to a boat rowed, primarily, but local ladies. Off we went upriver. Totally, absolutely, awesome. Immediately we confronted just the coolest scenery, a lovely river with high cliffs alongside and limestone karst hills covering the landscape.

    [​IMG]

    One sight after another, it was a photographers paradise. There were locals working fishing nets on the shoreline, and this man was herding ducks!

    [​IMG]

    We continued upstream. There were lots of other tourists, mostly local school kids and some Chinese, very few Westerners. The Chinese (and perhaps some Vietnamese tourists) were taking photos of us! Western celebrities! :wink: We found this really funny - we are taking photos of the locals and they are taking photos of us. It was kinda fun having the other tourists on the river nearby, really did not bother us or detract from our enjoyment. Of course the local school kids, lots of them, were totally enchanted by us and we were exchanging "hellos" all morning. Vietnamese kids love to practice their "hello" on tourists. Really it was a lot of fun.

    Josh and Samantha, lovely Australian couple

    [​IMG]

    In his boat on the river, The Orchid Seller:

    [​IMG]

    After about one hour we reached the turnaround point and started heading back. We again passed through the low caves we had passed going upriver. This fellow was sitting on his motorcycle alongside the river:

    [​IMG]

    Mountain goats were standing on the steep mountain slopes paralleling the river. It was all so chill!

    After a couple of hours we returned to the launch point and followed Josh and Sam to some Buddhist temples revered by the Vietnamese:

    [​IMG]

    Inside one of the temples:

    [​IMG]

    The keeper of the temple:

    [​IMG]

    Then we rode about 10 kms to an area that looked like a state or national park, very few tourists though. There were some nice ponds and many interesting statues. The main reason to come here though was to climb the 500 steps that take you high up on the karst mountain overlooking the river we had recently rowed.

    Some scenes from that area:

    [​IMG]

    This cat statue was located in one of the many caves dotting the park:

    [​IMG]

    At the base of the 500 step climb was this dragon figure:

    [​IMG]

    While Zach the billy goat bounded up the 500 steps, and they were very steep, Josh, Sam and I trudged slowly up. There was a French-speaking couple from the Indian Ocean island of Reunion climbing alongside us carrying a young boy. Eventually we reached the top and were greeting by this stunning scenery:

    The river we had rowed up earlier:

    [​IMG]

    Facing back the other direction, the plain behind us, rice paddies dotted with limestone karst hills:

    [​IMG]

    We descended to the bottom and walked around the park. More awesome scenery:

    [​IMG]

    Finally walking back to our bikes we encountered this clever goat who had figured out how to remain well fed:

    [​IMG]

    Following the guides we visited some more temples, passed more rivers where the locals were rowing much the same as we had earlier that morning. Finally, after some truly great sights, we made our way back to Ninh Binh. Our bikes had not been cleaned since we left Hanoi so Zach and I sought out a Rua Xe (bike wash) where for $1 each our bikes were nicely hand cleaned. We then returned to the hotel and out back did a little maintenance, tightening our chains, especially on Zach's bike. By now we had learned his chained needed frequent tightening.

    I talked with Zach about staying one more day and going on an overnight tour with Xuan. Relative to the costs we were incurring on our travels he was asking a lot of money, but in American terms it was really not bad at all. It would dent our budget though. Zach was against it. He had been traveling for 8 months on his own, and we had by now toured the rugged north of Vietnam on our own with no need for a guide. I had never imagined using a guide on the trip. But something about Xuan, and the commendations in his client book, gave me pause. I just had a feeling that maybe we should take this chance, just this once. After all, all we had to lose was some money which would soon be forgotten anyway. But if it was a good experience...... So I told Zach we needed to juggle our dates to allow for this extra day with Xuan and we signed up to have him accompany us into a region to the west of Ninh Binh. It was an area not mentioned in any of the guide books or ride reports I had read, seemed to be completely off the tourist track. And the commendations said it was incredible. So we set it up with Xuan to depart at 7:30 the next day after breakfast.

    Total distance for the day - about 50 kms (30 miles)
    #35
  16. stanegoli

    stanegoli Seeker

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2005
    Oddometer:
    236
    Location:
    Portland OR
    Day 14

    Our experience today is the reason why people travel. Why they take themselves out of their comfort zones, take chances, take risks, sometimes spend a lot of money, ride long distances.

    Rather than recreate this I am simply going to copy and paste the Facebook posting I did describing it a few days later because I think that best captures my feeling shorty afterward.
    A selection of the large number of photos I took will follow:

    The FB post (including original grammatical errors):

    Yesterday I had one of the most amazing experiences of my life as Zach and I continued our travels around Vietnam. For the first time we hired a guide. We were very skeptical about the assurances to show us a very beautiful area totally off the tourist routes (and unmentioned in our travel guides) but the recommendations from others who had been there with this guide were so strong that we took the plunge. The ride began auspiciously as we hit untrafficked back roads and rode into swarm upon swarm of butterflies. So beautiful. We then started climbing into the high country and the scenery became more and more stunning. Finally we parked our bikes at the home of one of the local minority tribespeople and started hiking. Over the next three hours what opened before our eyes was quite simply the most jaw dropping, stunning gobsmacking scenery: endless tier upon tier of iridescent green rice paddies stretching out in every direction forming swirls, natural amphitheaters and bowls. This was framed by ribbons of high green mountains in all directions. The fields are farmed manually and no machine or engine was seen or heard. Only the occasional local worker out in the fields or carrying a heavy load on his or her back. Three times we stopped in at the home of another local and were served delicious local tea. Everybody seemed to know and love the guide. The homes were all spotlessly clean and of a similar style with a large room built on wooden pilings, bamboo floor and adjacent kitchen. Finally we got back on our bikes and rode up to the village where we parked. It was perched along a high road with a panoramic view of the area we had just hiked. The guide, simply a lovely man,suggested we walk a few hundred yards through the village while he waited our return. Off we went: oh what a joy. As we walked dozens of kids came running out to us or waved enthusiastically from their houses, all chanting "hello, hello". Every single adult we saw or passed greeted us in the most friendly and warm fashion. Never have I seen so many happy people nor been so welcomed. Unlike in the touristed areas of Vietnam not a single person tried to sell us a trinket or souvenir. The entire day to this point was perhaps my best travel experience of a lifetime. When we got back to our parked bikes the guide walked us across the road where a friendly family had a rice wine still (not wine at all but the strong local home distilled liquor) on the boil. The finished product was flowing slowly into a 5 gallon container. The guide took a cup and proceeded to fill it time and again until we had our fill. All the while the host and his gathered family were beaming at our pleasure. With another ride ahead of us we moderated out intake! We then road 26 kilometers to another minority village where we spent the night at the home of a lovely family, after enjoyed a wonderful meal with them. Apparently an 85 year old village lady had died the previous day and a wake at her house was across the way was in process. We went to sleep to the constant sound of a gong with a resonant hum being struck every 15 seconds intrerspersed by the boom....ba boom.....boom of a beating drum.
    We took many, many photos of our day which we will start posting when we return home.
    For both Zack and me yesterday as a marker in our lives.


    :feelgood

    So that's the FB post.
    A selection of photos:

    On the road up we passed this field of recently harvested pineapples. There were a lot of unpicked pineapples. Xuan stopped and he and Zach went into the field and picked a lot, which then formed a staple part of our diet the next few days. While they were busy another local lady climbed off her motorcycle and proceeded to get a large sackful.


    [​IMG]

    Passing through a town we came upon this propaganda billboard. There are hundreds of these all over the country, and usually they are far larger. I only photographed this one cause I realized I kept on forgetting to shoot one, and I had better shoot at least one before I forgot about it:

    [​IMG]

    Xuan stopped and had a long chat with this man who was leading yoked water buffalo pulling a load of wood. Never did figure out if he knew the man or it was a chance encounter:

    [​IMG]

    One view of the landscape and rice paddies:

    [​IMG]

    A hamlet nestled in at the foot the hills.

    [​IMG]

    We passed this man out in the fields on our hike:

    [​IMG]

    The White Thai houses set in amongst the paddies and hills:

    [​IMG]

    Swirls of terraces:

    [​IMG]

    And more....

    [​IMG]

    The cicadas are plentiful, and noisy:

    [​IMG]

    A village nestled in between the valley floor and the mountains:

    [​IMG]

    Cooking area on one of the houses:

    [​IMG]

    These boys followed us around from the moment we arrived until we departed:

    [​IMG]

    Love those kids:

    [​IMG]

    The locals in the village were lovely people.

    [​IMG]

    The village crew:

    [​IMG]

    One of the houses where we stopped for a drink of tea during our hot hike. This nice lady and Xuan chatted on and on. Xuan knew and was liked by a lot of locals. He has been going to the area since he was a driving instructor for the Vietcong army during the American War (which we call the Vietnam War!).

    [​IMG]

    And finally, the Rice Wine (not a wine but an alcohol) that was distilling. The hostess filled cupfuls for us from the finished product pouring slowly out of the end pipe:

    [​IMG]
    #36
  17. The Motorcycle Thing

    The Motorcycle Thing TMT

    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2013
    Oddometer:
    22
    Location:
    Beijing
    Nice RR! Especially like the photos of the locals.

    I did a similar trip a few years back on an old 125cc Minsk. Would have definitely preferred a 250!
    #37
  18. stanegoli

    stanegoli Seeker

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2005
    Oddometer:
    236
    Location:
    Portland OR
    Day 15

    This was the midway point of our 30-day trip.

    After a refreshing shower our hosts provided a nice breakfast. I took a walk with Zach in the rice paddies across the road from our hosts house and we got our shoes really muddy. I found these structures in the middle of one paddy. They appeared to designed to attract or breed birds (the Vietnamese love to keep caged colorful birds of many descriptions - you see them everywhere - and the bamboo cages they hand make are really neat).

    [​IMG]

    We packed up and took off with Xuan heading to different villages and locations in the area - all inhabited by the White Thai minority group.

    At one village we walked around for about an hour and got to marvel at the very basic but effective irrigation system the villagers have created to water the crops in their fields. They have built an elaborate system of waterwheels in the river flowing past the village - each wheel brings the water up out of the river and dumps it into pipes which then flow into the fields. Everything is constructed of bamboo, there is no metal. The wheel is entirely bamboo. The transport pipes are bamboo lengths cut in half lengthwise to resemble rain gutters, which are then connected on to the next length forming an elaborate system. There were at least a dozen waterwheels in the small area we viewed.

    [​IMG]

    The water is drawn into bamboo tubes tied to the waterwheel, and as the wheel rotates and each tube reaches the apex the water is drawn out by gravity and dumps into the bamboo pipes. You can see the water running out of the top tube in this photo.

    As always the locals seemed to know Xuan and there was a lot of greeting and chatting. This man was clearly a war veteran and told us how much he loved Ho Chi Minh:

    [​IMG]

    We rode around the region for about three hours and then headed off in the direction of the Ho Chi Minh trail where we were going to part company with Xuan and continue on our journey south.

    We passed this guy headed to market with his bananas:

    [​IMG]

    That is an appropriate photo to initiate this digression:

    The Motorcycle as delivery vehicle in Vietnam

    From the moment one arrives in Vietnam and until one departs there is the ubiquitous sight of motorcycles being used to deliver every type of product or item one can imagine. The motorcycle is the dominant form of transport so it only figures it would be the dominant form of delivery vehicle. The Vietnamese are incredibly skilled at putting huge, ungainly loads on bikes and somehow tying them down in a secure and balanced fashion. This is no small feat considering how large, bulky and heavy some of these items are. Eventually one does not pay too much attention to what at first is very novel. But as Zach and I rode the length of the country we made a list of the more unusual or memorable items we saw being transported. This list is by no means comprehensive but we had a lot of fun, and many good laughs, compiling it. I use the term "man" or "woman" generically as in any single case it could be either:

    1. Banana delivery man. See photo above. His load is not remarkably large, just happened to be the one we photographed. We saw instances of way more bananas than this in one load.

    2.Egg Man. A huge stack of filled egg trays (the open 36 egg carton variety) one above the other behind and to the sides of the rider. And if the load tips???

    3. Buddha Man. Well actually three Buddha men, each on a bike. Three large Buddhas per bike, one to each side and one to the rear. Each Buddha in a metal compartment, part of a single large metal frame.

    4. Ming Vase Man. Two huge "ming" type vases, about 6 feet tall, in metal frames to the sides of the bike.

    5. Motorcycle tube men. Three men, each on a bike, and each carrying hundreds and hundreds of motorcycle tire tubes loaded in every conceivable, and inconceivable, place on the bike.

    5. 3 Pig Man (we actually saw a lot of these). Three large live pigs, each one in a separate metal tube. We also saw the same tubes filled with dogs, cows (yes, cows), goats.....

    6. Dead Pig Man. Two dead pigs just slung over the front of the bike at the feet of the rider. No cages required.

    7. Cardboard people. Many of these. People go around collecting large quantities of flattened cardboard boxes and stack them impossible high on the bike.

    8. Chicken man. Lots of these two. Large cages holding many, many chickens.

    9. 40 foot pole man. Delivering at an industrial construction area near Cam Pha, carrying steel rebar. It was so long, the front and rear of the rebar were just inches off the ground.

    10. Closet man. Yes a guy riding along with a large wooden closet roped to the back of his bike. He even had things tied down atop the closet.

    11. Motorcycle man. Two guys on one bike, the passenger holding a motorcycle!

    12. Jackfruit man. Just like banana man but far more impressive because jackfruit are really large. Huge cages to the sides and back of the bike brimful with jackfruit.

    Oh it goes on and on. The largest number of people we saw on a single motorcycle was five - two adults and three kids.

    Back to Day 15 report:

    We reached the Ho Chi Minh Trail and parted company with Xuan. We headed south, he continued on eastward back to Ninh Binh. We had a lot of mileage to cover so we put the hammer down and rode hard. The HCM Trail is the old route the Vietcong used during the American War to transport troops and supplies south. It was not actually a single road but a network of roads, paths and trails. Now it has two main sections, the eastern and western legs that are nicely paved roads in good condition. Aside from the coastal Hwy 1 this is the main north/south (actually the only) inland route in Vietnam. The scenery remained very nice but we did notice areas where the vegetation was stunted and the hills scarred - apparently the long term effects of Agent Orange still evident.

    We made good time and reached our destination, the town of Tan Ky mid-afternoon.

    Total distance for the day - 240 kms (150 miles)
    #38
  19. stan.riner

    stan.riner Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2010
    Oddometer:
    146
    Location:
    Quang Ninh Province, Vietnam
    If it was near road 18A then he may have been going to our plant.

    We're in Seoul waiting to board our flight to Hanoi. I've got 3.6 million VND in my pocket. I'm finally a millionaire!
    #39
  20. gavo

    gavo Slacker

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2010
    Oddometer:
    1,911
    Location:
    Gympie QLD
    I can add to your list

    Coffin man: a coffin strapped across the rear of the bike.

    Goldfish man: Dozens of plastic bags containing live goldfish and water hanging from a rack on the bike.

    Enjoying the report, I would go again in a heartbeat.
    #40