Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi or bust!

Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by SteveMc181, Jul 22, 2012.

  1. SteveMc181

    SteveMc181 Adventure Bound!

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    Hi All,


    First time trip report here:
    4 of us are heading off to Vietnam in 2 weeks time on 6th Aug 2012 and planning on riding from Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) to Hanoi over 3 weeks.

    Let me introduce the riders:

    There's myself (Steve) 49yr old guy from Perth, Australia, had plenty of bikes in my younger days but it's been around 20 years since I have ridden! WOW where did all that time go?
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    Richard (My Cousin) is the instigator of this ride, Another Perth lad. He's 52 (or thereabouts) and this trip is one he has always wanted to scratch off his bucket list. The rest of us are just going along to keep him company! Richard also has some early years bike riding experience, but it's been many a year since he has sat in the saddle!
    (Richard has business interests in Vietnam and is a regular traveller there)

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    My Mate Mick from Brisbane, Australia, another 52 year old with loads of bike experience and his current ride is a Triumph Tiger 800.
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    John another Perth boy and I think the oldest of the group at about 55? Not sure if that's his exact age, but he is old! hahahaha. Not sure on John's bike experience but I think it is limited and a long time ago also. (Will upload pic later)

    We also have a local HCMC guy called Vincent who will be joing us for part of the ride on his Ducati Monster 795, Vincent will at least be able to guide us out of HCMC!
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    The bikes! Now don't get too excited about these powerful machines! Richard is currently in Vietnam and has just today purchased the 4th and final bike for our ride!

    Not yet sure on the exact years and models of these bikes, but will update once I am in Vietnam and can get a better look.

    Bike 1. 150cc Husky
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    Bike 2: Suzuki GN125cc

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    Bike 3: Daelim 125cc
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    Bike 4: Another Daelim 125cc
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    Richard is having the bikes checked over by the local mechanics and getting racks fitted/extended etc and just making sure everything is ready to go when we get there!

    We are all getting excited and are a bit apprehensive about the first day riding in the HCMC traffic! The plan is to arrive on the 6th, drink loads of beer that night and become aquainted with the bikes the next day. Planning on riding out of HCMC on the morning of the 8th Aug 2012 and heading to Vung Tau, if we feel ok from there and everything is running well then we will keep on going to Mui Ne. But we do like our beer! So only planning on riding 4 or 5 hr days with the odd big day thrown in here and there.

    We aren't too concerned with where we end up so long as we have fun getting there! I'll be posting up pics and vids as we go. Yeehah! Stay upright and stay safe!
    #1
  2. gavo

    gavo Slacker

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    Subscribed :D
    #2
  3. mikegc

    mikegc Long timer

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    Subscribed! I was in Vietnam many years ago on the so-called "American Plan" and teamed up with some Australian government workers. We worked just over the mountains from Vung Tau. Anyway, here's a pic I took in Saigon before the traffic got bad:
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    Have fun and stay safe.

    Mike
    #3
  4. SteveMc181

    SteveMc181 Adventure Bound!

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    Hi Gavo and Mikegc! Glad to have you aboard.

    Gavo it was when I read your trip report that I decided to sign up here! Loved the pics and vids you posted.
    mikegc, Man! I wish the traffic was going to be that light, great pic.

    I'll be posting a little more often once we are underway and time allows on our travels. Our proposed route is below but very subject to change! We will be stopping for a couple of days in Nha Trang to help out with a bit of building repair works at a local school for Disadvantaged kids. Other than that we have no real plans and will just head where ever we feel like!

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    #4
  5. Paratrout

    Paratrout Been here awhile

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    I'm in! I've always been fascinated by Vietnam. My old man two uncles and father in law were over there on "the American plan" so I grew up on their stories. They would beat my ass if I tried to go over there!
    #5
  6. Comrade Art

    Comrade Art Working stiff

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    You are going to enjoy Vietnam. This past March a friend and I did a similar trip from Hanoi to Saigon in 8 days.
    The traffic around Saigon is insane, so be careful.
    Enjoy your trip and keep posting :clap
    #6
  7. gavo

    gavo Slacker

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    G'day Steve, Vietnam is atop place, food and people terrific,i would head back for a month or 2 if I could talk the missus into it again.
    your mate must have some connections the taxes on bikes over 250cc are enormous:eek1
    #7
  8. rod1

    rod1 Old Australian Bull

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    Hi Guys, would love to ride your trip in Vietnam and look forward to following your ride. best Wishes. Rod
    #8
  9. mikegc

    mikegc Long timer

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    You guys will love Vung Tau! I have some old photos but cannot lay my hands on them. They've been packed away for 42 years! Nha Trang is a wonderful place, too. When I finally got out of the "camping out" phase of my tour, I was stationed there. Just south of town, there are villas that may be open to the public. Reportedly, they were resorts for high ranking government officials:
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    Just north of town, you should pay a visit to the temples. They were old when Christ walked the Earth:
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    Here's a Google Earth photo to show you where the temples are located:
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    From the temple area, I took a photo of Hon Tre Island:
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    I went over to Hon Tre once and snapped a photo of the Nha Trang:
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    If you visit the temple, nearby are the Chong Rocks, a popular gathering area on a beautiful beach:
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    Also, don't miss the huge statue of Buddah. He looks over the city and you see him from just about every place in town. Hey, sorry the quality of my photos are so bad. I scanned them from some old slides and the years haven't been kind. I'm really looking forward to seeing the pictures from your ride. I think you'll find Vietnam to be a beautiful place.

    Stay safe,

    Mike
    #9
  10. Vince_WA

    Vince_WA Been here awhile

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    G'day Steve - looks like you and your mates have been bitten by the Top Gear Vietnam bug - good on ya :clap I spent a fortnight riding around the north of Vietnam in March 2010 - here's a brief ride report - http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?p=12514721#post12514721

    what are you guys doing for licences ? ... It was only when I got back from Vietnam that I had a closer look at my IDP and realized that it WASN'T valid in Vietnam. We never got stopped by the police in our travels - as soon as they saw we were foreigners we were waved through any checkpoints, but there's some recent discussion here you may be interested in - http://www.horizonsunlimited.com/hubb/southern-asia/vietnam-police-cracking-down-tourists-51862-2

    Have a great adventure!
    #10
  11. SteveMc181

    SteveMc181 Adventure Bound!

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    Hi Vince and Rod, welcome along!

    The top gear show was a long time after this trip was initially planned, but we did think about painting someones bike pink after watching the show! Might affect the resale value a bit though (hahaha) I am sure some of our crew will get up to some Shenanigans as we go along though!

    Nice pics Mike! Thanks for the tips, will try to visit if we get the time in HCMC. The initial plan is to get plastered on the night we arrive, and on the 2nd day we will probably head to some of the old tunnels for a look and become aquainted with the bikes. We have another guy (John II) coming with us who is a Non-Rider, he's an ex SAS guy and spent a lot of time in Laos/Vietnam after the war . John II will be meeting us in different place as we go along and if possible will have the hotels and beers at the ready when we arrive!

    We discussed and researched our license options at length, as we are aware that Vietnam is not a signatory to the international license scheme. We have ended up deciding to just do it and deal with the local law as and if the need arises. We have found an insurer (QBE) who will cover us in the event of any personal injury, including if we are riding bikes. Only stipulation was the bikes have to be under 250cc, wear a helmet and have a full Australian Bike license. ( I have this stated in writing from them)

    That being said we are still not covered for any property or 3rd party personal injury, so if the worst happens then we have other contingencies in place. Although we always like to think these things never will happen to us, I guess that's why they are called accidents! Nobody expects them to happen. We will certainly be very aware of what is going on around us when riding and take the path of least resistance if available! The licensing issue is a bit of a pain in the arse, but like everyone else doing similar trips in Vietnam, the options are limited!

    Great Trip Report you had there also Vince! Thanks for the links! :D
    I am getting so excited by this upcoming trip that I can't sleep! Bring it on! yeehah! 12 more sleeps! :clap
    #11
  12. Vince_WA

    Vince_WA Been here awhile

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    Thanks for the tip re QBE Steve - I'll keep that in mind. I enjoyed myself so much in 2010 I had intended to ride again in Vietnam last year but as I couldn't figure out the license issue I did about a month in northern Laos instead - and Laos is an awesome riding destination you may wish to consider in the future. From memory it has about 60% of Vietnam's land mass but only 10% of Vietnam's population .... a brief Laos RR here - http://advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=676762
    #12
  13. Cruiserman

    Cruiserman Fishingboozo

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    Hi Steve thanks for the report and the info re the insurance, I have done 2 rides in Vietnam in the last 2 years and I'll be there again this October doing the NW NE loop from HANOI .I love the place and can't wait to get there. You will have a ball. Safe riding and looking forward to hearing about your adventures.:clap
    #13
  14. mustardfj40

    mustardfj40 Been here awhile

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    Vietnam is a beautiful country! Enjoy your trip.

    Btw, I rode my bicycle from Hanoi to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh) and had a great time, here's a pic taken just north of Nha Trang on Highway 1

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    #14
  15. SteveMc181

    SteveMc181 Adventure Bound!

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    Well we arived in Ho Chi Minh yesterday and so far things ae going according to plan!
    We got absolutely shitfaced last night and were a sore and sorry bunch this morning. We managed to recover enough by around 2pm ish and set off to pick up our bikes. Well that was an adventure by itself! Two of the bikes wouldn't start, so we stuffed about for a while and found they both had water in the carbs! A quick drain and refill of the tanks and we were on our way back to the hotel.

    The first thing I discovered when I nearly ran up the back of Micks bike was my front brakes don't work! and I also discovered how much I hate the straight 4 down gear configuration of the Husky! Even after not riding bikes for a long time, I am still used to a one down and 4 or 5 up configuration. I lost track of the wrong gear changes!

    Our first ride in HCMC traffic was a little nerve racking but we made it back to the hotel in one piece, although we thought we had lost John for a little while. He had a minor break down at a major intersection and had to push his bike out of the way of oncoming traffic! I took my bike to a mechanics near the hotel and had the brakes and a couple of clutch problems sorted for the sum of 20000 VND (About $1.00) Then we set about celebrating our survival on the first ride in HCMC.

    So tomorow our plan is to head off at around 10:00am to Vung Tau, which is about a 3 hr ride and spend a night there, we had our helmet cams on today but for whatever reason they had lost the battery charge, so no video recorded :(

    I will upload some pics etc in a day or so and hopefully a bit of video of our 1st real ride! For now we are just glad to no longer be HCMC traffic virgins! Off to bed for a good nights sleep and looking forward to tomorrow!
    #15
  16. JNXPILOT

    JNXPILOT Adventurer

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    I too did the American Plan in '71-'72, Camp Evans, about 10 south of the DMZ. I would love to revisit the area. Beautiful country.
    #16
  17. SteveMc181

    SteveMc181 Adventure Bound!

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    Hi all, we have finally gotten underway on our adventure. We hav e had a few issues with bikes that have meant visits to various mechanics. Here is a pic of some unknown mechanic in District 1 HCMC to get my front brakes working.

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    Most of our problems have been solved by the addition of serious thinking sessions over a bottle or ten of Beer or Bourbon.

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    Our first ride was from HCMC to Vung Tau. This should have been around a 3 hr ride over about 103km's.or so we thought! One of the bikes (John's Daelim) gave us a heap of trouble, his bike kept dying on idle and then refused to restart, multiple times, usually when he was in the middle of a major intersection with traffic coming at him from all directions! (And I mean from all directions!)

    We stopped for fuel and when trying to start John's bike the throttle cable snapped, so we had to do some bush mechanical work to get it up and running again. The cable snapped twice on the way to Vung Tau, but we managed to get it sorted enough to make it rideable. (John may have a different opinion here on what rideable actually means!) Hahaha, to be honest for a novice bike rider John handled it well! Hats off to him!


    The ride to Vung Tau should have taken us about 3 hrs, but it ended up taking 6 hrs to do. Only about 110km's! The traffic coming out of HCMC was unfcking believable! We are spewing thoiugh because both helmet cams had issues with recording, one was due to a corrupt memory card, and the other wasn't turned on properly! very frustrating, so we missed some great video! (We think we have these sorted out now, so will post up video as we can)

    As you can imagine it's a bit hard to update posts here while on the road, but we'll do our best and update as we can.


    Here's the motley crew about to depart Ho Chi Minh! (From Lef to right, Mick, Steve,Vincent, Richard and John)

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    Not too far out of HCMC we encountered our first break down!

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    Currently we are in Vung Tau, we had planned to spend only one night here and then head to Mui Ne, but due to bike problems we decided to spend another night and get problems with Johns bike sorted out, (New Throttle cable, front tyre, etc, also a new rear tyre on my Husky) We had all of sorts of drama's fidning a mechanic who would actually give us the time of day, let alone help us. But we persisted and all problems have been fixed (We think)

    We are planning on leaving about 7:30am tomorrow and heading straight to Dalat which is about 310km's and 7 hrs away. We are reasonably happy with the bikes now and think we should be ok.

    So to sum up our first day, we broke down several times, got rained on and got lost! All in all a great day!

    Will update as we can!
    Stay safe and stay upright!
    #17
  18. Comrade Art

    Comrade Art Working stiff

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    Welcome to Vietnam :D
    #18
  19. gavo

    gavo Slacker

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    Sounds like you're having a fantastic time, but whats that beer you' re drinking, Saigon green's the go:freaky:lol3
    #19
  20. SteveMc181

    SteveMc181 Adventure Bound!

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    Vincent our Vietnamese rider had to leave and return to his work this morning. So we are on the road now with just the 4 of us. We headed off from Vung Tau at around 8:45am in the morning and were heading to Dalat which is about 320km's away. We were hoping for a trouble free ride, but alas thia was not to be!

    All Packed up and ready to leave Vung Tau
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    We had reasonably good roads for the first 150km's or so and were cruising along fairly well, although the road in some sections was absolutely shocking. John's confidence really took a nose dive when we had to negotiate through some really potholed sections. He handled it well though and is just lacking a bit of confidence at this time. Understandable when you are trying to dodge potholes, trucks, scooters, buses and the odd tractor or pig all seemingly hell bent on comitting Hari Kari!

    Time for a smoke break (Lots of these along the way)
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    John's Daelim has been a bitch of a bike to ride and has a very loose and worn out gear shift. We stopped at another mechanics and had a loose bolt on the gear lever rethreaded. After leaving the mechanics John couldn't get higher than 2nd gear! So back we went and found the problem was the gear levers and linkages being so worn out, that the lever was hitting the footpeg and stopping him upshifting, so a bit of bending and shimming was in order.

    The mechanics here aren't exactly rocket scientists and we had to solve the problem for him. It took us nearly 15 minutes just to explain we wanted to take a spare nut with us incase it came loose again! (F*ck me, forget about trying to explain we wanted a nylock locking nut! Sign language just doesn't work in this neck of the woods!

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    Time for another break and a rest for Johns frazzled nerves! We had just been through some really rough sections here and John was reconsidering if he wanted to continue after we reached Dalat :( We couldn't blame him if he pulled out, as it is scary enough for an experienced rider and not a place to learn the ins and outs of dodging traffic! (We won't mention the little incident in Vung-Tau where John fell off on the footpath when his throttle jammed, I just wish I had been quick enough with the camera instead of laughing at him) (Sorry John ;) Hahahaha, but jeez it was funny!
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    The road was rougher than where the bikes are parked.
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    Off we trotted again into the wild and hazy yonder, I had the iPod cranked up and was cruising along listening to some good old Dire Straits and thoroughly enjoying the ride. Some of the sights and smells along the way were great. We were running fairly late and could finally see the end of a long days ride! We climbed the mountain to Dalat and were just cruising into town and looking forward to a beer after 9hrs on the road, when Mick's bike came to a grinding halt. Seized engine! This was the end of his bike and we weren't interested in trying to get it fixed, we stripped off the gear lever so we could use it on John's Daelim, put the battery from the Daelim into my bike and kicked it over on the side of the road in Dalat and left it there.

    Onya Mick! Killed another one!

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    Mick and I stayed with the bike and stripped what we could use while Richard and John set about finding somewhere to stay. They came back in a cab and I followed them to the Hotel We were all knackered after such a big day in the saddle and covered in grime from head to toe!

    We set off for a few beers and a discussion about what we were going to do! John said his confidence was gone and he was happy to give Mick his bike and then John would Join our other friend in Nha Trang and travel by bus etc with him. We told John that it was an extremely trying day and he had handled it well and we didn't want him to leave our little group of Wild Hogs! We decided we would try to find two new bikes in town in the morning and if this wasn't possible John was happy to abandon his bike to Mick!

    The lady sitting in the background had just had a head on scooter crash in front of us, Mick raced out to pick her up off the road and get her bike out of the way. One bike was heading up the wrong side of the road with no lights on and she ran straight in to him with 3 people on her scooter! We left them to the arguing on the side of the road as we didn't want to get blamed for it! This was the 2nd accident we had seen in 20 minutes! The other one was a car doing a u-turn and a scooter with a guy and kid on running into him! (These people are just crazy and road rules don't exist! No serious injuries in either accident fortunately!)

    I am going to leave uploading any videos until we return home, we have captured some great footage on the helmet cams, but just too difficult to do the required editing while on the road. (It gets in the way of drinking time!)
    #20