Motorbiking Vietnam : Day 15

Start of trip || < || >

For details of the places I visited in Vietnam along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, with GPS Coordinates, see my book Vietnam Caves.

For details on motorbiking in Vietnam and Cambodia, from buying and selling a motorbike, to border crossing, see my book Motorbiking Cambodia & Vietnam.

 

Is this the end of the trip?

When I awoke this morning, I feared that this is where it ends for me and the little Yamaha Nouvo 2 scooter.

With the decision already made that I will not continue onto Laos, for lack of funds and information, I had to look at my options of what to do with her.

With conflicting information of how to, and how much it cost to ship the bike to Saigon, including how long it will take, I may be better off selling here here in Hanoi. However, prices are better in Saigon, so if it is not to expensive, then it will pay to ship her down. (Also added info for my book.)

I head down for breakfast, and get the usual omelette and bread roll, but this time they give me some fruit. No idea what it was, but tasty.

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Then I go to the hotel desk and ask if they can help me with train tickets. They advertise they do all kinds of tours. Turns out, the hotel owners also own a travel agency next door. The husband runs the travel agency and the wife runs the hotel.

I ask him if he can help me with tickets for my bike from Hanoi to Saigon. He says he does not sell the tickets and you cannot get it online, you have to go in person to the train station with the bike. But then he offers to go with me to the train station and translate for me. So off I go, following him in the mad traffic. He constantly looks over his shoulder to see if I am still there, and a few times is surprised to see me right behind him.

At the train station he parks his bike, and then hops with me on mine, then directs me to where to go to.

Hanoi strain station, Vietnam.
Hanoi train station.

We go over to where a “big” bloke is sitting behind a desk, and I am reminded of scenes from movies where you go and see the dock mafia boss. You know the big guy with a cigaret in his mouth that runs the show, with like 5 guys just hanging around him like flies. That kind. I get the impression that if things turn sour here, your bike is not going to make the train. (Heard from a friend that he is still waiting for bikes after more than 2 weeks.)

We are stopped by one of the flies, a distance away, but big boss wave me forward, and the flies open up. I bring the bike up right to big boss’s desk.

The hotel/tour owner speaks in Vietnamese to him a bit, and then the big boss exclaims, 750K vnd cash (about $30 ich dollar). At this point you could hear a pin drop. I nod my head yes in my best Gibbs from NCIS impression. (Having no idea if it is a inflated price or not, but acting like I know what’s going on.) All of a sudden things come to life, and the flies around big boss jump into action. Three tackle my bike and immediately drain the fuel from the tank. (3/4 full), then start to wrap the bike up.

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I am handed a form where I fill in my details, then they ask me for the ownership papers and some cash. I hand the stuff over, and off goes the guy with it. Soon he returns with copies of the papers, and then it is big talk time. Caught up, everything goes in slow motion now as all wait for me. The guys wrapping the bike up hang in mid motion, steeling glances at me out of the corner of their eyes.

Slowly I count the money inside my wallet, then put it on the table. In typical mafia style, the big boss just looks at it, and a fly steps forward to count it. After checking the notes for fakes, and counting it twice, he nods to big boss. At this point everyone go back to wrapping the bike up. The tension leaves the air, and the thunder clouds that was building up, disappear like mist in the hot sun. I am told the bike will be on the train tonight, and in Saigon in 5 days.

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Behind me is a line of people waiting for their goods to be checked and loaded, and I have the feeling I just jumped the line. But no one hints at it, for big boss spoke (and I paid up).

We go back to the hotel on the hotel owner’s bike, and now it is negotiation time. I have 4 days to kill. (Train for me first class is 36 hours). I have the option of taking a hard stool. (Basically a wooden plank) a soft stool. Basically your average bus seat. A hard Bert. A small bed with a mattress on, or a soft bed in a bunk with 3 other people, lockable door and aircon. Price difference is $30 between low and high class. I opt for soft bunk, total $91.

Now, what to do with my time. I am shown three stunning locations I can go to. All one day trips, for from 28 to $35 each, all included. Meaning hotel pickup and drop off, lunch, entry fees, guides, and all.

As I look at the places, and think about my bank balance, I decide that I am here, I am alive now, so I book them all. (After negotiating a package deal.)

So for the next three days, I am going to see some of the most stunning places in North Vietnam. Thus, this trip is long from over.

After parting with my funds, I go walk around the city a bit. I spot a guy that is all wired up.

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And I spot a Ducati with a monster back wheel.

Ducati in Hanoi, Vietnam

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Anything that can sling this tyre, deserves respect.

Right, find a spot to eat and write a bit.

I am not telling where I am going for the next three days, I will keep you all in suspense.

Till tomorrow.

Motorbiking Vietnam : Day 3

Start of trip || < || >

For details of the places I visited in Vietnam along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, with GPS Coordinates, see my book Vietnam Caves.

For details on motorbiking in Vietnam and Cambodia, from buying and selling a motorbike, to border crossing, see my book Motorbiking Cambodia & Vietnam.

 

Having had an okay rest, the other hotel’s bed was far softer, and they had a bath, I finally decide to get out of bed at about 7:30. Basically because my stomach is growling. Wow, i see a trend here, i get up, and stop riding when my stomach tells me so, i am a slave to it ha ha ha. Okay, i love food.

Head over to the restaurant next to the hotel again, and order some breakfast.

hot breakfast, vietnamHa ha ha, just kidding. Although i was temped, but since i still cannot get them to understand “milk” i did not dare. Every time i try to get milk, they either bring condense milk ( that is nice, but would not help for the burn), or i give up.

The hotel receptionist also runs a store next to the hotel, so i head over and ask her for my passport, that she kept in her pocket ready for me. I pay her for the room, then go to get my motorbike out of the lobby. The security guard put a plank the night before on the steps, and I rode the bike up over the steps, into the hotel lobby. This morning we just free wheel the bike down.

As i pack my backs, the guard asks me in Vietnamese (understood from sign language) for cigarettes for looking after bike the night. (if he really was there i have no idea). I indicate that i do not smoke, and then he shows to my wallet indicating i must now give him money to buy smokes. I give in (i hate smoking) and give him 10K vnd, having no idea what cigarettes cost. He is very disgusted and mumbles about something, i probably insulted him. So i give him another 10K vnd (21K vnd is US$1). Now suddenly he is my best friend and shakes my hand, funny.

I point the bike in the direction of the next town, and go for it. Along the way, i find a cop riding on a motorcycle, and decide i am going to follow his speed as my speedo stopped working. (I think the speedo cable either broke or pulled out by the instrument cluster as i can hear it sometimes turning there.) We make good time, then suddenly he slams on the brakes, so i do the same. Funny, there is a speed trap up ahead, with a tow truck again, ready to take your motorcycle away. This time i have my leather jacket on, so there is no mistake that i am a tourist, so we just fly past. Others gets pulled over and their papers checked.

The cop later on takes a side road, so i find a bus to follow. (yeh i could take out my GPS to see the speed, but who cares?) We make good time (as just about everything gets out of the way for a bus, easy riding). We round a sharp bend, and suddenly smoke pours out from the busses back wheels, as i start reading the engine number on the bus, i decide is should probably slam on the brakes as well. The bus comes to a screeching halt, with its hooter honking. Not being able to see what is going on, i wait. Then, a car passes the bus slowly, and the bus starts to pull away, but crosses over to the other lane.

Only when the bus totally crosses over to the other lane, do i see what is going on. A bicycle is parked on its side stand, in the middle of my lane. The owner of said bicycle, is sitting across the road at a small cafe, having breakfast, laughing at the consternation he is causing. It takes all kinds.

Soon i am mostly alone on the road.

saigon to hanoi road, vietnam

mountains in the distance, saigon to hanoi, vietnam
Mountains in the distance, soon i will take you on.

Not long, and i come to a large bridge, with a very nice view of a river.

large bridge, vietnam

train railway in distance, vietnamSee the train railway in the background.

river view, vietnam

Very soon, the road starts to go uphill, and snakes a bit.

sand on the corners, vietnam

And then, what i have been waiting for, the mountain pass.

scooter ready to take on the mountains

start of the mountains, vietnam

twisties, vietnam
The bike performs very well, and i have loads of fun. the speed limit is between 20 and 30 km/h, depending on the section of the road. I do about 40, guessing from the sound of the motor when the speedo was working. The bike has ample power to still go more, but that would be stupid here as you encounter slow moving trucks at any turn. See a short video i recorded here.
I pass what looks like a church or something, and stop to take a quick picture. It is so easy with a scooter, as you do not need to worry about gears and getting the thing in neutral.
tiger in the road, vietnam

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I pass a few towns, with most of them looking all about the same.

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But then, i spot a large church, and just had to stop and take pictures. I am such a tourist. 🙂

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I am having so much fun, that i forget to check my GPS, and take a wrong turn. Not a problem, as both roads lead to the next town i want to be in, this one is just longer, so i have to stop for gas. I find a guy with a cabbage cart, with only one horse power to pull it.20140505-093517.jpg

Then i carry on, yes, stomach growling, but in its defence, it was almost 1pm, and i only had two eggs and a breadrol for breakfast. suddenly I spot a large number of busses parked outside a place, with lots of tourist (cameras hanging from the neck) walking around (always a good sign of you are hungry). I go to the first shop i see, and ask if they sell food. Nope. My stomach complains, so i buy some ice tea and sweets. They had wifi so i sit down and catch up on my writing.

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20140505-093358.jpgLunch

I smell food coming from inside where al the tourist are going in, and decide to go have a look. It turned out to be a large park, where you can go on boat rides, take a cable car, ride an elephant, go inside a tree that have stairs in, then walk along a suspended bridge to the other side, walk under a water fall, and many more things, including loads of shopping, and eating.

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I grab a roll with chicken in, then head off to the next town. I come to a crossing, and am not sure what road to take, so i decide to take the smallest one up the mountain. (there are two others and lead to the town as well, just different parts as it is a huge town in the mountains). I was very well pleased by the pass up.

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Soon i come to the town, and it is impressive. This is a major tourist town, with french alp like buildings. From having checked Expedia already, I knew the large hotels where just to far out of my budget. I travel to a road that I knew a backpacker place was in, but saw a small hotel before I could locate the backpacker place. US$10 a night, so I take it. I learned not to be too fussy. If they are clean, have hot water and wifi, I am okay with it. I put my bags down, and head out for a proper lunch as it is 3pm now. Then I walk back to the hotel for a nap and some writing. At 6pm I decide to go have a nice dinner and spoil myself. I use my map applications on my iPad to check for nice restaurants, and when i see one located on the lake, i had to go eat there. i know it was expensive, at US$10 for the meal, but it was an experience.

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Dinner done, i head out. Have some trouble starting the bike, as it is getting very cold, and is in the mountains. There was already dew on my bike seat at 8pm. I think the bike is not adjusted for the thin air and the cold air, as when i get back to the hotel it idles nicely (engine now hot) and starts easily. Will check it out tomorrow as i decided to stay a day here. It is such a lovely town, and so large, there is so much to see. So if i need any servicing done, this is the place to do it before i head out to the remote mountains.

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