On September 27th we headed back into Danang. Drama on the way as I got a puncture in the middle of nowhere… A security guard outside a developing resort called us over. He spoke no english but pointed at my tyre and made a phone call. He nodded and put out two chairs for us under the shade of a tree. Ten minutes later a mechanic turned up and changed my inner-tube (which involved removing the entire exhaust). It all cost about £4.50. I was so grateful to them both: we’d have been totally stuck, it was the middle off the day, about 34 degrees, and another 17 km to Danang. I tried to give him something to thank him but he smiled and put the money back in my hand before helping me back out onto the dual-carriageway.
We were finally back in Danang! We checked in to our hotel and hit the beach: sunbathing, book reading – I finished the last Game of Thrones book! (Oh no, what to read now?!?), a couple of cold beers and lots of swimming. I am one happy duck!
That evening Jamie treated me to a seafood supper. We chose this place because it was absolutely packed and the food smelt delicious.
This was an experience to remember! There are no english speaking staff or an english menu. The restuarant has a different ordering system to anything either of us had ever done before. Still, the dishes we could see on tables around us looked amazing, and we were determined to figure it out!
Basically you get sat down at a numbered table then go ‘shopping’ around the buckets for your dinner:
We had clams, blue swimmer crabs, steamed rice and green veg plus two beers for £13! We stopped for couple of cocktails down on the beach before heading home… The next day we began our inland adventure: 4 nights and a 400 km ride through the Central Highlands!
We arrived in Danang to find a section of the main road we needed closed. To go around would have meant about a 2km detour; through a city we didn’t know, plus we were pretty tired from our ride. A guy on a moped (and carrying a large guitar(?)) saw us and came over offering his help, he showed us a ‘locals short-cut’ through a series of alleyways. Before waving us on our way he gave us his email and invited us over to his house to meet his family and have some dinner. Unfortunately we didn’t have the time to accept but we were both moved by his kindness. Its not often strangers stop to offer their help, but the more we travel through this country (especially once you step out of the really touristy areas) the more the kindness of the Vietnamese people shines through.
We really enjoyed Danang city, the atmosphere is very relaxed and you hardly get hassled. Walking along the Han riverfront you can see some impressive bridges (Dad, I’m sounding truly like your girl now! I couldn’t help thinking you’d like it!!)…
The Dragon bridge in the background
We wandered around the Han market… very interesting and again it was so refreshing not to get hasssled by the sellers.
In 1996 there were four million motorbikes in the whole of Vietnam. Today there are over four million motorbikes in Hanoi city alone. Firstly, you need to know that everything you hear about the roads and the driving in Vietnam is true… and worse! Secondly, you should know that I am a huge wuss and I’ve never ridden a moped on the road before- So..if I can do it then anyone can!
traffic in Danang
We talked about getting panniers built onto the bikes to carry our luggage but in the end it wasnt necessary, we just bought 3 bungees each and wrapped up tight.
We left Hue at 9:15 in the morning to drive over the Hai Van Pass to Danang (its the road they did in Top Gear and part of our inspiration for this trip!!). It was about 120 km in all. The scenery leaving Hue was pretty.
We chose to hug the coast for the first part of our journey to minimise the time we’d have to spend on the dreaded Highway 1. Not the best decision as the road we chose way being laid as we rode it. We had loose gravel for about 30km. I found this pretty hard going, even Jamie (who is a much more expreienced rider than me admitted it took a lot of concentration). There were lots of work lorries and it was dusty, sweaty, bumpy and hot.
Just before Lang Co we stopped to look at a beach and to rest our sore bottoms for awhile!
After Lang Co came the Hai Van pass which really was spectacular. The views were breathtaking and the road was so much fun to ride. With my palms sweaty and jaw set I was beginning to enjoy myself.
Don’t get me wrong: riding in Vietnam still scares me, but it is doable. Despite all of my doubts I’m proving capable, and to my huge suprise I’m even beginning to love it! Behind my helmet and face-mask (I wear one of those because I’m precious about the dust), I’m grinning manically as my bike kitten-purrs its 110cc engine up to 60kph. I’m overtaking locals and running red-lights– fitiing in quite nicely and feeling way cooler than I really am!!
A Comment on The Rules of the Roads:
- You drive on the right… mostly, about 80% of traffic drives on the right, the other 20% is miscellaneous… just be aware of traffic travelling in all directions.
- Survival of the biggest… as far as I can tell, the bigger you are the more right of way you have: on a moped cyclists give way to me, I give way to cars, cars give way to lorrys and everything gets out of the way of buses.
- Green means go… stick to this one.
Red means stop. I think red means stop… most things stop on red. Less things stop on red in cities.
- It is illegal to turn right on a red light… apparently. Still stick to this one.
- Its not rude to honk here… its just bloody annoying!!! The horn is used to say ‘I’m here! I’m here!’ However, I reckon that as long as you stay aware of what’s going on around you, you shouldn’t need to always drive on the horn.
- the way to approach a junction is to maintain your current spped and exit the junction with a continuous blast of the horn. Alternativley you could reduce your speed and check your road positioning but this is not the standard practice and may just get you stuck…. if you stop, you’re stuck. Keep moving, the smallest gap gets filled with traffic quicker than you’d think possible!
- Don’t panic, don’t hesitate… leave a gap and three people will fill it, you’ll never get anywhere.
- Take it steady… less space: less speed. The busier the traffic (and it gets crazy busy) the slower the flow. Don’t speed, don’t drive obnoxiously. Go slowly just look around! its beautiful out of the cities.
- Don’t get hit. Don’t hit anything.
What you need with your bike:
- A Helmet!! riding without one will get you stopped, plus its really really dum not to have have one!!
- The bike registration… in case you get stopped, and for if you want to sell it.
- A good road map… we bought an off-line apple app: it was £2.49 and has a picture of a suitcase with Vietnam written underneath.
- Licence.. there are very mixed reports on this, I know you cannot apply for Vietnamese driving licence unless you have a 90 day working visa. Some sources say that your regular license from home covers you up to a 50cc… a woman we met in Hanoi who is an english teacher and has lived there for 3 yrs said she’s been stopped several times and then let go with no further action taken. This is generally the message you hear.
- Insurance… you are supposed to have this but you can’t get it without a Vietnamese driving licence…. we’ve heard numerous stories that getting caught involves a small fine and you’re on your way….. I guess you make your own mind up about this xxx (our UK travel insurance covers us for the use of motor vehicles- check it in the small print)
Thanks for reading! x