Tag Archives: motorbikes

Into the Mekong Delta… Our last big adventure

My bike was fixed!! We finally left Mui Ne, we’d had a brilliant time there, but it felt like we needed to get back on the road. We are due to fly to Phuket on the 20th which meant we only had 10 days left in total for Vietnam and I really wanted to see the Delta. Plus our friend Steve from Nha Trang has agreed to meet us in Can Tho and holiday with us into Saigon! So strange to think we’ve been here for almost 10 weeks! It’s come around quickly but we’ve done so much it also feels like we’ve been here for ages- if that makes any sense! Apart from when Jamie couldn’t walk and we were restricted by his recovery (and thank God he recovered so quickly and completely) I really feel we’ve done everything we set out to do and see, plus so many more unexpected surprises!!

Day 1 – 160 Km. Mui Ne to Ba Ria…

Felt good to be on the go again! My bike now had a new engine so I couldn’t take it over 60 kph while I ran it in. The owner of the hostel we were staying in suggested we follow the coastal road rather than highway 1 which is apparently full of pot holes. The ride was easy except for one puncture in Phan Thiet. Jamie needed a new inner tube for his front wheel and unfortunately it was one of those times that we very nearly got screwed. The mechanic removed his wheel then pretty much refused to change the inner tube, saying we had to buy a new tyre for 600,000 (about £18). After a fair amount of arguing he changed the inner tube and then scowled a lot as we went on our way! What can you do? Every other time we’ve had a problem with our bikes the locals have stopped to help us, and its never cost us much before.
It was also our 3 yr anniversary, the money we’d planned to splash on a posh hotel ended up being spent on my motorbike! But we still had a lovely supper x lots of people said before we came travelling that we would find it hard and that we’d argue a lot. The thing is we’re used to living in each other’s pockets, and yes we annoy each other some days, but we’ve been getting along so well since we’ve been away. I couldn’t imagine being here with anyone else. Here’s to us J x

Day 2 – 170 km. Ba Ria to Ben Tre…

We were very much mistaken when we thought this would be a breeze! Unfortunately what our map didn’t show us was that the ferry we intended on crossing was within the boundaries of a military base! So we detoured north, around the outskirts of Saigon and then headed south into the Delta. We had our first ferry crossing on this day! It cost about 10p for both bikes and us. It is even hotter down here than anywhere else we’ve been yet. On the ferry there are lorries and loads of other bikes all parked on a flat platform. You can imagine, with all those engines around you it’s like being in a furnace! Quite an experience though!

crossing the bridge with Saigon in the background...

crossing the bridge with Saigon in the background…

 

sunset in Ben Tre...

sunset in Ben Tre…

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ferry crossings

ferry crossings

on another ferry, and next to a lorry full of Beer Saigon!

on another ferry, and next to a lorry full of Beer Saigon!

Day 3 – 80 km Ben Tre to Can Tho…

The further west you go the more wild the delta becomes. The roads are narrow, but good, and there is so much to look at you don’t really want to go fast anyway. Everywhere around you is there is thick jungle and winding little waterways. Locals are dozing in hammocks, or fishing, or laying out produce to dry in the sun. It really is a different world. We did another three ferry crossings, and we rode over a narrow bridge with actual holes in it! I couldn’t help thinking those holes were probably big enough for my bike wheel to jam in, and this bridge crosses the river! There were metal sheets layered out over the worst of it… Bit scary but fun too. Can Tho is a huge city, the traffic is pretty hectic too. We arrived, checked in, and went off to find Steve!

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the mighty Mekong

the mighty Mekong

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Day 4 – 110 km Day Trip from Can Tho to Vi Thanh…

Because our first hotel was a little out of the way we checked into another in a better location. We stayed right down on the riverfront. Can Tho is not particularly geared up for Western tourists but there is a small area down on the river that has a few bars and restaurants. The local ex-pat community are very friendly and we were made really welcome at a little place called the Mekong. Our hotel was perfectly acceptable and about £10 a night. Plus it was right next door to the Mekong so breakfast was easy.

Jamie, Steve and I set aside a day to explore further south-west into the Delta. It was spectacular and so very different to the rest of Vietnam. We travelled along a road that follows the river, the jungle is thick and impenetrable on the other side. Red Vietnamese flags line the road, and blossoming shrubs scatter vibrant yellows and oranges. There are banana trees; heavy with fruit and enormous red blossoms. There are food sellers, fishermen out on the river, and people spreading out rice, fish, and coconut shells to dry on the roads. And the air changes- I know it sounds strange but it does… As you ride along and reach a break in the trees the air drops from that jungle sweat-box heat and you pass through a pocket of cool air. The earthy smells of vegetation drop to the richness of the water. It was an incredible experience and one we’ll never forget.

produce drying in the sun

produce drying in the sun

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Day 5 – was just spent relaxing because that many kilometres in four days will just about ruin your bum, shoulders and back!

Day 6 – 175km Can Tho to Saigon…

This was the last long ride of our trip! It felt a little sad, but at the same time I’m not sure I could have done much more. So much of the time we have been on the go- its been loads of fun but nearly everything in my backpack needed washing and I was excited about getting to Thailand. The roads to Saigon are mainly just motorways, not a lot to see, but quick and comfortable to ride on. At one point the plastic covering over Jamie’s back brake and indicators fell off and went bouncing down the road. I pulled him over and as we were contemplating going back for it three huge lorries ran it over!

I won’t lie, I was nervous about riding into Saigon, but if I wasn’t ready now after ten weeks and almost 3,000 km I guess I never would be… Riding into Saigon really was crazy, I don’t think roads can get any busier than this! The traffic creeps along bumper to bumper, mopeds are fifteen deep, horns blaring… its chaos! You can’t hesitate for a second, you just have to keep crawling along with the flow. Our friend Steve was knocked off his bike and grazed his arm, he was badly bruised but luckily he was okay after a couple of days. We enjoyed Saigon for the four days we had there. Our main focus was to sell our motorbikes. Our first offer was $100 for both, then $140 from another guy. We’d always said if we could get half our money back we’d be happy. To be honest anything back was a bonus- the experience we’ve had with the bikes was worth every penny. We advertised them on Craigslist and ended up selling them to a local Vietnamese guy for $200. He said he would fix them up and sell them locally. I was sad to sell my bike, but they did us well and I’m really considering getting my bike licence back home in the UK. I love it too much to give up now!!

Saigon traffic

Saigon traffic

After selling the bikes we found we were kind of just waiting around for a couple of days until our flight to Thailand. It was a huge weight off our shoulders to have actually sold the bikes (even more of a surprise to have been happy with the price). Once that was done we were able to wander around the city doing the normal touristy things… Saigon is so vibrant I felt I could walk around for ages just soaking up the vibe of the city. I preferred it to Hanoi. The war museum was a harrowing experience, I would definitely recommend it.

We had lunch one day in a place that served hand-pulled noodles. You could watch the chefs making them- they stretch out a piece of dough and double it, cut it, stretch it, double it… until they have a big bunch of noodles- very cool! For our last night Jamie treated me to a gorgeous sushi supper and we met our friends afterwards for some goodbye drinks.

Thank you Vietnam!! Its been absolutely incredible! I have fallen in love with this country- and I’ll never forget these past three months! Jamie and I both said we will most definitely come back one day. But for now its goodbye Vietnam and onwards to Thailand!!! xxxxxxxxxxxxx

view of the city from our hotel room

view of the city from our hotel room

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the last time we parked our bikes up...

the last time we parked our bikes up…

 

 

 

 

The Central Highlands by Motorbike…

Actually, it was The Central Highlands by Scooter- for over 400 kms our little 110cc Yamaha Nouvos climbed mountains and handled seemingly endless dirt roads. Our little bikes never let us down once.

After hours of studying the map we decided to head inland from Danang into the Central Highlands; the coastal road has little to offer for this stretch, and the promised glory of the Ho Chi Minh highway had us hooked…. So on the 29th of September we left the lovely Danang- the beach, the bars, the nice hotels, (and anyone who spoke English!). Tanks full and backpacks loaded: we began our trek.

Day 1

Danang to Kham Duc : 120 km

The first 70 km of this ride was very hot and pretty standard, although as we were about to discover, the roads here are very good compared to further inland. Once we cleared the city and its suburbs the landscape became green and wild. At the foot of the mountains we stopped to check the map.  Like two over-excited children we took off- grinning happily- to begin our ascent.

our destination in the background

our destination in the background

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Jamie checking important stuff while I snap a selfie!

Jamie checking important stuff while I snap a selfie!

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There is a considerable climb into the Highlands, although that masssive Vietnamese heat is still constant. The humidity dropped noticeably though, which certainly makes things more comfortable. At one pooint we stopped and my trainers were melting into the road- it was that hot!!

roads melting in the sun

roads melting in the sun

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view from the road

view from the road

 

water buffalo beside the river

water buffalo beside the river

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so hot we had to keep stopping for water breaks and a few piccies...

so hot we had to keep stopping for water breaks and a few piccies…

We finally arrived in Kham Duc. I will admit I was feeling somewhat proud of myself at this point! The hotel options are very limited here, and we checked into the ‘Be Chau Giang’ which apparently is owned by a Frenchman and gets filled by the local gold-mining workforce. The room was about £8 for the night and very nice. We were starving so we got showered and headed off in search of some lunch. There was a Vietnamese guy outside of our hotel who pointed at our camera and then struck a pose for us to take his picture! Funny guy- we saw him at a cafe later on and he waved us over and chatted away in Vietnamese to us. He insisted on buying us beers beacuse ‘we’re tourists!’. He kept going off and buying more until we (still on emty stomachs) had to call it a day. He refused to let us buy a round and he wouldn’t take any money either. We stayed for ages- him all the time chattering away in Vietnamese and us not understanding a word of it!- the more tipsy I became the more I just smiled and nodded… failing that we all just raised our glasses for another ‘mhot-hi-ba!’ (cheers!).

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view from our hotel

view from our hotel

There was nowhere open for lunch so we settled for a packet of crisps and ventured out later for dinner instead. Kham Duc as a town is very quiet, there really is nothing going on, but the scenery is very beautiful. One thing we found difficult was the amount of staring you get from the locals (if you smile at them they just keep staring, or they look away- hardly anyone returns a smile) I guess they don’t get many westerners there. Also, I think if you went with a local guide who could speak the language (I think this is the way most tourists see the Highlands), it would be a different experience entirely. I really enjoyed the freedom of having our own bikes though, and I know I would have gotten really badly car-sick on a coach, so no regrets whatsoever!

Day 2

Kham Duc to Plie Kan (Ngoc Hoi) : 130 km

This ride was incredibly beautiful. We climbed as high as 1800m at one point. Such a gorgeous view! The road took us close to the Laos border- about 3km at one point.

another selfie while Jamiechecks the map!

another selfie while Jamiechecks the map!

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The last 20km of this trip absolutely threw it down! You can see the rain clouds threatening in the background…

smiling now but look at those clouds!

smiling now but look at those clouds!

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Soon enough it was time to try out the new ponchos!

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rain literally pouring off the roof...

rain literally pouring off the roof…

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We only found two hotes in Plie Kan, and this was the worst night we’ve had on our travels so far. The room was horrible and the staff not very friendly at all. Our air-con only blew out hot air, the TV didn’t work, the bed linen wasn’t that clean and the springs on my mattress were half broken. The town felt strange too, come 6pm it was deserted. If we felt stared in Kham Duc, it was nothing compared with Plie Kan. I guess it’s just a very remote area- about as ‘deepest-darkest-Vietnam’ as you’re going to get!! No-matter though, it was just a stop-gap as we made our way to Pleiku.

strapping the bags on- morning routine

strapping the bags on- morning routine

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Day 3

Plei Kan to Plieku : 100 km

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Much easier ride today, although scenery nowhere near as impressive. Pleiku is the biggest town we’ve seen so far, with lots of eateries and hotels. The first night we went out for a Com Ga, (chicken and rice) . One thing we’ve noticed is that a lot of restuarants/street food places around here only serve the one dish. So you go in and sit down, and you just get what you’re given. I have to say though that everything has been of very high quality and really fresh. The rice noodle soups are delicious- and so healthy!

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I wanted to visit the Phu Coung waterfall- about 47km south of Pleiku. Not that far we thought- an easy hours ride! Big lesson learnt here: never judge a journey time in Vietnam based on a map!! A ‘road’ can be a very loosely used term!  and these roads were horrendous! It turns out that substantial sections of the Ho Chi Minh highway are incomplete. It went from this:

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to this:

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for about 20 km… add in 45 ton work-lorries, mad-men minibus drivers, coaches and lungfulls of dust… Just to give you an idea of what it was like!!  Luckily the waterfall was worth it.

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dodgy bridge

dodgy bridge

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the rocks we had to scramble over...

the rocks we had to scramble over…

 

bumblebee and betty xx

bumblebee and betty xx

We were filthy by the time we got home!

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After a much needed shower we went out for dinner at a little local place. Again the menu had no english.While Jamie went to an ATM I did a lucky dip our dinner. I know that Bo is beef and Ga is chicken but the chicken was not a fixed price so I went for a Mon Moi instead…

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Yep… Mon Moi turned out to be frog! hahaha. I enjoyed it but Jamie wasn’t as keen… I thought it was frog when they put it down but I tried to lie and tell Jamie they were little chickens (I’m not a very convincing liar!).  There was plenty of food though and we were full afterwards- plus it was all very tasty. While we were sat having a couple of beers afterwards we met a Vietnamese guy called Tommy-

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Hi english was very good, we’ve facebooked him since!! The next morning he took us for a traditional breakfast and gave us a gift of banana and sweet potato crisps! He was such a lovely guy and meeting him really made Pleiku special for us.

The next day was our final, and longest push as we left the Highands for a 160 km ride to Quy Nhon…

 

… 160km to quy nhon

 

Day 4

Plieku

Day 5

Plieku to Quy Nhon : 160 km (!)

‘Kim Thien’: the best mechanic in Hue…

Researching where and how to buy motorbikes in Hue the name ‘Kim Thien’ kept popping up in forums and posts, plus on our first night out on the town a guy from the backpackers hostel recommended him and gave us a card.

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So, slightly fragile from the night before we took a stroll over the causeway and found his shop. Feeling slightly awkward- the shop looks like its a mechanics, there aren’t any bikes out front for sale- we told him he’d been highly recommended as the place to come to buy a bike….

Kim made some phonecalls and the first bike arrived within half an hour. After a quick test drive he said he would change the back brakes. Once the work was done he said we could borrow the bike for a bit while he sourced another. The second bike (my bumblebee!!) turned up later in the afternoon; again Kim took it for a test drive. My bike needed quite a lot of work.

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Both bikes had a full service, new wingmirrors on both (important because a. it’ll save your life and b. the roads can be so bumpy if they’re loose they’re useless). He sent his son off to give them both a wash and his wife came to offer us a selection of helmets. We paid £270 all in (we had budgeted about £500 so we were more than happy). Kim is so nice as well, at no point did you feel like you were being taken for a ride (excuse the pun), so much work went into the bikes and we were so happy it had been so easy. Kim is a genuinley friendly guy, very welcoming, full of smile and laughs- plus just watching him work he clearly knows his stuff. The shop was busy the whole time we were there. A few of his customers, australians and kiwis told us with big smiles and thumbs up that we’d made the right choice coming here.

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Jamie’s is Black Betty, and mine is the Bumblebee xx We’ve got over 8 weeks and 800 miles to g… much more to follow xxxxxxxxxxxxxx