Published: April 1st 2009
April 1st 2009
Well...We are all biked up!
The last post saw us with a couple of choices...Checking out bikes at Mr Cuongs or taking the bike with repairs from Voyage Vietnam.
Ultimately it was no competition and anyone considering doing a similar trip should avoid the arsing around and just turn up at Mr Cuongs, (heart of the old quarter, Luong Ngoc Quyen) and just tell him what you want...
It was Cuongs brother running the shop when we arrived and he showed us a Sports Minsk (2 stroke 125 Russian built dirt bike) which was exactly what we wanted...It was in great nick for a ten year old bike, fully serviced and came with more spares than I've got the time or inclination to mention...(though from what we read spares are a necessity rather than a luxury)...also 2 dirty great saddle bags and lots of advice on how to keep it running...
After a fried egg baguette at the Queenstar we picked up the bike and I took her out for a first (hair-raising) test ride around the old quarter...came back three shades greyer but undeterred.
So that was it...no more excuses...All that remains is for us to ride from Hanoi
Have Minsk will travel
This guy (who was the tallest in his family) was very surprised to see us "Roundeyes" on the Ho Chi Minh Highway..
in the North of Vietnam, all the way down to Phu Quoc island which lies off the far South Coast, best part of two thousand kilometres.....We have a good supply of wet wipes for buttock chafing, two penknives, a phrase book, mascara and a light matte concealer for any blemishes we might incur along the way so.... BRING IT ON!
The traffic is every bit as insane as the guide books say and the trip out of Hanoi was an education....You are supposed to stick to the right hand side of the road but this just totally falls apart at any and every junction, which, as well as not being signposted, are a complete melee! Bikes and cars and trucks and carts and cows and old dudes and kids and old girls in conical hats just follow their noses...The only way to get any where is just to pick a line and follow it until something gets in your way...i.e.at about a foot at a time.
Mad as it sounds it seems to work pretty well, and though we were leaving in what was considered rush hour, progress was pretty good. Rhianydd had the map tucked down the front
of her jeans and was psyched up to shout instructions into my left ear on the approach to any junction......At last...a sat nav with a conscience...when she got it wrong she apologised....Car manufacturers listen up!
We headed for Ha Dong, SW of Hanoi and then on to Xuan Mai where we picked up the Ho Chi Mnh Highway and after about 50 Kms stopped for petrol....The Minsk is a 2 stroke bike so petrol has to be mixed with 5% oil so this was the first real test of communication skills...Communication skills were faultless, unfortunatley this just meant that we understood they HAD NO OIL and so in a major panic we headed on further into the great beyond hoping to find another garage....The Ho Chi Minh Highway is a new and very underused road which is a great ,scenic alternative to the very busy Highway 1 but unfortunately any services (food, fuel, bogs etc.) are few and far between.. Legend says the very occasional cops may stop you just to pinch cigarettes so our hearts were in our mouth...
The next station (30 KMS) luckily had both petrol and oil but I dont think we'll be letting the tank get low again.
We were heading for Tam Coc to overnight but after passing through Nho Quon the sat nav threw a wobbly (I blame the parents!) and we were lost.....instead of quiet back roads we found ourselves in the thick of it on highway 1 needing to pass through Tam Diep, a very busy town, to get to Tam Coc....Exhaust fumes...Horns blaring...Trucks swerving...JEEEEEEEsus! Luckily the Sat Nav kicked in and played a blinder noticing a road just as we went steaming past it...Quick Uturn and Wahey! Finally arrived at Sunset and spotted the THE LONG Hotel...Rode the bike directly into the lobby where we were told it would be safe, and collapsed into a couple of chairs where we were given (englishmans heaven) a cup of tea....BLISS!
So Day One round-up.......170 kilometres through some of the most beautiful scenery you can imagine...Mountains half-hidden in low cloud, paddy fields, A stop for beers at a waystation on the HCM Highway where the whole family stared open mouthed at 2 "roundeyes" on a motobike, faces "Blacked Up" like Al Jolson when we arrive and take of our sunglasses..........Day One done and dusted. Fabulous!
Day Two started with the alarm call of a pig being disembowelled outside our window but more of that later.......