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Published: November 25th 2013
Arrived in Hanoi, so far so good. A touch pollluted but have enjoyed getting lost and consequently found again.
Keeping up with tradition of trips that have preceeded this one i have been trying to get my hands on a relatively/very cheap bike. Think i have succeeded but time will be a good judge on that point! I paid 3,000,000 dong for the bike but you can pay about halfish for a bike with one gear (as in go) Anyhow one dosent seem quite enough. Also a by product of the cheapness is the size of the bike, definately asian size frame. To get anything bigger than that would take you into the realms of professional cycle shops in Hanoi and no doubt multiples of the price i paid. So yes the bike i am riding is a bit dwarfish. Could leave the knee's wanting somewhere down the road.
Managed to get my back pack onto the bike and fastened down pretty tightly aided by several bungy cords. Definately dont want anything to bumpy-not as sturdy as i would like. If im going by hanoi standards of whats acceptable to put on the bike then i really shouldnt care
a jot as anything goes. The back of the bike can be inhabited by any number of things, start up joinery business, florist,dead or alive poultry and fast food business with deep fat fryer attached to name a few.
I think the biggest concern for myself and quite frankly for anyone on 2 wheels (peddle or motor) is getting out of Hanoi. It functions but certainly not in a predictable or controlled manner. I took a bit of time out to stand at a junction to see what the inner workings of it are. I coud stand there all day but the reaity is as soon as you think you have the theory and practicalities nailed something goes straight through a red light and up a one way street, with hazards on to be fair ! The trick i believe is to be on the peripheries of the pack, really avoid been inside the “sandwich”. Avoid been at the front at all costs because then it would seem its down to you whether to make a dash for it or edge a little bit closer for a game of chicken.
The orginal plan was to go to a
place called Sapa in the fair north. This didnt happen for a couple of reasons:
- Terrible weather forecast over an ever increasing number of days
- It looked like a real slog getting there and it's the wrong way in terms of where i want to be
- Not cut out of a mini trip like this just yet
- Intense bout of sinusitis
So i opted to cycle out East to a place called Haiphong. Relieved, pretty chuffed you name it but i got out of Hanoi suprisingly quickly in my mind. The fact remains its pretty common to feel like a biscuit in a mixer pissing against the wind at any one of Hanoi's more critial control points (roads). Only had one hick up early doors when a policeman stopped me going over the first bridge/route of escape. This was remedied by the fact there was definately a bridge about 6 km down the road which turned out to be true. Its all relative to be fair. I felt the current was ever so slightly against me courtesy of having a very very basic map(20km per cm, make of that what you
will) and a compass. I think in reality it may have just sharpened the senses which is good because they have been known to be a bit blunt sometimes. Always good to get the first proper bridge out of the way. Bridge crossings are classed as definate progress when escaping a city. Pont de Normandie springs to mind when trying to get out of Le Havre.
A good and valid reason for going to Haiphong was because once out of Hanoi i could follow what was essentially a motorway(highway 5) all the way to Haiphong. Totally legit to cycle on a four lane road, good eh! There are basically 3 lanes and then 1 reserved primarily but not exclusively for bicycles, motorcycles and motorway vendors and thats about it. From experience though it should come as no suprise to see cars driving up the wrong side or motorbikes for that matter. Its quite endearing that as long as you have the hazards on literally anything is possible on a Vietnamese road. Then add to the formula that most people want to pass on there best wishes to a cyclist who is quite clearly not from the locality
and who is carrying what amounts to a trunk on the back. The most extreme case was a guy on a scooter wanting to shake my hand whilst still in motion. The most common occurance however was short sharp hello followed by hystertical laughing then rather bizarrely allez allez. Its all good just a bit disconcerting at times when you are trying to focus all your powers of attention on the job in hand.
With no worthwhile map or speedometer it can be hard to keep the mind stimulated (where am i, how long till i get there?) which would you believe can whittle away much of a day with. So as backup to poor logistical planning the increased familarity, curiosty and jovial nature of most Vitnamese motorists is certainly a good thing. It can put a nice spin on a day which otherwise could have an A-B vibe about it.
Anyhow managed to make it all the way Haiphong in one day (105km) aided by a couple of cans of coke,pringles and a siesta near the end to shake off the shakes that seemed to have set in. First day always seem's to be about aclimatiising your
body. Essentials are get a very sore arse, blisters and calfs that feel they have imploded. So now that is out of the way its all uphill in terms of physical conditioning!
Currently find myself on Cat Ba island having got a ferry out this morning from Haiphong. Plan is to have a cycle around here then go back to Haiphong and get cycling in a south westerly direction to one of the few border crossing with laos.
Hanoi was an interesting first stop, very polluted mind. Nice to get out onto the open road(ever increasing from Haiphong southwards) Nice to be peddling and seeing the places in between!
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