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Thread: Long Way Up: Vietnam 27 June - 15 July 2011

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    inferno_robe
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    Default Long Way Up: Vietnam 27 June - 15 July 2011



    Hi guys, Desmond here. I'll be embarking on a journey from Saigon to Hanoi, stopping along at all major cities and attractions, and basically having tons of fun riding that curved dragon we call Vietnam. This is my second time riding in Vietnam, the first was last December 2010 when I rode from Danang to Hue and back, a total distance of 220km, and my third time in this marvellous country. Together with 2 other friends, we will be facing a daunting 2941km route, going to the central highlands and the coastal beach party town Nha Trang, riding on the new and beautiful Ho Chi Minh Highway (Hwy 14), and doing a final loop of the Northwestern highlands if time permits. We will have just 19 days, including time to view and purchase the bikes as well as to sell them when we reach Hanoi, with zero experience at all in riding in such terrain( I only have 3 months riding experience in Singapore, my friend just passed his TP on Thursday, while the other is still on Lesson 7). With spare time on our hands and an overwhelming urge to seek adventure, we 21 year olds will be departing on this coming Monday and I promise a really exciting ride report here full of interesting pictures. If anyone has done this route already, or has any tips for us, please feel free to comment and advice. Thanks!

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    inferno_robe
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    My display picture shows the tentative route that we will be taking. Cheers

     

     
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    Have a blast ... If you're taking the scenic coastal route of Highway No. 1, just be careful. The Southern drivers are more tolerant, once you've crossed the DMZ( Demilitarized Zone), the northern road gangsters have no mercy. Head to Sapa if you have time, one refreshing experience and try one of their homestays...




    http://www.singaporebikes.com/forums...ina-experience
    http://yempaulantonio.blogspot.sg


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    whoa great RR i loved it. my itinerary would most probably be like urs, sans the coastal highway part, since it has the most number of big bad buses. anyway does anyone know how to upload pictures? it seems that i need to tag a picture in a weblink but im new to this..

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    Okay, since you have decided to go, just to share my planned itinerary from Hanoi to Saigon. Of course, you would be heading the opposite way.

    1) Hanoi
    - HW 1A
    2) Vinh (292km, LP199)
    - HW15 (beautiful ride)
    - Phong Nha Cave
    3) Dong Hoi (197km++, LP203)
    - HW 1A
    - DMZ (40km)
    - Vinh Moc Tunnels
    - Hamburger Hill
    4) Hue (172km, LP215)
    - HW 1A
    - Citadels, pagodas and palaces, perfume river
    5) Bach Ma National Park, hill station (1450m, 40km, LP232)
    - HW 1A
    - Hai Van pass, beautiful roads (no motorbikes allowed in the tunnel)
    - Ba Na hill station
    - Monkey Mountain
    - Marble Mountains
    6) Hoi An (98km, LP245)
    - Old town and Chinese community
    - My Son
    - Chien Dan
    - HW 14
    7) Kon Tum (250km, LP339)
    - Or Pleiku (47km)
    - Montagnard villages (homestay)
    8) Buon Ma Thuot (247km, LP330)
    - HW27
    - Dray Sap & Dray Nur waterfalls
    - Coffee
    - Lak Lake
    - Crazy house
    9) Dalat (200km, LP317)
    - Lang Bian Mountain (2400m)
    - Some waterfalls
    - HW20
    10) Saigon (300km)
    - Di Linh, Bao Loc tea, Dambri Falls

    1800km++

    From Dong Hoi, you can consider going via Pho Chau, Cuc Phuong, Mai Chau, Dien Bien Phu and Sapa before heading to Hanoi. Probably another 1000km+.

    My trip report for NW vietnam is here: http://adventurevacationtrip.com/nor...1-introduction

    But the site seems to be down at the moment.

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    xiaoviper
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    Sounds good. Never dare go on such trips, yet. But GOOD LUCK TO YOU and HAVE FUN!
    Will be following your updates.

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    Best of luck guys, will subscribe to this thread.

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    inferno_robe
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    Back! Well, we survived the entire 2940km (excluding hor lan and in-city riding) with a few minor bruises (mostly me), escaped corrupt and vile highway policemen (more highwaymen than policemen) with a few hundred thousand dong poorer, one attempted robbery on the highway at night, several nights alone and absolutely stunning scenery along the way. I will try to tidy up (censor) pictures taken and post them up here ASAP. Will also post technical details, including routes taken, distances, ratings of the scenery and the conditions of the road. Already looking forward to the next overseas road trip!

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    Default First day of riding

    28/6/2011
    Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) to Bao Loc @ 862m above sea level (A.S.L)
    Total Distance: 189.5 km
    Condition of road: 2/5 (Congestion on Highway 1 a.k.a Hwy1 and potholed roads on Hwy 20)
    Scenic value: 0.5/5 (The crowded south offers little to gasp at.)
    Cost: 320.5 USD
    Motorbike - 300
    Hotel - 5
    Fuel - 7.5
    Water and Lunch in Saigon - 5
    Dinner in Bao Loc - 3
    Key antagonists: Desmond (me), Yam (the man in full-face) and JY (dude in white helmet with the most expensive bike). 3 students waiting for university to start, going to NTU, SMU and possibly SUTD.

    The route. Approx 3000km, possibly nearer to 2940km excluding distance getting lost. Google maps rejected our route to Dien Bien Phu in the northwest and created an alternative route, so this route is just a close estimate of the route we took.




    Originally we planned to ride together in a single file formation but we lacked the discipline so sometimes we get separated from one another halfway through the day’s riding. General rule is that the further north you get, the better the roads. We were extremely lucky in this trip because I was the only one to suffer any serious injury (the most experienced rider some more tsk tsk), and also because whenever we had mechanical problems e.g. bike wouldn’t start, throttle cable snapped etc. it was never the last person. So there was always someone who would eventually catch up and ride off to look for help. Odometer and speedometer didn’t work, there were no indicators for reserve fuel or high beam or engine oil, so we had no idea how much engine oil we had at the start of the trip. This would prove to be very very expensive.



    Saw this when I was walking around town on the first day in Saigon. Though the only Ducatis I saw dragging first gear on the streets were in Hanoi..



    The bar/restaurant at the top floor of Rex Hotel, the Viet equivalent to the Fullerton.



    The trio with Tran a.k.a Vespa Tran of Saigon Minsk, whom we bought the bikes from. That's Yam on the left, Tran(pronounced Chan), me and JY



    His address in Saigon. Its in the backpackers district, so its very convenient for us.



    My bike with full pack on, a 75+15litre backpack which is more than sufficient.




    We started off at 245pm. Tran’s assistant brought us out of Saigon to Highway 1 which was busy as hell with SO MANY motorbikes and trucks and buses. When he left us for good, we knew what laid ahead of us: a daunting 3000km of riding in unknown conditions in a foreign land with very old motorbikes with naught experience of touring. I had no auto-roaming service so my iPhone was basically an iPod Touch that can only Whatsapp with Wi-Fi, while JY and Yam could SMS each other. This would prove very useful in the trip. Of course as brash 21-year-olds we didn’t think of buying local SIM cards to contact each other more conveniently. 5 minutes after riding on the highway, other motorcyclists would bike past me and kept horning at me and gesturing and shouting in Viet. I thought,” what the hell are they doing? Maybe they’re just jealous I had a Chinese bike and they don’t. It was only when JY rode beside me and pointed to my sidestand that I realized what it was all about, a loose sidestand that kept dropping down. So there we had, our first mechanical problem. Which was easily solved using duct tape.



    Got separated from yam just 45km out of HCMC. Waited half an hour for him to catch up but still we didn’t see Yam pass us. Naturally, I started to get worried since that was the first day of riding and without experience on those roads, a small mistake could be fatal. So I backtracked for 15 minutes to find him, since it could have been a small mechanical problem that caused his bike to fail to start, but there was still no sign of him. When I came back, JY told me Yam had SMSed to say he was already at the signpost pointing towards Da Lat where we had agreed to meet and would be waiting for us there (the waiting part was only obvious to us after 30min of riding PAST the sign and stopping to SMS him again. Oops).

    The sign where we lost Yam




    So we sped our way through traffic towards there. When we saw the signpost we continued to turn left and proceed. Saw no Yam beside the signpost (where he claimed he was). It was only after 30 min later when we SMS him n he said he was still at the signpost! So we continued our push to Bao Loc and told him to meet us there. Here it turns dark at 620 so for the next hour we rode in the rapidly setting sun. It was until around 720 when lighting simply disappeared and we had to rely on our atrocious headlights to continue. Needless to say, progress was slow. Potholes that appeared only when its too late added to the misery. Then it began to rain. We soon reached cloud level which further decreased visibility. Feeling emo by then and just wanted shelter and food and a warm shower.

    This was brighter than what we travelled through that night. It was really pitch black darkness.


    Bao Loc by then was just 25km or approx. 45 min away. We stopped to SMS Yam to tell him to cease riding in these bad conditions and just look for lodging, and he replied, yea already done that! Zzz So JY and I pushed on. JY almost got squashed between two buses during this part of the riding. I had overtaken a bus earlier on right before a right bend, but perhaps of tiredness or inexperience, he followed me and overtook the bus AT the bend (never overtake at a bend, that’s part of the lesson plan in FTT). He claimed he did not see any beam lights to indicate incoming traffic, yet there was a bus heading straight in his direction. At the last possible second, JY said both buses shunted him just enough for him to squeeze past both buses, this on a crappy Viet mountain road. No premature train ride to Hanoi for him after all. 25km of blinding high beams from buses and trucks later, we found this hotel which is cheap. Reached Bao Loc at 830. 200.000 dong a night. ~10USD. No ripoff! Definitely the most dangerous riding for the trip but we didn't realize it till a few days later. Lol. Highway 1 is absolutely the worst option if you want to enjoy the scenery, and since we only started climbing the mountain at night, we had no scenery to enjoy in the first day of riding. The view in Bao Loc in the following morning was OK, but couldn’t match the stunning beauty of Sa Pa.

    Dinner was very welcomed that night

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    inferno_robe
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    Default 29/6 Bao Loc - Da Lat (1571m A.S.L). Second day of riding

    Total Distance: 115 km
    Condition of road: 2/5 (Many trucks and buses headed to Dalat from Bao Loc and vice versa with no regard for human life. Occasional potholes)
    Scenic value: 2/5 (The pine trees lining up along the road to Dalat were the highlight of the route.)
    Cost for the day: 34 USD
    Hotel in bao loc - 5
    Waterfall - 6
    Fuel - 7
    Club - 7
    Wine - 2
    Dinner - 4
    Sights - 3

    The route that we took. It was easy to navigate, since it's on the main highway. About 15~20km from Dalat, there was a sign pointing Dalat in the left direction. Take a left turn to go on a new 6-lane highway. Road was perfect there.



    The entrance to Bao Loc



    Fuel stop at Bao Loc before we set off. We always made it a point to refuel at the start of the day because a full tank was always than an empty one. In case of 'hor lan' or getting lost, the additional fuel would be useful.


    We used Octane-92 fuel for the trip.
    [CENTER]


    Yours truly, all ready to burn rubber





    Typical road to Dalat


    Went to Datanla falls which was along the highway to Dalat and sat on the roller coaster. Nothing spectacular in the falls, just one Sun Wukong (Monkey God in a popular ancient Chinese novel) taking photos with the locals, which I thought was totally irrelevant to the waterfall. LOL.




    The shop inside the waterfall compound where people were carving Buddha statues


    The 'roller coaster'

    The waterfall we went on


    Destination: Dalat


    Bought this map in Dalat for 2 USD. Best 2 bucks I've spent on this trip. Very useful in marking out population points and bigGER towns in case you couldn't make it to your destination before dark, like what we experienced in more than a couple of occasions.


    Just to recap on the first day of riding, for those who thought of riding on the 'coastal' route that Highway 1 takes that follows the curvature of Vietnam, Hwy1 is neither coastal (for at least 95% of the total distance) nor scenic. Plus the traffic on Hwy1 will leave you cursing and swearing, if you survive it.


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    inferno_robe
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    Have an orientation camp till sunday. be back on Monday! Cheers

     

     
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    hmm technical difficulties, can't seem to upload photos to photobucket as yet. Will be continuing the ride report next thurs when i get my new laptop

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    Default 30/6 Dalat - Nha Trang (139km) Third day of riding

    Total Distance: 139 km
    Condition of road: 2/5 (Potholes when you least expected it. Atrocious conditions just out of Dalat. However, the final part from 40km before Nha Trang that ended when the highway merged with Highway 1 10km before Nha Trang was absolutely insanely PERFECT. )
    Scenic value: 4/5 (The clouds that shrouded us were 1. our first time experiencing a whiteout 2. absolutely dangerous esp. after a heavy rain 3. so damn beautiful)

    Cost for the day: 24
    Lunch n bf 4
    Hotel in dalat 5
    Fuel 7
    Misc 3
    Dinner 5

    The route we took




    Worst night ever. All the hotels in Dalat were not equipped with air-conditioning, just like in Genting, as the temperature was supposed to drop below 16 degrees at night. Well, that part was true, but what no one told you was that when you opened the windows to ventilate and cool the room, mosquitoes would also take the opportunity to SWARM in. And I really meant swarm. For the entire night, the three of us couldn’t sleep at all, with all that buzzing and itchiness. All of us thought of actually getting out of bed and closing the windows, but we reasoned in our minds that since the mosquitoes were already in the room, closing the windows would simply mean that they would be trapped inside the room and would have even more opportunities to suck away at our arteries. So in the end, when the sun came up again, all three of us were just cussing away at those winged menaces.

    This club was quite happening. Looks like the Zouk of Dalat. Hot DJ mixing beats.



    This photo was taken at the Dalat marketplace with an actual iPhone 4.



    I loved this vase, found in Bao Dai's Summer Palace




    Went to Bao Dai’s Summer Palace, but not before getting lost for about 20 minutes because the map was very vague about its actual position. Bao Dai was the last emperor of Vietnam and frankly, the palace was another disappointment. We were the only foreign tourists there and I wouldn’t say the attraction was a must-go.



    The summer palace





    You had to wear these, to protect the tiling in the palace, not like they were well-preserved in the first place.





    Proceeded to Crazy House after that and the place was so COOL! It was simply architecture turned upside down, and the whole place looked more like a Transylvanian castle than anything. While we were enjoying our time exploring that place, a catfight took place and porcelain bowls were thrown out from a room and smashed on the walkway just outside the entrance. Eh I thought this was like the top tourist attraction in Dalat and this kind of thing just happened??! Then again, we were the only tourists there, so I guessed the staffers didn’t really care much for us.



    The view from outside



    So strong







    The view from the highest point in the Crazy House



    After all this drama, we continued on our way to Nha Trang. If we took the shortcut which is only 139km, down a descent of nearly 1600m, we figured 3 hours would be more than sufficient to complete the route right?

    All geared up



    Great hosts but Nightmarish experience with the mosquitoes





    Not if you added an accident (me), getting lost on Highway 1 at 630pm as the sun set, and atrocious roads at the start of the route in Dalat. The road was scenic though, empty and winding. Road was atrocious for the starting 5km out of Da Lat. There was an intersection where the left turn to the shortcut was a one-lane mud trail. I had my GPS (Thank you iPhone), so I knew which turn to take. But if you are unsure, just wait for a few minutes and see which way the minibuses with the sign to Nha Trang take, or which path has the heavier traffic. After that nightmarish road, it was good roads with insanely addictive bends with the inevitable potholes when you least expected them. I figured I was travelling at 40-50 when I had an accident while entering an uphill bend. The road surface was uneven and peaks at the center, not unlike the kind of roads with gravel seemingly stuck to the road surface with concrete. With tyres that would have so failed inspection in Singapore your license would be revoked, naturally traction took a leave of absence. I got thrown off the bike and flew in front of the bike. Knees received the brunt of the impact. My GAP Jeans were torn!!! (argh!!) and my rain jacket was torn. The ungloved left palm was grazed, while the right hand escaped unhurt. Elbow was cut. Sprained my right ankle as well. Shoelaces for the right shoe was broken into two. Luckily, there wasn’t any incoming traffic at that time, or else I would have been literally roadkill. No one stopped to help though, thank you very much Vietnam. At least 10 buses past us but no one offered any help. I supposed it was because we looked like locals. If we were white Caucasians, I bet someone would have stopped and offered their help.

    ouch


    My knee felt numb until an hour later when it started to hurt like hell, and it burnt like the devil's tongue when I took a shower later at night.



    Back at the hotel. This was the bandage Yam and JY tied up. Neat right!




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    inferno_robe
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    Default 30/6 Dalat - Nha Trang. Cont'd from the third day of riding

    My broken sneakers



    The smashed up bike



    The awesome roads



    The greenest rice fields you would ever see







    Out of nowhere appeared these menaces that were too high to be sleeping policemen and were an absolute spoiler to the riding experience. Trust the Viets to build good roads. Yea.



    In the end, we left Dalat at 2 and reached Nha Trang at 7. We then decided to finally purchase first-aid supplies including gauze, plasters and iodine for preventing infection, as well as to be better prepared in case of future accidents. But of course, dinner first!!!

    The ostrich meat tasted like pork...


    Night market scene


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    Default 1/7 Nha Trang - Buon Ma Thuot Fourth day of riding

    Total Distance: 189 km
    Condition of road: 1/5 (Potholes when you least expected it. Too much gravel. Too many speed stripes as well. Although the road is good generally, the ride was too bumpy.
    Scenic value: 2/5 (Forgettable scenery, except for the mountain range towards BMT)

    Cost for the day: 54
    Breakfast and cold drinks 3
    Hotel in Nha Trang 5
    Fuel 7
    Repairs 31
    Dinner 2
    Apple 0.5
    Bread 5

    The route we took



    Woke up at 9am, too late for an early start. Went off to find a repair shop to fix my bike, but found a man whose ‘shop’ was under a tree. LOL. Doesn’t matter anyway, what’s important was the technical finesse in fixing my bike. Since his ‘shop’ was beside a road under a tree, he had to ride his bike off to take additional parts halfway through the repairs.

    Before repairs




    Me with the mechanic


    In the end, I finished my repairs by 12pm, with the bill totaling 610,000dong (30usd).



    I changed the indicator lights, headlights, odometer box, odometer cable (both failed to work after 128.1km), rear and front brakes and front wheel alignment. There was a service charge of 70,000dong(3.5usd).

    The box fused and smoke appeared from it when I started the bike. Right after I left the mechanic, naturally.


    At 1230pm, we started off from Nha Trang. Our original plan was to reach Pleiku by nightfall, but because we woke up too late(we planned to wake up by 7am that morning), our best hope was BMT which was about 189km away. In Vietnam, petrol is heavily subsidized, so 150000 dong(7 USD) will buy yourself a full tank of petrol, which is approx. 7 litres. Before we could ride inland to BMT, we had to ride out on Highway 1 with those hideous trucks and supercharged tourist buses before turning left to Highway 26. The scenery was forgettable for the most part of Hwy 26, but along the mountain roads, it was amazing. The road conditions were very bad, with lots of gravel and occasional potholes, the mountain bends did not have crash guards which upped the fear factor and I remembered struggling uphill because of the lack of traction. Road conditions suck though, with many potholes.

    The mountain range just in front of us.


    Yam is so KEWL



    There was also too much loose gravel, so at corners, with the accident still fresh in my mind, I slowed my bike down to the point when it hardly banked at all while turning. There were also many speed stripes along this hwy26, which was a particular concern given the lack of grip. In the end, I felt as though I would skid anytime, since I could not stop fishtailing over the stripes. There was nothing much to see or do in BMT in the day or night, so just treat this place as a rest stop along your road trip. My bike kept rattling on the way here and my butt was seriously sore after 5 hours of riding from Nha Trang. Reached BMT at 510pm, separated again of course. I was with JY luckily, so with his auto-roaming phone, we could SMS and regroup with Yam. Best scenic route so far, better than Hai Van pass IMO.

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    Default 2/7 BMT- Chu Se (37km from Pleiku) 160km from BMT. 5th day

    Total Distance: ~160 km
    Condition of road: 2/5 (Although the road is good generally, the ride was too bumpy.)
    Scenic value: 1/5 (We were busy getting pissed off with the bike to appreciate the hot sun and ugly buildings)

    Cost for the day: 49
    Breakfast 3
    Hotel in 4
    Fuel 7 +10
    Tyre 15
    Engine oil 4
    Dinner 3
    Misc 3

    Planning a long day of riding to Hoi An, we set off early at 744am. Due to mechanical problems, we were unable to make it to anywhere.

    Our intended destination



    The road condition from BMT to Chu Se





    Once again, we were separated, with Yam pushing all the way to Kon Tum and me and JY stuck at Chu Se. JY’s bike broke down twice, once at 1030 and once more at 1200. For the first interruption, we were about 4km from the nearest town. His engine couldn't start by pushing the electric starter, so I had to ask the mechanic to accompany me back to the highway to take a look at JY’s bike. As well-pampered Singaporeans, we forgot about the PRESENCE and FUNCTION of a kick-starter until the mechanic used it and the bike came to life. So we continued on to the shop and let the mechanic have a look. He changed this small black plastic cube, which I had absolutely no idea what it was.

    The first shop of the day







    The black thing



    After that black thingy was changed (120,000dong or 6 USD), JY’s bike could start smoothly and we pressed ahead to try to catch up with Yam. For the next hour or 50km, it was smooth riding. Alas, at 1200hrs, JY said his bike just stopped working at 4th gear without warning and first gear engine braking had kicked in suddenly, which caused him to ‘almost skid’. The fortunate thing about this was that he had just overtaken me 10 minutes earlier, if not he would have been stuck in the middle of nowhere alone when his bike broke down. This time round though, his kick-starter was jammed and could not be kicked down. Bike gave a sharp ‘tsk’ sound when the electric starter was pressed. Luckily the bike shop was just 500m away this time. So JY pushed his bike to the shop.

    The second shop of the day A.K.A million dong shop



    Turned out the engine oil ran out and it seemed that the piston was jammed. The residual engine oil was so sludgy and black and amounted to only 100ml tops. Future oil changes at 800km intervals showed the oil had turned black but still fluid. Made me think if Tran had changed the engine oil for 3 of us at the start of the trip, since we had not even accomplished 1000km yet, so it was impossible for the engine oil to turn out in such bad condition. JY had to do an engine overhaul, which he got ripped off for at 3,000,000dong or 150 USD when the market rate was at most 50USD (according to the Canadian to whom we sold our bikes to).



    Emo boy





    He had no clue what laid ahead





    End product



    The road outside the shop




    We SMSed Yam to change his engine oil at Kon Tum and his oil was sludgy as well. I changed a fresh front tyre for more traction (zero improvement in grip performance) and had my engine oil changed too. For that night, JY and I stayed in this place called Chu Se, which was at the junction between two national highways, 39km away from Pleiku. Nothing to do at night here as well. On the map this is a provincial capital.

    Night views from the hotel



    Last edited by inferno_robe; 20-08-2011 at 01:24 AM.

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    Default 3/7 Chu Se to Kham Duc 300km 6th day

    Total Distance: ~247 km
    Condition of road: 2/5 (Ho Chi Minh highway was good, but crosswinds were too strong. Mountain roads had too much gravel to be safe. Parts of HCM highway were under repair, so the riding experience was not perfect.)
    Scenic value: 2/5 (I like mountains, that's why! Though the rest of the journey was pretty boring)

    Cost for the day: 26 USD
    Breakfast 3
    Hotel 8
    Fuel 7
    Engine oil 3
    Dinner 2
    Misc 3

    In order to get back on schedule, we planned a 380km route to Hoi An from Chu Se. At 620am, we went to the bike shop to collect the bike and it was in good condition. From here onwards, luckily, JY had no more mechanical problems (but it had better be that case, cos’ his bike was 150USD more expensive than ours, remember?). Had breakfast in Pleiku at 8am.

    The pate and coffee from this shop were AMAZING. I ordered 2 pates and 2 coffees.



    JY’s rear tyre had a puncture on the way to Kon Tum and it was another 4USD for new tubing.



    Saw this tubing sticking out of JY's bike and thought some important pipe must have burst. Turned out the pipe was useless and served no purpose.



    Before Kon Tum



    We then set off past Kon Tum and missed the turn to Ho Chi Minh Highway at Dak To (Seems like Yam too had missed the left turn to HCM highway, due to the lack of signage. Remember this town if you wanna do the same route as us. You have been advised…)
    So we continued on the wrong way for 25km and we wasted 1 hour altogether. The view from the wrong route was beautiful though, so even the roads were the worst so far, with gradients so steep that first gear had to be engaged, I kinda enjoyed the riding though because for the rest of the journey, we would not encounter such steep gradients at all. Yam said he went in the same direction as us and went even further than us, all the way in till the road ENDED.

    The place where I stopped and checked my GPS and realised... oops!


    The steep gradients




    I took this picture before I knew it was the wrong way. BEWARE! Milestones with blue colourings mean that the roads are minor roads. National highways are marked with red milestones.


    At the top of the trail, 1300m A.S.L


    It's really steep, the camera couldn't capture actually how it was. This was me dragging first gear up the mountain with 1 hand on the throttle and the left hand snapping away!



    Yea, after getting lost for an hour, that was how we felt


    Yam really got lost. We did not even reach this place


    Yam reached this place and realised he took the wrong path.


    An efficient use of transport


    LOL. Ho Chi Minh Highway was nicely paved but very hilly and some parts were still under construction, so average speed was pared down to just 40kmh. The route was scenic but the crosswinds were very strong.



    I particularly liked the ascent through the mountain range, with a climb up to 1300m, where it turned chilly, but road conditions were bad with too much gravel on the bends, making it dangerous to pick up speed.

    When it got really bad


    At 4pm, my bike throttle cable broke. The road marker showed that we were 1km from Dak Son, a town that did NOT exist.

    Place where my bike broke down


    In the end, JY found help from a forest ranger who helped us with finding the problem. He tied the throttle cable to a spanner. Cool! Took some time to get used to it but I kinda got it in the end. Tiring on the forearm though.

    Is this the coolest thing or what!
    Last edited by inferno_robe; 20-08-2011 at 01:32 AM.

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    Default Cont'd from 3/7 Chu Se to Kham Duc 300km 6th day

    Stopped at Kham Duc town, around 26km from where my bike broke down. That day, we rode for around 300km till 1730, a grand total of 10 hours. Best views so far in this trip, not much traffic, excellent road conditions, not many potholes, tarmac was less slippery than on other roads, though at isolated points of the highway, it was buried in landslides and was under repairs.

    The entrance to Kham Duc. It was pouring when we got there, so imagine how miserable we felt. The scenery made up for everything


    Sunburnt. CHAO TAH




    Dinner was bad but we were famished.

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    Default 4/7 Kham Duc –Hoi An-Hue 230km 7th day

    Total Distance: 230 km
    Condition of road: 4/5 (Excluding the initial part of highway 14E where it was atrocious, the rest of the road to Hoi An then to Hue was awesome, partly because 14E was a new road, partly because Hoi An to Hue was a very touristy route and also because the route we took was on Highway 1)
    Scenic value: 4/5 (Hai Van pass and highway 14E were really good. I would recommend 14E to anyone who wants to mix good roads with good views.)

    Cost for the day: 158 USD
    Tailored clothes 126 (4 shirts, 2 cashmere pants, 1 jeans)
    Food 20
    Fuel 8
    Hotel in Kham Duc 3.5


    Woke up at 420. Started off at 530. Reached Hoi An at 838am, 136km away.

    Just woke up. All bleary-eyed


    Hwy 14E was atrocious right after exiting Ho Chi Minh Highway, but after 3km it was smooth tarmac all the way to Hoi An.



    Somehow, the best riding and he best scenery always came along when the roads are at its worst, so go figure.



    A local just zoomed past in his Honda wave and poor JY was struggling. psk.






    A milestone along Hwy14E




    Really awesome views


    Hoi An was sweltering in 35 degrees heat, without a singe piece of cloud in the sky. The best time to go to Hoi An would be December, when the monsoon’s ending and temperatures are about 20 degrees at night. Go to Hoi An if you want to make tailored shirts and pants, because this place is famous for it. Tailoring shops fill up entire streets and the quality of the tailored items is very high.

    I've been to Hoi An and Hue before, so this was the only picture I took.


    The road to Danang from Hoi An.


    Danang's beaches are so underrated.




    This suspension bridge wasn't even there when I went to Danang 7 months ago. Traffic in Danang was like that in Ho Chi Minh City, which was totally opposite of that 7 months ago in the monsoon, when the roads were deserted at all times.


    K, back to the point, Hai Van pass was amazing, but the lousy tyres of our bikes meant we couldn't go as fast as we could without losing grip.

    Start of Hai Van pass


    Yam passing by a truck


    The road felt more slippery than the previous time I did on a Honda wave. But we made good time today, averaging about 45kmh. As I did not have a working headlight and it was getting dark in Hai Van Pass by 5pm, we decided not to stop anymore from there to Hue.

    Road to the top




    Highway 1 is a menace, especially at night, when the coaches would overtake you while forcing you to take evasive action at the same time. Their headlights would blind me, whether it was by incoming coaches or by coaches creeping up and blinding me by the reflected light from the side-mirrors. Without streetlights or headlights, I was dependent on other motorists to ‘shine me to the path’. It was really quite an experience because I was constantly thinking when the next pothole that would finally throw me off my bike would appear.

    From the top of Hai Van, the sun was already setting, and there were still 2 more hours of riding.


    Another thing about riding at night is that because you could only spot the headlights from the motorcycle behind you, there was no way in ascertaining whether that person was actually your friend or just a stranger. This made it way easier to lose each other on the roads, and that was why we decided to stop night-riding altogether (we forgot what we said a few days later). In Hue City, Yam got stopped by the police for dashing the light but the police was nice and waived off the 150k dong fine. It's 35 degrees even at night in hue, and I was sweating nonstop just walking along the streets. Hue was so much nicer in the winter with temperatures going down to 15 degrees. Spent about 700 USD so far in this trip, 300 for the bike, 126 for tailoring and 60 on shopping in Saigon. Fuel was subsidized at just over 1 dollar for 92-octane, and my fuel consumption was around 35km per liter.

    This was our supper. A hue specialty, not unlike our Singaporean Chee Kueh, with special soy sauce and crackers to eat along with it.

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    Default 5/7 Hue-Phong Nha 229km 8th day

    Total Distance: 225 km
    Condition of road: 5/5 (Highway 14 is the best road in Vietnam)
    Scenic value: 1/5 (hwy 1 and hwy 14 were built for speed, not scenery. Just enjoy the tarmac and it will be enough)

    Cost for the day: 35
    Food 6
    Fuel 4
    Hotel in Hue 5
    Repairs 12
    Shower foam 2
    Bandages 6



    While Yam and JY were sightseeing in the morning, this lazy bum decided to literally chill in the hotel room and snooze.

    The sign behind explicitly said NO RIDING ON THE HORSES. The only thing stopping them from riding on the elephants was cos' they couldnt reach the saddle height.



    My breakfast of banana pancakes.


    After exchanging more money, about 250USD for me, since this would be the last major city we would be in before Hanoi, as well as repairing our bikes (Yam’s bike had emitted a burnt smell, my headlights were not working and all 3 of us changed engine oils), we started off from 230pm.



    Dun know what this was, but Yam had it changed.




    First, we decided to explore the citadel and exited at the northern gate before merging with highway 1.



    Top Gear Singapore





    80km into highway 1, there would be a sign pointing to the left towards the Lao border as well as HCM highway. Turn left here and go straight for another 20km. It was pretty easy for us to navigate because of the road signs, but if you had a GPS device, that would be even better.



    Took a wrong turn and here we landed in


    The start of perfect tarmac



    Once you turned left, traffic immediately dropped to zero. ZERO. Because of our unwillingness to ride at night and our past average speed of 40kmh, I was skeptical we would be able to reach Phong Nha before nightfall. However, due to the superb straights of highway 14E, or Ho Chi Minh Highway East, were able to reach speeds of up to 70kmh (full throttle on)!



    I so enjoyed the riding I forgot to take photos. Anyway the scenery was repetitive so there wasn't any point taking more photos.


    It was almost deserted with clear instructions where to go with smooth, almost perfect tarmac. We did not see any menacing trucks or buses for the whole 140km, just isolated motorbikes. This road seemed to be designed for speed, like hwy 1, because of its wide bends and relative flatness of the roads, although at hidden exits, a motorbike will suddenly appear out of nowhere and make you swerve for safety. Vietnam has one of the highest death rates on the roads, and no wonder, when motorbikes simply turn into the highway without so much as a glance to check the blindspot for traffic, expecting oncoming traffic to take evasive action instead. The route however was not very scenic, and despite strong crosswinds, we just focused on ripping the tarmac off. Reached Phong Nha by 7pm.

    Phong Nha limestone cliffs




    Hollywood-style entry signboard


    By 8pm, there was only 1 restaurant that was left open, so imagine the bustling town at night. One room for three cost us 10USD in Phong Nha for 3 people.

    The best rice with beef dish I have ever eaten in my entire life, and I am not exaggerating a lil' bit-e. GEDDIT?

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    Default 6/7 Phong Nha to Nowhere. 50km 9th day of riding

    Today we went to the UNESCO World Heritage Site the Phong Nha caves. Overslept and woke up at 9 instead of 7. We rode our bikes there but went the wrong way where the entrance to the cave was across the river from us, and wasted another hour.

    View from the wrong side



    To visit Phong Nha Caves, we had to go to the tourist entrance about 5km from the actual entrance of the cave and take a boat ride there.

    The cool trio



    View from the boat



    Tickets were cheap though, just 2 dollars for visiting the caves and another 7 dollars each for booking the boat to just the 3 of us. We visited 2 caves, the Tien Son and Phong Nha caves, but tourists were limited to only a short distance into Phong Nha, one of the world’s largest cave structures.







    PLEASE KEEP CLEAN. BATHE BEFORE YOU WALK FURTHER




    View from the entrance of Tien Son cave, a million steps up from the river



    RELAC-ONE-CORNER



    The following has no pictures because I was depressed at having lost so much time I forgot to use my camera! So it's just gonna be a long essay. Enjoy!

    Yam fixed his bike after visiting the caves at 330 ‘cos he smelled something burning from his bike. Eventually, we exited Phong Nha town at 430pm, 4 hours later than scheduled. 10km later on HCM road, Yam’s bike stalled and couldn't start at all. Luckily a local was around to help us push-ride to the next village. By push-riding, I meant that the local put his right foot on Yam’s left foot rest and guided Yam’s bike with his leg while he throttled his own bike! While trying to fix Yam’s bike, Turns out Yam only had to change a new spark plug. We didn’t think that would be the problem since we had it changed in Hue, or 240km away. JY noticed his fuel tank was leaking fuel, so he had to get that fixed as well. The mechanic took JY's tank n took it to a welder and came back only at 630pm. We effectively lost 3hrs on the road. Not willing to turn back and spend the night in Phong Nha again, we decided to push forward. Problem was, there was no major towns for the next 80km on HCM road. So we rode into the dark and tried to push as far as we could, vowing not to stop till 10pm. Cows were an absolute menace in this part of Vietnam and you couldn’t really see them on the roads till they're about 10m away from you during night riding. At around 740pm, we were stopped by a gang of around 20 men who were acting suspiciously. With a bike laid down across one lane, we thought they had met with an accident and we thought the person who was waving a baton was a police. For precaution though, I did not switch off my engine throughout the encounter. JY said he thought this could be a robbery and we should just speed off. And we revved off into the darkness. After that incident, I was apprehensive about continuing to ride in the darkness, with the robbery incident still fresh in my mind. Moreover, since the road had proven to be so good, I reasoned we could be more efficient and ride at a faster speed the following morning, rather than sputtering at 30kmh. At 8pm we saw this deserted hotel and Yam stopped by the road before I could signal to him my intentions. Guess great minds think alike? HAHA. We concurred it was just too dangerous to carry on that night and we were quite shaken by the robbery attempt. The hotel was actually someone else’s house and it was the worst night I had in Vietnam. This room has no air-conditioning so... Long night ahead in that stifling heat. Our room was westward-facing, so the walls had been baked under the hot sun for the past few hours and it meant our room was really HOT. With bugs outside the room, we dared not open the windows or the door so it felt like a ****ing sauna.

     

     
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    Default 7/7 460km to Mai Chau. 13 hours of riding. 10th day of riding

    Scenery: 2/5 ( The roads were good but the scenery, coupled with the sun, was sleep inducing)
    Road condition: 4/5 ( It won't get much better than this in Vietnam)

    The route we took



    Our lousy hotel



    HCM hwy rocks! No potholes, no gravel, the road was made for speed! Even at 8% gradients ending with a turn, only engine braking at 4th gear was required and no foot brake was needed. Sunny and hot, almost fell asleep about 50km from Pho Chau, our designated stop for coffee.



    In the end I tried catching 5 second naps, but I thought it was rather dangerous. So as a last ditch attempt to stay awake, I started singing songs from Adele's album. And it worked!! Stayed wide awake till the rest stop. We started at 530am and had a tasteless breakfast at 620 of noodles with pork. As I went to use the toilet behind the kitchen, I saw the meat just laid there on the dirty floor, covered fully by flies. Eh no surprise why my appetite vaporized that instant. Stopped at Pho Chau at 830, so since we left the hotel we had ridden 125km in 3 hours including stops with few or no trucks at all. From the coffee point, we agreed to meet at the place of Lam Son, which actually meant we were free to stop and take photos whenever we wanted, as long as we reached the place by 1pm for lunch.

    The HOT HOT HOT sun




    My gear lever broke at around 1pm just outside a small sleepy town, so I first-gear dragged the bike to the nearest mechanic. And it was done in just 5 min! Changed engine oil too. It was black but rather fluid as compared to the change of oil in Chu Se. I had planned to ask for directions to Lam Son but the mechanic told me we were in the said town! Which meant that Yam overshot the place and was far ahead of us.

    The important points on the highway






    So JY had to SMS him to meet in the town of Ngoc Lac which was further in front so that he wouldn’t have to waste time backtracking. Turned out Lam Son had two entrances and Yam had entered the town in the entrance 5km down the road. In the end, we managed to regroup in Ngoc Lac and had lunch. Problem was, there was a funeral in town so most shops were closed. So far since 530am, we have covered more than 330km out of 460km to Mai Chau in just 7 hours, an average speed of near 50kmh including stops. 4hrs of riding without breaks in 35-36 degrees was no small feat. There was no wind chill factor at all. I got sunburnt real badly around the wrist and neck regions. At the town of Lang Chanh, with another 70km to Mai Chau, JY crashed when he tried to avoid an old man who was pushing his bike across the street. His right mirror and speedometer box were cracked. My front headlight was shaken out of its position and I had to use duct tape to secure it. At the bike shop where I fixed my headlight, a policeman came over to the shop and smoked the first opium pipe that we saw in Vietnam. Turned out opium smoking in the northwest was pretty common and only men smoked it.



    Really narrow roads, and car drivers were real assholes that forced you to stop beside the road for them to pass.





    Artistic shot



    HOT



    Mai Chau, finally. After 13 hours in the hot sun.



    Victorious men



    WATER BUFFALO MEAT!



    Lousy dinner



    We finally reached Mai Chau at 620pm, 13 hours later. My butt hurt, fingers were tingling from all that vibrations, but the feeling of satisfaction from completing 460km in a day was awesome.

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    Default 8/7 190km Mai Chau to Son La. 11th day of riding

    Scenery: 5/5 (The highlight of the trip is from here to Sapa)
    Road conditions: 4/5 (Almost perfect, but its SLIGHTLY worse than HCM highway, which is a 5/5 haha)

    Started off at 10am.

    Our hotel in Mai Chau. Aircon sucks



    Barely 1km out and JY rear brake disc broke into 2. I had no idea stainless steel could crack so cleanly into two. Clearly Vietnamese roads were only for the tough (like the three of us!).





    Vietnam's Nguyen Rossi



    We finally left Mai Chau at 1050.



    The road was excellent with few or no potholes. The plateau between Mai Chau and Son La allowed for spectacular climbs and descents into the clouds. So we took our time, stopped to take photos, just enjoying the amazing mountain ranges, the coolness of the air and just having a hell of a time. I'll let my pictures do the talking from here on.

    Perfect tarmac.






    Caught this bus in action overtaking.


    Mini-landslide. This was nothing compared to the ones we would face in Lai Chau.





    The result of a previous landslide.













    The view of the valley was awesome. Really nothing I've seen before in my life.





    On hindsight, this really was NOTHING...


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    Default Cont'd from 8/7 Mai Chau to Son La 180km 11th day

    Occasional tour buses to Son La were distracting but were not threatening like those on HWY 1. It was all about terraced rice fields and a pleasant introduction to the kind of scenery we would see in the following days in the highlands. The ride was chilly for we were riding at altitudes of above 1000m for about 80km, which was a welcome break from the previous days when there was only sun, sun and more sun.







    JY's rear tyre was not properly tightened so his rear tyre was very wobbly, making him feel as though he was slidding when he went over speed bumps. So off to the mechanic it was.



    LUNCH!!









    This is a tourist attraction! Built out of nowhere... What excellent planning





    Artistic Yam





    Son La is a big city and has plenty of cheap lodging options. We stayed in a 1-star hotel for just 15USD. We reached son la at 1615.

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    Default 9/7 Son La – Phong Tho. 12th day of riding

    Scenery: 5/5 (Best views of the entire trip)
    Road condition: 1/5 (5/5 all to the way to Muong Lay, then it turned to mush, mud and gravel. The worst roads in the entire trip.)

    Next stop: Tuan Giao



    We set off at 6am. Reached Tuan Giao at 830. 86km of the best views in the trip, from Son La to Tuan Giao, FOR SURE.

    How nice is this picture!


    Clouds rolling in the midst of limestone cliffs?? Classic view from China? Nope, this was in Vietnam











    Then it turned cloudy. And fun.





    Waited here for Yam but he never appeared.







    Breakfast place. And opium gathering for local construction workers





    We rode alone and agreed to meet up at the entrance of Tuan Giao, but like the first day of riding, JY and I failed to spot Yam pass us halfway through, so we wasted 3 hours waiting for yam at Tuan Giao and had breakfast first.



    While having breakfast in Tuan Giao, I noticed a group of guys making their way to a common table after finishing their meals to smoke something that looked a bong. It was actually opium they were smoking and it turned out to be prevalent in the northern highlands, though it seemed only men were smoking it. In the end yam was actually 30km in front using the shortcut to Muong Lay.

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    Default Cont'd from 9/7 Son La – Phong Tho. 12th day of riding

    **** road, he said. We checked it out and the first 2km were horrendously bad. So we decided to take a longer route but with paved roads and headed along the highway to Dien Bien Phu to Muong Lay. Got stopped by the highway police 1km before the entry to the highway. Knew he wanted a bribe ‘cos I did nothing illegal and he let me go immediately upon knowing I wasn’t a Viet. Anyway, by taking the longer route, we will be travelling almost 100km more, but on smooth tarmac.

    Scenery along the way



    View in Dien Bien Phu



    Victory Monument in DBP









    Road was excellent all the way till about 15km to Muong Lay. Then, landslides were frequent and disruptive. I smashed thru the barrier because I couldn't stop in time and also because of the robbery experience which made me wary of anyone who tried to stop me while I was riding.



    Behind the scenes, behind the barrier



    Look, JY caught up. haha



    The mad free-for-all after the barrier was lifted










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    Default Cont'd from 9/7 Son La – Phong Tho. 12th day of riding

    Road to Muong Lay

    Roads were the worst in the trip. Saw at least 5 major landslides with roads becoming very rocky and muddy. Picture a truck trying to squeeze past you on one side and treacherous drops down the cliff on the other. That’s what we faced.



    The Viets have started to flood the area already. They had been building a new dam.



    Where the new water level should be, it sure won't be far from the top of the bridge.



    I was positively scared while riding through the mud and only aimed to not drop off the cliff. Mud, OK. Puddles, OK. Cliff, Not OK. Construction works on the dam near Muong Lay had already started so perhaps because of the vibration caused by the works, the soil is loosened and hence the landslides around Muong Lay. The worst stretch of road was at 2km out of Muong Lay where it's just **** roads for another 2km. After that it's intermittent **** and good roads. The poor lorry and the car behind were stuck there for at least 2 hours before we got there, and they looked like they were gonna spend the night there as well.



    Bye, bye. HAHAHA



    National highway my ass


    Scariest part of the riding in the entire trip. One wrong move and off you went. Down the cliff. Into the brand new lake.









    JY and I got lost taking the short cut through Sin Ho. On the map, it looked so much shorter than the main highway, but it was only 5km shorter. Not recommended unless u have a lot of time to spare since the road is very steep and narrow and dangerous and it's only 5 km shorter though it appears much shorter on the map. Scenic, yes. Worth the risk? No. The main highway would allow for higher speed. Finally reached Phong Tho at 725pm and stopped for the night after Yam SMSed to advise that the roads to Lai Chau are just as bad and would be impassable at night. That's near 14 hours of riding with total distance 342km. Including distance wasted getting lost and backtracking to look for Yam it was at least 380km for the day.



    By the time we reached Phong Tho, it was really dark.



    The hated highway police



    Before the three of us got separated, this was taken back on the way to Tuan Giao



    Too cool liao..






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    Default 10/7 100km to Sapa from Phong Tho. 13th day of riding

    Started at 630, reached Sapa at 1230.

    Saw the police outside the town of Lai Chau, while finding the way to Yam's hotel




    The route we took



    Although the distance was only 6hrs, the really bad roads took its toll on our bikes and bodies, and the scenery meant that we really had to keep stopping to take photographs. At around 8am, we had breakfast at Lai Chau after regrouping with Yam. The roads in Lai Chau were extremely extravagant, with 8 lane boulevards for the occasional motorcycle to traverse on. This smelled of misspent money and corruption, because public taxpayers' money was not utilised fully.















    The first road sign that actually said 'to sapa', 40km out of Lai Chau










    Roads were bad after exiting the city, and stayed bad till near Sapa, where the tourist route starts. It drizzled on the way to Tram Tom pass, the highest road in Vietnam at 1920m.


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    Default Cont'd from 10/7 100km to Sapa from Phong Tho. 13th day of riding

    Road was bad with no barrier at the edges so it was really scary with our lousy tyres and wet roads.




    Really bad roads with too much gravel


    Potholed roads all the way till the entrance of Mt Fansipan, Vietnam’s highest peak at just over 3000m, probably because that's where most tourists stop continuing on the highway.



    The route to Fansipan is on the left


    The champion walking to his bike, parked right smack in the middle of the entrance, blocking cars, buses and people from entering the park.





    Food stop at the Fansipan national park



    Market along the national highway



    Nearing our destination!





    Sapa is famous for its terraced fields



    It was very cloudy on the highlands, but the view was awesome. Sapa has good and cheap North Face products, including bags and jackets, and I bought my gloves for 10 bucks. Many massage shops and restaurants and shops selling north face products. This place is a money sucker which is very oriented towards tourists, and after having so many people recommend this place to me to visit, I was disappointed by the commercialization of Sapa. Sapa is very touristy and it got rather stale for me after a short while. From Sapa, you can see Fansipan, and it was awe-inspiring to stand in its shadow. Temperature was 16 degrees at night and about 30 degrees in the day.

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    inferno_robe
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    Default Cont'd from 10/7 100km to Sapa from Phong Tho. 13th day of riding

    Road was bad with no barrier at the edges so it was really scary with our lousy tyres and wet roads.




    Really bad roads with too much gravel


    Potholed roads all the way till the entrance of Mt Fansipan, Vietnam’s highest peak at just over 3000m, probably because that's where most tourists stop continuing on the highway.



    The route to Fansipan is on the left


    The champion walking to his bike, parked right smack in the middle of the entrance, blocking cars, buses and people from entering the park.





    Food stop at the Fansipan national park



    Market along the national highway



    Nearing our destination!





    Sapa is famous for its terraced fields



    It was very cloudy on the highlands, but the view was awesome. Sapa has good and cheap North Face products, including bags and jackets, and I bought my gloves for 10 bucks. Many massage shops and restaurants and shops selling north face products. This place is a money sucker which is very oriented towards tourists, and after having so many people recommend this place to me to visit, I was disappointed by the commercialization of Sapa.

    The church in Sapa







    Sapa is very touristy and it got rather stale for me after a short while. From Sapa, you can see Fansipan, and it was awe-inspiring to stand in its shadow. Temperature was 16 degrees at night and about 30 degrees in the day.

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    Default 11/7 200km from Sapa to Yen Bai. 14th and second last day of riding

    We spent the early part of the day walking around and chilling in Sapa while waiting for the drizzle to stop. It finally did, 3 hours later at 2pm. So we set off immediately with sadness that the fun riding would be behind us, and that this would be the second last day of riding in Vietnam. All good things come to an end.

    Cow herders sharing the roads with us in Sapa.



    Highway 70 to Lao Cai was twisty and muddy but had no loose gravel. It was not built for speed, though there are still many trucks and buses using this road.









    It wasn’t scenic at all, so I just focused on the twists and turns. Chinese influence could be seen in this part of Vietnam, as there are chinese-plated vehicles as well as Chinese construction/mining companies in this area. From Lao Cai, I was riding alone as I couldn't find Yam and JY in Lao Cai.







    The Middle Kingdom just across the river.



    At this point of time, the riding would not be scenic, and the only objective was to reach Hanoi in one piece. My bike was falling apart and rattling so badly I could only hope that it could withstand all the way to Hanoi. My third gear could not be engaged properly and was very jerky and riding uphill was a pain with all the intermittent engine brakes. My first gear kept switching to neutral or not biting at all, giving a clanging sound when it was engaged.

    Yup, good luck to ME! Though the sign sounded more ominously than it intended... I think.



    The road had many sweeping bends and there wasn’t a 100m that was straight, so even though the scenery was bad and there were many heavy vehicles plying the route, the bends made up for everything.

    A one-lane bridge where cars/motorbikes had to wait their turns to cross the bridge.



    We set off from Sapa at 1230, reached Lao cai at 2pm and finally Yen Bai at 7pm. This would be the first time that I spent the night alone in a foreign city.

     

     
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    Default 12/7 Yen Bai – Hanoi 178km. 15th day of riding/Last day of riding

    Impossible is nothing. Just do it.



    The nearer to Hanoi, the more trucks, the more assholes who can't drive properly, who would overtake while you were incoming and then would flash their high beams and honk incessantly to ask you to please give them way. Stopped by police again. Fourth time for the trip. This time I had to pay a bribe of 100k dong(about 5 USD) for speeding. I went 63 in a 40kmh zone, or that’s what they claimed. Still they quoted me 750k at first. Then seeing I was not willing to pay, they lowered the price. The only English they understood were “money money”. Those smiling monkeys were grinning when they packed up their stuff into their lorry and sped off once the transaction was complete. ****ers spoilt my mood for the rest of the journey.

    The car plate of the police. I thought I had captured a photo of their faces, but I only found out I didn't back in Hanoi. Damn.



    So close..



    The bridge to Hanoi. This section was reserved for motorbikes. The cars and heavy vehicles crossed into Vietnam in style using proper roads, as seen in the top corner of the picture.



    Still, when I reached St Joseph’s cathedral at 1.05pm after getting lost in Hanoi for an hour or so, the feeling was exhilaration. Finally there was closure for the trip, and everyone has reached Hanoi in one piece, without any major injuries or deaths. This was the first time that I had planned an overseas riding trip, and all 3 of us were relative rookies. I was the most experienced, yet I only had 2 months of riding experience proper, Yam just got his license 3 days ago, and JY was still waiting for his Traffic Police test in October. In a way, I felt relief because if anyone had any serious injuries, the blame would lie on me for I was the organizer of the trip. After a short 2 hours wait for the two slowpokes to reach St Joseph’s Cathedral, we would finally regroup again at the cathedral at 3pm. I was the first in Hanoi!

    FIRST =D



    Top Gear Singapore Edition. Signing out.


    Many thanks to those who have supported the three of us in one way or another, esp. the dudes in the forum who had messaged me to give tips and advice for this trip. I hope you have enjoyed reading this ride report and I definitely hope that this ride report will inspire those aspiring bikers who yearn to tour the roads beyond the Causeway but thought it was impossible/dangerous/sure-die etc.. Three 21-year-olds without prior experience have done it, albeit with prior planning. You can, too. Cheers!

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    xincentsbobby
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    brilliant ! heading towards vietnam soon too .. cheers all!

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    Nice trip good good !
    I like ......


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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