Biking Through Vietnam

March 9, 2012

Day 8 – To Kham Duc

Filed under: Uncategorized — scribblygum @ 10:50 am

Today we keep on the Ho Chi Minh main road, closely following the Ho Chi Minh Trail, which runs up and down steep ridges where no road can go, and in and out of Laos, not too far to the west.

Our farewell from the Indochine Hotel comes from the waste bin in our room.

Mr Crocodile wishes happiness to everyone.



Old French church.

The French colonisation of Vietnam lives on in this wonderful wooden building, 130 years old.

The timber posts are termite-free by following the local custom of pouring about 50 kgs of salt into the hole before the pole is positioned.

Behind the church is one of two local orphanages run by the church community.

Older kids were working in these vegetable gardens out the back.

The blonde headed guy in the pic above was one of four Aussies on another motorbike tour that we often met with in this area.

This is one of the class rooms with children in class.

Many tourists make their way through the orphanages and contribute financially.

Meanwhile, out in the bike park, this was happening. Yep, running repairs.

The bikes were all fairly new and in good shape but the rough roads often had bits rattling themselves loose.

Notice the freshly oiled chain. The crew were often servicing the bikes at night to keep them in good shape.

Montagnard Village,

This is the old French word for ‘hill people’ and commonly used still.

Kon Tum has several hill people communities, both in the city area and off in rural hilly areas.

This is a traditional meeting house not far from our hotel.

If you look closely you can see that the roof, made of layers of palm branches, is wearing a bit thin and needs replacing.

In another pic from later this day there is a very pristine roof in the middle of the city as a tourist attraction.

Another view of the village.

Cycle Torque editor, Chris Picket, front right.

Later in the day, Chris and I would become two of the three ‘Suspension Bridge Heroes’.

On the road.

I’ll chuck in a bunch of pics taken from the back of the bike as we rode along.

They are not significant for anything other than to show the endless fascination of the street life of this country.

Take a closer look and you will see the watches are probably all Rolex. 🙂

Double story mattress shop.

Petrol on the footpath for scooter who runs out.

Fancy house.

Brick factory – they are everywhere.

Flower tower power.

Wiring for the future.

The govt has a policy of cheap internet. Wiring is priced to match.

Purple house.

Just ride along behind the digger, but make sure you don’t do it when he’s just about to swing the bucket around.

No lollipop people in this place. 🙂

Prosperous businessman.

Big Ho Chi Minh memorial.

We are now getting to the centre of Hi Chi Minh veneration.

In the middle of town, this long house with war memorial behind it.

Notice the child soldiers.

The plinths for these tanks are just being built.

We had to dodge planks of wood with 4 inch nails poking out just to walk around in the area.

Ho Chin Minh lives here

This is a major memorial to HCM in his home territory.

We stopped just down the road for lunch.

Here. Just rode the bikes up into the cafe until the place was filled out.

Close by was local Mercedes Benz dealer.

Bikers snoozing in the sun. It’s a common sight to see the locals sleeping on their bikes like this.

Suspension Bridge.

When I first noticed the ad in Cycle Torque for the Vietnam trip they had a photo of a bloke riding across a spindly suspension bridge.

It was that photo that got my attention.

We have now arrived at suspension bridge territory.

We didn’t have to go over the bridge, it was just there beside the road.

However, some of us had already imagined ourselves making this encounter.

The bridge is probably over 100 metres long – it feels like a mile or more when you’re on it – and very poorly made and about fifty feet over the shallow water.

The whole thing is anchored into concrete blocks,

it is suspended on several strands of 6mm soft steel wire,

has planks varying between eight and twelve inches wide so a missing plank is very significant,

has planks that have turned over with nails poking up,

has planks that are sliding out sideways,

leans to one side,

rocks like crazy side to side,

bounces up and down with any movement,

is so narrow that our mirrors had to be turned inwards to fit.

That’s the trouble of being a structural engineer in the past. I used to design suspended bridges and walkways. I know what they should look like.

This is me, finding I have powers of concentration that I never dreamed of.

From the other side Golden Stig casts his expert eye back to where we’ve come from.

He doesn’t much like what he sees.

Trouble is, I’ve now got to ride the bike back over it again.

Three of us made the trip – Jurgen the tall guy, me, Chris Picket the editor.

Then it started to rain heavily and we had to move along the road away from the soak.

A little bit down the road we came across another suspension bridge. It turned out that it’s this one in the magazine ad.

The Cycle Torque photographer rode it.

It was wider, shorter, more solidly built, more stable.

In other words, more wimpy.

Enough said.

There were three gold medallists that arvo, one silver.

I’ve mentioned our camera troubles a few times. On this day we’d been using the camera of Bao the tour guide.

Trouble is, the battery was not fully charged and it chose suspension bridge time to run out.

Bugger. I was intending on filling the place with pics at this point. Some of these have come from other people.

From suspension bridge territory we headed off along a smooth and fast (up to 70kph) road filled with twisties.

Heavy trucks have bad habits (very bad habits that involve pushing others off to the side) on this road and you have to be careful of them.

The bikes got the bit between their teeth, and I was still pumped up with adrenaline from the bridge, and we screamed along.

I was riding behind the photographer at one point and the vibration of his bike from going about 70 kph meant his tripod case fell off the bike on a right hander.

I lifted our bike up a bit to steer around to the left of the soft case.

It rolled to the left.

I ran over the soft tripod case, complete with tripod inside.

This was the result.

Ironically, a few days before Nigel the photographer and I were swapping photographer jokes and he said, ‘Well cut me off at the knees and call me tripod.’

Famous last words.

We’d pulled up at this place. Scorpion Falls.

And as we were checking tripods and waterfalls, along came an old lady carrying a stack of wood on her back.

She had one scrunched up hand and one foot and leg didn’t work well, as if she’d had a stroke.

The guide did some interpreting for us. It turns out she gathers firewood to sell in her village.

It was getting late in the afternoon and her village was a km or two up the hill that we’d just ridden down.

So we stuck our hands into our pockets and pulled out a bunch of notes for her.

The guide reckoned we’d probably given her a month’s living, but it was nothing much to any of us.

This place has people living very hard.

A bit further along and we are into rice paddy country and smiling teenagers carrying tapioca back from the fields.

Sorry about the movement. Once again we’re having to use the phone camera and it isn’t up to the low light of the afternoon.

It was a pretty quick run from farming areas to the streets of Kham Duc and we suddenly found ourselves here.

Welcome to the Be Chau Giang Hotel, complete with protective lions.

And around the corner to the front door, more lions.

Notice all the local’s scooters – they were at the cafe attached to the hotel, always a good sign.

Also notice the pedestrian sign to the left – like a man balancing on fence posts.

Tonight will be our last dinner together.

Tomorrow we head down into the coastal city of Da Nang and put the bikes on the train to be shipped home for the next tour.


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