Biking Through Vietnam

March 16, 2012

Day 2 – To Nha Trang

Filed under: Uncategorized — scribblygum @ 3:37 am

We overnighted in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) the first day. Second day we flew to south east coast city of Nha Trang. The guide books say it’s the Gold Coast of Vietnam.

Our hotel, and views from our 6th floor room.

Buildings in Vietnam are generally very narrow as in the emperor’s day he taxed people on the width of their street frontage. The pattern continues. Sometimes you can find a twenty foot wide hotel, six or eight floors, standing by itself as the first building in a new development area. It sure looks weird there with nothing around it.

Lunch at cafe across the road.

Needless to say, we didn’t order from this page of the menu.

He ordered a milkshake, it came in a coconut shell. Pretty normal for around here when it’s a chocolate and coconut flavoured shake.

Street impressions.

Mum, Dad, two kids. Pretty normal sight.

Viewing tower over the beach.

These flower towers appeared in several major towns we rode through.

Maybe the dogs are numbered as well. 🙂

This is a Honda 90 Sport with the famous ‘bullet shaped tank’. It’s the bike I learned to ride on back about 1965 when my brother bought one. I saw several of them over the two weeks.

Sometimes there are typos that get through the system.

Yep, that says Cubtom. And they were reasonably common around the place. We also found a whole shop full of clothes branded Guggi.

Fake brands are all over the place, sometimes the spelling errors are rather funny.

Vietnam Motorbike Tours.

We got to the office of the tour place in the late arvo and sat around drinking beer and checking out their bikes.

Jason Thatcher is the manager, bloke in the grey. Comes from Melbourne and also has a motorbike tour company in Cambodia.

Between Jason and his staff they took care of everything with efficiency and wonderful humour.

Everywhere you go over here the cafes have these pre-school size plastic chairs. Get used to it.

My Hodaka tee shirt celebrates being in the land of the 125.

Jurgen is about seven feet tall. But obviously there are smaller things on his mind.

One of Jason’s guides was on this.

Dining out.

We went for dinner at the Sailing Club. Famous place in these parts.

Genuine Vietnamese food in a touristy setting – sometimes the touristy setting means touristy food and touristy prices but most places sell good food at good prices.


March 15, 2012

Day 3 – Nha Trang Environs

Filed under: Uncategorized — scribblygum @ 3:51 am

Today we got saddled up. We’re off for a day’s tour around the city of Nha Trang to get used to the bikes, but mostly to get used to the way the traffic works. Tomorrow we head out of town and up into the hills of the central highlands.

Petrol stop.

View stop south of the city.

Jurgen is 7 foot, his wife Katie is 5 foot. They got a lot of comments from the locals.

This stop was about half an hour out of town. So it’s a good time to make an assessment of the bike.

First impression – “This is wrong! Everything about it is wrong!”

For a start, I let out the clutch, got a bit of movement, lifted my feet onto the pegs – nothing. There are no pegs.

So my feet start scrabbling around looking for something to hold on to. They find the foot boards up the front. Somewhere near the front wheel. But if I want to change gear or use the foot brake that is where they have to be.

Speaking of changing gear. The shifter is not under my toe, it’s out there in front. Even more in front than the foot board.

I can’t get my foot under it to lift it, that happens with another bit of metal somewhere behind my heel.

The gear change is toe downwards to change up a gear, heel to change down.

Trouble is, once it’s into fifth (top) I can still change up and it goes into neutral.

So my auto-pilot kicks in and I toe downwards again to change down, but it doesn’t go into 4th, it goes into first.

Yep, it’s a full-on rotary gearbox from the old Honda Dream days of the 1960s. It just goes round and round and round. Trouble is, let out the clutch when you’ve just kicked from 5th to neutral to first and you have some significant damage ahead. Just as well I’ve old enough for alzheimers to kick in and I can remember back that far.

Now I’ve got some speed up and can concentrate a bit on the steering.

There is none. It’s got a mind of its own and just wanders around the road.

I realise why it’s got wide handlebars – it needs to be man-handled like an old steer from the Alice Springs Rodeo. Only with severe input does it go where I want it to.

Apart from that, it’s got a wheel at each end and that is all that matters. It could be worse, some bike tour companies up here use the old Minsk – 125 two strokers that are so famous for breaking down that they endear their owners to them because they get adept at repairing their daily breakdowns.

When I got used to the weird cruiser handling we settled in to enjoy the comfortable seats and solid overall feel. The 150cc motor was tractable and as it was a larger size bike was more comfortable for two-up than the ubiquitous Honda 50 Cub.

Considering where we were it got a full thumbs up.

Cafe stop.

We stopped at a cafe along the beach somewhere. The cafes were each about thirty feet wide and there were many of them along the sand.

They were covered with bamboo and blue plastic tarps, and the posts seemed to be just stuck into the sand. It was high tide and so the waves were lapping up near the platform that we were sitting on.

The guys on the deck chairs got swamped by the larger waves.

Along the Way.

Rice paddies.

Rice paddy with bike shed.

Local farming traffic.

Somebody picked up a nail.

Bike repair shops are everywhere. This one just happened to be where he picked up the nail.

Lunch Stop.

We rode a fair way up into the hills and stopped for lunch at a riverside cafe on the River Cai.

They turned everything on for us.

Golden Stig gets the addition of another piece of anatomy.

The Bridge.

Suddenly we’d run out of road and were on a bridge.

It was not a big bridge, nor was it solid. Or wide. Or level.

Kay is holding her sunglasses in her mouth as she couldn’t see the camera screen properly with them on.

We remembered a lanyard for the camera but forgot one for her sunnies.

Some of those nails are poking upwards. And some boards are loose. And there are gaps. Nothing different there.

There was previously a ferry on which the children crossed the river to the school. However, the ferry used to sink in storms and children drowned. So they built the bridge.

It is just wide enough for two bikes to pass each other with care.

Gun placement from the war.

From the side door looking through the front view holes.

Bullet marks in the back wall.

Down from the hills and to a fishing wharf late in the arvo.

This family (Dad is getting the next block of ice) is crushing ice in that machine and getting it to the fishing boats for tonight’s catch.

These guys ferry ice and diesel fuel in plastic jerry cans to the fishing boats.

They are in a round woven bamboo boat like an Irish coracle.

Here is the ‘ice family’ loading the ice onto the coracle.

The boy is loading the cart with empty baskets (see the pink handles) and his mother is there in the pink hat.

Full ice baskets are now on their way to the boat.

I’m a wooden boat fan from way back. These are utterly charming.

Kay and I decided we’d like to bring this on home for a picnic boat on Lake Macquarie.

Not quite finished tourist resort.

It’s a common site in Vietnam. A developer gets funding and starts a major project.

Half way through the money seems to have gone and everything stops.

There are empty shells of buildings all over the place like this.

This one was a tourist resort in the style of the M’nong Hill People long houses.

Eddie is holding some ‘money’ he picked up. It’s used in some funerals as gifts to help the spirit of the person on the journey.

It’s something like Monopoly money and bought cheaply at market stalls. ‘Cheaply’ here means cheap to us, but not so cheap to the locals on local incomes.

Parked up on the wrong side of the road again. We got used to it after a day or so.

Heading home late in the afternoon.

And that was our introduction to the local traffic etc.

We only took photos when we were stopped on this first day as Kay was a bit unsure of holding onto the camera (even with a lanyard round her neck), shooting with a steady hand, and getting used to balancing over the often rough roads. Some of the roads we rode were little more than a series of holes in the dirt joined together with smaller holes and bits of bricks.

Tomorrow we leave Nha Trang and head off up into the hills.

Kay is also more used to the bike etc and we’ve got some good shots taken from the bike as we ride.

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