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Vietnam 2012: “Ten toi la Momi »...made in Italy !
Hellò everybody I’m Maurizio (aka Momi)à Italy
This year for my vacation I chose the Vietnam, country that I’ve missed in 2007 by 100 km ( 62 miles) when I was riding with a little motorbike in Laos
Why Vietnam ? First of all cause I’ve never been there, that’s always a good reason to visit a country. Further since I was child I was concerned with Vietnam. At the primary school (7 years old) for an italina composition with free title, I chose “The Vietnam War”. It was the 1969 and in 2 weeks I’ve read (on my father’s newspaper) an article about Vietnam War.
My teacher wanted to talk with my father that explained that I was a little bit strange kid, quiet, not violent, but very interested to the strategy of the battle and war. The military logistic is for me a science: the war a madness.
As most of the people I’ve seen a lot of movies: Apocalipse Now, The Green Berets, The Deer Hunter, Rambo, Hamburger Hill, Platoon, Coming Home ecc... This was probably the first war that came in to houses with real images.
Around first days of April I found a very cheap flight Milan-Moscow-Hanoi for 559 €( 717 $) with Aeroflot . I run a little mechanical factory with my brother and so I can decide my week days with him. The problem was to avoid the worst monson days. I decided to start on 19 of May and come back on 13th of June
Second thing: the bike. On internet I found a very professional agency in Hanoi, that was very helpfull and sent to me a lot of informations.
Teh name is Flamingo Travel ( Vietnam Motorbike Rentals, Motorbike Tours Vietnam, Off Road Motorbike Tour, Motorbike Rent Hanoi ) : is a travel agency, that sell air and bus tickets, organizes tours , rent motorbike and also organizes motorbike tours. I chosen a bike very similar to my Suzuki DR 350
the Yamaha Serow 230 cc 21 €/day (28 $/day), 109 kg( 240 pounds) and with a good tank, 10 lt ( 2 gallons)
Guide book : for a few years I’ve chosen the Footprint. Lucky ther’s the italian translation for Vietnam
Map: on Amazon I found the Periplus 4,5 € ( 6 $)
My first idea was to do the North Loop, with Dien Bien Phu, Meo Vac ( on the China border) and Halong Bay. Then ? How the hell could I know ? Maybe try to reach Ho Chi Min City in the south, cause Flamingo Travel was able to organze the drop off : in case of lackness of days is possibile to leave the bike in Ho Chi Min City and get the night train: 36 hours to come back in Hanoi. I’ll see in Vietnam, day by day. I had in mind 2 places: Huè the ancient capital of the Vietnam an the My Lai memorial, where undred of vietnamese civilians were killed by USA marines in 1968.
I started from Milano on 19 of May and landed in Hanoi on 20th of May. I’ve ridden with the motorbike from 22th of May to 12th of June for 6.232 km ( 3.872 miles). This is my route...more or less: I didn’t use any GPS.
Vietnam Visa (made at the Hanoi Airport) -------------------38€ = 50 $
Milan-Hanoi flight (Aeroflot)--------------------------------------559€= 717 $
Motorbike rent (22 days)------------------------------------------472€= 605$
Travel insurance (england company on line)-----------------95€= 121 $
Food, accomodations, gas, souvenir ecc (in Vietnam)----470€= 603$
Flamingo Travel sent to me pics and mesurement of saddle bags, so I decided to use my light backpack of Ferrino top ut on the rack: they also provide the helmet. In this way I could start with less than 10 kg ( 22 pounds) of luggage
my gym buddy the Beuto is always my personal chauffeur to reach train station or airport
the Aeroflot’s menù was excellent
I landed in Hanoi at 8.00 am. How reach the hostel ? By taxi ? Mhh too easy: try with local transports. Just outside the airport I get the bus 17
on the last stop the bridge that bring you to Hanoi is forbidden to pedestrians so I agree with a man on motorbike that for 0,77€= 1 $ bring me and my rucksack to the hostel
3,66 €/night( 4,69$/night), 6 bed dormitory, with breakfast and free in the afternoon (www.hostelworld.com) ...and just 60 mt ( 66 yards) from Flamingo Travel office
I want to emphasize that the owner Mr Hung Nguyen was very helpfull, even during the trip: very professional also.
Settled the rent contract, deposit and signed documents I started to visit Hanoi by foot. The capital is known as City of Lakes, so what’s better than Hoan Kiem Lake to begin ?
Ahh finally I could see the ceremony in that asian people show to divinities their detachment from material goods: they burn money ! Ok they are false bills, but doesn’t matter. Divinities dont know bills: brilliant idea.
Around the lake ther’s an incredible number of little activities. It’s typical of Asia
the Vietnam food is probably the most various of Asia
A truck ? No a bycicle
The Saint Joseph Cathedral (1886)
I look at the jam to undertend the “rules”: as in India and Naples( Italy) the idea is that jam is as a river: never stop the flow. The biggest mistake is to stop your veichle is somebody or something is crossing your direction. Drive slow and slide lateral, so both can continue to go.
Vietnam stock exchange
this square is a meeting place for free time
perfect end of my first Vietnam day was the Muppet on the Water Show
but I’m lucky: just outside the teather, at the end of the show, a pop live show on the street
Today is 21th of May, Monday: the bike will be ready in the afternoon and I’ll start tomorrow morning. I woke up very early: breakfast is served from 8.00 am...at 7.00 am I prepared it myself
Sky is dark and stormy
Herer is the monson
after half hour everything is finisch so I went to the mechanical shop of Falmingo Travel. Employe explain to me how check oil level, put gas in the tank, start and turn off the bike and tire pressure and how often to grease the chain with the spray. This are the mechanical activities that I’m able to do: any other activity that I try to do on the motorbike could be dangerous...for the bike and me. As mechanic I’m = 0 ! The front brake is weak, but they told me to use “Just in emergency situation”..ok as with my scooter Vespa Piaggio PX 125: I’m lucky.
To train myself with the bike I drove through the city
Ho Chi Min Mausoleum
Ohh an entire statue of Lenin: not so easy to find in former USSR
this is one of the 36 streets of the Old District: in each of those streets there was a different activity: shoes, clothes ecc...
Back in the hostel and I was alone in the room, so I could prepare luggage for tomorrow: saddle bags with stuff that you use most frequently: the rest in the backpack, that I put in a plastic bag.
May 22th: I wake up very early but it’s raining. Ok breakfast
after this the rain stops, but the sky remain dark and stormy. I fix my luggage and I’m ready to go. Direction is west.
ohh a Golf Club
always delicious the juice from sugar cane
the landscape begins to change
the sky is always dark but I begin to see a lot of bikers that stop to wear rain clothes...it’s better do the same thing, even if isn’t raining. I learn that time noise from sky and rain is very short in Vietnam, but nobody refuses to take refuge from the rain. I had a stop in to a gas station
sometimes the rain makes streets into little river and that remind me the road Manali – Leh in India
in the North of Vietnam there are a lot of monuments in USSR style
around night I reach Son La that became my first stop in Vietnam. To sleep in Vietnam you can find two kind of accomodation. The hotel named khách sạn and the guest house (cheaper) nha nghi: both take care of your motorbike and put it directly in the hall.
The room is around 4 €= 5 $
After a quick shower I walked along the main road...ok every Vietnam city has a very big big central road and as in the former USSR cities that’s all. Right and left hotel, shops and restaurants. The owner was very happy to have a foreign client
the food was excelent..this cats which I had given food are still alive
This morning I’d like to reach Dien Bien Phu, where in the 1954 came the big victory of the Viet Minh Army on the French Army and put an end to the Indocina War that has begun in the 1946: to know more please click on this link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Indochina_War
a very important thing. When you travel and decide to download pics from memory card to your notebook, remember to put again the card in the camera: could be very difficult do it when luggages are fixed on the motorbike
the Vietnam jam, as in Africa and India is amix of vehicles, people and animals
sometimes the vegetation has a green really incredible
What you can do to dry quickly hay or rice ? Use the spaved road
ohh the rain: i’m on the road but I see a little stand of fruit and a house, so I drive my motorbike in the backyard
Is a property of a young guy that works as excavator driver: he has showed to me the operating manual. He’s at home with a friend that’s a teacher. They offered to me tea and fruit
I arrived to Dien Bien Phu around 1 ,00 pm and so first I had lunch
this is a celebration of the victory mhh this staircase remind me Odessa and the Potemkin staircase
the war cemetery
I meet a couple of Belgium tourists and we exchange informations on Vietnam: very intresting population. For one year and half they hadn’t a governement, but the country was going on.
I started around 3 pm and I decided to arrive as far as possible: normally is a point that you can’t miss.
a stop for a drink...and rain again
Along the road I bought a pillow from a Guest House. I’m short, but the bike is very little with a hard seat
I reach Lai Chau around 7 pm and just one hotel has a room. First eat, the shower can wait
the hotel has a big dining room with wi-fi free, table football, billiard and a room for the national pastime in Vietnam: the karaoke. Every bar, restaurant , private home has one
around 2 am it’s enough: and this time the owner stops the people to sing. My room is very large and I could arrange clothes and luggage easily
wow what a facinating blog!
Great photo's ,text most interesting.i enjoyed it very much.Noel
This morning I’ve in mind to reach with a very short distance Sapa, a city that’s a good starting point for some trekking.
As in every city here in Vietnam the marketallows you to can see many different physiognomies
from the architectural viewpoint Lai Chau isn’t unforgettable
just pay attentino to roadsigns and everything goes smoothly
No way ! One pillow isn’t enough: my butt is crying (me too). I didn’t see a lot of pillow shops on the roas....ohh it’s a mirage ? No this man sells pillows and sheet !!!!!! Yes: I bought one immediactly and the seller has helped me to fix it over the seat. Double pillow better than one.
Sapa is on altitude of 1600 mt( 1 miles...as the Denver Broncos Stadium, the Mile High), and during the French occupation became the summer vacation resort of the foreign diplomatics: her weather remind Alpes.
As in the 2010 in India when I arrived in manali the impressioni s the same: is a city totally full of restaurant souvenir shops, travel agency, england pub, bank, music club in western style...ok nothing wrong with this situation. I’m a tourist as other people and in vacation you’ve got the right to relax, but I don’t need of place like this. I decided to continue and reach Lao Cai a normal Vietnamese city, on the China border.
Just one problem: I can’t no more read the oil level: the little plastic window is completly dark. A very nice local mechanic called the Flamingo Travel in Hanoi, but read the level remained a mistery: they just said “Stop to put oil !”
Lao Cai and ther’s yet sunlight
…ok I had taken just the picture
the range is from the Superior room ( 18 €=24$) to Vip Room ( 92€= 118 $). My hotel was 3,12€ =4$ a night.
Lao Cai is just a transit city
my hotel room isn’t bad
In the room I notice a big irritation with a big swelling. When you travel alone, is better to have some medical knoweledge: obviously is a sting. No problem I’ve got the spray, just put a little bit...AAAHHHHHHHH the pain is incredible. It isn’t a sting, but a friction of the sock on the skin...ok the liniment
I have to admit you are doing a really great job , good general explanation about your trip and great pictures too , keep it coming and enjoy it to the fullest.
I too have enjoyed this episode.
Your problem makes me laugh,I had a ttr250 went on a long trip with my mates on road bikes got to within 250km from home pulled over ,mates stopped asked what i was doing? ,i replied im walking from here my butt is so sore!!!I sold it shortly afterwards brought a varadero which ive had for 12+ years.big bike a little on the heavy side for where you are travelling.Carry on!Noel
Today I’ve planned to reach Ha Giang, a city wehr’s possible get the permit to travel in the North Area of Ha Giang region...it’s easy remember names of region and her capital in Vietnam: it’s the same. The road from Ha Giang to Meo Vac is a dream for a biker. The permit costs around 25 $, I think 10$ every people if you are a bunch of almost 4.
This was my first stop for a coffee
I’ve never been in a Vietnam “bar” and I remained surprised by the way in that they prepare it. They put the coffee in the “Coffee maker” (made in a light aluminium), then this come on a glass, after hot water and you wait to filter it.
Simple but intelligent: this could be a great souvenir.
gas station’s workers
gas station’s bathroom
Could miss a stop due to the rain ?
Vietnam road accident
My hotel in Ha Giang: I’m lucky here it’s possibile get the permit
The rice cooker…another candidate as souvenir
I’ve never seen a hotel where cars and minibus have to cross the reception to go in the parking
the permit: I can go to sleep
ohh I’ve got to dry my clotes
Today is Saturday: I’m going to Meo Vac
As I’m going I understand the big difference between landscape in Europe and here. I’m on the mountains, the roads are very similar, good but narrow, but the landscape is something amazing: no pines no fir tree, but jungle.
Sometimes I stop the bike just without a reason and I remain to look
Around 1 pm i reach a little cityk right time toh ave lunch. I’ve got two tin can of fish: if I can find some bread, that’s all I need. Ahh french bread: baguette
The city is little, but the Ho Chi Min picture is very large
along a road I see some big buildings. They looks uninhabitated: a good place to take a rest and eat. Maybe a school or some guid hall.
At the moment zero check point: maybe I had could avoid to pay the 25$ permit.
voilà baguette avec poisson
I’m ready to go when appears a men : a keeper ? He cheers to me and then take out a cellphone. I don’t undertand why he’s taking a picture of my bike behind. He calls me pointig at the screen of his cellphone. Probably he likes to show to me the picture. Suddendly I understand that democracy is a little bit far from Vietnam. He has a list of plates, even mine. With the number of the plates of my bike ther’s the date of the permit. How many people are keeping me under surveillance ?
I had a stop to take a picture, but I see 2 Black Hmong ( a Vietnam tribe) walking and bringing cattle. I hope to don’t have problems with this wild men: the problems in the comunication can get the encounter very dangerous. I turn with my camera...but they see me. My blood became cold, but they don’t care of me: I’m safe.
This time no risk with the locals: I use the zoom
Finally Meo Vac: lucky, a Yamaha service
To sleep I search in the little city and I meet 4 english bikers that I saw in Ha Giang. Their hotel is the only in the city: others accomodations are Guest House. Reception restaurant...12 $ (9,4 €) for room: Ahhhhhhh After a while I find my place 4$ (3,14 €) for the room. Ok
The Guest House is run by a family: Father, mother and 4 daughters. The oldest is 14 years old and the mother is 34...ok at the age of 40 in Vietnam you can became grandfather
The daughter that is 14 years old knows 10 english words, but my phrasebook helps a lot. After a shower I’m back in the hall and I notice the wonderful fish that they cooked for dinner. I point my finger on the fish and on me, to try to ask: “Can you cook one for me ?” They smile and invite me to eat with the family
My efforts with chopsticks always are fun for asian people..and sometimes a friend of the family looks at me from outside. I could let pay a ticket for the show
this isn’t the fifth daughter, but a friend from Ha Giang
no way to can pay the dinner: I’m a guest of the family, and so I go to sleep.
Despite is Sunday I woke up at 6 am. The sky is cloudy and this is normal in this days, but why should I start today ? Sunday means market and here is right beheind my Guest House. Ok today free day and let’s go to the Meo Vac market.
I’m gonig on the right side of the vacation: every day I prpare a schedule that always change. Perfect.
At 6,30 am I’m at the market
As in every market/bazar of Asia since the first moment you’re overwhelmed from sounds and colors
sweets…mhh this remino me that it’s breakfast time
two of the england bikers of Ha Giang
Life isn’t easy for vietnamese womens. Look at this young mom: she’s breastfeeding and serving clients at the same time.
furtively I tried to take a pic of this two children, but one had seen me and she had coverei the face. Immediately I thought “ very bad pic”, but after a while I changed opinion. One of my best shot .
strange: they are selling gas and in the city there are 2 big gas station: ok it wasn’t gas , but something very similar to italian grappa, a kind of brandy distilled from wine or must. This should be distilled from rice. Vietnam is a great country, you can have an happy hour even before 8 am: I paid and they let me taste it
How time flies: is noon. Time to lunch
how many crafts you can see
I was looking for somebody able to repair my boots, and at my guest house they wrote on a slip the phrase “ I need to repair my boots” in vietnamese
I found the cobbler, but my boots are too thick for his machine
I can try to repair myself: so I bought some superglue for tires
Behind the market ther’s a place in that you can buy and sell every kind of animal
Back to the Guest House and I can notice that everibody is very busy in preparation of the brunch...ok Vietnam brunch. Remember that today is Sunday
They don’t want I help in any way: I’m the guest. Ok I can try to repair my boots: here’s the results
Now I can read my guide, write my daily diary, relax...wrong the children come around me. Ok baby sittering for food !
paper and felr-tip pen
they offered to me fresh fruit: note that even a little children in Vietnam is able to use a big knife
they didn’t know the play to paint faces on the fingers
One of the children showed me her hands: ok picture #1
we sat in the hall…20 people more or less..ok this means at least 20 rounds of drinks
this is the Guest House owner
after the brunch I helped to wash the dishes…every man was looking at me as a man from Mars: I was doing awomen job !
I relaxed for half hour ( ok I had more than 20 drinks), but the sky wasn’t bad and so I took the bike to go to visit a a little temple on the top of the hill and after I’ve driven out of the city, an the road, without a destination
finally a city: I don’t know both name and position
always pay attentino on the road in Vietnam
after some hours I was back to Meo Vac
After lunch I begin to help with dishes, but the owner grab my arm and shake his head: ok is a women job, and I seat with him in the hall. After a while, in quick succession every children walked through the hall and every children said something to the father. He answered to everyone, always interrupting to read the newspaper. Finally even the wife went through the hall and said something. I watched this man , for some minutes, smoking and reading his newspaper but after I gave to mìhim a slap on the back. I showed to him one finger that means him and after 5 fingers that mean 4 children + 1 wife: he smiled and nod to me. Situation are the same all over the world: I can’t imagine The president of the USA, Barack Obama when the First Lady is angry...mhh even my brother is married but I can imagine the same situation
Now I can go to sleep..ohh no before is better to tidy up the room
This morning, I’m not very happy to start again, but I’ve got to drive. Unforgettable Meo Vac. I can’t tellyou where I had the stop over at the end of the day, cause it was dark and I have not seen any signal. I should have been more or less near Cao Bang.
I can start
I’m driving eastward. Full tank, sky not bad beautiful landscape, everything’s fine. But the world is a big balance, that follow the Murphy’s Law, and immediately comes the offset: the engine of my bike stops to work.
Big silence in the Vietnam mountains, just me and mt (not working) bike: what can I do ? First I take a picture
With my mechanical skills, I’m able top ut gas in the tank, check oil level ( ok not here in Vietnam) inflate air in tires and check pressure, put oil on the chain transmission. So now I just can wait and try again to start: It has worked and the bike started again
This is the second “technical pit stop”
At the end of the day I had 10 pit stop, but after the fifth this situation looks like a sign from the sky that push me to keep going. Once I could heard the voice of Vietnam Divinities
I’ts one o clock: to take a rest I went in the backyard of this desert school
After a nap I met a family of teachers that also works in the school as caretakers
In Vietnam working in the road maintenance is very hard: not a lot of machinery
My t-shirt and my ass are burning: I’ve got to stop
Dark It’s coming, but I’ve seen what in my map I marked with a ?
They’ve got a bed and a place for my bike
Do you think that in a restaurant, in Vietnam, a touris can remain alone without a drink ? ?
I was lucky, just 6 people at the table. The Guest House/restaurant is also a karaoke point. In a little room downstairs ther’s everything
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