onsdag 13 november 2013

Finding new homes for the loved ones

It has never been our idea to sell our bikes in Hanoi. The journey will end, we will go home, but our bikes have to remain in Vietnam with new users. 
We used them also in Hanoi and as a final service they took us to the Lenin monument, the Ho Chi Min mausoleum, to the crashed B52 bomber inside the city and to the botanic garden. Riding in Hanoi was fun but I also found that I was more scared than before. Traffic is hectic and being so close to our trip's end I definitely did not want anything awkward to happen. Actually I was rather pleased when we decided that this was it, now we had to get rid of the bikes. 

I rather rapidly came to the conclusion that I wanted to trade Gretchen against something I wanted. It should become a memory from Vietnam, a memory from our travel and a memory of my bike. I found the item rather quickly, a lovely smiling Buddha that makes me feel good. I will put this Buddha somewhere I could see him everyday. That will make my day to start in a really good way. It took a while to convince the shop owner about the trade. She was more interested in providing a discount on the Buddha than to achieve an experianced motor bike. At the end, and with some help from the hotel owner, we finally made the trade with no money involved. All parties were very pleased and to my joy was Gretchen cleaned when I saw her the next morning. Hopefully her new owner will keep her that way.
Nisse found a painting he does not have room for but likes very much. The presently non existing own wall will show up with time and meanwhile waiting I have no problem to house the painting for him. In this case no third party had to be involved. The gallery owner showed up, tested the bike and said yes without any hesitation. Later that afternoon we saw this new owner and his son driving Becky, waving to us with big smiles. Both Becky and Gretchen will be taken well care of.

Some people has asked about the typhoon. We thank you for your worries but we did not experience it at all. The Phillipines took all the problems especially since the typhoon changed its path and almost never went into Vietnam. Some rain did fall, hardly no wind at all.

Toninight we have returned to Sweden, our Vietnamese journey is over. We have returned safely, we are tired and very pleased. 


söndag 10 november 2013

Business as usual

In the news we read about the dreadful situation on the Philippines after the monster super typhoon Haiyan. In Vietnam people has worried a lot especially in the middle part of the country, Da Nang and Hue area, but as the typhoon all of a sudden changed its path towards north it now passes above the Golf of Tonkin until it reaches the area of Hanoi and further up north into China. But in Hanoi noone seems to care, the streets are full of all sorts of products and trade is conducted as any other day. The only ones concerned we met so far, was two tourists that wanted to fly to HCMC today. A rather stupid approach as they then will travel somewhat towards the storm not escape from it. 
According to weather reports will the typhoon loose it strength from super typhoon down to a tropical storm, http://typhoonstormwatch2012.blogspot.com/ , and I guess tropical storms are of no big concern in the capitol. Still we will face some heavy rainfall, more than 160 mm is predicted for tomorrow, and Nisse and I plan to experiance also this. But first we will salubrate our journey by some cultural dance performance in a theatre. Did I mention "business as usual"?


lördag 9 november 2013

We made it, we made it, we made it

We have reached Hanoi, the final destination on our journey through Vietnam. Becky and Gretchen took us all the way. We are therefore very, very grateful to them and will carefully search for good future owners. It has been a long journey and yes we are tired. We are proud that we made it, but also glad that it is over. Today's distance was again more than 160 km and this time on busy highways where road construction took place almost continuesly. We left the beautiful Cat Ba early this morning on a ferry, and after that it has been like one long "village main street" the whole way to Hanoi disregarding the four-lane highway at the end.
Hanoi, the capitol of Vietnam, seems to be a rather nice place. We plan to stay here a few days for final shopping, tourism and finding cheap tickets back home. We are also waiting for the monster typhoon that just left the Philippines. According to weather reports is it approaching Vietnam during the next two days and Hanoi early Monday morning local time. It step by step turns towards north and us. The typhoon is supposed to loose its strength as soon as it arrives over land and Hanoi is not situated at the coast. We are therefore not that worried although it will be windy and some heavy rain is anticipated. I think it will be a piece of cake compared to driving on two wheels to Da Lat. 


torsdag 7 november 2013

Facing a touch of rasism

This morning I went angry. We had chosen a "better" and more expensive hotel, with a nice reception. It was not for the fancy elevator but more that it was crowded with people, both guests and personnel.
That was a mistake. Nisse went angry when the promised WiFi not worked and noone wanted to rearrange it. I did not really care but it annoyed me that the promised garage for our bikes just was exchanged to an instruction "you may lock the bikes and place them in front of the entrance". But it was still okey. We should only remain here two nights anyhow.
The following morning we had ordered a full-day boat trip out in Halong Bay and we were a little bit in a hurry at breakfast. Then we discovered that they only allowed us one day's breakfast and, worse, they refused us to enter the room where the other guest already had started their meal. The promised buffé was no longer for us, we were not wanted in the room. That statement made me loose my temper and I went furious. The poor servant unfortunately was told a little bit of everything. Still she responded fast to our demands and we had our breakfast solely in the bar. No buffé of course, but who has time for that when new adventures are awaiting. Directly afterwards we took our belongings and checked out. We made it in time for the boat's departure.

I am a little bit surprised of my own reaction. I could take some disappoinment with a sloppy bathroom, no WiFi, no garage etc, but if they refuse me to eat with the other Vietnamese guests I protest immediately. We were treated well in the bar but I could not accept it anyhow. And this special treatment is what a lot of people by various reasons are facing every day. Now I know a little bit more how it feels to have the "wrong" nationality or a different colour of your skin. I will certainly keep that in mind.

Nisse will hopefully tell you about the day in Halong Bay. Let me just say it was a lovely day to remember ...


Bikes is the answer to so many questions ...

Yesterday we went out on a boat but today we wanted something different. Our explicit goal was to look at the ferries and their schedules as well as checking out possibilities to hire kajaks outside our harbor, closer to the Halong Bay peninsula. So we decided to use our bikes again, a rather easy decision. 
Driving on Cat Ba is excellent as the island is very hilly. The roads passes the beautiful landscape with a lot of turns and a lot of downhills and uphills. Most of the roads are covered by tarmac and if not, then it's most likely a road improvement going on. Becky and Gretchen were more than willing to bring us from Cat Ba town at the south coast to the other on the west. And then we drove to a third one on the north side of the island where we plan to make our departure.
As Nisse always wants to climb mountains, and as Cat Ba island has a natural peak in the middle, I had a rather hard hour to follow him doing so. But we both managed and it paid off with a magnificent view. We met a colourful spider on our way down and we managed to have it on photo. But to our sadness and relief (strange feeling indeed) we were told that the spider was harmless. I will send the photo to Reine T. I think he likes spiders. 
A fourth harbor nearby was paid a visit and then we were in full control of where, when and to what cost tomorrow's kajak will be rented. The afternoon ended by providing support to a german couple who were 3 km off uphill and looked a little bit tired.
Now Gretchen is maintained (new motor oil, breaking light in order, correct air pressure in the tires, a full tank and a greased chain). We are ready for a final day full of kajaking in Cat Ba and then we are heading towards Hanoi. The big typhon that presently threatens the Philippines will probably pass Vietnam below us although some heavy rain is anticipated. We definitively do not want to be in the typhons path more than necessary. 


Missing Mockba

As an old friend were we greeted when we reached Cat Ba in the sunset. Memories from last visit flooded back and with them as a filter could I relive the island like it was my very first time. Al thou my body was tired after a tedious day on the road could I feel inside me the ecstatic sensation of a child on crack, or the same child on the day before Christmas, whatever lay closer to heart. I couldn't wait to get out in the bay.

Cat Ba is an island surrounded by limestone formations, eroded over the centuries to a majestic maze of steep cliffs and mysterious caves and tunnels. A few fishing boats bobs around in the coves and hawks circle in the sky. It's all very pretty, but there's one place on this island I wanted to visit more then any. I wanted to return to Mockba.

If you by kayak follow the east coast for half a day north from Cat Ba Town, then you will find a tunnel leading in to one of the mountains. You'll probably find plenty of tunnels, and this doesn't look peculiar in any way. In fact it looks fairly insignificant, but on the other side hides a cathedral. A floor of resting jade and on the other side, twenty meters up on a overhanging pedestal Mockba sleeps. He looks like a demigod, four meters high and carved in a single peace of rock. It's possible it's a piece of the mountain, and in many ways I'm sure he is, for he is the guardian of the cathedral and, what I can only assume, a long lost religion.

Maybe we can go there tomorrow?


tisdag 5 november 2013

Breaking every rule

During almost 40 years of driving in Sweden, I have only been fined a few times for bad parking and twice for too high velocity. In Vietnam I haven't been fined yet but I brake every rule possible. We are sometimes speeding to high, we occasionally drives against red. When necessary we uses the wrong lane and we make overtakes in the most suitable way, quite often on the right hand side. Sometimes we even go in the wrong direction of the road. My breaking light is gone, and so is the trip and speed indicators. But that is of course minor problems.
Still we believe that we only adapt to the common way of driving in this country. It is like being a part in a computer game with obstacles coming from any direction and you just try to avoid them all. Today we encountered two trucks going in the wrong direction on a two-lane highway inside Hai Phong, but all the motor bikes just stopped and let them pass. Because in this country co-laboration is a must. Most of our fellows in the trafic just cheer to us and waves. The bus drivers instead hunk their horns and forces us out on the sidewalk.
When we returns we will try to rapidly forget all these inherited habits but it might be hard. I guess nothing will be as it was and if I miss my bike too much maybe I had to buy a scooter in Sweden. 
Besides this, everything is great. We have reached our (very much) goal Cat Ba. From now on everything is regarded as extra.


måndag 4 november 2013

Resting in Sam Son

We've come a long way, Ha Noi looks to be within the reach of a grasp and our travel would have come to an end. That just wouldn't do, the country might be done with us but we're not yet done with the country, but before the expedition continued we just wanted a short break from the dreadful climate of Highway 1.

We can already look back at some spectacular climates and environments. The changes we've been forced to deal with on a daily basis have been drastic and they have all provided certain flavors to the trip. From frantically avoiding accidents in the swarming traffic of Ho Chi Minh, up on the bumpy and/or twirling roads in Bao Loc and Da Lat, making our way through the clouds and down the beautiful scenery to the coast in Nha Trang, getting lost in tiny city slums, holding on for dear life on a raging highway, through rain and storm, sunlight and smog, we already feel like we've made it all the way.

That's why we treated ourselves with another break on the beachfront, where I could have a romantic ride with Becky. What a magnificent creation she's been during this time. We've taken every mile together, we growled in harmony as we twisted along the mountains and I sang for her as we cruised along the highway. It's uncertain whether she understands Swedish hip-hop but I'm sure the feeling went through the language barrier. Such a warm and understand soul she has, but I've also been burned. A few scorch marks cover my inner calves and it's first now that some of them are starting to heal.

We soon got tired of the beach, as so often before, and left. Bugs and encrypted food lists might have played a part, but we could feel that the bikes wanted to continue. I'm struggling to recall a single day we haven't taken them for a spin. Parting in Ha Noi will be difficult.


lördag 2 november 2013

The importance of one additional inch

People that study others, might occasionally learn something new. Yesterday I managed to do so. A blonde backpacker, riding a faster bike than ours, had her luggage strapped perpendicular to the saddle. This is good in many ways as it allocates a little bit more of the road to your vehicle and, maybe more important, it occupies less of the saddle. I gave it a try this morning and what a relief. Having more space on the saddle, maybe just one extra inch, I could change position in so many more ways and after almost three weeks on the roads: that is important. 
Besides this it was a dull travel on highway 1 which from now on will be avoided. We only managed some 130 km until we decided to have an early stop. We drove to the coast and found a lovely small beach town called Sam Son close to Thanh Hoa. It seems to be full of Vietnamese people on vacation. For us, this year's final jump into the sea might have occurred. It was lovely. 
Those of you who, based on the title, hoped for some other topic; shame on you.


fredag 1 november 2013

A magnificent, historical road

Just as the daylight started to fade, we reached Vinh, the city where the famous Ho Chi Min once were born. It was with sadness we left the beautiful Lake House in Phong Nha as we have had two really good days there. Mr Tony, Mrs Tham and their crew have really taken good care of us. But life most go on and so our jouney, so we settled towards the North. 
To our surprise and joy was the road, The Ho Chi Min trail that passes through Phong Nha national park, just wonderful. Most of it was in excellent condition and the curves were plenty and well suited. Not too many trucks and hardly no bus in the wrong lane made this trip the best one so far. Somewhere in the middle of todays 200 km my gear pedal finally gave up. But it was exchanged within 10 min just 200 m from the place where it first was noticed. I love driving Honda in this country. 
We have now had three flat tires, exchanged two batteries and one major electrical part of one engine. I am on my fifth helmet and the new one is yellow, has a visir and says Harley on top. It is a little bit small but I think it will do for the rest of the trip.
We are now rather tired and most likely another full day on saddle awaits us tomorrow morning when we are heading for Nimh Binh