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Week 11 & 12 - Central and Northern Vietnam

Buon Ma Thuot, Pleiku, Dak Glei, Hoi An, Hue, Hanoi & Halong Bay

We set off from Nah Trang along with Lewis and Adrian, heading towards Hoi An. This journey would take four days along the inland mountain roads (Ho Chi Minh Highway) so we stopped off at some towns in between.
Our first days ride was in glorious sunshine up some winding mountain roads where we spent a lot of the ride trying to dodge or overtake lorries that were far to big for the roads! Over 200k later, we reached a town called Buon Ma Thuot. Judging by the inquisitive looks and attention we got from the locals, this was not a place tourists often visit. In the evening we searched for somewhere to eat, and ended up in a lively locals hangout. The menus were all in Vietnamese and none of the staff spoke English so they brought out a few traditional dishes for us to share along with local beers, the dishes included ducks throat, chicken feet, and jellied cubes of pigs blood! All the locals were so friendly and wanted to chat and practice their english with us. Our glasses were never empty and we were being offered shots of whisky every other minute!
The next day we set off early with another 200k or so ahead of us. The weather was really good but the roads were awful, with pot holes everywhere and dusty tracks replacing roads for short stretches. It took its toll on the bikes and Arche's bag rack cracked and needed re- wealding, and Rob's wheel buckled! We stopped off for some lunch and a much needed drink where we met two German Lads who were doing the same trip also on bikes and they rode with us for the rest of the day, until we reached Pleiku where we would stop for the night. We all went for out for a feast of a dinner then got an early night as we would be setting off the next day at 6:30.

The next morning we got 50k or so under our belt before stopping for breakfast in Kon Tum. After taking a wrong turning we nearly ended up at the Lao border! But we realised our mistake and it was a blessing in disguise as we went through some beautiful scenery and stopped for lunch by an amazing lake with a family who owned a roadside shop. We took photos of the views and sat and ate lunch while they filmed us eating and chatting on their phones! Once back on track we headed up back into the mountains and after a short while we stumbled across a load of kids playing football on a dirt pitch where the mountain had been dug into and flattened out and goalposts put up.
We couldn't pass up the opportunity to challenge them to a game, so we jumped off our bikes and the 5 of us played the 30 or so of them! After some liquid football and sneaking into a 4-3 lead, our fitness levels were shown up and we were blowing out our arses, but we all concluded it was down to the altitude! Dripping with sweat, we had a quick team photo and then got back on the bikes. After our exertions we were quite glad of some light rain to cool us down but this soon turned into a terrential downpour and unfortunately, a stretch of road ahead was still under construction and consisted of a foot of wet, slippery mud. Arch was the first to approach it and decided to gamble through it, only to end up face down on the dirt with his bike on top of him! Josh, following closely behind witnessed the whole ordeal and managed to contain his laughter momentarily but almosty ended up on his arse next to Ben as he went to help lift the bike back up. Luckily no damage was cuased to the bike or the rider!
We had a quick overnight stay in a small town called Dak Glei where we spent the night having a few beers and playing billiards with the locals.

The next morning we started our 4th and final leg of the journey to Hoi An. This road was incredible and we made some great progress without any stoppages. We passed stunning views and waterfalls along the way, taking snaps and soaking up the sun in some phenominal scenery.
We made it in good time to Hoi An, but unfortunately on the outskirts of the city, Adrian hit a Dog that had ran out into the road and fell off his bike. Luckily he was going fairly slowly and got away with a few cuts, grazes and bruises. On a more solemn note, the dog quite literally had it's day...

Hoi An was an amazing place, the streets were filled with coloured, candle lit lanterns at night and the town had a great atmosphere. The streets were narrow and old fashioned with lots of shops and market stools. It had some fantastic restaurants through the town and along the river front with amazing vietnamese food.
Josh and Ben had tailored suits made on one of the days and the rest of the time there we spent going to the beach in the day and wondering round the town in the evening.
We could have spent a few more days here but time was against us so we had to move onto Hue.

Our days ride towards Hue was a game of two halves! It was our last full day of riding on the bikes and the morning was one of the best rides of the whole trip- a coastal mountain road with unbeatable views in glorious sunshine. The second half however was the worst and unfortunately the last leg of the journey. We had to head down the notoriously dangerous and busy highway 1 and the heavens opened and did not stop till we reached Hue. By the time we got there it was pitch black and we were lost and separated in the city. Once we found the backpackers hostel we got showered and warm and ended up having a good night catching up with some people we had met earlier on in the trip.

The next day to save time we put our bikes on the overnight bus ad headed to Hanoi.
During the journey, Rob lost his bike key so it had to be hotwired everytime to start!
We spent a few days in Hanoi, repairing and reluctantly selling the motorbikes before going on our trip of Halong Bay.
Our Halong Bay tour was for 3days, 2 nights with 50 or so other backpackers. The drinks started flowing early doors on the boat whilst getting to know other people, playing games and taking in the incredible scenery.
After 4 hours on the boat through the thousands of mini islands and carsts that make up Halong Bay, we ended up reaching the private island were we would be staying called Castaway Island. We were greeted by a group that was already on the island and soon had dinner and carried on in a merry fashion, partying into the early hours!
The next day we woke up blury eyed, and confused as our clothes were no-where to be seen, but we were soon reminded that they were on the beach after we had gone for a late night dip out to the pontoon so all was well.
We spent the next day on the island kayaking around carsts and small islands with breathtaking scenery, passing other fantastic beaches and floating fishing villages along the way. Later that afternoon we had a go at wakeboarding but had little success but enjoyed it nonetheless.
We then greeted the next tour group onto the island, brushing them up to speed with the drinking rules and had another goodnight.
The journey the next day was a struggle but when we got back to Hanoi we went out for a meal with a group we made good friends with on the island. We met some great people on the trip, in particular a group of kiwis and a group of Australian lads who were insistent that we go and stay with all of them when we go to Aus which will be ideal when we are there.

After an amazing time in Vietnam we were sad to be leaving but looking forward to the next month in the South Islands of Thailand where we will be spending christmas and new year.

Wrap up warm and the fire on,

The Three Wise Men x
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Posted by Ben-Rob-Josh 07:00

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