A Travellerspoint blog

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1031 km: Ha Long, Cat Ba Island

welcome to the wonderfull world of mass tourism.

After two days of cycling we have reached one of the tourist Mecca's of Vietnam: Ha Long Bay, famous for it's beautiful Karst mountains in the water. And beautiful it is! So after two weeks of cycling and seeing literally not even one tourist now we are in the middle of it all. This has the usual (doubtful) advantages of banana pancake breakfasts and more than plenty of opportunity to speak Dutch.... and the usual disadvantages of people pulling you into restaurants and hotels, agressive sales techniques and the general way of being treated as cattle. But hey, it is all worth it as it is truly amazing here. we have based ourselves on Cat ba island which is small and relatively relaxed.
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We have allowed ourselves the luxury of doing absolutely nothing on our first day here. Sit on the balcony, read a book, drink a tea. Small walk to beach, and back....and other such highly exiting stuff. We washed our clothes and bikes, both of which were more than a little necesarry although amongst all these neo hippy backpackers you hardly noticed that we smelled.... after a day of cycling through coal mine area our bikes were covered in sticky black coal dust and so were we....it proved pretty hard to get rid of.

Today we hiked through the national park and the good news is that our upper legs now feel remotely normal again. Cycling 1000km in 11 days took its toll and walking the two sets of stairs to our hotel room left us in total agony two days ago, substantial pain yesterday and only minor discomfort today. Yippee this means we are ready to take off again tomorrow!
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Before we forget: a happy new year to all of you! We are going to throw ourselves into the mad party scene of Catba Island...... there must be something on somewhere.
This is not a Vietnamese party....they hold their horses for the much bigger chinese new year festival (tet festival) 6 weeks from now. So we are relying on the gweilo here to make it happen. We ran in to one of the 3 foreign business owners, an English hotel owner, two days ago. He claimed to already have organised the christmas dinner so feels it is not his turn. The Kiwi bar owner next door claims he wants to party himself and will therefore close shop well before 12. All eyes are now set on the one remaining Australian bar owner who is actually stupid enough to be out of town which will almost certainly turn his bar into the big party place tonight...... let's see.

Have a good one everyone!

Posted by Whiskey 03:30 Archived in Vietnam Comments (5)

1217 km: Hanoi

Aloha!
yes we are in good tropical spirits as the wheather has finally decided to be nice to us. It is not entirely bye bye to the fleece sweaters as the evenings are still cold but blue skies and sunshine are making us very happy indeed.
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We are back in Hanoi after 4 years and regognize a lot. It is busier and more touristic than we remembered but still nice. The vietnamese certainly understand the good life and this city is full of nice cafe's and little roadsite coffee/ tea joints; bakeries with french croissants and pain au chocolat complete the picture. It is a bit French but without the French. I leave it to your personal judgement whether that is a positive or not.
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The ride here was very good. We left cat Ba slighty hungover on january first to be blown away by the best scenery so far.
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We had to cycle 24 km over the island to get to the ferry port and these were some truly amazing beautiful kilometers. then we took a ferry to a next island, cycled over that to the other end to yet another ferry to the main land. There we arrived in Vietnam's largest industrial city of Hai Phong. The outskirst were ugly and industrial, the inner city is actually nice with lots of old colonial buildings and a nice atmosphere.

This was followed by a 133km ride to hanoi. Nice ride: we found a lot of roads that were not mentionned on our (otherwise very good and detailed) german map because everytime we aked someone for the way they pointed us to the smallest and most local (and no doubt most direct) roads. very cool.It took us to a lot of ferries and along some nice rice and carrot fields. Especially the carrot peope were nice; as soon as we asked them the way they offered us a nice clean fresh carrot for on he road.
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It really has to be said: the people are so nice. we heard a lot of bad stories from the hippie backpackers crowd, the commonly shared opinion is that the vietnamese are not nice.... or at least not as nice as everyone else in south east asia. Again, it proves that cycling takes you way of the mass tourist trail: we get a lot of "hallo's" , schoolchildren cycling along wih us, a lot of smiles and we meet nice people all the time.

We just sent a package home to get rid of those extra unneccesary kilo's of luggage. we are now down to the bare minimum. After reading someone describing the mountains in the north west (where we are heading now) as Alpe d'huez but then much bigger we got a bout of stage fright and decided that such over the top luxury as towels and that extra t-shirt are really not worth the pain..... i sincerely hope it helps!

Posted by Whiskey 04:00 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

1439 km: Nghia Lo


View By bike to Singapore on HoYing's travel map.

Hanoi was good, with the Hoan Kien lake, the Old Quaters, and some western food, (Uncle Ho was unfortunately under maintenance so we couldn't visit him), and some friends of friends from Hong Kong, and some travellers we met on Cat Ba Island.

The owner of the English Bookstore (Bookworm) spoke so passionate about the mountains that we couldn't resist going there.

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He was right!

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The road here was a bit of a challenge as it was up and down a bit more then expected, and for 25 km under construction.... why they do not take on 5 km at a time and get it finished, but prefer to go for the "big picture" and have 25 km under permanent chaos is a mystery to me.
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It is amazing to see that less then 200 km from Hanoi, we are in a different world. Villages are small and most of the poeple walk around in the most amazing traditional clothes. I often wonder why this would be the best outfit to go to the rice fields, or gather fire wood. Funny thing is even in the small villages there are still shops selling the traditional White (Western) Wedding dress....

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We took a day of and planned a motorbike trip up to a small Village, but it seems the "moto-bikes" that are offered on every corner in Hanoi do not exist here, so we took the local bus that was good enough for 25 people...and for 25 out of the 30 km, till the clutch stopped working and we had to finish the trip in the 1st gear....

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Thoug the Raod was amazing

And the people were, funny enough as much amazed by our appearance then we were with theirs. They were toughing and squeezing us (in rather initmate places). CIMG1459.jpg

Anyway, great people, great views, and...good food! (we still love our baguettes from the oven - see picture)
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Posted by HoYing 05:27 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

1593km : Sa Pa

We wanted mountains.......... we got mountains. Plenty of them, very huge and very beautiful. It has slowed our pace to about 55km a day. (Just imagine 20km's of those constantly climbing up a 1000 meter higher pass at 5 to 10% gradient and you'll understand what is slowing us down).

It has even forced us into our first cheating....... we took a bus yesterday :-) We had climbed a huge pass - the one described above - the day before and our legs were still in state of shock. Add some stomach trouble and we both felt not up to climbing the 1900 meter high tram Ton pass close to Sapa....... So the local bus it was! they were happy to take our bikes and we were happy to be carried over the pass comfortably.

The local H'momg tribe is celebrating it's new year so the fields are full of kids playnig ball games in their traditional dresses. They are as curious and surprised to see us as we are to see them. Also curious but quite ferocious are the road side pigs and dogs. Clearly they do not see many cyclists in these regions and our calves look juicy enough to try a chase. Never underestimate the speed of a downhill gallopping pig....... these speed demons easily reach 30km/ hour and manage to make some truly amazing sounds while at it. Luckily our downhill speed is well over 50km/hour.....

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Posted by Whiskey 04:03 Archived in Vietnam Comments (4)

1600 km - 1800 km Sapa to Laos Border


View By bike to Singapore on HoYing's travel map.

Sapa to Laos Border

After beefing up for a couple of days in the beautiful valleys of Sapa we decided to take the bus down the pass (still not feeling too well). Interesting experience, taking the bus. Everyone has an opinion and all are different. After waiting for 1 ½ hours on a bus that would come in 5 min, we met “the driver”, any time, all of a sudden it was a very convinced: “No,No”, No Bus”…..and 5 min. later there it was….

We were planning to go to Tam Duong, this place however has been renamed Lai Chau, because the old Lai Chau will be submerged under water soon when the hydro-power dam will be finished. The Name “Tam Duong” is transferred to another village. So in fact over a stretch of 150 km 4 major towns have just rotated names. Some use the old names, some the new, and to try and make sense of it, the road signs use TXTP and TP meaning old and new town…..

Think this is confusing? Try and get a can of “Red Bull”… The Vienamese are masters in copying all branded things and here is a collecting of some local energy drinks (there are even more).
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The roads were once again beautiful, makes you wonder why we even bothered doing the China bit….

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Shops here sell and do lots of things, here is a place where we had luch in a car / motorcycle repair / gas station, mini-market restaurant....

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Dien Bien Phu is interesting in the fact that there is a lot of history here (for the French because this is where they “lost” Vietnam as a colony). So you see a lot of French people here looking at a tank and an old military bridge…. To fly in for this….? The roads however where once again great!!!!

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Off to Laos, will miss the french bread.....

Posted by HoYing 06:18 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

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