Feb
18
2013

Vietnam – The central regions

The countryside between HCMC and Da Lat which was up in the mountains was magnificent. There were so many shades of green it was like looking at a colour chart in B&Q!

We pretty much had the roads to ourselves up to Da Lat which made Abby feel a bit more comfortable as we’d seen a couple of crashes the day before. They were all relatively low speed crashes, mostly were 2 people going opposite directions both decide to turn and cross each other and eventually hit each other about 10mph. After they have picked themselves and the bikes back up, there is normally a bit of an argument and then they go on their way.

The south of Vietnam was incredibly hot (top 30s) so our biking attire consisted of just t-shirt and shorts although I had opted for trainers instead of flip flops because changing gear the day before kept hurting my big toe. As we climbed into the mountains it got colder and colder (down to around 10-12C I guess) and as we were riding through the clouds, we had to stop to put something a bit warmer on.

Da Lat was a beautiful place nestled right in the mountains and a bit off the general tourist trail. It was centred round a huge man-made lake which had quite a lot of pedal boats (swans and motorcars) for hire. Although we were quite high up in the mountains, the temperature had risen again to mid 20Cs and a wander round the lake was quite pleasant. It reminded me a bit of a Spanish or Italian town build in a hill interconnected with hundreds of tiny side streets and alleyways.

Abby continues to attract attention and make friends everywhere she goes!

I again got dragged around yet more markets, although I did find something rather interesting this time!

We didn’t stay in Da Lat for more than a couple of days before we hit the road again and headed for the cost to Nah Trang. Nah Trang looked a nice place at first but upon closer inspection had been westernised beyond belief. It had also become a bit of a party destination so finding accommodation was very tricky. Although we had arrived around midday, it took until 3-4pm to find somewhere that had a room and it was right on the outskirts of the town. We decided to only stay here one night and as there were much nicer places to go further up the coast.

The only thing I really remember about this place is that there was a proper all American Memphis bar and grille right in the middle of town, decorated with American flags, music, the works. It was quite ‘in your face Yank’ if you know what I mean and I wondered how the Vietnamese had let them settle.

Further on up the coast the country got quite narrow and you are pinned to the coastline by the mountains the run up the Vietnam and Laos border. Again the scenery was beautiful as we were riding with the sea on our right and the paddy fields and mountains on our left. Also the roads were fairly quiet here and dual carriageway so we had a bit of tarmac to play with.

We broke the journey to Hoi An up with an overnight stop in a small little town called Quih Non. We were literally the only tourists here and as it was Valentine’s Day, we decided to go for a romantic stroll along the beach to find the American Tank that had just been deserted and left after the war. We never actually found the tank (I think we strolled in the wrong direction) but we met loads of really friendly locals that just wanted to come and talk to us to see where we were from and to practice their English. As it was still the TET holiday (the week off they have for New Year’s) loads of locals were steaming drunk. As we got to the top of the beach and were about to cross the road, a guy pull up on his bike, clambered off and ran over to Abby and gave her a big hug and a kiss. Another group of locals nearby crowd cheered as he ran over and kissed me, then staggered back to his bike (stinking of Whiskey) and proceeded to wobble down the road.

We found a great little place to eat called Aroma which was a BBQ restaurant and each table had its own little BBQ set in the middle of the table were you get to cook your own food. It was a great Valentine’s Day in all and topped off later on by the fantastic news that our good friends Dan and Rosie had got engaged. Congratulations both! It’s about bloody time Dan! Abby even had a little cry at the news!

 

Hoi An

Hoi An is a real old town with a river running through it renowned for its hundreds of tailor shops. I resisted the urge to get a whole tailored suit made although the quality was fantastic and the price was even better! I did find the shop where Clarkson and May bought Hammond his model galleon from on Top Gear but Abby stopped me from getting one. There really was no room on the bike anyway.

We visited yet more markets (sigh) and bought even more stuff for the house and to carry round (double sigh). In the evening it was very pretty around the Japanese covered bridge to see all the coloured lanterns in the water floating round.

We stayed here for a couple of days to give ourselves a little rest and also decided to shed some weight by sending home a big box of things we had bought. The bike really was getting heavy now and I had refused to carry anything else as Abby had gone on a market spending spree for lanterns the night before! We’re going to have to move when we get back as there just isn’t enough horizontal surfaces in our house for everything she has bought!

 

Hue

The journey from Hoi An to Hue took us through the best scenery Vietnam had to offer. The ride up into the mountains really was one of the best roads I’ve even driven/ridden on and they were virtually empty. The road hugged the coastline but curved and dropped with some spectacular hairpins as it clung to the side of the mountain. We found ourselves going about a mile at a time then stopping for photos until we realised we’d been on the road for a few hours and hadn’t even got halfway along the relatively short distance between these two places! Amazing!

Hue used to be the capital of Vietnam until it was changed to Hanoi in 1945. We again stayed here for a few days and visited the Citadel which was just littered with memories of the war with America. Crashed planes, abandoned tanks, guns and thousands of bullet holes covered the whole place and it was a great day out walking round the place. It was an immense place and would have been a fantastic strong hold in its time which is probably why it featured some of the most horrific fighting of the war.

We had planned on doing an organised day trip to the DMZ although we could have gone on our own. They just advise you to be careful as only some of the paths through the DMZ have been cleared of mines! Anyway, Abby picked up a stomach bug and as this trip wasn’t high enough up our priority list, we didn’t bother.

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