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'Top Gear' Time

Riding a tiny scooter from Hue to Hoi An

sunny 34 °C
View Round the World 2010 on Nick.t's travel map.

The journey down from Hanoi to Hue was fairly painless thanks to my new knowledge of Valium, which made a long, twelve hour, bus journey a lot shorter as I could actually sleep in my tiny bed. (This is one of my biggest travelling tips - if you cannot sleep on trains, buses etc get hold of Valium my travel buddies and me had the best journeys because of the stuff). Anyway, as I said the journey was one of the best so far, on arrival in Hue the ancient capital of Vietnam there was a car waiting to pick me, Henry, Mark and Anderson up and take us to the Hostel.

Hue Backpackers had a very similar feel to Hanoi Backpackers, it being owned by the same people but smaller and more relaxed which was good. My plan for the Next day was to hit the road (well hopefully not ‘hit’) on a scooter and ride down to Hoi An “Top Gear” style, so I spent most of the day just planning how to do the journey. While planning a guy came up to me asking if I wanted to go for a drink as between 5 and 7 the hostel supplied free local beer, now obviously I took him up on the offer not wanting to turn anything free down, turns out he is another Mark but with a ‘c’. In the bar Marc and me ran into Henry, Mark and Anderson and, over a game of darts and some beers, it turns out they are riding to Hoi An the following day too, now after a couple more beers we persuade Marc to join us and well that is enough said to be honest about that night. Next morning we all woke up at not quite the crack of dawn and ate a good breakfast then waited our steeds to be delivered. When they were finally delivered, a lot, later than we had thought we chose which ones we wanted and then took off on our 5 stallions to Hoi An. First thing was to get fuel, as obviously we weren’t supplied with enough to make it much further than the petrol station (good old SE Asia). After filling up we headed out of town to the coast road but, after about 10 minutes riding I realised the group was two short so me, Henry and Marc turned around and headed back along the road to find out what was wrong and after riding all the way back and some quick phone calls it turns out Anderson and Mark had, had bike problems when we rolled out. Now after sorting out these problems we all headed out of town to the coast road and the start of out little road trip.

The start of the ride was just along the outskirts of town with nice roads heading towards the coast, after a while we hit the real coast road and cruised along it until it we had the choice to go along the highway or head through the villages along the coast. Choosing the rural route, through the villages, was a great choice; even though the roads weren’t great, watching the local’s faces as we rode past was amusing and also passing kids who wanted high fives made it a lot more interesting. We rode through the villages and back roads for about an hour if not more and then came out onto a huge bridge (later realising it is featured in Top Gear’s Vietnam special) here we stopped for a drink to check the view and see how everything was going on the bikes comparing each others. On this stop we realised Marc was the only one with a working fuel gauge and speedometer which was amusing for all of us but annoying as we had no idea how any of us were doing on fuel as we all had different bikes. Whilst on the bridge Mark and Anderson decide it was a perfect place to practise their wheelies so we let them have there fun and I just stretched out as scooter’s aren’t the best vehicle for tall people, surprise surprise. Riding on, after passing over the bridge we started climbing into the hills on some amazing roads winding and twisting their way up through this beautiful landscape of jungle covered hills with views below, of the coast and the villages we had been riding through, this mountain pass took the group a long time to get through purely for the fact we had to keep stopping to admire the views all around. As the road continued to wind its way over and round the hills the only thought passing through most our minds were “I wish we had better bikes not little scooters”, as fun as they were they just didn’t give you the same feeling of the road and the ride but never the less with the surroundings we couldn’t complain too much. Passing over the top and starting the decent of the central hill we pulled over out of the sun into a Service station well Vietnamese version of one. A huge canopy covering kids plastic chairs and tables with fridges, display shelves, the smell of good food and most importantly ice creams, as it was boiling hot riding and even hotter now we had stopped. In this little haven away from road we had ourselves a banquet of sorts. Now we hadn’t intended on this but nobody in this place spoke English, the first time I had experienced this in Vietnam, so we ended up pointing at things randomly and well the consequence of this was “the banquet” rice and noodles coming out of our ears, a curried whole chicken, a huge bowl of soup, plates of vegetables plus another dish we had no idea what it was, never the less it was good but, wow, it totally cleared our sinuses. Once we had forced as much of this food down us, and I might add we did a good job of it, we headed back out to the scooters and the road now surrounded on both sides by jungle with just sky ahead of us after every turn. The road continued, heading up the third and final assent of these hills now this part of road was a lot busier and we had some hairy moments with huge trucks coming towards us on both sides of the road and going around corners on our side of the road plus cars and bikes doing the same thing. When we made it to the top we found a road side shop and thought it best to stop for a drink and get or nerves back before attempting the decent especially if we would have to tackle more trucks and traffic like the stuff on the way up.

This stop looked all peaceful, wooden hut style roadside stop with just an old lady serving drinks. But when four white guys and a big black guy appear on scooters something magical happens all these locals appear out of every nook and cranny trying to sell you everything from bracelets and necklaces to Puppies now obviously we ignored the bracelets and went straight for the puppies, until we realised we had nowhere on the scooters to put them and I personally didn’t want it making a mess in my bag! Once we realised we couldn’t buy a puppy for $10 we turned our attention back to the Bracelets, what a mistake that was. As soon as we showed any sort of interest the old ladies and their “pimp” (as this bloke who was speaking all the English and hageling prices) jumped on us fanning us putting shade over our heads, massaging and generally poking Anderson (obviously unsure why he was so dirty! not PC but they tried to wash him...) and offering us every drink that Vietnam had to offer. This was all fine and a bit of a laugh until after fifteen minutes when we tried to leave, I'm pretty sure the “pimp” was going to pull out a machete and hack us to bits for not buying more stuff. Anyway we escaped and hit the road for the last bit of the mountain road heading to the highway and the sprint to Da Nang, before getting to hoi An. This run down from the mountain pass was every bit as spectacular as the run up and around. As soon as we joined the highway we started to gun it, but within 15 minutes we had lost mark so we pulled into a petrol station and waited but after all of filling up and getting a drink there was still no sign of mark so Henry headed off to find him, 20 minutes later we hear the scream of a tiny scooter engine gunning along the highway and, once Henry had pulled in and switched off his engine, him laughing and reporting back that Mark had run out of fuel literally as soon as we had joined the highway. So we filled up a water bottle and sent Henry back with it to fill up Marks scooter. Now to add to the trouble currently occurring we noticed that Marc had been sitting on a flat tyre the whole time we had been waiting for mark to turn up so we had to send off for an old man on a Minsk to come and fix it for him. As the old man fixed the puncture mark showed up and started filling up his scooter after he had a drink and a smoke away we went again.

Finally back together, after a long break, we shot off along the highway which was boring like most motorways. After a short ride everything got a whole lot more exciting as we entered Da Nang and me and marc had our first experience of Vietnamese Traffic from a bike point of view and the only word I can think to use for it is ‘madness’. I have described the traffic in Vietnam before as a pedestrian but as a road user it is totally different but abiding by the same rule any space you can see is fair game, the same as a pedestrian crossing the road along with, if you see pedestrians you go around them, a rule pedestrians rely on to cross the road. As well as those basic rules, traffic lights are optional to bikes, one way streets are ignored and pavements are an added lane to roads if you cant’ find space on the road. Riding through this city, just inland from Hoi An, was intense with us weaving between trucks and cars going around roundabouts the wrong way (as they drive on the wrong side of the road). After the excitement of the city we came out in one piece and burned through another section of highway straight to our final destination Hoi An. Arriving in Hoi An was a lot less exciting than Da Nang but a lot more beautiful with a Brighton beach feel to it just a lot hotter and with much bluer water. Finally, we pulled into the hotel we were picking up our luggage from, dropped off our scooters and walked down the road to a hotel we had passed that was much cheaper, had a pool and had some of mine and Marc’s friends staying next door.

Another leg of the journey down, next step is too compete with the Top Gear teams suits now im in the land of Tailors...

Posted by Nick.t 23:03 Archived in Vietnam Tagged motorcycle

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