North Vietnam

Jun 10

Another Minsk

Day 26 – 9th April

Lao Bao – Hue

Today is going to be a good day. We are meeting Ben and Laura in Hue who is going to join us for 10 days. Can’t wait to see them. We are all up pretty early to make sure we get to Hue in good time. But Ahn can’t be found. His girlfriend is downstairs but she has no idea where he is. Soon enough he comes round the corner with a huge box filled with oil’s for our bikes. “Here. Now you don’t need to buy anymore oil before Saigon”. We appreciate the gesture as he has got the oil super cheap but we now all have to find a way to attach 4 more bottles of oil to our bikes. Ahn sorts breakfast out and we have a quick coffee. Half way through Ahn disappears. 5 mins later he comes back on another Minsk. This thing looks like a total junker. Rusty and knackered. But Ahn seems very happy with his find and insists that she is a great runner and would be prefect for Ben and Laura. We decide to go for it and hand over the $200 for the bike and off we go. Ahn on the junker and hid girl on his pink scooter. Immediately we notice that Ahn’s girlfrend is mental on the scooter and she has some pretty close calls. We start taking this road along a river which is fantastic. That is up until a small town where a puppy runs out in front of me. I had no real options a scooter to my left the puppies mother (much bigger) to the right. I hit it with both wheels and only just about manage to stay on my bike. I feel sick almost instantly and pull over. Elliot was behind me and I ask him if we need to go back but he insists that it was not getting back up. Ahn Come along and stops I tell him what happened and his response was “is your bike OK”?

The road is amazing loads of mountain passes and twisting roads. Ahn has no front brakes on the junker and manages to keep up with us. It takes a good four hours to make it to Hue but we are here and it is a good feeling. Riding with a crew of 6 bikes is also really cool.
Ahn finds us a guesthouse and we settle in. The place has a big courtyard which is perfect as Ahn as lots of work to do on the junker for Ben and Laura.
We give Ben a call and hook up with them. It’s so good to see them. They’re doing real good and have had some adventures by the sounds of things. The 8 of us head out for food and booze.

Jun 10

Where’s El’s

Day 25 – 8th April

Dong Hoi – Lao Bao

After a night on the booze with Uncle and some fixes to Elliot’s bike we get off to a late start. But things are going well and we make good time without breakdowns. We stop for coffee in this great little town which is overlooked by huge mountains. Pretty much straight after this we get a few breakdowns including my front brake cable snapping which Ahn insists is not a big problem and we should keep going. Ahn seems to have a different perspective on time and space to everyone else. Just before we leave a few locals come up and we ask how far to Hue, they say its another 7 hours and considering its now 3 in the afternoon this is not good. We ask Ahn and he says its only a few hows away. Riding no with front is not fun but we crack on as we have between 2 and 7 hours to go. I finally convince Ahn to replace my brake cable and just in time for some more mountain roads. It starts to get pretty wet as we go further and further up the mountain. We get to the top and Elliot is not behind us. We wait for a while and decide to free wheel down slowly so he can catch up. We get to the bottom and wait some more and still no Elliot. Ahn decides to go back to have a look. It is now starting to get a little dark and we begin to worry a little. About an hour later I start heading back up the hill to see what is going on. I find them both heading down after about 5 mins. Turns out Elliot ran out of fuel on the way up and ended up getting a lift to a small village where he ended up having some local moonshine, getting his cock tugged by a half drunk old man and buying 4 liters of petrol for the price of 5. Some might say we should have waited for him at the top of the hill. We say he would not have got his cock tugged if we did.

It’s now 7.30 pm and it completely dark and we are riding on top of a mountain which is covered by a thunderstorm cloud. It is a pretty epic scene around us when the mountains are lit up by the lightning. But then you realise that you are sat on 100kg of metal and it’s a little worrying. We get to the border town of Lao Bao and decide that we need to stay here as it is now pissing it down with rain and is 9pm. Ahn guides us to a guest house. As we roll up the owner decides that the price needs to be higher for tourists. Ahn goes mental at the woman shouting a screaming god know what at her but she is having none of it. We ask how much more she is asking and it only 5,000 dong each so we say its cool and settle in.
We head out for dinner pretty sharpish as its getting late. We find a little street shack and sit down. Ahn heads straight into the kitchen and starts cooking. This man can do it all apparently. A huge dinner of spring rolls, morning glory, rice and beef comes out and we munch it down in record time. A good end to another great day on the HCMT.

Jun 10

In Anh We Trust

Day 20 – 2nd April – Day 24 – 7th April

Dong Hoi

Over the course of the next few days we all spend some serious time at Ahn’s Uncle’s  (we just called him Uncle) garage getting our bikes worked on. Mine needed a full two days of Ahn’s attention, Marsh’s a good day and half a day for Elliot and Joel. Not a massive amount went down but us sitting at the garage watching Ahn work as we figured we needed to learn how these bikes worked. It was pretty cool though seeing how quickly they tore the bikes apart and put the back together. On the first morning my piston had been replaced (solid turtling), carb cleaned and gearbox fixed.

Uncle is the best mechanic in town and therefore fixes all the police bikes. So every now and then a cop bike would role in to be fixed. There was a bike sports bike in there being worked on that we all fell in love with but none more so than Joel. One day the owner walks in (a cop) and straight up to Joel, tugs on his cock and points at his bike. After another tug Joel hops on the bike and goes off for a spin. Cock tugging becomes a bit of a theme during Vietnam and we will all have our moment. The cop comes back the next day on the bike. Joel is sitting down reading so the cop rides up behind him and into to him to make him stand up where he proceeds to jump off his bike and tug Joel’s cock again. But this time he does not get a ride on his bike out of it. The following day he returns again but Joel refuses to sit up of make eye contact much to our disappointment. By this time Joel is pretty mad but as he is a cop can’t do anything. We joke that the cop is going to find some way to get him locked up so he can be his little play thing.

Our bikes were ready on the 7th so we decide to get going Ahn has said that he wanted to come with us to make sure the bikes were OK which we thought was cool.

We get going and pretty much straight away Joel’s exhaust baffle pops out of his “new” exhaust. Ahn hammers that back in but his bike will not start. A new HT lead and it’s working again. 10km’s down the road Joel breaks down again. It’s an electrical problem. Me Marsh and Ahn’s girlfriend who is coming along are a little down the road not too sure what is going on. Soon enough Elliot comes along on Ahn’s pink scooter. Apparently there are police everywhere and its best not to come back. The cops are just doing routine road side stops but Uncle came along on one of the police bikes with no helmet which got them a bit angry. After an hour we are on the road again. Just getting into the country side about 20km’s out of town and Elliot breaks down. Ahn spends about 45 mins getting it going. After that Elliot breaks down two more times and we decide to give up and head back to Dong Hoi. It was getting late and there was no way we would make it at this rate.

Uncle ends up inviting us to dinner and we have one of the best nights of the trip sitting on the street getting real drunk and singing. The food was pretty good too, cow lung and god knows what else. That was a great night.

Jun 10

Summer Dies

Day 19 – 2nd April 2010

Quy Dat to Dong Hoi

With my bike paranoia growing deeper I have a word with my bike (who I have now named Summer) that If she gets me to Hoi An I’ll give her a nice re-build. 20km’s later she dies.

Joel is with me as it happens (although he has a sports version of the Minsk he has the slowest and smokiest bike of us all, this is now of little amusement to me as I sit on the side of the road) and we try to get her going again but to no avail. Marsh and Elliot return after a while and out comes the tow ropes. It is really hilly so Marsh and Joel have to tow me. It is pretty sketchy being pulled by two bikes and we soon realize that we could be three bikes down if we are not careful. We decide to head straight for Dong Hoi about 80 km’s away. After another hour or so of towing we decide to pull into a mechanic to see if they can do anything. They go through exactly the same motions as we had done and after some work with the spark plug from a 14yr old kid she is going again. He wants no money but I give him 20,000 dong. We all saddle up and get ready to leave but she dies again and I can’t get her going. The kid comes over and with one kick she is roaring again along with everyone’s laughter.

We cruise into Dong Hoi which seems like a nice big beach town. We cross the bridge to see if we can find a beach side restaurant. Joel, Marsh and myself pull into a place and wait for Elliot. He starts to take a little too long and Marsh heads back to look for him. Marsh gets to the bridge to find Elliot covered in oil. His chain has come off and he has been trying to get it back on.

After lunch we cruise off to find a hotel. There a quite a few options. As we pull into one my clutch cable snaps. I have to wheel Summer (or that fucking slut as I am now calling her) to the next hotel as they don’t have room. As we pull in we are welcomed by Michelle. He is frantically waving a stencil of the Minsk logo at us. He comes over and explained in a brilliant French accent that his Minsk is currently being re-built by a local guy who loves Minsk. We are all very very happy and we feel all our bikes could do with some work.

Michelle takes us to meet Ahn (which means England in Vietnamese). He seems very excited to meet us and we see what he has done to Michelle’s bike and are very impressed. Working indicators, horn and lights to say the least. We arrange to come back at 8.30 tomorrow morning. Afterwards we have some great Pho at a street stall and drink a few beers safe in the knowledge that soon we will have fully functioning bikes.

Jun 10

Ho Chi Minh Trail

Day 18 – 1st April 2010

Cao Lo to Quy Dat

I wish it was an April fools but after stopping at the beach on our bikes my bike will not start again. After checking all the connections another loose wire is found and we are on our way but I have serious bike paranoia. We all ride in formation down the nice empty coast road cruising past inlets filled with fishing boats sat on blue water facing out towards a horizon filled with islands. It takes an hour before we hit the Ho Chi Minh Trail (HCMT). Immediately it hits us that this bit of road is really special. On the 1A there is nothing of real interest on the side of the road just shop after shop. But on the HCMT the surroundings are nothing short of epic. Jungle covered hills as far as the eye can see. We thunder through tiny settlements 2 abreast. The noise brings out the local kids in waving frenzies. It’s a great feeling seeing the locals being so happy to see something new. Joel is super into waving at the locals and we all take note and do the same waving at everyone.

It starts to get dark and we realize that we need to find somewhere to stay quick. After getting to what we thought would be a large town only to find it was made up of about three houses we back track a bit and head off the HCMT towards Quy Dat. We stop to check we are on the right road but are swarmed by these huge flying bugs. Thousands of them everywhere! As we get moving I realize behind me that Elliot’s light only seems to work when he is jumping up and down on his saddle. Up in the distance we see large flames illuminating the sky. It was a pretty impressive entrance to town even though it was only a local burning some bushes.

After finding a nice hotel (the only one in town) we go for some dinner (Elliot performs his now expected food routine) and then for some drinks. Joel notices a pool house with a special game of pool that he has played in South America. The table has no pockets and 3 balls. The idea is that you hit one ball onto the other to score points. I am still not totally sure in what order this is supposed to happen but after many beers it does not seems to matter.

We get back to the hotel late and very drunk. Marsh has pulled the short straw and is on the mattress on the floor. At his feet there is a slatted door connecting our room to another room. Marsh notices that on the other side there is a woman sitting there combing her hair looking down through the slats in the door at us. This immediately scares the shit out of us as thoughts of The Ring flood back. Well at least Marsh will be the first to go. We all go to bed wondering if we are going to wake up tomorrow morning.