Tuesday, 8 September 2015

3 am

I don't know why time zone differences always hit me the hardest exactly 1 week after I've landed. Right not it's 3 am in Vietnam. I just woke up, wide aware, with no signs to be able to go back to bed for another few hours.

Oh well, let's make the most of it. Sometimes you don't always need inspiration to write... only boredom and 2 beers.

I don't know if this is for everyone, but every day while I walk around, my mind is taking notes. "This would be a nice picture. That would be a cool painting. How could I describe this on paper? That girl's pretty hot. What kind of ninjutsu would I have if I was from Konoha?"

So, hopefully, I'll be able to organise these thoughts into something concrete this very early morning, while listening to the roosters sing.

I wish I had a my camera lens! The locals will start to be active in about one hour. Dernit!

One thing I often fail to mention to people who ask me what I like about living in Vietnam, is that there seems to be something special going on every day, a special moment to notice or an even to witness. For example, a few days after moving in, during a torrential downpour, Henri and I went for some food down the street. All the tiny shops, restaurants and coffee shops seemed to be closed (heavy rain has the same effect as a blizzard in Montréal) but we soon found something that seemed open.

A sign above a big sliding door sported pictures of noodle dishes. We walk in, crossing the tiny river that has formed from the rain water, deep enough to completely submerge our feet. There's a few small plastic tables and stools set up, and in the back of the small room are sitting a group of 5-6 men, going through several dishes and beers while talking. As I'm taking off my poncho, one of the men asks me in English "What do you want?". "I want to eat", I reply. Discussions ensue with the lady who is working there (who seems to a few tic-tocs missing of a full clock, judging from the vacant stare in her eyes) and eventually we're told to sit and wait a few minutes while she cooks us some seafood noodles.

We order a dish of fried rice and a dish of noodles, but only one plate of noodles comes out of the kitchen. Oh well, it's 3 pm anyways, we're lucky to have found something open. A snack will have to do.

As we start to share our meal, the man who can speaka little bit of English starts a conversation with us. My housemate Henri is from Toronto, but a 2nd-generation Vietnamese migrant, so he can talk to him in Vietnamese. We quickly learn that it's one of the men's birthday! Figures, that's why they were having such a feast! They offer that we join them in drinking a few beers. I'm about to say yes when Henri turns to me and whispers "You know if we start this right now, we're not out of here for a few hours, and we'll be completely smashed. Look at the birthday guy..."

I look in the corner of the room. The guy who's birthday it is has just moved to a lawn chair set up by the far wall and is sound asleep.

"Yeah, you're right. I don't have to work today though".
"Me neither, but I don't feel like getting day-drunk".
"Hmmm. I'm trying to cut down on my drinking too".

After this quick exchange, we decline politely. But, just to prove my point, that day was unexpectedly special. We got to cheer for someone's birthday. I also talked with one of the men, a small Vietnamese of white hair who I originally thought was about 90 years old. It was hard to conceal my shock when he told me he was in his 60s.

As I was looking for food this afternoon, we met in the street. He said a big hello, shook my hand, and told me he liked me a lot. "Today, I drink beer" he adds with a smile. I already guessed that sir, from the way your breath killed all the plants on the street.

I'm happy to say that after moving 4 times since arriving in Ho Chi Minh city in March, I seem to have finally found a nice house where I can set my bags down for a while (aiming at 6 months). Okay, I could be somewhere else much cheaper, but my housemates are pretty cool and we have two roof terraces, one of which we have decided to clean up and pimp out.

Today I went up there and checked out the numerous neglected plants. As I was cleaning their pots I found myself worrying about spiders, but all I disturbed was tiny, dark geckos who jumped out of the pot at the first sign of danger.

I love these little guys. I saw one of them in my room when I woke up earlier.

I don't know why, but in every class I've taught to adults so far (not a lot, mind you), for the first few weeks, the students always try to find a flaw in me. I guess it's their right since they're paying customers, but I find it quite annoying and counter-productive. I teach conversational English (harder than it sounds, but easier than grammar for me) but am often interrupted and even challenged in the classroom about the way my sentences are built - either as I'm talking, or on written exercises.

I try time and time again to explain to them that written and spoken language are very different and what you learn in school books is too perfect - that no one talks like that in real life - but I am often met with sceptical looks and a respectful "Okay".

I mean, I've never heard "Furthermore" being used so casually before, and so often. Another example: these kids are drilled relentlessly with grammar and syntax as they grow up. They're walking dictionaries. If you make a spelling mistake on the board (which happens when you confuse English and French, like me) they'll get the classroom all worked up. They'll also ask you what a word means when they know what it means, just to see if your definition matches their dictionary's or Google's.

It's still fun however, and I'd like to think I'm quickly getting the hang of it.

Well folks, that's all my brain can muster at this time of the night with 3 hours of sleep. Have a good one!

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Des vacances à la maison et le retour au Vietnam

Alors voilà, c'est déjà mon deuxième jour de retour au Vietnam après 3 ultra courtes semaines de vacances à Montréal.

Ce petit retour au bercail, booké sur un coup de tête quand tout semblait aller mal pour moi à Ho Chi Minh Ville, a fini par se prouver essentiel.

Essentiel pour se reposer. Essentiel pour se ressourcer. Essentiel pour se remettre les idées en place. Essentiel pour s'inspirer.

Essentiel pour ne rien regretter.

Après un gros fuck-up de la part de China Airways qui a faillit me couter 4 jours de retard, je me suis retrouvé à Otterburn Park, dans le coin du Mont Saint-Hilaire, dans la nouvelle maison de mes parents. Il faisait à peu près 20c, avec de la pluie et du vent. Moi et mon père on est allés à l'épicerie... Lui en shorts et t-shirt, moi en jeans, hoodie et jacket, complètement gelé.

Le monde me regardait bizarre au petit café du coin.

Après 2 semaines de cavales sur les nombreux sofas de copains, la dernière soirée, assis dans la cour de mes parents sur le bord d'un petit feu avec quelques amis, à boire de la bonne bière et rire, respirer l'air frais et déguster une poutine, je me suis surprit à me demander "mais est-ce que je m'en retourne pour de vrai moi-là? Est-ce que je suis en train de faire le bon choix?".

Je me le suit demandé encore pendant que je disais mes au-revoirs à mes parents à l'aéroport, ma mère avec un petit air penseur et mon père qui essayait de pas avoir les yeux plein d'eau.

Assis dans le taxi Vietnamien s'éloignant de l'aéroport, l'air climatisé dans le tapis pour ignorer la chaleur accablante, j'étais en train de regarder le décor défiler. C'est pauvre. C'est chaotique. C'est poussiéreux. Je suis seul. C'est loin, si loin. Je me suis encore surprit à me demander "Est-ce que j'ai fait le bon choix? Est-ce que j'aurais du rester au Québec?"

Après avoir ramassé les clefs de ma nouvelle chambre et défait mon sac, je suis allé me promener dans mon nouveau quartier où il ne semble pas avoir grand autres "Westerners". Je me suis senti petit dans mes shorts pendant un gros 4 secondes, jusqu'à ce que je donne un sourire à une ptite madame qui me fixait de dessous son chapeau cônique, et qui m'envoya la main avec un gros sourire plein de manque de dents.

"Ouaip" je me suis dit, "T'as fait le bon choix". J'ai marché 10 minutes le temps de me trouver un banh-mi et de bien suer ma vie, et aussi de me faire rentrer dans le dos par un petit garçon en vélo.

J'étais sur le bord de la rue (les trottoirs, c'est pour les parkings et restos) en train de marcher quand une petite madame a reculé sa moto hors d'une petite porte, directement dans la rue. Comme c'est par leur coutume de regarder avant si quelqu'un pourrait s'y trouver, elle s'en allait clairement me rentrer la moto dans les genoux, alors j'ai fait un petit pas vers la gauche pour l'éviter. C'est à ce moment que le garçon m'a percuté, à quand même pas pire vitesse. C'est pas dans leurs habitudes de prédire ce qui va se passer dans la prochaine seconde non plus, alors il n'a surement jamais pensé que j'allais essayer d'éviter la madame et la moto.

Il m'a rentré dedans par derrière, la roue dans la jambe, le guidon dans le dos et le coude gauche, et lui qui a faillit tomber sur la madame. Si j'ai appris quelque chose à propos du Vietnam, c'est que les accidents c'est tellement commun que se fâcher, c'est que pour les cas ultimes. Je me suis retourné pour voir si la petite madame était ok. Elle semblait sermonner le gamin, qui lui de toute manière avait des écouteurs sur les oreilles, donc il ne l'écoutait pas. Il m'a regardé d'un air effrayé, en train de ramasser son vélo.

Je lui ai envoyé la main et donné un sourire malgré ma douleur (mon coude fait mal encore, mais j'ai vu pire dans mes jours de skateboarding) et j'ai continué ma marche. Il est passé à côté de moi après quelques instants et a insisté pour me dire "Sorry sir", très rare au Vietnam. J'ai fait un air approbateur en hochant la tête.

Le soir je suis allé manger avec mon amie Rose, ancienne collègue de travail qui déteste autant que moi cuisiner. C'était délicieux, comme d'habitudes. De petits plats de cuisine Viet du centre du pays. Ensuite on est allés boire une bière sur le bord de la rivière et Rose s'est mit à me raconter plein d'histoires de fantômes, car Septembre, c'est le mois des fantômes au Vietnam!

Les gens brûlent de l'argent et lançent du riz dans la rue pour les "Hungry ghosts", ceux qui meurent sans cérémonie. Si ils deviennent trop affamés ils deviennent méchant.

J'ai plein d'histoires de fantômes que j'ai hâte de vous raconter, mais c'est pas pour maintenant. J'ai demandé à Rose qu'on aille se prendre un café cette semaine et qu'elle me raconte toooooout et me laisse prendre des notes, mais elle m'a dit que je devais la payer. "Don't worry, I offer competitive prices", qu'elle me dit. Je pense que quelques soupers vont faire l 'affaire, j'aurai qu'à l'enregistrer en secret avec mon app de Voice Memos (truc de mon ami Guillaume).

Aujourd'hui c'est le jour d'indépendance du Vietnam. Ça l'air qu'il va y avoir des feux d'artifices au dessus de la rivière, et énormément de traffic. Je sais pas encore si j'y vais, j'hais les foules.

Bon matin!

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Delta du Mékong avec l'école

Des fois tu passes une belle journée et même si t'as pas vraiment grand chose à dire, tu veux partager les photos.

Alors voici mon dimanche! Je ne me tanne pas du Vietnam!

Gros content

Petit coin tranquille dans la Pagoda

Gros tranquille

Petit magasin du temple

Thé au miel dans une ferme d'abeilles





Mon boss. Fuck le soleil.



Dans les vues

Dans la vraie vie

Mes amies Viet capotent sur cette photo-là. Je pense que le linge de fermier Viet c'est l'équivalent en sexyness à la chemise de bûcherons!

Après avoir "pêché" du poisson (on était dans un gros trou rectangulaire plein de boue avec de l'eau jusqu'à la hanche et il fallait les attraper avec nos mains), on se fait laver.

Protagoniste 

Les poissons qu'ont a attrapés

Et un spécial

Hmm...



Non, le petit pont en bambou n'était pas au dessus de ça

Tourisss

De retour à la ville. C'est fou le contraste juste de l'autre côté de la rivière

Ouf! Pas facile! 





Oui, j'enseigne des ninjas coquins

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Le quotidien d'un ex-pat à Ho Chi Minh.

Boooooon! Ça fait vraiment longtemps que j’ai écrit en français, je suis en train de l’oublier!

C’est drôle comme mon sac à dos est ma muse. Aucune inspiration depuis plusieurs semaines, mais là, vu que je vais prendre l’avion dans 1 mois pour aller visiter famille et amis au Québec, j’ai l’envie d’écrire!

Mais Étienne, vous demandez-vous surement, quel est ton quotidien à Ho Chi Minh city? Comment occupes-tu ton temps?

Et bien, chère petite voix de subconscient, voici comment ça se passe en ce moment.

Le lundi, je suis réveillé vers les 6am par la bouchère d’en face qui coupe (varge) sur des gros morceaux de viande sur sa petite table dehors, et ça résonne partout dans ma chambre. Je m’obstine tout seul dans mon lit. Ensuite, vers les 7h, le voisin qui fait des réparations commence à frapper du marteau dans mon mur, alors je me lève tout croche car je me couche trop tard. Je snooze jusqu’à 7h30 et ensuite me gratte le pays-bas en attendant que mon cerveau embraille.

D’habitude j’ai très mauvaise humeur, alors j’attends quelques minutes avant de voir de vraies personnes. Je vais sur Facebook un peu.

Ensuite, je mets mes shorts et ma camisole, je descends en bas mettre mes sandales et vais voir mon voisin à gauche. La madame a un petit stand à Banh-Mi très populaire. J’ai que besoin de lever les sourcils et elle me prépare mon déjeuner pour emporter, qui me coute 50 cennes.

Sa voisine veut me vendre un café, qui est délicieux mais me fait digérer beaucoup trop vite alors j’évite son regard et vais voir mon voisin de droite. Son café est 50 cennes de plus mais je suis capable de le garder en dedans de moi.

Je retourne dans ma chambre et consomme le tout en révisant mes maigres préparations pour mon cours à 9h, tout en écoutant de la musique pour me réveiller.

8h30, je suis habillé, cravaté, souriant. Je sors ma moto, dit salut au garde de sécurité voisin, et me dirige vers mon centre d’anglais. J’arrête à un petit magasin de photocopies sur le chemin où j’imprime mes notes et jeux pour la journée. Duc, le jeune homme, me charge beaucoup moins que sa mère, qui je soupçonne prend avantage de moi parce que je suis blanc. Duc me charge 500 Dongs la page (2.5 cennes) mais la mère me charge 1000!

J’arrive dans mon cours du matin et enseigne le ‘’Conversational English’ pour 90 minutes à de jeunes adultes. Généralement il y a un gars pour 5-6 filles. Je dois continuellement les pousser à parler, les sortir de leur gêne et faire le clown pour les garder réveillés ou hors de leur cellulaire.

Après ça, de 10h30 à 5h30 je suis libre. Généralement je vais manger tout de suite après mon cours, ensuite joue un peu à des jeux d’ordinateur, fait ma routine d’exercices dans ma chambre (environs 1 heure, pas de ventilateur, la chambre monte à 30-35 degrés C) et prépare mes cours du soir. Ça peut facilement changer : des fois j’ai des cours de Vietnamien, ou je fais une sieste, ou je dois m’occuper de trucs comme chercher une prochaine chambre à louer ou préparer mon prochain visa de travaille.

Le soir, je fini à 9h, je suis épuisé car 3 heures de clown c’est plus dur qu’on pense. J’arrête manger quelque part, ensuite je joue à un jeu, regarde un film ou vais rejoindre mon amie Zin (prononcer Zine) pour un drink, ou vais rencontrer des filles trouvées sur Tinder. Généralement on jase autour d’un thé ou en marchant, rien de sérieux. C’est surtout une excuse pour rencontrer des gens, trouver de nouveaux étudiants et sortir de ma chambre.

Mardi! Techniquement, journée de congé, mais j’ai un étudiant privé qui vient chez moi à 10h pour apprendre le Québécois. Oui oui, pas le français, le fleur-de-lys! Il veut aller étudier à Montréal dans 1-2 ans et veut apprendre notre accent. Il adore dire ‘’Ouin’’ pi ‘’Tabarnak’’. Il apprend vite.

Ensuite d’habitude je vais boire un smoothie au coin et parle avec la jeune maman célibataire de 19 ans qui veut aller étudier aux États-Unis, puis retourne dans ma chambre pour jouer à un jeu jusqu’au diner. 

Après le diner je vais au café du coin, surpeuplé de Coréens qui étudient le Vietnamien à une université tout proche, pour écrire et réfléchir. 

Ensuite, entrainement en sueur dans ma chambre et je prépare mes cours pour le lendemain. Des fois j’ai des cours de Viet, ou je vais au cinéma ou au marché ou fait une très longue sieste.

Pour Mercredi et Vendredi, répéter Lundi. Pour Jeudi, répéter Mardi. Grosse vie sale!

Le Samedi, mon étudiant repasse, ensuite des fois je dois remplacer un prof ou aller en mini-voyage avec le centre, et si je suis libre je vais enseigner à une famille pendant 2 heures en fin d'après-midi. Ils sont super gentils et le gars cultive les bonzaïs que j’adore. 

Le samedi je me force un peu plus pour sortir habituellement, mais comme j’ai pas beaucoup d’amis et j’ai peur de tomber sur mon ex qui est complètement folle, c’est très facile pour moi de rester dans ma chambre.
Le dimanche habituellement j’ai rien de prévu. Des fois je vais manger avec mes étudiants ou me promène en moto avec Zin ou vais lire et écrire au café.

En ce moment, je suis à ledit café. ‘’Stopcafé’’. Je regarde les Coréens entrer et sortir, au son des klaxons de la rue avoisinante. Un gardien de sécurité corde les motos des clients. Une grosse averse vient de se terminer, donc c’est un peu sombre dehors et moins chaud. J’ai fini mon mocha à $1.50 et pense m’en commander un autre. Il est 1pm et je suis content d’avoir finalement écrit en français.

En même temps qu'écrire et espionner les belles asiatiques, je suis en train de planifier mon voyage de 2016 avec un ami. 

Demain, je vais au marché pour acheter des petits souvenirs pour la famille et préparer mon visa après avoir révisé les verbes avec mon étudiant (Il a choisi Nic comme nom Québécois, j’espère que vous allez bien l’accueillir).

Allez, on se voit dans pas long! Soulez-moi pas trop fort s.v.p., j’ai bu 'yink' 3 bières depuis la Saint-Jean, je suis dédié à avoir un corps sain (et la bière goûte pas très bon icitte).

BYE! M’en va jouer à Civilization V. Je suis en train de clancher avec Washington.



Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Ho Chi Minh city

I live in a city of 8 million people.

To put it in perspective, there are as many of my people - Les Québécois, or French-Canadians - as there are of humans living in this city.

I get lost a lot while riding my motorbike.

I spent most of my life in Montréal, a city of 3.5 million. A city where most of the recent growth and city-planning has benefited from western ideology. What I mean is that most of the city blocs are square, the streets are straight. North to South, East to West. One rarely navigates the back alleys by car, and one rarely navigates the streets by motorbike at all. Our minds are built from childhood in a certain way - how to behave in public - and it reflects how we drive.

Driving in Ho Chi Minh city is a big part of the city life here. There is a subway system in the builds, overseen by a Japanese company. People seldom walk or take the bus. You drive your motorbike everywhere, all the time, and what an experience it is.

The city doesn't make sense to my western mind. Go ahead, take a look on Google Maps. Streets twist and turn and snake their way around. Branching off of all these streets are medium to tiny alleys, building a spider-web in all directions where a whole new HCMC experience awaits, if one is curious enough to go venture these arteries. Sometimes you discover a whole new street of its own, only reachable by these back alleys, populated by coffee shops, where the community life seems to be tighter - I'm hoping to move to one of these streets - and sometimes you reach a sort of open space where several restaurants are stuffing tiny tables against each other, where people meet to enjoy delicious snails over cheap beer and laughter.

The way they drive seems chaotic - even after 5 months of riding around Vietnam and 2 months in this city alone. At first glance, it seems that there are absolutely no rules... People drive against the traffic, people merge from side streets without looking, attention is rarely paid to whatever's happening on each side of you - forget about what's happening behind you. Courtesy is an after-thought, almost a sign of weakness.

At second glance, it still seems that there are absolutely no rules. The only one is, expect the unexpected. I rarely get angry since I am always on full WTF mode, but I get a surprise every day. My tires have screeched on a few occasions, my head shook on disbelief, laughter escaped my open mouth more than once.

A few examples.

People seem dead set on passing you on the left, no matter what you are doing. I was in the left "lane" (read, pile of motorbikes), my left signal blinking, my motorbike completely sideways, front part in oncoming traffic, back part in the lane I came from, trying to do a U-turn to catch a back alley. Finally, I see a hole in the human flow and I can go. I release the clutch, give some gas, ready to go - only to break just as quickly. An old man was passing me on the left, a full lane into incoming traffic. We almost collide. He takes the time to slow down and give me the "You're stupid" eyes - a rare event since people seldom get angry here - before going back to his seemingly erratic driving. I am deeply puzzled. How could he not see my blinkers? How could he not think that I was about to go? Why would he not pass me on the right?

The blinkers. Vietnamese people seem to drive quite absent-mindedly. When they use their blinkers they completely forget about them until the next time they have to use them, and so you quickly learn to ignore them. In a tide of traffic, a sea of blinkers are randomly flashing and most of them don't mean anything. I see a lot of people driving around with the stand still down. Some of them are carrying boxes on the seat, not tied up. A lot of cellphone conversations are happening, or friends are driving side by side, talking. They drive pretty slowly. They will turn left or right without looking if someone else is in their blind spot - a quick beep is often useful to let them know you're there but most of the time they still continue to merge without a care.

When it is time to turn left, nobody in the oncoming traffic will slow down for you, unless you're going faster. If you're standing at a red light, it's easier: you just leave a few seconds before your light turns green. If not, you kind of look for a hole in the traffic while slowly easing your way through. I've seen people just casually driving the opposite way of the traffic between two lanes, smoke in the mouth.

This seems to be the road hierarchy: the bigger you are, the most authority you command, because you are the most dangerous (today I saw a bus drive right into a 3-way intersection without ever slowing down) and then it's all about your speed.

In the morning, from 7 am to 9 am, it's rush hour. Cars on the left, motorbikes on the right, with taxis doing whatever the fuck they want and people in a rush weaving between everything. If in a pinch, just drive on the sidewalk... for a whole bloc. During the day it seems to quiet down, as most people are at work or at school and the rest are trying to avoid the sun. Then from 4 pm to 7 or sometimes 8 pm, the rush hour is back, and people are even more aggressive. Then it calms down a little bit, but there's still a lot of people on the road. Families are out for diner or just an outing, 2 to sometimes 5 on one motorbike. Babies are sleeping, held by the mother on the back seat. Young children are stuffed in a high-chair adapted to fit between the driver and the handles. Children strong enough to hold on their own are simply stuffed between the driver's knees and hang on to the handles. Older kids will usually be stuffed between the driver and the person on the back. Helmets seem optional for children - and anyways the ones the adults wear seem to be made out of cardboard, simply worn to avoid a ticket.

I live in a city of 8 million, where every hour of the day or night you can find a tiny restaurant, ran by 2-3 ladies, sometimes all of a different generation, busting out bowls of delicious noodle soup, their tiny booth set in the entrance of a small back alley where young couples and friends gulp down their food while joking. On the opposite side, 2 retired men are drinking iced tea, locked in duel over a board of Chinese chess. A couple is parked in the shade of a tree, sitting on their idle motorbike. The young man is talking on the phone, his beautiful girlfriend, dressed in a tight shirt and short shorts showing off her perfect figure, is delicately resting her chin on his shoulder. You can't see her face entirely because she's wearing a face mask to avoid inhaling too much gas and taking too much sun, but you can still admire her long, straight black hair and her innocent, smiling eyes.

I live in a city of 8 million, where according to a horrible facebook group of disgruntled ex-pats, savages still shit in the street, you can get attacked by armed gangs, the police are on the look-out for easily-targeted westerners and the moment you leave something unattended it gets stolen.

From what I've learned, the person that they've seen shit half-hidden behind a tree in the night is the lady selling you banh-mi - she lives on that small lawnchair set against the wall, this sidewalk is her life. Armed gangs are encountered in the same spot as every other big city in the world, and at the same hours of the night, so use your street smarts and avoid these areas. The police are on the look-out for people without helmets, people driving noticeably faster than the traffic flow, people driving on the side-walk or running a red light... you know, people breaking the rules.

And I dare you to leave your cellphone unattended in any place in the world.

I live in city of 8 million, home to some expats who went looking for a place where they didn't have to play by the rules, but when they get caught in the web, they get angry, they get surprised, they lash out at their hosts who have welcomed them with a smile and a glass of iced tea.

I live in a city of 8 million, where immigrants are not frowned upon because they are taking their jobs, but encouraged and helped, for they come to teach them new ways of thinking, new languages, and new experiences.

I live in a city of 8 million, a true concrete and ceramic jungle, where a moment of inattention in traffic can cost you a trip to the hospital, where a smile can get you a whole different service and where a thousand years of culture is inhabiting every aspect of life.

I love it.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Hanoi to Saigon with Lucie

Hello all,

due to the high demand and despite many other bloggers out there on the internet offering a plethora of information I decided to write a somewhat more detailed blog than my usual standard, about my drive from Hanoi to Saigon with Lucie, my Xingha Win (Chinese version of a Honda).

 Disclaimer: I think that the idea of riding a motorbike around Vietnam is that you are free of any constraints and can do whatever you want, when you want it, and that you can explore at your own leisure.
I will not give full details on where to sleep, what to eat, how much things cost, unless it was a must-see or a avoid-at-all-costs.
There will also be some advice, based on my personal experiences.
A better, updated driving guide is also in the works.
Most of the fun is discovering things for yourself, so go out there and get lost!

This is not to be a "guidebook", more like a "guideline".

It will also probably be updated from time to time, based on the questions I get most often on FB and in real life.

Here's the first part of the journey

Note: Google Maps and Blogger.com don't work well together,despite both of them being part of Google+, sorry for the inconvenience.

So! Open the link in a new window and use in tandem with this blog.

The start: preparations.

I bought my Xingha Win from Quang Minh Motors. I sent them a message on FB and the next morning a  very polite girl was picking me up at my hotel. The owner was very nice, there was a small street, not so busy, right next to the shop so I could practice riding the bike. Since I never drove manual before, it took me one hour to finally ride from one end to the other without stalling, learn to change gears and such. The owner was patient the whole time. Months later, I still stall occasionally. The clutch is the key to victory.

He wanted $250 for the bike but simply by asking once I got it down to $230, with a helmet and straps. I think if I haggled more I could have gotten it down to $200.

If possible, take a Vietnamese friend with you, or someone that knows motorbikes. It was very simple to buy the motorbike but I had been more patient or in less of a hurry I would have picked a different one because some things were easily noticeable (front mud guard was tied up with wire, for example). I ended up putting up to a $100 dollars more in repairs of the next 2 months - mind you, I got a lot of rain, which is very bad for the bike.

I also met maybe 10 people that bought bikes from him and most of them had to get repairs done the following day. One person bought a bike for $300 and had the bike bread down within one hour and contrary to their promises, the shop wouldn't fix it for free. The guy ended up selling them their own bike back on the same day for $250.

In retrospect I would buy a bike from another traveller leaving. Make sure you get the blue card with it (proof of ownership). Check out travelswop.com/ for some used bikes sold by travellers. I also hear that it's cheaper to buy in Hanoi than Saigon.

The shop gave me a map but since I didn't have a cellphone with data (which I strongly recommend, it helps a LOT) I went shopping for a road Atlas and it was the best decision I made.


I found it here:


This map is the area just north of the Ho Hoan Kiem lake in the old quarters in Hanoi, very easy to find. It was a small book store with many maps and school material.

In the Atlas you'll find smaller roads and dirt paths, national parks, waterfalls, lakes. I based a part of my journey on what I would find in there. A couple I was travelling with had a few pages photocopied and would pencil in the roads that they took - cool souvenir! I personally wrote on the foldable map, a crude outline of where I went and how much time it took me to get from point A to point B. I plan to one day do the journey in the opposite direction without any electronics to explore more of the Central Highlands and get lost more.

My preparations were done, I was ready to leave. Here's a few more tips though. 

Try to get a oil change every 200 km. The prices range from 40,000 to 90,000 Dongs.

Buy a full-face or 3/4 helmet. The roads are very dusty, trucks throw rocks, big bugs will collide with your face. I waited until I was in Hue to get mine (went to the local market) and was so happy with my purchase. I paid 350,000 Dongs for it. I now just had to pull down my visor for protection from hazards and the sun, instead of having to wear a baseball cap under my helmet, sunglasses, and a face mask.

Do not underestimate the sun. The first day I rode in tank top and shorts and was absolutely cooked. From then on I would wear my trekking shoes (first thing you fuck up when close to crashing is your toes), jeans and shirt with long sleeves on. I even wore a bandanna to cover my neck. Some people also wear gloves or a lot of sunscreen on their hands - I've seen a girl with her hands so burned they were all swollen and peeling.

For some reason I repeated my mistake during the second half of my journey, thinking I was tanned enough to support the sun's unforgiving rays. 2 weeks later and I'm just starting to peel on the thighs. 

If you can, ride away from the A1 highway. The A1 can be efficient, the closer you are to Hanoi and Saigon, but can also become hectic. Often in construction and favoured by big trucks and buses - the scariest things out there - and so I would recommend riding the Ho Chi Minh trail from North to Cental Vietnam to enjoy scenery, quietness and a bit of history (I think it was the road built by the Northern army to attack the South). 

We had also bought cheap ponchos, easily accessible, that we could throw on whenever we got rain (sometimes only lasting a few minutes, but very heavy drops). I would eventually buy an extra poncho to wrap my bag in, and a garbage bag to put my backpack in. Even if it's sunny I advise to do this as your stuff will get full of dust and sand.

I even spoiled myself with a fancy poncho (still not very expansive) that's thicker and longer to cover my legs and face. If you're riding a scooter, there's a plastic window and holes for your hands so you can even cover the front of your bike and be quite dry. For a motorbike however, the handles are too large so you arms will have to stick out from the sides.

Keep an eye out for EVERYTHING AT ALL TIMES. Dogs and cows are unpredictable. Goats stick together and usually stay in the grass. Watch out for sand and rocks and holes. And never, ever think that you know what that truck or bus is about to do - they like to swerve savagely to avoid potholes and don't look in their mirrors to see if you're passing them.

Finally, if you can avoid it, don't drive from 7am to 9am and from 4pm to 6pm, it's their rush hour and at least in the cities, intersections get chaotic. There's no room for mistakes.

 Absolutely avoid driving at night.

For the second part of the journey, Da Nang to Saigon, I had access to the internets so it made it easier for me to find a bed. I use hostelbooking, booking.com and Trip Advisor.

That being said, we can finally start talking about the road. Mind you, this is 4 months ago so my memory is not perfect (thank you, high usage of marijuana at a young age).

1-HANOI TO NINH BINH. The first day of the trip I simply went from Hanoi to Ninh Binh. I was travelling with a couple who were both on the same motorbike and so their max speed was very low. It was in November, so we got a lot of rain. It took us 4 hours, stopping a few times to relax. The road was okay - not so many potholes, big trucks flying by, a little bit of rain. It was a good introduction to the roads.

The couple already knew where they were staying so I just followed along. Ninh Binh was very nice and quiet and I preferred Tam Coc to Halong Bay, to be honest. I would eventually go back by bus with my father and got a nice shave on the street with one of them old-school blades.

2-NINH BINH TO SAM SON. We had seen on Google Image that this place looked very "touristy" (a term I would grow to hate. We backpackers are just poor tourists, never forget that) but we really wanted to enjoy the beach so we ended up driving there. We waited for the weather to clear up in Ninh Binh until early afternoon and then drove to Sam Son by small roads. It took us about 3 hours and it was very enjoyable. Sam Son was absolutely deserted so we had the beach to ourselves. It's mainly a boulevard lining the beach  with restaurants and hotels, and smaller roads and houses as you move away from the beach. 

3-SAM SON TO BEN EN NATIONAL PARK. Our first true exploration. We saw on the map that this was a pretty big national park with a huge lake in the middle and so we took a chance and made our way there. The drive again, was very nice. We moved further away from the A1, stopping here and there for Phö and coffee. The people were always very friendly. Remember to smile even if you're very tired! 

When we finally got to the lake, it was 400,000 Dongs per person to rent a boat to ride around the lake which we thought was too expensive. We wanted to stay in the vicinity for the night but there was only one hotel overtaken by giant wasps (they were everywhere inside) so we decided to go look for a room in the town nearby. Coming back from the lake, a truck used the entire road to take a curve at a ridiculous speed and so my friends had to swerve to avoid certain death. They ended up sliding in the gravel and crashing. The villagers came out and a man made a poultice out of chewed herbs and tissue that helped my friend's leg heal. We had to drive the broken bike about 1 km to the nearest bike shop and they fixed it in an hour for around $20 if I remember well. At first they didn't want to help us because it was around 4 pm and you could tell they wanted to go home, but a random policeman showed up and told them to help us. Afterwards we found a small hotel and spent the night there.

4-BEN EN NATIONAL PARK TO TAN KY. The next day we left that area, and if you look on my Google Map, we chose to ride north of the park. A small detour, but we were in no rush. Again, very quiet scenery populated by small villages, rice fields, water buffalo, cows (careful, they are unpredictable!) and dogs. Everything is so green! We didn't find anything to do in Tan Ky but there was a small market where they got their photocopies made and I got some sunscreen. I mainly stayed in my room in the evening, reading, but they went for a walk and got invited to drink rice wine with locals and enjoyed their night a lot.

5-TAN KY TO PU MAT NATIONAL PARK. At this point our group split. The couple didn't want to do the detour to Pu Mat without certainty of anything to do there (following the previous experience at the first national park, I can't blame them). I had seen pictures of a waterfall in that park and so I took my chances. They went further South while I took highway 7 towards Con Cuong. 


To their credit, contrary to Filipinos, Cambodians and Lao people, Vietnamese people know how to read maps and know exactly where they are. Every time I would bust out this bad boy (many times a day) they were very eager to look through it and tell me where we are and where they were born. I even got asked to sell them a few pages or if they could borrow it for a photocopy or to buy the book outright! I mostly spoke with people in their 50's and 60's, probably retired, as I suspect that young adults were all tackling their gruelling work week. From what I gather, most of them work 12 hour days with only 4 days off a month (but they don't seem to work that hard while they're at it).

I arrived in Con Cuong after 2 hours (I think), a small town with some small hotels and restaurants. I stopped for food and to ask if there was some trekking to do but no one seemed to know. Riding back towards Anh Son I noticed many small roads branching off the main highway (where hundreds of school children on bikes rode the side of the road, a pretty memorable sight). I stopped at a tiny store (a beer cooler and a table) to ask a man for directions. When he realised where I wanted to go he got very excited. He wanted to get there himself! Without a word he climbed on Lucie. We rode a small road through a little village (brown trail on the map near ban Pha if I remember correctly) until at one point we ended up in a valley cut in half by a tiny river, with on the horizon small mountains. I was amazed at the view and heavily regret not taking pictures, but the strain of our weights combined made Lucy creak in a way I have never heard before so I just wanted to get to point B. 

We ended up driving through these small mountains to another village where I dropped him off and I pushed on until Mon Son (marked on my map), where I eventually ended up in a restaurant built on a river near a dam (if you get there you'll see the river and on your right the dirt path that goes up rather steeply to some houses). It took another 2 hours to get there, driving very slowly because there were a lot of kids playing by the side of the road. The waterfall was a 3-hour boat ride away (1 million Dongs to rent the boat and I was by myself) and it was already 3pm so I didn't go, but I asked where to sleep. There are no hostels so I took a chance and asked if I could sleep in their house and they were very happy to host me! I ended up having an amazing meal (learned to suck river snails out of their shell) and got drunk with the men. I slept on the floor of the restaurant and the next day jumped off the dam. The place is absolutely beautiful. 


(I'm having issues with my GoPro at the moment, videos to come soon)

6-PU MAT NATIONAL PARK BACK TO TAN KY. I ended up spending most of the next day there, swimming and just enjoying myself. The family offered for me to stay a week for free if I taught them English but I only had a one-month visa so I respectfully declined their offer. I bought some home-brew rice wine from the son of the family which would kick my ass later. When I left, the mother of the family was seeing me off. I offered 200,000 Dongs as a thank-you, which she took but then gave me 150,000 Dongs in change. Very nice people. I rode back to Tam Ky since I knew it wasn't too far and the hotel was cheap. 

7-TAN KY TO PHONG NHA NATIONAL PARK. What a ride. It took me 8 hours! Ridiculous. I rode the Ho Chi Minh trail (a nice road, really) the whole time and stopped twice, for a delicious coffee and later for a delicious Phö. Near the actual park at some point you hit a very wide and very long, straight segment of road.

 Legend is that this was an airstrip built under the cover of darkness by the Viet Cong. They smuggled an airplane piece by piece and rebuilt it on the spot. They then had a Russian pilot fly out and attack the American ships nearby, who promptly shot him down. Apparently he was rescued by fishermen and still lives in Hanoi to this day.

I got a lot of rain and arrived in the cover of darkness, drenched and exhausted. I heard about Easy Tiger Hostel from a previous biker so I pulled there to learn that they were fully booked (a common thing) but just up the road were a few bigger hotels with cheap rooms - if a less friendly staff. The place where I stayed closed the gates early and the two nights I stayed there I had to climb the fence, drunk and under heavy rain to get back to my bed since no amount of yelling woke up anyone. One time I was just out of the shower when an older Vietnamese man opened the door to my room. I was naked. I simply stared at him, stunned. He nodded and closed the door. Looking back at it I should have put clothes on quickly and chased him to know his business, but after that I would always triple-check if my door was locked - even when I was in the room.  

Phong Nha was absolutely amazing. There are a few caves to visit and the staff at Easy Tiger Hostel was very knowledgeable of the area, there was even a live music night. I visited the Paradise Cave and the Dark Cave and recommend it to everyone who asks for advice. 

This is where the first part of this guide stops, since Google Maps has a limit for saved directions.



Part two, technically still the first half of my trip. Here's the map.


8-PHONG NHA TO QUANG TRI - THE WEST SEGMENT OF THE HO CHI MINH TRAIL. At Easy Tiger Hostel I would meet a German man patiently waiting for a partner to tackle an interesting journey. Just south of Phong Nha, the Ho Chi Minh trail splits in two (see map). The West segment is 200 km of pure blissful abandon. High in the mountains with very few villages and riders. Our bikes had a 250 km capacity on one tank, and there was one place that sold over-priced petrol around km 80 (coming from Phong Nha) where we didn't take a chance and filled up. You could also buy a few water bottles and fill them up with extra petrol to be safe. When we stopped for petrol and beers the locals wanted to get us to do shots of rice wine with them but we declined for safety's sake

This is easily the best ride I did in my whole life. The road was well taken care of (except for a landslide at one point which blocked 90% of the road) and there were not a lot of animals in the way. I found myself with a constant smile and day-dreaming about doing this with my friends from back home (when one of you comes I'll show you how to ride Lucie). During a photo and piss break, we saw a huge black monkey with white legs and a red mane, swinging around in the canopy below. We saw tiny waterfalls, mountain ranges, jungle, a village over-ran by dogs who were sleeping everywhere on the road. The next day we would hear about bandits on this road, 6 guys who got eventually arrested by the police for killing a couple for their money, so be weary of strangers. 

Drive safely also. There are many curves and you are very high up in the mountains, away from everything. It's a long walk to the nearest house or a long wait for help! 

It took us 10 hours to complete this ride.

10/10 would do again, and again, and again and again and again.

9-QUANG TRI TO HUE. In Quang Tri we visited an abandoned American base and in the same day the Vinh Moc tunnels, which made for an interesting contrast. We just showed up so we didn't have a guide. Bring a head lamp and go explore! We didn't do that and I regret it. We then drove to Hue following the coast. Again, very pretty sights, you could stop for some cheap seafood and then go swim in the ocean. The ride was only 3 hours. The last part of the ride was on a highway under construction if I remember correctly and that was stressful. We arrived in Hue in the dark during heavy traffic which was kind of stressful, especially after being away from civilization for a week. 

Hue is one of my favourite cities. Street vendors don't annoy me any more (biggest complain of most people) and there's a lot of history. Since we had our bikes we made our own little city tour of the ancient Purple Forbidden City, pagoda and Nguyen Emperor tombs. With my father we did a bus and boat tour which is quite cheap as well. Word of advice: don't be one of these cheapos who take the bus tour but sit in front of the entrance to the tombs and temples drinking beer! The entrance is generally 80,000 Dongs... 4 dollars. You're drinking $1 beer okay, but what's the point of doing the tour if you're going to do that? Rant over.

Hue also has a lot of delicacies to offer. Well, technically, every single town and village has their own variation of the Phö or noodles but Hue seemed to have a lot to offer. It's an ancient capital, after all, and the emperors always supported education and culture here. They have very old high schools and universities (some older than Canada) and traditional dishes hundreds of years old. It is also said that Hue has the best textile to make their traditional dress (Ao Dai, elegant and sexy at the same time, insert new fetish here), the most beautiful women and the best wives (but I only heard that while in Hue). 

I stayed at Chillout Hostel, a small place in a tiny alley. I ended up leaving Lucie there for a month while I visited my friends on Don Det, Laos. The hostel manager is a little lady that reminds me of Gollum but she was very friendly and protective and took me out for some street food. Look for (probably not written right) Banh Beo, Banh Nam and Banh It for a taste of something special.

I also stayed at Diamond Hotel, in another alley. Ridiculous price/quality ratio, this is my favourite place to stay. Say hi to Julia, Crazy Amy and Anna Banana for me! Book in advance, they are always full.

I also found that by motorbike you could get to a beach just 20 minutes away on a quiet road. It cost 10,000 Dongs to park our bikes and a little bit more to rent beach chairs (common practice) but we had the whole place to ourselves. I watched small crabs dig their lair and throw out sand very rudely and comically out the door for a while.

10-HUE TO DANANG. I got absolutely plastered at Brown Eyes in Hue the night before and so was too hungover to drive when Julian, my German comrade, went on. I ended up staying 2 more nights in Hue just walking around. My fault: I got a lot of rain when it was time to ride to Danang. It's a little bit hard to exit the city but once you catch the highway it's simpler, if not scarier. About 3 hours in you reach Hai Van pass - a beautiful ride through a mountain siding the ocean, which makes for a pretty contrasting view. Since it was raining (not the ideal to over-pass slow-moving trucks during a tight curve in a mountain) I didn't get a nice view but I would eventually do this 2 more times and it's really nice. 

In the middle of the journey, on top of the mountain there's restaurants, a bus stop and a sort of old-looking tower. I didn't stop. I met a guy who did and fell in this scam: as they got back on their bikes they noticed something didn't "feel" right. They saw that their back tires were flat! A second later a lady who spoke perfect English (the tell-all sign of a scam) magically appeared and said she would call her friend to help them. A mere 10 seconds later, lo and behold, a small Vietnamese man with a complete tool kit fixed their tires on the side of the road. They ended up paying 100,000 Dongs each after much arguing.

If you follow the road from the mountain it will eventually take you right in the centre of Danang. It took me roughly 6 hours to complete this journey. Be forewarned: there's a bridge under construction a little bit before you get in the actual city. I ended up just following the flow of traffic and had to drive through some small alleys with absolutely no room for error. If you look at the map you could also make a turn before the city to follow the coast a little bit more. I heard there's a really nice beach and nice hotels, if a little bit pricier.

I love Da Nang. I would eventually spend a month and a half there to complete my INTESOL. I rented a small flat. The city looks very busy, with tons of hotels and more construction on the side of the river nearest to the beach but don't be fooled: most of them are empty. I drove randomly on side streets until I found a clean-looking one close to a small restaurant and rented a nice, clean and comfortable room for $15 a night (splurge!). 

Da Nang also has their own speciality. Some fat noodles, really good. There's tonnes of restaurants. The locals are friendly and beside the motorbike drivers no one assails you to sell you cheap sunglasses and wallets. The walk by the river -city side- is very nice and there's bars that kick until 4 am. There's delicious street food, a nice beach, Monkey mountain (I drove up, hard on the breaks on the way back but worth it - see map) and the Dragon Bridge spits fire at 9 pm every Saturday. Get a spot near the head amongst the crowd of locals and pose with some random Vietnamese families.


Note-worthy: the first red circle is a small side-street restaurant that had delicious pork and rice for 20,000 Dongs. You pay up front and give them an extra 5,000 Dongs if you want a fried egg on top. Me and the boys from the TESOL ended up eating there almost every lunch. They seem to be only open from 11:00 to 15:00. The position on the map could be wrong - it could be one more block west. It's built alongside the yellow wall of a Bonsai-populated courtyard.

The next red dot is a trust-worthy motorbike repairman. He speaks basic English but is very capable. I recommend getting there early in the morning. They will prioritise fixing your bike usually, unless it's a big job. He also repairs all the Easy Rider bikes so you can usually have a pretty interesting conversation while waiting - or go enjoy a delicious Cà Phê nearby. The spot might be a little bit wrong on the map since it's a small alley. I recommend driving all the way to the last intersection of the Dragon Bridge then following the big boulevard south (right before you get on the bridge, you should be looking at the tail of the dragon). The map says it's a one-way but south of the Dragon bridge it's two-way. You will see a parking lot on your right, then a temple and very quickly a tiny alleyway with lots of firewood stacked up. Drive in there until you see all the motorbikes. His house is green.

I ended up spending Têt holiday in Vietnam. I went back to the shop to get a tune-up before tackling Danang-Saigon and he was not open for business but still invited me in for home made wine (very fruity) and home made fish jerky. We got a little bit drunk by noon. 

On my first half I got a LOT of rain and eventually my bag rack rusted through. Somebody offered to fix it for me in Hue for free and they did such a poor job of it that it rusted out again the next day. This guy though, the one in Danang, did an amazing job. His helpers and him were the only ones who could fix my lights and and blinkers. I got my back break re-done, as well as my front wheel re-aligned and got new front suspensions and many other smaller things that he just pitched in over my 5 visits.


Part 3, technically the second half. Map here!


11- DANANG TO HOI AN. Ah, Hoi An. A UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Apparently during wars, both sides always agreed to have no fighting in the old town of Hoi An to keep it intact, and so you can do a little bit of time travelling by stopping there - if you don't mind the swarm of tourists and the hordes of street vendors. It's like being in a mall around christmas time and no one has the intention of buying anything. 

From Danang to Hoi An can take between 20 minutes to 1 hour, depending on your driving style. If you look on my map I chose the East route, thinking I would ride by the seashore. Instead, you get a long road populated by golf courses, small houses and construction projects for fancy condos The road is much quieter than the other way to get there however, so I suggest it strongly. 

After having been mostly a solitaire on my bike for more than 2 weeks, I had heard about this party hostel in Hoi An and decided to reserve 2 nights there, craving some drunken action. Here's my social media status from that stay:

"Ah sweet, a party hostel. I've been meaning to get my drink on and be with westerners."
Bros and hoes abound. Singing shitty radio songs in hallways at 2am. Fucking each other in dorms while other people want to sleep. Yelling in restaurants for no reason. Grabbing Vietnamese girls arses. Drunk skanks crying over a 2-week relationship with some dickhead that just left without giving 2 fucks.
No one says thanks, no one says hi, if you don't fit in the douchy mold of hair gel and button shirt, loud talking and binge drinking, or have a sweet pair of tits on display, you're not worth the oxygen.
"I got 6 days in Laos, I'm just gonna tube". Please fuck off.
A healthy dose of white guilt. Vietnam, let me apologize for this clusterfuck of depravity and narcissism.
Sorry for the rant, couldn't keep this one in.
Don't mind me, I'm just gonna get back on my motorbike to meet some Viets now. They don't make me feel dead inside.
Thought I liked you Hoi An city, but it was just the beer.See ya

So that's that. Don't stay at Sunflower Inn. A lot of people I meet thoroughly enjoyed Hoi An however, and there's ways to have a great time and get lost in the rice fields or escape to the beach, so don't take my word for it and go see for yourself. 

Sidenote: On my trip, I would end up driving back to Hue to leave a battered Lucy at Chillout Hostel while I spent a beautiful month on Don Det, in Laos. I then came back to Hue, picked her up, spent one month in Danang to complete my TESOL and hopped back on my bike. This is where part deux really starts.

12- DANANG TO QUANG NGAI. Having been sedentary for more than a month had really diluted my road trip smarts. Sitting in my hostel planning my next journey I had originally intended to do Danang to Quy Nhon in one shot. I set off on Lucy in shorts and t-shirts and got cooked yet again. After 5 hours on the road I was only in Quang Ngai, it was 2pm, and I decided to call it a day and relax. I didn't want to just blast it at top speed on the A1 the whole time, I could take a bus to do that. 

I found some wifi and checked where I would stay, preferring cheap price over high rates and got a small room in a hotel near the river, it was quite okay. I napped and read a book at a coffee shop and at night walked randomly on the main boulevard until I saw a noodle place that looked ok. It was delicious, as usual. I also purchased a long-sleeve shirt for the rest of the drive. There is a small museum in the city, about a massacre that happened there in the past, but it was closed since it was a Sunday.

13- QUANG NGAI TO QUY NHON. This ride, unbeknownst to me, would become one of my favourites. Google Maps is not precise enough, but on my phone there's "Here Maps" and it's a little bit more detailed, so I spot a side road moving away from the A1 not too far from my destination. My plan was to ride the A1 until I got to that road and then judge from the time of day if I had time to take a potentially 3-hour long detour. 

I did have the time, I did take the detour, I did have a great time. There's a few pictures and videos on the Bière de Route facebook page and one of my previous blog posts, if you're curious.

Since Google maps will absolutely NOT let me map the road I took - which is pretty straight-forward - here is a picture with more details. I strongly recommend doing this ride if you want to be submerged in beautiful scenery. I think I saw the whole process of rice harvest - from preparing the fields to planting the seeds to green fields to the actual harvesting - over the course of 3 hours. I saw a Buddhist cemetery, I rode through small villages, saw kids playing with dogs and old men playing Chinese chess, and it was awesome.


14 - QUY NHON TO NHA TRANG. I mostly stuck to the A1 but still had a good ride. There was not a lot of construction and if you zoom in on the map you can see that there's spot where you drive right by the sea. It reminded me a lot of Hai Van pass, minus the steep up-and-down hills and wet roads. Also, the rocks, sand and ground was red everywhere which gave me a Cambodia flashback, so I spent some time reminiscing about my good times with Jen & Ben in Kampot. I left Quy Nhon at 9 am and as usual took numerous breaks for coffee, food, and to rest my butt.

During one such rub-my-butt break, somewhere in red-tainted hills, I'm resting in the shade of a struggling tree. A cop car appears and pulls over right behind my bike, so I instinctively get up and go stand by Lucie. One of the policemen smiles and comes up to me and starts chatting me up in Vietamese. I'm thinking :"Here we go, bribe time", but I can't understand him soI start up my Google Translate app (Vietnamese is very hard to translate, apparently). The policeman takes my phone and writes one word, and hands it back to me.

I take the phone. "Bound". So I say, Saigon. The policeman frowns, nods, and shakes my hand. I get back on my bike and ride away as they set up a road stop. Much more lucrative to stop car drivers!

Later on my ride I realised he was more likely asking me if I was "bound to someone", since they always ask if I'm married.

The ride into Nha Trang was pretty easy compared to Danang. The main road from the highway follows the coast. I couldn't help but go drive through a small street which reminded me for some reason of those Italian alleys you always see in movies, with clotheslines populating the empty space between buildings (only here it's electric wire). The main road takes you to the main tourist area, full of clubs and high-end hotels and restaurants that get cheaper as you move away from the beach. And everything is in Russian! This is apparently because the main airway servicing the Nha Trang airport is Russian. Now, due to the Rouble having a hard time there's less tourists, so less money for everyone in that city.

It's here that I would meet Tin from my previous post. There's also the Rooftop Bar, owned by a Québecois, and the Ba Ho waterfalls which I strongly suggest to visit.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015