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Old 12th February 2012, 22:50   #16
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Default Re: A bike tour of North Vietnam !!

BRILLIANT!!!!! , im a travel agent myself and have been working on this destination for while now .majority of the indians arent this adventerous and its so very refreshing to know that youve done this sort of a thing.
hats off to you and its so nice that youer mrs came along too .
awsome stuff .
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Old 12th February 2012, 23:21   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by highway_star View Post
Edit:

I had my Indian license with me. Not sure about the rules. Nobody asked for a license there.
..........
Man-O-Man, this is one adventurous trip!! Salutes to you and wife for thinking of this trip, never could have imagined doing Vietnam this way. Now this is another option for our next trip. Very inspiring, informational trip, thanks for sharing, looking for more details and photos.

I checked out the driving license thing, you need to prove 6 months stay there or have a permanent address to drive legally, I was keen to rent a car. But most tourists hire bikes if they have to do local circuits, we did in Nha Trang.

--Ramky
======

Last edited by ramkya1 : 12th February 2012 at 23:22.
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Old 14th February 2012, 23:08   #18
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Default Re: A bike tour of North Vietnam !!

Quote:
Originally Posted by r_nairtvm View Post

Since you mention North and Muang people (white Thai as you mention them), I guess you may have passed through the Cuc Phuong National park areas - did you ? If so I am looking forward to seeing some of the current photos of that area
Not sure if we passed through Cuc Phuong National park. It was not mentioned in our itinerary. Also, our actual route was somewhat different from the planned one (more about this later), and I forgot to note down the names of places. So I am not exactly sure about some of the places we visited.

How long back did you visit these places? You may find that the area has changed. Nowadays they are cutting/burning down forests to make way for farmland. I had gone to Vietnam expecting to see dense jungles but I saw only an average level of greenery. I asked our guide about this. He said that a lot of forest cover has been lost in recent years. Also that if you go and see Laos today, you will see what Vietnam was like 20 years ago.


Many people have been asking about the costs, so i will list them down now.

Here I am assuming 1 USD = 50 INR. Costs are in INR for two people.

Airfare (via Bangkok)...............60,536
Tour fee (6 day,5 night)..........48,000 (960 USD)
Visa.......................................4,000 (80 USD)
Hotel in Hanoi (3 nights)............4,500 (90 USD)
Taxi Airport-Hotel (2 way).........1,500 (30 USD)
Additional expenses during ride...3,000 (approx, depends on what you do)
1.5 days in Hanoi:
Food/transport/tickets..............3,000 (approx, depends on what you do)

Total cost would be approximately Rs. 125,000
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Old 15th February 2012, 09:21   #19
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Default Re: A bike tour of North Vietnam !!

What a ride!

Must have been difficult riding the "wrong" side of the road!

Any idea what the driving license rules are?

Please do put up a Google Map of the route you took, it will help us get a perspective.

You sure are a exotic food freak - seeing all that makes me forget food!

How chaotic is Vietnamese traffic?
How expensive is petrol?

Apart from the presence of the English-speaking guide, how does one overcome the language barrier? They speak French apart from the local language?
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Old 15th February 2012, 10:04   #20
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Default Re: A bike tour of North Vietnam !!

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Originally Posted by highway_star View Post
Edit:

If you want to contact them look up the website of Voyage Vietnam:

Motorcycle (Motorbike) & Offroad adventure Tours update in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia & China
There are many tours listed in the web-site. Which of these tours did you take?
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Old 15th February 2012, 10:34   #21
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Default Re: A bike tour of North Vietnam !!

Hello Highway_Star,

What a incredible ride. I cannot wait to see more pictures & stories from your side.

Hope you are also following Ramky's travelogue on Vietnam & Cambodia: http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/travel...-cambodia.html (Footloose in VAMBODIA (Vietnam + Cambodia))

It is truly great that we are getting a chance to see Vietnam from different perspectives here on T-BHP.

Thanks,
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Old 15th February 2012, 11:52   #22
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Default Re: A bike tour of North Vietnam !!

Awesome trip I must say Highway-Star and kudos to your wife as well on agreeing to an adventurous trip. Great to read such different travelogues

Your food habits reminds me of myself in the streets of Bangkok. The exotic smells sure work up an appetite.
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Old 16th February 2012, 16:49   #23
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Default Re: A bike tour of North Vietnam !!

My replies are inline in bold font

Quote:
Originally Posted by hvkumar View Post
What a ride!

Must have been difficult riding the "wrong" side of the road!

I hardly noticed the difference. I think it matters less on a bike compared to a car.



Any idea what the driving license rules are?

Not sure. We were not asked to show a license anywhere.


Please do put up a Google Map of the route you took, it will help us get a perspective.

I will try to give a rough route. Our actual route was different from the planned one and I did not note down the names of places. So I am not sure of the exact route.



You sure are a exotic food freak - seeing all that makes me forget food!

How chaotic is Vietnamese traffic?

I did not find Hanoi any more chaotic than Mumbai. Lots of two-wheelers around. Roads in Hanoi are good. Outside the cities it is a mix of good and bad roads, with low traffic.



How expensive is petrol?

Don't remember. It was included in tour cost. We only purchased it once in Hanoi.



Apart from the presence of the English-speaking guide, how does one overcome the language barrier? They speak French apart from the local language?

Within Hanoi language is not much of a problem. The people working in places visited by tourists can speak English. Many of the other residents in Hanoi can speak some English too. Sign language takes care of the rest. One shopkeeper used a calculator to tell us the prices!

French is used along with English in signboards for tourists. Not sure how many people there can speak French.

Quote:
Originally Posted by hvkumar View Post
There are many tours listed in the web-site. Which of these tours did you take?
The exact tour which we booked does not seem to be listed on the website now. It was a Northwest tour.

Quote:
Originally Posted by arup.misra View Post

Your food habits reminds me of myself in the streets of Bangkok. The exotic smells sure work up an appetite.
They eat dogs there too! But it is not very common. We went to a restaurant in Hanoi where dog meat was on the menu. I was tempted but somehow couldn't bring myself to do it. We also saw something extremely exotic during the ride. I will post the photos when I get there.
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Old 17th February 2012, 00:30   #24
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Default Re: A bike tour of North Vietnam !!

Quote:
Originally Posted by mitrajdeep View Post

What about diving license ? Is the Indian one valid or did you need an international one ?
Quote:
Originally Posted by highway_star View Post
Edit:

I had my Indian license with me. Not sure about the rules. Nobody asked for a license there.
Quote:
Originally Posted by ramkya1 View Post

I checked out the driving license thing, you need to prove 6 months stay there or have a permanent address to drive legally, I was keen to rent a car. But most tourists hire bikes if they have to do local circuits, we did in Nha Trang.
Not to play spoil sport - but just to let people know what they are getting in to before they try to drive in countries that does not recognise International Driving Licenses.

When Highway_stars post appeared - at first I thought that rules may have cahnged since the late 1980s. But his comment about the DL and Ramkya's post srt me to look this up. Thought that its better for all to be informed about this.

Quote:

Driving in Vietnam - Australian Embassy

Vietnamese driving licences are mandatory for all drivers of motor vehicles as well as for riders of motorcycles with a capacity of over 50cc. Non-Vietnamese citizens are only permitted to drive in Vietnam if they hold a temporary Vietnamese driver's licence

To convert an Australian driving licence or an International Driving Permit into a temporary Vietnamese driver's licence, the applicant must first hold a valid Vietnamese residence permit of at least three month's validity

The penalties for driving offences should be clearly understood. For example, driving without a proper licence may involve severe penalties.

Experience has shown that such penalties might be as much as a three year jail sentence for driving unlicensed, up to ten years imprisonment for driving unlicensed and causing an accident, and up to twenty years imprisonment for driving unlicensed and causing an accident resulting in death. Actual penalties are, of course, determined by the police and the courts

Driving in Vietnam - Lonely Planet travel forum

The question is hypothetical for a very good reason : it is totally illegal for a tourist to drive in Vietnam, a country which does not recognize the International Licence. Therefore, there are no car rental companies. You can only rent a car with a driver.

Unquote:

Highway_star, please don't misunderstand me on this. I am posting this here fo a specific reason

Your thread is truely a breath of fresh air and will sure inspire others to emulate what you did.

I have lived in that region and I know first hand how all these "tour operators" operate. You will be left mighty high and dry should something go wrong. The indemnity forms you signed before the trip started would have made sure of that. Further you yourself stated that there was no insurance (if I am not mistaken). And don't expect any help in any reasonable time from our diplomatic missions (in this respect I would say hats off to the western diplmatic missions and the Australians).

Only Thailand and southwards - the International driving permits are recognised and hence you can drive rental vhicles

So the purpose of my post is just to temper the enthusiam generated here with a little bit of wisdome/knowledge.

Ramky did the most sensible option - rented a car with a driver, which is not too expensive in this region (almost like in India)

Hope this is taken in the right spirit by all

Best Regards & Drive/Ride Safe

Ram
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Old 17th February 2012, 01:52   #25
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Default Re: A bike tour of North Vietnam !!

Quote:
Originally Posted by r_nairtvm View Post

I have lived in that region and I know first hand how all these "tour operators" operate. You will be left mighty high and dry should something go wrong. The indemnity forms you signed before the trip started would have made sure of that. Further you yourself stated that there was no insurance (if I am not mistaken). And don't expect any help in any reasonable time from our diplomatic missions (in this respect I would say hats off to the western diplmatic missions and the Australians).

Only Thailand and southwards - the International driving permits are recognised and hence you can drive rental vhicles

So the purpose of my post is just to temper the enthusiam generated here with a little bit of wisdome/knowledge.

Thanks for the information.

I had taken travel insurance for the entire trip from an Indian company before going there.

Lots of foreigners go around on bikes in Vietnam. But if it is illegal, then I guess an accident would mean serious trouble.
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Old 17th February 2012, 02:32   #26
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Default Re: A bike tour of North Vietnam !!

Route map

A bike tour of North Vietnam !!-google-map-vietnam-trip-edited.jpg

This was the approximate route for the trip, as far as I can make out. The purple line is the planned route. The red line is the path that we took deviating from the plan.



Day 3: Mai Chau - (Somewhere between Yen Bai and Phu Yen)

The previous day’s ride had been fairly easy, on the highway passing through villages and towns. This was a surprise because I had imagined that we would be riding through the jungles. The others also felt that the ride was not exciting enough. So on the previous night, we had asked Tan if it was possible to take a different route.

He said that there is another route that passes through the forest and rejoins our original route afterwards. But there were two problems with this. The first was that the roads were bad and he was doubtful about whether we would be able to manage it on these bikes since we had pillions and saddlebags. The second was that the road leads to a river which has to be crossed by a ferry, and if we were late then finding accommodation there would be a problem. Still, we were all in the mood for some more adventure so we decided to go ahead with it.


The traditional stilt house where we stayed

A bike tour of North Vietnam !!-p1010082_1.jpg


Ready to go

A bike tour of North Vietnam !!-p1010083_1.jpg


We stopped to fill petrol

A bike tour of North Vietnam !!-p1010086_1.jpg


Looks like a local jugaad vehicle

A bike tour of North Vietnam !!-p1010091_1.jpg


Some scenes on the way

A bike tour of North Vietnam !!-p1010092_1.jpg

A bike tour of North Vietnam !!-p1010098_1.jpg


Terrace farms

A bike tour of North Vietnam !!-p1010100_1.jpg


A halt on the way

A bike tour of North Vietnam !!-p1010105_1.jpg


We stopped to take a decision on the route

A bike tour of North Vietnam !!-p1010111_1.jpg

By this time we had gone off our original route into the forest. The road towards the left would have led us back to continue with our original plan. Here Tan stopped and asked us whether we wanted to take this option or continue into the forest towards the river. Of course we chose to go on into the forest!

What followed was one hell of an exciting ride. Unfortunately there are no photos. There were long stretches of muddy and uneven roads. At some places the pillions had to get down and walk because the bikes didn’t have enough power to tackle the terrain. There were a couple of falls but no one got hurt because there was so much soft mud everywhere. Fortunately I did not fall at any time during the trip.


After the end of the exciting road

A bike tour of North Vietnam !!-p1010116_1.jpg


The condition of my shoes will give you some idea about the roads

A bike tour of North Vietnam !!-p1010117_1.jpg


A local rider on his scooter

A bike tour of North Vietnam !!-p1010114_1.jpg


Misty weather

A bike tour of North Vietnam !!-p1010119_1.jpg

A bike tour of North Vietnam !!-p1010121_1.jpg


We stopped to have lunch at a restaurant on the way

A bike tour of North Vietnam !!-p1010126_1.jpg

We saw people watching Chinese serials on TV. These are dubbed into Vietnamese. Strangely, the entire dubbing is done by only one voice! It is like having subtitles, but instead of reading them you hear them.


Many varieties of corn

A bike tour of North Vietnam !!-p1010130_1.jpg


Some scenes on the way

A bike tour of North Vietnam !!-p1010129_1.jpg

A bike tour of North Vietnam !!-p1010131_1.jpg

A bike tour of North Vietnam !!-p1010132_1.jpg

A bike tour of North Vietnam !!-p1010134_1.jpg

A bike tour of North Vietnam !!-p1010135_1.jpg


Farms on a very steep slope

A bike tour of North Vietnam !!-p1010137_1.jpg

I wonder how the farmers work there. I wouldn’t even want to walk down that slope.


We reached the river comfortably in time

A bike tour of North Vietnam !!-p1010141_1.jpg


We got on the ferry along with the bikes

A bike tour of North Vietnam !!-p1010143_1.jpg

A bike tour of North Vietnam !!-p1010144_1.jpg

A bike tour of North Vietnam !!-p1010147_1.jpg

A bike tour of North Vietnam !!-p1010148_1.jpg


On the other side

A bike tour of North Vietnam !!-p1010150_1.jpg

From here we went ahead for some distance and took rooms at a hotel. I am not sure of the exact location of this place.


End of Day 3
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Old 17th February 2012, 09:22   #27
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Default Re: A bike tour of North Vietnam !!

Quote:
Originally Posted by highway_star View Post
By this time we had gone off our original route into the forest. The road towards the left would have led us back to continue with our original plan. Here Tan stopped and asked us whether we wanted to take this option or continue into the forest towards the river. Of course we chose to go on into the forest!

What followed was one hell of an exciting ride. Unfortunately there are no photos. There were long stretches of muddy and uneven roads. At some places the pillions had to get down and walk because the bikes didn’t have enough power to tackle the terrain. There were a couple of falls but no one got hurt because there was so much soft mud everywhere. Fortunately I did not fall at any time during the trip.


The condition of my shoes will give you some idea about the roads
Looks like you had a great ride! Had to get off the bike and push through the slushiest sections? Did you see any cars or SUVs? How many kms was this approximately - or time?

Quote:
We got on the ferry along with the bikes
Nice ramp to get on board!


Quote:
From here we went ahead for some distance and took rooms at a hotel. I am not sure of the exact location of this place.
Hotels? Is this part of some tourist circuit? I am sure it was basic acco and food? Did your wife get veg food?
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Old 17th February 2012, 21:59   #28
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Originally Posted by highway_star View Post
Thanks for the information.

.......................
But if it is illegal, then I guess an accident would mean serious trouble.
Believe me, it you have an accident, it's serious trouble. My host in Hoc Chi Minh City almost had a heart attack when I asked him if I could drive his Innnova He narrated many stories how even politicians fear the police, if they are in good mood you'd get away with a hefty bribe; otherwise you'd be in the slammer. He told tales of police chasing youngsters who jump signals... he, his driver and most other people in HCMC I saw were very careful about traffic rules.

If you're in touristy spots, if you have local guides riding ahead / around you, you can get away with small bumps in traffic, would also depend on the mood of traffic policy around there. If at all you hire a bike, drive very carefully or take a guide with you.

--Ramky
======
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Old 18th February 2012, 00:52   #29
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Originally Posted by hvkumar View Post
Looks like you had a great ride! Had to get off the bike and push through the slushiest sections? Did you see any cars or SUVs? How many kms was this approximately - or time?

Hotels? Is this part of some tourist circuit? I am sure it was basic acco and food? Did your wife get veg food?
This stretch would have been around 15 km. My wife got off many times, I did not. I don't recall seeing any 4 wheeler, but the tracks suggested that big vehicles had passed through.

This is not part of the regular tourist circuit. But the hotel was good. We were not searching for veg food.
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Old 23rd February 2012, 23:13   #30
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Day 4: - Phu Yen – (around Mu Cang Chai)


The view outside our hotel in the morning

A bike tour of North Vietnam !!-p1010154_1.jpg


Petrol stop

A bike tour of North Vietnam !!-p1010160_1.jpg


We reached the town of Phu Yen

A bike tour of North Vietnam !!-p1010166_1.jpg


Breakfast and green tea

A bike tour of North Vietnam !!-p1010163_1.jpg

Green tea is available for free at most restaurants.

The man in the photo is our second guide.


Bike shops

A bike tour of North Vietnam !!-p1010165_1.jpg

These type of small scooters/bikes are widely used in the cities. Number of cars is small.



Scenes on the way

A bike tour of North Vietnam !!-p1010171_1.jpg

A bike tour of North Vietnam !!-p1010172_1.jpg


We stopped at a restaurant for lunch

A bike tour of North Vietnam !!-p1010184_1.jpg



We met them on the road

A bike tour of North Vietnam !!-p1010186_1.jpg



The previous day's adventure had not been enough for us. We persuaded Tan to take us off the highway once more too see the countryside. He knew one route that went through the villages, but was not sure if it would be open. We decided to explore it.


We rode through a narrow path along some fields

A bike tour of North Vietnam !!-p1010198_1.jpg

A bike tour of North Vietnam !!-p1010197_1.jpg

A bike tour of North Vietnam !!-p1010190_1.jpg


But the path suddenly ended at a fence

A bike tour of North Vietnam !!-p1010193_1.jpg


The only way to go was up

A bike tour of North Vietnam !!-p1010200_1.jpg

The bike just couldn’t carry me up here. Tan (who would be 20 kg lighter than me) had to ride it up this slope.


We rode through the village expressways

A bike tour of North Vietnam !!-p1010205_1.jpg


Passed by some beautiful creatures

A bike tour of North Vietnam !!-p1010207_1.jpg

We finally crossed the village and rejoined the highway. A couple of riders fell down on the village tracks, but luckily no injuries.



We stopped at a restaurant for coffee

A bike tour of North Vietnam !!-p1010211_1.jpg

In Vietnam, the method of making filter coffee is different from that in India. Individual filters are put on each cup at the time of serving. You have to wait for a while for the coffee to trickle down. Then condensed milk is added along with water. Ice is added to make cold coffee.


Sunflower seeds for snacks

A bike tour of North Vietnam !!-p1010213_1.jpg


Scenes on the way

A bike tour of North Vietnam !!-p1010215_1.jpg

A bike tour of North Vietnam !!-p1010220_1.jpg

A bike tour of North Vietnam !!-p1010226_1.jpg



In the evening towards the end of the ride our bike had a puncture. Since there were two of us on the bike, we exchanged bikes with one of the solo riders and continued to the next town. This may have been the town of Mu Cang Chai, but I am not sure. We took rooms at a hotel there. Tan repaired the puncture in the morning.

End of Day 4
.
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