Leaving Hanoi (eventually)

So from when I last posted, we were meant to leave Hanoi. We put if off for one day because I was ill and didn’t fancy sitting on the bike then we put it off the next day because Joe was really hungover and then we put it off AGAIN because Joe ate some dodgy eggs and we’re pretty sure he had food poisoning. So basically a week later we were still in hanoi.

We eventually got up late at 10am. Joe was still feeling pretty rough but it was only like 70km so we figured that we couldn’t take anymore Hanoi and should def leave. So we got up packed the bags and went off to get Hettie. We got going and broke down 2seconds down the road the man from the shop came to rescue us and basically the bike garage had robbed all the petrol so that was why we couldn’t go. We got started again with a little bit of fuel and also got directions to the nearest petrol station. The only problem was that at every set of traffic lights (and there were a lot) the bike would cut out and Joe would have to kick start it, meaning that I pretty much had to put my leg behind my head in order to get out of the way. It sure gave the locals something to laugh at anyway. After making it to the petrol station our next mission, to navigate our way out of Hanoi. Hmmm easier said then done but it all went smoothly considering we were relying on navigational skills and my sense of direction is pretty appalling! Think it runs in the family! So it was almost celebration time one road all the way to the ferry ow easy!

But oh no it got a little bit worse, just as we were leaving Hanoi via this massive motorway bridge that goes over the river, disaster. All of a sudden there was a massive clunking noise and something didn’t seem quite right, we were in the slowest bike lane anyway so pulled over to the side, not that theres any hard shoulder so we were literally stranded in the middle of this bridge. Joe had a look at the bike and it appeared the chain had come off, the bit that it was meant to be attached to looked a bit broken but hey i’m no mechanic. We had a few options:

Option 1: One of us walks back into town to where we know there a mechanic who speaks english. This option would be long and lonely and had ample opportunities for something to go wrong so not a good option really.

Option 2: Wait for someone to stop. This option may too sound silly, but this was my favourite option, theres so much traffic and the people of Vietnam have been kind to us so far I was convinced someone would stop and help us off the motorway at least.

Option 3: Throw a tantrum like Joe and get very emotional because his new toy was broken. (stupid option)

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While we were debating the above options a man stopped. He spoke a little english and looked at the bike, he confirmed what we already knew “this is broken” then he came out with “now I will help you” great I thought we’re saved. He went over to his bike and came back with a little bit of string. Unless this guys Dynamo how the hell he’s going to fix the bike with that! Anyway turns out the string wasn’t actually for fixing the bike silly me. He just tied up the chain so our wheel could move and then he was going to tow us off the motorway. This did not sound fun to me but the boys were all ready to go so on I jumped. It wasn’t actually as bad as I thought we went really slow and it was actually quite nice. Joe got annoyed because I was trying to take photos and apparently now was not the time. We got to a junction and our lift stopped and gathered up the rope “Now I push” he declared as the rest of the road was downhill he was going to push us.

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Joe was in panic mode and had decided that this guy was just going to give us a push and wave goodbye but I had faith in our new friend. He push us about 2k to the nearest town and motorbike garage. He then explained that he’d stay with us because we weren’t local they might try and rip us off. I still cannot believe the kindness of this man. He literally spent about 2 hours helping us. Still not knowing what was wrong with the bike we expected that today could be another right off, but we waited patiently while our friend spoke to the mechanic. 80,000dong was what he said and 15 minutes! BARGAIN! As it took the back wheel off it was clear to even the untrained eye what the problem was, the bolts holding the wheel on were basically cracked in half.

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Obviously taking into account the use of the bike over a long period of time with all the extra weight on the back wheel had obviously taken its toll. It didn’t kind of sink in then how dangerous the whole situation was, in theory the bak wheel could of fallen off. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that, that could be pretty dangerous.  After about half an hour chatting to the ads that worked in the shop and our friend we were deemed road fit and settled up. All the lads at the bike shop were admiring my Dr martens as we left. Our new friend came with us to make sure we were on the right road and that everything was okay with the bike before heading back to his village. What an unbelievably kind man. We made it to cat Ba with no further issues.

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Paris X

Sorry Mum (Again)

So before I start theres one thing I didn’t put into our Hanoi blog post and this is it… I felt it needed its own special blog all to itself…

Today I felt ill, like really ill, we had to call on Joes mums expert advice and after a few tablets lots of water and a bit of rest I was feeling a lot better!! We headed out on an adventure… and I was seriously exited. Today I got dreadlocks. I know you’ll be mad mum but they are so seriously cool and I love them so much already. But heres a before picture…

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We arrived at this guys house, he’d been highly recommended by some people at the hostel and we got started. It took ages nearly 5 hours. But Joe was happy because there was a bong and plenty of beer to keep us going. The bloke that done them was proper sound as well and we all had a bit of a laugh and enjoyed 4.20 together. He even let me cuddle his adorable puppy, which was good because dreadlocks are quite painfull!!! §

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My hairs a bit spikey sticky uppy and all over the place at the moment but from what i’ve been told it can take a month or two to settle down and I love it soo much – did I mention that already oops – Joe loves it too and I feel like a proper traveler now!

So peace out and don’t be too mad mum (and nan) it could always be worse (and apparently you can just brush them out, or I could always shave my head again? hmmmm)

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Hanoi round 2

So we’re back in this crazy city! This time we’ve actually taken time to do a few more things and we’ve discovered dominoes pizza and KFC because lets face it we have spent the last 2 weeks eating rice, noodles and all kinds of different meat. The meat could’ve had 2 legs or 4, been from the river or a farm, sometimes it was impossible to tell its origin but provided a good topic of conversation, and to be fair normally tasted alright and was at the very least edible.

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We checked into the funky Jungle hostel and its really cool we’re in a dorm with a load of german girls and they’re pretty sound.

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The hostel has 2 hours of free beer so we didn’t waste much time in sampling that! We booked hettie in where we brought her from to have a complementary service and oil change and relaxed into this magical city. I must say the first time I was here I wasn’t that sold on Hanoi but its grown on me. As i’m writing this we have been here nearly a week and i’ll be sad to leave. It was the weekend this time so we got to walk down to the night market and see what thats all about, its crazy. You cannot move for people and its a mission just to get down the street, Joe brought some sunglasses and we wondered around for our first evening. There were alot of prom/weddings – we’re not really sure what was going on- photoshoots which were quite cool to watch. 

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The next day after we were well rested we decided to get a little cultural and headed to the International Women’s Museum, there were a few different museums so we had a bit of a choice and this was the one we decided on. It was brilliant and I would recommend it to anyone, stunning displays and we learnt a lot about Vietnamese women and they are some tough cookies. Plus there was loads about farming and the war which Joe enjoyed. My highlight was learning how to tie a traditional headress,  it did take us a few goes to get it right.

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So with the weekend over we’d booked a bus to Laos to sort our visa out… get your head around this, its cheaper to pay for the bus, the Laos visa, a letter of invitation into Vietnam and a 90 day Vietnamese visa than it is to get a 30 day visa from Hanoi so this was the option we chose. Its a bit extreme nearly 29 hours on a bus all to get off where we started. But the show must go on and we really are enjoying Vietnam so off we headed. All was going smoothly had a nice sleep on the bus to the border and all seemed quite organise. We had to walk from the Vietnam border to the Laos one but its really not the bad about 1k, the only thing was it was pouring with rain. Joe had a coat but I had a vest and the thought of having to get back on that bus for a further 13 hours soaking wet was not very appealing to me. But all in all the process was very smooth getting visa sorted all stamped off. Now we’d been told to get bus 4555 back to Hanoi. We approached and the driver was adamant that the bus wasn’t going to Hanoi… but after we kept asking him he changed his mind and agreed we could get on. Just as we were getting our stamps checked the cheeky bus driver drove off. Not impressed. We had to pay a taxi 200,000dong to chase him down. When we caught up with him same situation; he did not want us on that bus but we convinced him and off we went. There were no seats or beds on this bus so we sat in the corridor still not impressed. Joe was actually sat on the stairs with two vietnamese blokes on his lap for a while. We pulled up at a petrol station 20 minutes later and the bus driver told us we had to get off and wait there for a new bus, by now we were both thoroughly pissed off, but we obliged. Here we met a young girl whose sister worked at the petrol station and she was quite taken with us and keen to practice her english and take our photos! Cut a long story short after an angry phone call to the travel agents a bus picked us up 2 hours later and we arrived back in Hanoi Knackered. But at least the Visa was sorted.

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We slept that evening and decided we’d best stay another night due to exhaustion. We’d met a few people at the hostel previously so caught up with them and enjoyed a few beers before heading out to the pirate bar!

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I knew it was going wrong when Joe went to the bar for a beer and came back with a bottle of whisky (however he assured me that it was for a very reasonable price) but we met a really nice Australian couple, the woman who owned the bar was lovely too and we had a good night! I even brought you a present Gordo, though i’m still not sure if you can read so don’t know if you’ll see this. We did then decide we’d have to stay another night as Joe got very drunk on the same bottle of whiskey he’d brought that night I was concerned that Hanoi had us now and we’d never leave but onwards and upwards (or downwards) tomorrow. We checked up on Hettie and she is all good to go as well so lets let the adventure continue. 

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The Northern loop

So as you know we needed to head back to Hanoi. We stopped off overnight in Thai Nguyen and I face timed Laura who had some interesting Wallingford gossip as always! We took it easy and the next morning headed back towards Hanoi where we booked into the funky jungle hostel (sounds intriguing) So thats it.. the end of the Northern loop for us!

It has included Hanoi – Main Chau – Moc Chau – Son La – Sa Pa – Loa Cai Viet Quann – Ba Be – Thai Nguyen – Hanoi

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We’ve had to cut it a little short because we needed to get our Visa extended and in order to do that had to come back to Hanoi. Although I have to say the North has been absolutely stunning and we’ll miss it!! Looking forward to exploring Hanoi for the second time and then to adventure into the south!!! Just going to pop down below a little video I made of our time in Laos! Loads of you will have already seen it but some people are reading who aren’t on Facebook etc. So here it is hope you enjoy…. 

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Ba Be

Well as already mentioned we were glad to be here for a start and it was beautiful!!!

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We settled into a nice homestay despite the woman speaking no english she put me on the phone to a friend who’s english was really good, this enabled us to get everything sorted out!

She even took us to this ladies restaurant so that we could eat some food as we were hungry! The food was delicious I had chicken and rice and Joe had the same but soup and veg too the carrots were so tasty, i’d not tried them before and I definitely want carrots with everything now. The lady told us that the son at the home stay is learning english from her and he sat with us and had a beer.

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Everyone seems lovely. We went back for a nap and then for  wonder around town. That evening we ate at the home stay, the food again was very nice, pork with rice and chips again I left the vegetables and soup to Joe. After dinner we went to the ladies restaurant again with 2 french guys that were also staying at our home stay we had a few beers and a good laugh with everyone all in all a pretty chilled nice evening. I facetimed Nan and Pops and even made friends with a cute kitten.

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The next day Lin (the son at the homestay) took us and Hettie on a boat across Ba Be lake and then we rode over to the nearest town so that we could get some cash out.

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We then spent the afternoon on a beautiful boat trip with Lin, the views of this national park are absolutely stunning! Seriously could not believe my eyes we stopped at a cave and a waterfall and a temple too. We even stopped in the middle of the age for a little bit so we could all have a swim. one of my best days so far to be honest. Do love a good boat trip. We chilled the rest f the afternoon then headed out for some dinner. We left earlyish the next day as we needed to try and make it back to hanoi! We will miss you Ba Be what a truly beautiful place!

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Paris X

The day disaster struck.

(Motorbike diaries day 7)

Today did not get off to a good start really! Neither of us could get out of bed and hit snooze hundreds of times before eventually getting up at half 8ish…a lot later than the ambitious 7am we’d discussed the night before. We should arrive at Ba Be today but the route wasn’t straight forward it had rained heavily all last night was pouring when we set off and we were both worried about road conditions etc. But we took it slow and decided that we’d just see how it goes besides if we weren’t making good time we should just stop on the way and spend an extra day getting there we’d still have enough time. To start with the road quality seemed good anyway and we were making steady progress so things were looking up. Due to the fact it was pouring I didn’t want to get my phone out and check the way too many times. We now have clear responsibilities Joe is in charge of packing the stuff up after I attempted to do it once and it fell off after about 2k. He is also in charge of driving the bike. I am in charge of navigation and taking photos/gopro footage, and waving at the local kids who all seem happy to see us. And so far this has turned out to work really well. My trusted maps.me app normally doesn’t let me down.

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Today however it turns out that they have recently just built a MASSIVE dam and flooded an entire valley, and the road we wanted to be on just happened to be right at the bottom of that lake, woops. But it was okay I had it all under control they appeared to be building a new road so we’d just go on that. Should be fine right? All of a sudden though the road conditions were bad worse than the mud from yesterday and I wasn’t happy to continue.

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We talked about heading back and finding a major road but every time we re-routed it seemed to point us back in this direction and to make matters worse it was still raining! ALOT. Just when we thought it couldn’t get any worse and we were down the smallest muddiest back road in the whole of Vietnam we broke down. We knew sooner or later this was going to happen but lets just say we hadn’t envisioned it happening here. Now it gets a bit better. It stopped raining YEY!!! Thank God my patience was wearing thin with the map, Joe and Hettie the Honda. As I previously mentioned as well as being broken down we were lost and wet through! But all wasn’t bad a lovely local man came to help and even took Joe to a mechanics down the road to buy a part that he then fitted himself before coming to the conclusion that the bike needed to go to the mechanics. It has to be said that so far on our travels the Vietnamese people are the most friendly genuine people we have met no one spoke a word of english but they could quite clearly see our predicament and all rallied round to help, we got a really good sense of community spirt in this local town and in hindsight it was a blessing we were stuck there and not in one of the bigger cities.

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In it went; we had to push up a massive hill down this dirt track and it was right in the middle of the school run so everyone was stopping to help and all the kids were shouting “hello” every two minutes! We felt like celebrities, lost, broken down celebrities but celebrities none the less! We got the bike fixed for £4 and were on our way once more.

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We decided to stay put in the next town to recuperate from this mornings traumatic events, the next town was Na Hang, unfortunately for us this happened to be a bigger shit hole than the last place we stayed. We managed to get some good food after trying everywhere in the village and then got our heads down and set off early in the morning.

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We had a few more minor navigational issues I think our road was still under this massive lake somewhere but we made it none the less. And  we were so grateful, first impressions and Ba Be is beautiful. So lets enjoy the next 2 days!!!

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The town with the worlds worst pizza.

On route to Ba Be today but we’d decided we might stop somewhere if we got tired but thought we’d just see how it goes the town we’d considered stopping in was Viet Quang. So off we set an all was going well, we stopped for lunch and Joe got mobbed by some local men asking where we were going and all trying to look at the map all laughing and joking and very friendly.

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Must have been about half way there when the road turned to mud. And I mean MUD! It wasn’t the best and the bike was slipping all over the place we did take a bit of a wobble into a massive puddle and Joe got covered head to toe in mud but I seemed to escape. Luckily because the road was so bad we were only going slow and there was no chance anyone would get hurt. Just dirty haha. We made it in one piece much to the amusement of the locals! I wasn’t too impressed and by now quite hungry, so we found the cheapest hotel settled in and then off we went to find food.

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Its worth a mention that it was hard to find somewhere to stay no one seemed that eager to have us. I’d joked early that I really fancied a pizza and what did we come across first? A pizzeria. So in we went only to find that the entire menus was in vietnamese! Not a good start I got google translate out and placed my order standard margarita pizza. Joe wanted a chicken burger which was also on offer and a bit easier to point out on the menu. So  we drank our beers, relaxed after our traumatic day and eagerly waited for our food! Joes came first and I was so hungry I ate half his chicken and started tucking into his chips. When mine came out it looked okay it had a strange white sauce all over it and ham and sweetcorn and some chips (which is a thing out here believe it or not). Anyway not keen on sweetcorn or chips on a pizza I picked them off and tucked in! The white sauce i’d assumed was cheese sauce but boy was I wrong it appeared (after countless further inspections)  some kind of icing… like what you have on an iced bun! Not nice at all, Joe ate the rest of the pizza but even he thought it wasn’t very nice!! We headed back to the room for an early night and I dyed my hair and had a shower and even shaved my legs! The bed in the hotel was the hardest bed i’ve ever slept on but with that said I slept well… early star in the morning off to Ba Be and fingers crossed its a nicer place than right here!!!

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Paris X