Myanmar and Vietnam 2018

Myanmar and Vietnam 2018

Myanmar and Vietnam 2018

I am rewriting all this first half of the diary…till Oct 28th because due to a technical fault …possibly old/too small processor on my old Samsung tablet…I lost all I had written. So here goes:

Oct 3rd Wed
Clive sets off on his bike to stay with Robert and then fly out of Heathrow the following day to Abu Dhabi where he will stay with his daughter till I arrive on 8th Oct to also have a few days before we both set off for Myanmar/Burma on 11th Oct.

Oct 7th Sun
I set off by train to stay near Heathrow ready for my early morning flight to Abu Dhabi. I have packed my 2 soft motorcycle panniers and put them in a large waterproof bag which I can carry on my back. A small ruck as well and my crash helmet. Gina took me to the station. Then things did not go so well. Train cancelled and so we all had to get on a bus to take us to Ely. Then off bus to train and then a tube in London. My luggage is quite hard work!

Oct 8th Mon
I am not met by Clive as he is not feeling well…tummy upset…so Victoria and Andy do.

Oct 10th Wed
Clive recovered and he then showed me around Abu Dhabi. We had use of a car and drove around the sights. We did go to Sheikh Zayed grand Mosque. Clive had never been round it. I had to wear an abaya in spite of wearing long sleeved top and trousers. The mosque was very beautiful with lovely inlays. Hugely expensive and ornate chandeliers and vast space. We saw a strange new building that looked like a wheel…I guess it will be an hotel. We went down to the harbour and saw some old fishing boats.

Victoria and Andy have two children and we had fun in the swimming pool with them. The weather was ….hot!!
Oct 11th Thursday
We flew out really late in the evening to first Bangkok and then straight on to Mandalay in Myanmar. We are now going on a motorbike tour arranged before we left with 2 more people; John who we have biked with before and his partner Denise.
Oct 12th Friday
Arrive at our hotel , the Thiri Thitsar, having been met by a driver at the airport. Denise and John have been delayed as John has not got a chinese visa for touching down in China on their flight from Canada. So it looks like a first day without them. We get to see our bikes. Mine a 150cc and Clive’s a 250cc. On the whole there are no big bikes in the country. We have a meal in the dining room of the hotel with just one other couple who are from France. We had all seen that there was a happy hour and thought we should give it a go. It entailed free whiskey based cocktails. We soon cottoned on that we could have as many as we liked before 7pm. So we ate early and had a merry time. Food was cheap.
Oct 13th Saturday
Today is explore Mandalay. Our guide rides a scootor! Off we go and soon we are looking at a really old wooden temple.

The weather is not great, damp and not that warm. But we are up for it and off we go to more temples,


a wooden walkway across a large lake with people selling stuff and obviously fishing

and then finally a boat trip back down the Irriwady river. Men man handle our bikes onto the boat via a wooden plank and park them on the bow of this wooden boat.

All men are dressed in sarongs and so are the women. Our guide Alex is not…. We sit on the deck under an awning ( its now drizzling) watching the bikes being loaded. There is no food or drink or anything like that. And so we set off down the river. Plenty of wooden boats moored up and in use. At the end of the little trip the bikes are unloaded again across another boat by a whole horde of guys in their sarongs and flipflops. They get the bikes off and then push them up a very steep bank for us.

Clive had thought of showing them how to ride up but then had better thoughts of it.
We do happy hour again… french couple as well. This time its free gin based cocktails and once again a very merry time. Food is good and interesting.
14th Oct Sunday
We are still without John and Denise but hopefully they will be with us tonight. We are on our own finding our way to the next hotel at Ywagan. We find our way out of Mandalay heading southwards on a main road to start with but then take off onto a much more interesting side road. The women all seem to be smearing their faces with some yellow paste for some reason. We will find out why….All is very basic in the countryside. Ox carts, manual labour and not seen a tractor yet.

Money seems to being spent on their temples and stupas (commemorative monument usually housing sacred relics ) which are very numerous to say the least. Golden paint everywhere with reds. You could get a whole lot of little stupas on a hill side. It would appear that much effort and money is put into these rather than the local populations’ housing etc. We arrived at our hotel …described as a local guest house. Fairly simple little rooms dotted around a courtyard. We made ourselves at home and by the time we had done that John and Denise turned up which was great. After a beer or two it was a walk in the dark down the road to the only restaurant in town. Another simple but perfectly fine place. I think I even got some wine to drink. Again very cheap. Our guide for tomorrow has said hello so we are all set .
15th Oct Monday
We had a good breakfast. Slightly strange offerings but fine. Our guide turns up …on a scootor..but we are off. All four of us. Nice day on a secondary road. Denise is on a 125cc as well. She seems to get along fine after some teething problems with the bike…it kept cutting out. Hundreds of Stupas in the hill sides. We get taken to look at a very green pool in a wood and then come across some water buffalo on the road.

Denise has never seen water buffalo before so photo opportunity. Locals in ox carts. We come across locals loading a lorry of cabbages entirely by hand chucking them up one by one. Quite fertile land and growing many things but very basic farming.
We arrive at Inle lake. We are going to be here for two nights staying at the Hotel Emperor which is near a creek/river that runs into the lake but not on the lakeside itself, at Nyaung Shwe. Quite quickly we are off on a boat trip. The boats are amazing.

They are long and thin. We sit in a kind of a row down the boat, one by one, in a chair like seat. All very grand. The prow of the boat is well out of the water and at the back is a powerful fishtail engine. The boat goes fast. We roar off down the creek to the lake. The idea is to watch the local fishermen fish from their long thin boats, to see the floating farm of tomatoes growing on a bed of a tangle of water hyacinth tubers with sediment in between, and to visit the very watery village at the far end where the houses are on stilts in the water.

Waterways form the roads and weaving from silk, lotus flower stems and cotton is the occupation being carried out in the houses. Ladies mainly at their wooden looms. It is not high tech but quite amazing how they produce yarn from lotus flower stems and then weave that into rugs etc.

Time to get back before dark. Off we roar and have a near collision on a watery crossroads! The trip back up the lake takes time and it is getting dark. These long boats do not have lights and by the time we reach the creek it is practically dark. The boats are mostly black so you do wonder how we all saw each other.

Clive and I then headed into the back streets to find a restaurant. Seemed very lively with many stalls. Found restaurant and had a good meal with wine.

16th Oct Tuesday
We are very lucky. By chance our trip has coincided with a major buddist festival. Budda , who is comprised of 5 golden balls of varying size, is coming to town in a boat. The spectacle is amazing. Not one boat but many many boats. The creek has a strong current and the boats come up stream against the current. They are very low in the water, are very, very, long and have 100 people/men standing in 2 rows, rowing one oar each , standing up, with one foot and one arm. In the middle is a band.

No engine and all wooden. We watch….Clive by now has found us a good vantage point on a hotel balcony… boat after boat comes upstream. Music coming from everywhere and crowds throng the river bank.

Eventually the Budda boat comes in sight. It is being towed by one of the rowing boats…hard work. It is very ornate and gold coloured.

It docks near us and the Budda balls are then transferred from the boat along a flower strewn road to a waiting carriage of sorts. That then heads off into the crowd.

Each village provides a boat and then competes in a rowing race back down the creek. We missed that racing as Clive wanted his breakfast! We had got up early to see the spectacle. Once all calmed down we all went off behind our guide to explore the other side of Inle lake by bike. We viewed more temples and stupas, saw local people dressed in local clothes and even went to a winery and tasted some locally grown wine. It is amazingly good and it is what we have been drinking. It is produced by foreigners…well foreigners are in charge.
17th Oct Wednesday
Denise and John travel by themselves. We do not have a guide, he has said goodbye to us and we now head to Mt Popa by ourselves. We enjoy the ride.

Ox carts, women gangs mending the road, more ladies with yellow painted faces.

We have found out that the paste comes from the bark of a tree and they use it to stay white skinned and it helps against mosquitos too.

We see young children all dressed up riding ponies as in some kind of ceremony and a moored boat looking like an enormous golden duck.

We have a huge problem finding the hotel going round and round town but get there before Denise and John in spite of going wrong earlier in the day down the wrong road. All my fault as I was the one with the google map on my phone. Clive gives no quarter. We had seen a mountain top that looked like a volcano and thought it was Mt Popa.
This Hotel Linn has bungalow type rooms and Denise and John arrive just after I have tried to make my throttle cable a little easier. I failed ….it sticks as the cable is obviously knackered. My chain and sprocket is a bit worn out too! But it goes…
Dining room looks clean and spotless but as we eat our nice meal we notice that we have company. Rats are running along the edge of the room and then up the curtains in the corner. It is rather amusing! We do alert the waiter but he does not do much except vaguely block up a hole. This does not really deter the rats. We keep on eating…what else do you do!!

18th Oct Thursday
We did not see any rats at breakfast time! We did notice that another hole had been blocked up and did rather imagine them running around the kitchen still. None of us suffered any consequences. Off we went to see Mt Popa. It is a volcanic plug and had a temple on the top approached by a huge number of steps.

Clive took up position in a café at the bottom and soon had quite a few monkey visitors. They were quite a pest. They grabbed stuff off tourists including sunglasses and cameras.

So it was hang on tight to your stuff. I think John and Denise were ahead of us ( or me). You had to take off your shoes so it was up the steps being careful of Monkey poo. There were a number of step cleaners at work. I realised they were doing an important job and promised to tip them on my way down…which I did.! Usual temple at top and a lovely view of countryside. Down past the monkeys watching one drinking from a can!
It was then off to Bagan. John and Denise like their own pace so we all did our own thing. No guide. We are to make our way to the Sky palace hotel. Road was good and not that exciting so we went to Old Bagan before reaching our hotel to see a very ornate gold temple complex.

It was hot and we rather sweated our way round, barefoot again. We had been told that you can only ride electric scootors round Bagan. So far we seemed okay. We have not seen a single policeman or any other official. Everything is very relaxed. The people are very friendly even if they are trying to sell you stuff. We then headed to the hotel, quite nice with our own cottage room again. It had a nice pool and given the weather was hot we did a mini bit of sunbathing. Denise and John finally made it and joined in. The pool was a wee bit green looking! In the evening we walked off to find a good restaurant. Guide turned up at the hotel and said he had organised the electric bikes. They were all parked up when we got back.. e bikes!!

19th Oct Friday
Off we all went with our guide to explore on our e bikes. Bit strange at first. We did a repeat of our temple of yesterday but after that it was an explore round the plain of Bagan. It is covered in 8000 temples and stupas.

It was quite warm. The guide did not seem to do drinks and relaxation but we did stop at a village where we could wander around and take in the fact that it was very self sufficient. The populace seemed to have all the skills of life…weaving their own clothes, farming and producing food.

They seemed very content.Lovely relaxed life…or so it seemed.

Back to relax ourselves in the hotel before a very early start to go ballooning…so exciting. It was the first day of the season and we were to be up at about 4am!

20th Oct Saturday
Balloons over Bagan bus arrives to pick us all up. It is an ancient Canadian bus…really old.

It goes round other hotels and then off we go. Very impressive balloon operation run by Brits. There were rival outfits all inflating their balloons on this big field.

Very professional. The balloons inflate , we are given our precise instructions, and then off we go in the very early morning mist. It is still and warm. Perfect. We float along with other balloons over the plain with all the temples and stupas looking lovely in the morning sunlight.

They are all gold and red, some bigger, some small and numerous.

Then we have to come down to land! We coast over a village pretty low looking into their backyards and finally come to rest in a brickyard. It has been done before. The teams of fit men are already there, ready to gather up the balloon and its basket and take away back to the field from whence we came. Our pilot, a very proper Englishman, ex RAF no doubt, gave us all ( 16 of us) a glass of champagne and a croissant, a certificate and a photo of ourselves in the basket. Wow! Clive really enjoyed it.

Day not done however, we had to motorbike back to Mandalay. We four actually went together as John and Denise did not know the hotel and I was the better map reader with my google maps. Even so I went wrong but we made it in the nick of time for them to catch their plane that night. Clive and I fly out tomorrow. We have some of those free cocktails and reflect on the good time we have had here in Myanmar and how we would like to come again and travel further a field. It was not to be.

21st Oct Sunday
We fly to Bangkok where we are now going to do a few days sightseeing before flying to Hanoi and Vietnam on the 25th Oct.

24th Oct Wednesday
We had an hotel on the river which was very useful as we could travel around via the very efficient river taxis, a stop of which was right by our hotel. This was pure chance in our typical style! First day we went and joined the tourists at the King’s palace, trooping around under the watchful eye of police. It was very impressive, full of gold and wonderful buildings.

The men had to wear trousers and those that turned up in shorts were made to buy these kind of things!!

I think even Clive was impressed. Another day I went and saw Wat Arun on the other bank of the river.


Clive had 2 pairs of trousers made for him by a Myanmar man. He was still keen on Myanmar! We had to keep trotting back to that shop. We plodded around one or two other sights and also spent time by the hotel swimming pool. We were both looking forward to getting to Vietnam and getting on to bikes again.

25th Oct Thursday
We finally fly to Hanoi. We find our hotel down a rather local street . We have arrived late at night so find some food and go to bed.

26th Oct Friday
Quite quickly we are off in a taxi to the bike hire place in the back streets. We are hiring bikes in Hanoi that we will be able to ride all the way down Vietnam and then leave at the bike shops’ other depot in Saigon ( HCMC). The plan is to ride all the way down Vietnam after tripping round the north a bit. I get a fairly old 230cc blue Honda and Clive the same. Off we go back to the hotel. Traffic is interesting! Clive not happy with his bike so it is back to the shop again and he swops his for a pretty new 150cc Honda. He is much happier even though it is less powerful seemingly. Mine is noisy…noisy exhaust! In the afternoon I go to see the French quarter while Clive relaxes. The traffic is manic! I really have not seen anything like it. The bikes…well everyone…do not seem to obey any rule of the road. Roundabouts are a free for all. Bikes gather together and then set off in force. You must not hesitate or you are doomed. I get swept the wrong way over an old railway bridge which has a bike track beside it. It goes over the river which is interesting and after finding my way back over I take some photos and then eventually find my way back to the hotel. Driving/riding is going to take some concentration. We have been in many countries but the driving here is the worst I have seen. There are of course thousands of bikes but it is the cars and the buses that will give us trouble I guess. Buses always are trouble and I have already seen some go round roundabouts the wrong way!
27th Oct Saturday
Today I manage to persuade Clive to do some sightseeing so on the bikes we head back to the French quarter. We find a nice place for lunch. I take him over the railway bridge and generally mooch around.

I have now re written all this to catch up with the bit that was not lost… hopefully mostly remembered.

Sun 28th Oct

Strange looking houses are being built along the style of french houses with fancy balastrades . They are odd because they are tall and thin. This one was very luxurious looking.

Positively palatial whilst the poorer houses are straw roofed, have dirt floor.
We come across an area where there are lots of wood sheets drying by the road side. Looks like veneer and it is of sorts. Its core veneer for plywood.

( Big area, it went on for quite a while. We are now in the hills. Picturesque, lush and tropical. Tea grows on the valley sides and rice in paddies in the valley. Not lush and green as it is harvest time. Large bunches of rice on the straw hang from motorcycles, rice straw dries on the side of the road. Motorcycles are essential, they carry not only people but their goods as well. One went past towing large bamboo poles on the ground behind it.

He wobbled round the bend!

Another wonderful load…it is two live pigs poor souls. We saw other pigs on the move.

There are very few cars. The traffic is now much better but buses and lorries are aggressive and do not think much of us. We watched one bus drive calmly through a very red light with his hand on his horn….get out of my way.
We have problems finding food to eat as we just did not fancy this offering of caterpillar chrysalises, nor the stove and other bits hanging about.

Chrysalises to the left.

We had two orange drinks. I spotted some Dragon fruit for sale which we bought and ate when we arrived at the hotel. I expected white flesh but these had pink and were very good. Stayed in Nghai Lo.

The hotel seems fine but the bed mattress is like a board…!….are they all going to be like this ? Two double beds in this room and Clive has just found two duvets so guess where one will be….underneath!!

Mon 29th Oct
A troubled sleep from both of us. Coughing, sneezing, nose blowing, snoring and that board like bed. Actually the duvet helped a lot and between everything we somehow got some sleep.
Lovely motorcycle ride today . Twisty road, wonderful hills and scenery to look at and the local people..Hmong.

Little traffic, mostly 95% little motorbikes, few trucks and buses. They were generally crawling up the hills. Weather was good, sun and cloud, not hot. In fact the two passes we climbed were cold on top. One was 1500m and the final one near Sa Pa..our destination…was 2000m. Sa Pa is at 1500m so tonight we had to put on warm clothing. We have a soft bed. My eyes have been streaming all day with my cold….it is how it always is.
We picked our way down a muddy street to eat. They are doing major road works and the rain does not help one bit. Dry tomorrow. Town reminds me of something in the Himalayas. Not at all what I thought given its a major tourist destination.

Clive taking photo of me in muddy street.

Tues 30th Oct
It rained in the night. It is very misty out there. Come to see the highest mountain in Vietnam…..about 3000m…and we definitely cannot see it. Ride in the famous gondolas with longest span etc. No. This was not going to be a good idea. We went shopping. Vietnam sells Northface clothing at very cheap prices. In fact Clive has shopped and I will tonight. We have a small problem with packing more stuff on the bikes. Another bag! Local ladies pester in a charming but merciless way. Showers of rain and continuous mist. It should have been better weather by now.. but our coughs and colds and my eyes can recover.

She is Hmong.

This amazing hat belongs to another minority ethnic group.

Wed 31st Oct
The weather was greatly improved. We had coughed the night away but sunshine helps. As we left town heading back the way we had come we finally got to see the gondola. It does have an impressive length across the valley. Never go up unless it’s a good day…but too late for us
We had no intention to take the same route back but we have been unable to find any hotels on the route we thought we would do which goes well north of Hanoi to Ha Long Bay. But just no hotels even on just Google maps. It is obviously very rural. So up and over our passes again. The road is good and generally just us and other bikes. We come across a village threshing machine, threshing some rice. The village work together, very cheerful they were, female and male.

We are downwind!

Rice and straw in one end and rice into sacks and straw blasted in to a gully.

In Myanmar the rice threshing was being done by hand. This is one step ahead. All rice, the straw etc is then carried by people or by motorbike back to their respective homes where it is then laid on the road to dry on cloths. The motorbike is a real workhorse, it carries whatever. Whole shops on the move, we saw one with about 8 pottery pots all carefully tied on. More pigs today,plenty of rice,large sacks , big gas canisters etc. Some things weigh a great deal.
Reached our hotel, same town as coming up but different Google hotel. Better room but we had a very strange meal which included tiny frogs which we did not eat. We thought they were mushroms. They were just bones! Not best meal! We had had to go to a cabinet where the food was. The plate of frogs looked like cooked mushrooms in the cupboard so we had gone for them. The Vietnamese have very limited English so the phone comes out and we do Google translate but it is pretty limiting.

We did so badly that Clive was sick when we reached the hotel. Not sure why…thought of the frogs, but he says no.

Thurs 1st Nov

We are headed for Thai Nguyen. its about 220 kms which is a good day. We do not get along that fast with the roads and things. Its difficult finding a cafe. We do need a break every now and then mostly because bottoms need it, and we need a drink. Today our hotel was unable to serve breakfast for some reason, even though we talked about it last night. No breakfast then ; from there we set off to our previous hard bed hotel…we are back in the same town..Nghai Lo. No, they coud not do breakfast either!
We travelled on to another town and found an amazing coffee shop. It had english writing but they essentially could not speak english. We are getting better…can they do omelette? Yes…Can they do juice? Yes. Wow! A decent stop.
Out in the fields water buffalo wander around.It seems they are on a hoilday…not seen a single one put to work. Instead humans are beavouring away with all parts of the rice harvest. We are also back to core veneer land which we went through coming up. Filthy lorries are picking up the piles of carefully dried and organised veneer sheets. Its very dusty today, many local bikers have those chinese masks over their faces. We have to keep our visors down…gets hot but keeps some dust out.
Lunch stop. Lots of little bird cages with lone “Red whiskered Bulbul” birds in them. So cruel but not endangered….

.We nearly order right but get an onion omelette with a monstrous pile of rice. …did not want any rice!! Tea is impossible to get unless its rather bitter tasting green tea so we try for fresh juice….success, orange!
Tonight we have done well on the food front. Much tramping around town and we strike lucky on a restaurant doing BBQ. This is…having a brazier sunk in the middle of your table and then cooking your own thin strips of marinated meat. The place was full of locals whilst all other restaurants we had walked by, were empty. The place toeat..we were up with the best.

Fri 2 nd Nov

Tried to avoid main road for a while while we skirt around the north of Hanoi. Clive flips when my side road ends at a piece of water with no bridge. Not lost and saw some very local scenes. I liked it.
So a day of main road. Trucks , buses, mini vans and cars travel in the fast lane. We bikes are in the slow lane. Bus drivers could not be seen to be here. We undertake all the time…we are faster. We in fact can go where we like as they can but because they have 4 wheels they think they have to go in fast lane..only. Trucks are steady, slow and big but decent. Long haul buses have hand on horn. We watched one mini van steam through a red light we were all sitting at, on the wrong side of the road. Bit mind boggling. Double white lines are to be ignored. It’s all rather amazing and I think because the speed in not high…top 70kph…that we all cope.
Got some petrol at some point and felt I needed the loo rather urgently. Not been to a public loo. Nice lady loo. Looked in , squats….3 in a row, in one room.Tried to shut the door but it was wired back to stay open, wide open . The need was urgent….had to get on with it. Luckily no one else
around. Fancy more people being there while you saw to things. No paper, just the spray gun of water. Pass along to each other? Survived.
We headed for Ha Long Bay. Now a day or 2 break.
Sat 3rd Nov
A day relaxing. That seemed all to write till this afternoon when we noticed lots of chairs and tables being put out at our hotel. Were we being treated to a barbecue dinner/buffet? It was so expensive the night before …relatively. No, no treat for us it was for two separate parties. Decided to eat elsewhere as the karaoke started. But the two next places had parties too. So opted for friendly and had grilled clams and rice accompanied by loud music, some singing and multi repeats of “Happy birthday to you ” song in various electronic ways. Back to our hotel where both parties in full swing outside our windows. Not so many guests and one not loud but the other well into their karaoke. This seems normal for Sat nights. Always outside in this climate so party noises conflict with each other. Bit tough on the ears.
Sun 4th Nov
It’s boat trip day so are picked up 8.40am to join about 40 others on the good ship Huy Lok Tay.

The good boat…

We are a bunch of various Europeans/foreigners and the other half are Vietnamese in family groups. Big old wooden ship, we have tables of 6 to sit at. Steven (vietnamese) in charge of us. Issues clear orders of do and don’ts. The boat will hit other boats! Be inside when I tell you. Otherwise it was sightseeing the lovely karst islands jutting out of the sea on this murky morning.

Plenty of tourist boats, but it did not really matter.

We went through biggest cave, Sung Sot,….it was very dry and enormous, we kayaked ever so gently round a lagoon and then went to an island where you could swim and or/climb to top. I naturally did both which with my coughing lungs rather did for me. The islands that we went by in the meantime were fun to look etc.
We got given lunch. We all sat with our own types…apparently preferred as we would like similar food. By now it was evident that we had slightly differing ideas from the locals. They had by now taken 50,000 selfies and had changed into different outfits several times to futher the selfie taking. When Steven gave instructions in english the vietnamese all continued talking whilst we all kept quiet when they got theirs…. If you went on the deck you would find a sleeping Vietnamese at your table when you got back ,supine on the bench seats . They did not swim or kayak, but the ladies climbed up the steps far better than you would imagine….they are fit!. More ladies than men climbed I think. One Vietnamese couple kept our boat waiting for half an hour. Did they apologise?……No.
By the time we got back I was feeling very spaced out. My cough seems to have back tracked which was worrying . Clive very kindly was happy to eat in the room with me. He got a Spagetti Carbonara ( seafood). I did not do it great justice and was not that impressed by the sugar in the white sauce. This is a Vietnamese failing…sugar. I slept having got even more drowsy on a glass of red wine….to the sound of Sunday night karaoke party at our hotel!!


Clive kayaking….

Mon 5th Nov

Felt better, cough better. I have to say here that I thought Clive was being a bit man like when he fell foul of this cold/cough. I take it all back. It has been the worst infection I think I have ever had. I had flu in London once but it lasted a couple of days…. I am sure it because it was a “foreign” bug and not our age.
We are on the move. Take an interesting little ferry, get south of Hanoi and arrive in Nam Dinh.

The skinny little boat that powered the ferry.

The locals dressed for motorbiking in the dusty streets/country. They also seemed to think it was cold.

All well but we did see a fatal accident after it happened …motorcycle. Lone man . Of course thoughts then course around. We look up statistics when back on wifi. 7000 plus motorcyclists (mopeds) killed each year and rising. Very little enforcement of law. In the UK it is more like 200. We have 66 million people, they have 95 million. What to do? Apparently they love their free lifestyle by ignoring beaurocacy. Foreigners however get plenty of paper work to fill in.

Tues 6th Nov
We leave our 7th floor room in the hotel and continue south. Another little ferry who kindly came back for us as he had just, just left. We head for Sam son. We arrive at our vaguely booked hotel which looked great on It was great, in fact a complete oasis in a place that was full of building sites. Forget the outside and concentrate on your resort! Nothing to do anywhere else but here you could have free massage and spa and swim and room, all for the price of about £25. We had a swim!! I tried to find a corner shop to buy water in the big outside world outside our resort but after walking about half a mile in each direction found nothing,. Great plans are a foot for this place no doubt as I tramped past dusty building sites with grandoise schemes on their fences.. Long live Van Chai Resort.

Wed 7th Nov

We left town heading down the beach. There was a wonderful scene of fishing boats on the beach. Should have stopped properly to take photos but Clive tugging me on. Guys go out alone in these boats with all the flags. Goodness knows what fish they are after.
Fairly main road, not bad on traffic, but good on wandering cows. It’s a duel carriageway! At on moment a cow came through the central reservation being told to get a move on by its owner!! Not much choice as the land narrows. We are heading south and are in that narrow part. We stop in Ta Dinh . The hotel, booked yesterday, is quite amazing. It’s one year old and connected to a modern plaza. Like several of our last hotels , it is empty. This is luxurious. It is £26 for the night. We have everything. We decide to support the restaurant. We eat in splendour. Probably seats 100 people. There are 4 staff plus the kitchen. I ask for a glass of wine. They open a bottle of wine for me….when will the rest be used?? We are completely doted on….too much…suffocating ! We have had conversations the last few days about how these places are surviving. Do not understand……. this one is a 37 storey tower block. Surely got to fill some rooms?? It’s owned by the Vingroup. If you read about them they are into many things. Founded by Vietnamese entrepreneurs who apparently began their business life in Ukraine. There has to be some russian/Ukrainian money backing these very enterprising, high risk ventures in a Vietnam that is not quite ready for that many 5 star hotels and plazas.

Thurs 8th Nov
We headed for an inland route, longer but not on the main road. Much nicer. Green rolling hills, local traffic, water buffalo dotted around, crossing the roads, and being conveyed by moped.

Brown cow herds also wander. We are following a railway line and eventually get to see a goods train. Saw one water buffalo straddle a metal road barrier. He was a bit wedged but managed to get over in the end. We have skipped visiting more caves. This area has some enormous caves. Generally tourists do a tour. Two have rivers in them but tourists in boats only penetrate a kilometre whereas one cave is 7 kms long and another 13kms plus. You only see a bit…the tourist bit……
We overnight in Dong Hoi. We are now bordering on the outer reaches of where tourists from the south seem to venture….so it seems to me. Suddenly there is better english spoken! Clive wanted a western meal again tonight. Disaster. He had chicken cordon bleu and it was awful and in the same place my noodles were tasteless. Sweet helpful service etc. But no more westernised meals.

A ladies loo! Open door too….

Fri 9th Nov
Not great breakfast, not great looking weather. Rain. We were lucky yesterday, essentially missed most rain but it was around. Today not so lucky. Take good country route but it does start raining. Not too bad and we do our morning fill which was to get to the Vinh Moc tunnels north of Da Hang. They are right on the sea. Dug out of clay they go down along way as they tried to avoid the bombs.

Whilst they appear to have spent some time in the tunnels there were no large chambers as you find in the underground villages in Cappodocia, Turkey. I was a bit disappointed.

Hard work digging , yes.All well with weather as set off but soon things got worse. Lovely little side road but soon I could not navigate so well as phone had to go into pocket and the heavens opened. We have waterproofs….. but Clive had a camera not in a waterproof bag, ….and his cabin luggage suitcase…..
Then I got a puncture! Just gone past a house making music so walked it back to there as Clive prepared them! Lots of bikes etc and everyone having fun. We were soaked. There were efforts to help but in the end and after our ears had been done in by the karaoke and a bit of dancing…!!!.. We persuaded them to find a pump and I zoomed off in the direction of a village. Spotted a mending shop and drove in as far as I could….not very far…to try and get out of the rain! Tyre looked okay so how do you explain a puncture.? Luckily it soon went down and the guy got on the case. No room to move in his greasy front bit, rain pouring outside. Clive parked across the way and someone came to help. Small sliver of metal was the cause. Guy asked for £1, we did give more…

On we went , pouring rain but eventually hit main road, had not gone seriously wrong, and we arrived in Hue. Town vibrant tonight, many Vietnamese having a good time as well as tourists. Masses of bars, restaurants etc. Very lively. Better meal!!!

Sat 10th Nov
Hue has a forbidden city as such though not in great order as bombed by Americans and then left after the war. Now however the current government is realising it can be a great tourist attraction and is beginning restoration . Big moated walls with another wall and moat inside. We were not able to spend time but had a schedule to keep…namely our bikes were being serviced in Da Nang in the afternoon and then it was on to Hoi An for the night Actually we are stopping for 3 nights in Hoi An.
Does not rain, do the Hai Van pass before Da Nang like we have been told to!! It rises to 500m and has lovely views over the sea far below. The sea was amazingly clear, you could see the bottom ie dark and sandy patches. Down to Da Nang and bike service goes to plan. On to Hoi An
Meet up with Dutch couple we met in Ha Long on the boat trip. The whole harbour area is lit by lanterns. Does look very romantic and magical. You can float around on a boat….pop your magic lantern on the water and watch it float around etc. We have a good meal….late!

Mon 12th Nov
We have had 2 days here. First day I tramped the” historical old town’. Not a large area. Some old buildings and a very old ‘Japanese’ covered bridge which was attractive.

Japanese covered bridge.

Clive not into this kind of tourism! Masses of shops, selling silk fabrics, tailoring (esp silk dresses etc for ladies), leather goods, basketware and the usual knicknacks. Big market area selling all sorts. By day the water and river look pretty dull and dirty…. The old quarter was a motor free zone..only foot or bicycle…not even mopeds. That was very nice.

This is day time view. Below is the same place at night with all the lights.

In the evening it’s back to this area again for it is where all the restaurants are. Again , so many. We choose well in the nicest street.

Lovely old building and restaurant. Hoi An.
Today we went to the beach. It is a nice beach. The water is good, nice temperature ,and not too salty. Hotels on the beach charge for their sunloungers but a little entrepreneur served us well with table and chairs for the price of a beer. We even bought food from him! Watched fishermen fishing in their coracles.

Fisherman’s Coracle at Hoi An.

Launching the coracle.

I was fascinated ,as never imagined Coracle’s were used anywhere but in Britain. This website explains all ….

Hotel had this Buddha in its foyer. Like him…

Tues 13th Nov
On the move again. Try to miss the main road and instead of finding a side road , find a new toll road that no motorbike is allowed on. Not on our map and I did not pick it up on Google. So it’s the main road with its strange driving. Slow trucks and other 4 wheelers think it best to be in the fast lane…going slowly. If you are quicker….we often are… undertake. You join the slow motorbikes and accelerate to undertake!! We just go where we want… Stop in little cafes, sit on little plastic chairs at little plastic tables and try yet another exotic ( have you got orange?) drink. Two pretty horrible ones today , full of sugar.

Wild birds in cages on back of a motorbike being sold. Seen plenty of this….

Reach Quang Ngai. Left tourists behind for tonight!! So much so there is little eating choice in town. Hotel has a restaurant but guess what….karaoke in full swing at full volume. So we walk off out, Clive fed up, and head to a chicken restaurant. Popular, but we order wrong and our chicken dish is not great. Wandering back along the street I wonder at all the people eating in little gatherings on the pavement outside their shops or shut shops. Pretty vile smells now and then, but everyone enjoying themselves. Little stalls dish out food to their customers sitting at tiny, child size, plastic tables and chairs. We appear to be the only foreigners in town. Huge contrast to last night where there were so many tourists and so many sophisticated restaurants serving good food.

Wed 14th Nov
200 kms to do to reach Quoi Nhon, the next place where there are any hotels. Clive and I went on separate roads today, he preferring the main road and I wanting the side road. I did an extra 20 kms but it was worth it. Road ran along the sea. Shrimp farms in plenty and lovely bays with lovely unused beaches.

Shrimp farming with rubbish on the side lines. Those funny lines of paddles are aerorating the water. Very difficult to get photo without electricity wires!

Fishermen out in their Coracle’s and one harbour full of bright blue large fishing boats. Little hills to climb between the bays, reminding me of the south coast of France.

Found a huge buddha sitting on a hill top. It was huge.

Amazingly after hitting the main road again I found Clive out there on the road in front of me. I thought I would have taken longer.

We try and arrive early enough to have a swim and see the beach. So we did! Floating rubbish here…plastic bags etc. Nice sea apart from that…

Thurs 15th Nov
Another quite long day and on the main road as no alternative if we want to stay on the coast. It was not too bad, not too much traffic and did go through nice countryside. We had to leave it as not allowed on one section which became expressway…no motorbikes. That was great as the alternative was round a headland. I had spotted this small section on the map but it had not seemed worth it. we did it. Bays full of fish farming paraphernalia.

Fish farming, vietnamese style.

This lady is sitting at her treadle sewing machine, in the shade, on the beach, mending a vast pile of nets. She is quite covered up with socks,anorak etc.

Water quite shallow it seems. Big fleets of fishing boats as yesterday. More coracles, some quite big. Fishing is the big industry here. Green hills tumble down to the sea, lorries crawl up the inclines and we buzz along.

On the road.

Poor little monkey, chained up at a tea stop.

Better drink stops today…get fresh coconut juice!!. Night in Nha Trang. Skyscraper type hotel with swimming pool on 25th floor. Not sure I have swum that high up before ! Apparently lots of russians come here…..
The place to eat shrimps or prawns, which we duly did. Got very busy at night…its when everyone comes out!
Fri 16th Nov
Another hop down the coast. Some on the main road and some not. Countryside changed as the day went on to sand and sand dunes and looks dry. Saw sheep grazing….
We have finely found out why Vietnamese women cover up so much. They wear thick flesh coloured socks with divided toe for flip flops, they wear gloves, thick face masks often connected to a whole balaclava covering head and neck with slit for eyes, they wear anorak and thick trousers. No flesh shows and all this in over 30c. It’s because they want white skin. Do not want any sun to get through. I find it quite extraordinary. Check out this website…I will get my own photos..

Very lucky today. Was riding along when I felt my phone, which should have been sitting in the holder on the handlebars so we can read Google maps, hit my thigh and fall to the road. I am on this dual carriageway. Pull on the brakes and turn round on the side. You can do this in Vietnam…go the wrong way up a dual carriageway. A large lorry is pulling up on the side. Can’t see phone. Turn round and spot it in the fast lane, ride over,checking for traffic…none too close, park the bike in fast lane , get off, grab phone, and get to the side just as traffic slowing down for me…..Wow! Phone amazingly intact. Must have fallen flat on its back and luckily I got it before it was driven over.
Amazing harbour full of boats..

So many boats….

Fri 16th Nov
Another hop down the coast. Some on the main road and some not. Countryside changed as the day went on to sand and sand dunes and looks dry. Saw sheep grazing….
We have finely found out why Vietnamese women cover up so much. They wear thick flesh coloured socks with divided toe for flip flops, they wear gloves, thick face masks often connected to a whole balaclava covering head and neck with slit for eyes, they wear anorak and thick trousers. No flesh shows and all this in over 30c. It’s because they want white skin. Do not want any sun to get through. I find it quite extraordinary.
Very lucky today. Was riding along when I felt my phone, which should have been sitting in the holder on the handlebars so we can read Google maps, hit my thigh and fall to the road. I am on this dual carriageway. Pull on the brakes and turn round on the side. You can do this in Vietnam…go the wrong way up a dual carriageway. A large lorry is pulling up on the side. Can’t see phone. Turn round and spot it in the fast lane, ride over,checking for traffic…none too close, park the bike in fast lane , get off, grab phone, and get to the side just as traffic slowing down for me…..Wow! Phone amazingly intact. Must have fallen flat on its back and luckily I got it before it was driven over.
We find our next chosen spot is very Russian. Russian’s even running the restaurants and shops. They are large and not that friendly. We find a nice place and take a day’s break. Good beach is full of kite boarders. Only disappointment is the weather. Very grey and overcast and the next day it rains!! We are thankful not to be on the bikes in the rain but relaxing on a sun lounger on the beach did not happen.
Sun 18th Nov
Move on to final destination before Saigon. Road all off main road so that was good. Downside is that Clive is just not feeling good. Very lethargic, loss of appetite and now looking rather jaundiced. Has he got a liver problem? Riding the bike does not take much energy so he is okay…till he sees our booked hotel. It is on the side of a hill and has multiple steps up to our room. Once there it is a nice room! The view is interesting …large container ships going into the port, Vung Lau, just round the corner.
Next day we relax. Clive must find out if he had the Hepatitis A vaccination before we left. I did, and at the time he said he had. Now he is not sure…Phone calls to UK ascertain that I had an injection for A and Clive for B. He continues to be very under the weather but enjoys staying by the pool and doing nothing. We stay another night….

Wed 21st Nov
We now have to move on as the motorcycles are due back today. We decided with Clive being so low to skip a day in Saigon and arrive only in time to get bikes back and catch our flights the following day. We had a very successful ride in to town, finding Saigon relatively easy after Hanoi but that is because we are now used to the very peculiar driving habits. We stay in the Blessing Palace hotel….what a name! Our road here meant another ferry crossing as we were not allowed on the motorway into town.

Clive not happy here, on ferry to Saigon and his back aches.

Clive leaves on an 11am flight to KL and then on to Abu Dhabi to see his daughter. Hopefully he will have a blood test there. His daughter is a doctor…… I am off later in the day to Perth via KL to see my daughter Emma.
Thurs 22nd Nov
Say goodbye to an unwell Clive. Eventually go out into the hot city and mooch around a shopping mall…expensive…then look at local market. What I really want is to photograph the covered up ladies on their bikes..which I do. Then remember the river and go there and watch a huge cruise ship set off down river. Other craft come and go so sit and watch. Fly off to Kuala Lumpur where I will spend a short night before flying to Perth.


Fri 23rd Nov
As I sit in Kuala Lumpur airport I am struck by the cultural difference from Vietnam. Chauvinistic Muslim and Indian men with seemingly submissive women, all covered up in their headscarves ( for different reasons to the Vietnamese!). At least in Vietnam we seem to have a feeling of good equality between male and female.
Monday 26th Nov
Clive flew to Abu Dhabi where his daughter and son in law got him to A and E in the hospital there. The result was that he was on a plane to England that night, landed in the morning and was whisked to Norfolk by his son and then straight to A and E in Norwich hospital. He has an infected gall bladder at the minimum and is in hospital. Poor Clive.
In the meantime I was flying to Australia! It is tough being here while he lies in hospital but obviously really nice to see my daughter, son in law and grandchildren .

Sat Dec 8th

A final entry to this diary. We covered about 2,200 miles in Vietnam on the bikes. The trip was overhung by Clive’s increasing lethargy etc . But it could have been worse had he not managed to get back to the England. As I write Clive is still in hospital but should hopefully come home next week. We will not be making any more bike trips together as Clive has been diagnosed with Cholangiocarcinoma, in other words bileduct cancer. Clive died on Christmas , 24th December 2018