Vietnam 🇻🇳 🏍: Getting wet in Hue. Hot 🔥 & Cold ❄

Distance today: 210km | Distance total: 1,610km

We woke up on Cam Kim island to heavy rain. The entire sky was grey and the forecast for more rain all week. So no point waiting it out – our first ride in proper rain was waiting… ☔ 🏍 🇻🇳 👦🏼 👧🏻 Off to see the Golden Bridge.

Riding in the rain, Golden Bridge visit

We got dressed in our plastic rain gear that came with the bike and work well. Different to hiking, the fact they don’t breathe well doesnt matter much given you sit still all the time. My top of the range Rukka motorbike jacket from Finland on the other hand failed miserably 🇫🇮☔🙄

First stop after 70km was the Golden Bridge in the Ba Na hills. The entrance is pretty pricey by Vietnamese standards at 700k Dong, but you get a nice cable car ride and spectacular views for it. That is if the weather is decent. We were unlucky with clouds preventing good views. Still, the bridge with the two hands was a spectacular site though to our surprise all was part of an amusement park and a real bridge. 🤔🤷‍♂️

Despite awful weather we decided to head to Hue (though skipping the Bach Ma national park for obvious reasons). 110km more to go and it wouldnt stop raining. I have never been on a bike that long in constant rain. But had to be done.

The scenery was ghost like, very foggy and poor visibility. Result is pretty slow progress on generally poor roads and with the ever present risk of crazy Vietnamese riders!

Eventually we made it to the hotel in Hue. Very friendly staff welcomed their wet guests. And after a hot shower all was fine again and we hit nightlife a bit. Here, again without all the tourists we experienced in Hoi An.

Hue imperial city

We spent the morning slipping back into still humid clothes and biked over to the the main attraction of Hue – the imperial city of the last emperors (the Nguyen family).

Construction of the huge complex began in 1800 after the Nguyen took hold of the unified Vietnamese throne and made Hue capital. It belonged to the family until the dynasty was ousted in 1945.

Heading further North…. Into a thermal bath

In theory our plan was to ride 200km to a national park. But being wet and cold at the start of a days journey and with rain now ongoing for about two days… We skipped.

Handy enough, there is thermal spring not far outside of Hue. How better to spend a rainy day than this! 😊 The place was a little deserted though  …

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Vietnam 🇻🇳 🏍: 3 days in & around delightful Hoi An

Distance this section: 90km |Distance total: 1,400km

Staying in Hoi An was as different an experience in Vietnam as Cartagena was in Colombia. Huge amounts of tourists fill the streets as they explore the well-preserved old town and the lantern lit river & buildings at night. Truly amazing although with a very touristy feel (many Asian travellers here, feels a lot less Russian/Chinese/backpacker as in the South). Anyway, really good to see how different a Vietnamese city can look like with a bit of smart management.

Laura’s comment: Hoi An was a very different city from the previous ones. Its streets are still preserved and keep much of its great history. Unfortunately there are many tourists, but that was no problem to enjoy in the local bars, with some beers and sometimes happy balloons 🤪😁

Exploring Hoi An

Hoi An’s old town is an exceptionally well-preserved trading port from the 15th century onwards. Many cultures have influenced it over time, most notably Chinese and Japanese. Since 1999 it is listed as Unesco world heritage. To see the old buildings, you must acquire a Hoi An pass for 120,000 Dong (USD5) that gives entrance to 5 of i belive 18 possible buildings. These are mainly chinese made pagoda’s or japanese style houses of business men. Nice to visits while you hang out in streets full of shops like tailors etc.

At night, Hoi An really begins to shine as the lanterns are lit, the night market invites you to snack and a game of Hoi An bi go awaits. Lovely atmosphere – let the pictures talk.

Villages around Hoi An

We visited several villages around town such as Tra Que, Cam Tanh and Cam Kim (where stayed for the last night). All these are usually offered for day trips by bike, but aren’t that spectacular. You get some good views of the rice farmers though, which we liked a lot and insights into other crafts.

My Son hindu temple complex

My Son temples, different to many new Buddhist temples in Vietnam, are centuries old. They were built over time between the 4th and 14th century in fact. Located about 40km outside hoi an, there are plenty of tours or just go by moto. It is worth the visit.

Vietnam 🇻🇳 🏍: Mountains. Ocean. Downtime in Nha Trang.

Distance this section: 670km |Total: 1,310km

This section was quite riding heavy and took us well past the 1,000km mark. We left Dalat behind us and enjoyed a wonderful ride through the hills towards the city of Nha Trang – a party & nightlife town on the beach.

Stunning scenery for hours as a reenergized ‘La Furiosa’ carried us smoothly over a foggy and chilly 1,600m pass and into the green rice valleys ahead of our destination. We stopped many times to take it all in.

Nha Trang is certainly not one of the culture centres of the historic Vietnam, but rather a resort town for mainly Russian and Chinese tourists looking for an affordable option to vacation. However, you have a huge amusement park (Disneyland of vietnam) and some thermal springs as well as your typical water activities to choose from. There are also trips to nearby islands.

We took it very easy and enjoyed a sushi instead of Pho soup and a ‘western’ night out in the Nha Trang bars and Skylight club. No moto for 1,5 days. First season of Lucifer (netflix) completed as we sat out the first rainy day in the hotel ☔ 🤞😴.

While hunting for a decent massage spot, we discovered a German restaurant ‘Haus Bremen’. The owner has been running German restaurants for almost 20y in Thailand and Cambodia. No place, he said, is as corrupt as Vietnam. Police literally go round the businesses to collect their fee or else…

On the way out of Nha Trang we stopped at Thap Ba ponagar – a hindu temple – before we headed for the city of Tuy Hoa. There we found a superb viewing spot on top of a hill (Nui Chop Chai) though Laura was more into the dog puppet that greeted us. For lunch we paused at Bai Xer just outside of town. Very scenic.

After a long journey, we booked ourselves a bed in the town of Qui Nhon – about half way from Nha Trang to Hoi An. Not a place with many tourists and distinctly communist judging by the monuments, street decoration and the popularity of volleyball (remember that keenly from my youth).

The evening was quite busy, as football was on more specifically the asia cup Vietnam vs. Iran. I didn’t know Vietnamese were that much into football! Quite some passion on display. Sadly, they lost 2:0. Bedtime!

Before heading to Hoi An, some 340km by the end of the day, we stopped at the pretty little bay of Eo Gio – a scenic place full of local fishermen in their round boats. There was also a huge white Buddha greeting us from the hills. We also saw the first accident … Quite surprising there aint more here given the style of riding 🤔

We got to Hoi An by 4pm or thereabout. Amazing city… But that is something for the next post. Stay tuned.

Vietnam 🇻🇳 🏍: Dalat, temples of Duc Trong & a new clutch

Distance this section: 140km |Total: 640km

We got going reasonably early in Bao Loc. First up breakfast in one of the cafe’s near the pretty little lake in the city center. Or so we thought… Turns out that cafe’s there literally just serve hot drinks in morning 🤷‍♂️. The funniest thing in most cafe’s in Vietnam are the child size chairs. You are never quite sure if you break one and you sit in an uncomfortably low position. #babychair 😜

Vietnamese coffee

Coffee was introduced by the French in 1857 (see here) and is a major economic pillar of Vietnam with coffee exports only 2nd to rice. After years of rapid output growth, Vietnam is #2 producer worldwide after Brasil and ahead of Colombia.

See here for more info on coffee production.

Drinking the brew here is, however, weird. It is usually served with sweet condensed milk and each cup of coffee comes with its own coffee brewer. Not quite my taste 😐

So we left without breakfast and the firm intention to stop at the next place that sells Pho soup 🍜. We didn’t have to wait long…

Duc Trong temples feat. Vin Minh Tu Vien

The scenery remained stunning and the climate fresh up here on about 1500m. On our way towards Dalat we encountered a huge dam and wanted to see it closer. Restricted area! 🛑

However, during our attempt to reach the dam, we spotted a huge temple and headed in that direction. We didn’t have the slightest clue as to what expected us there… A seemingly endless amount of old and new temples aka just under construction.

In the first temple, a nun took us around. Laura somehow made a little conversation. I just admired the work. Inside the main temple, i think the monch expected us to pray… Well, we wouldn’t know how to! 🙏🙏🙏

We continued to another set of buildings in progress including the temple we had seen from afar. Super impressive on the outside – inside was sadly shut for us. I wonder how long it took to make all this (although in fairness, the use of concrete does speed up things).

By now we had also spotted a huge statue as the center piece of the Vinh minh tu vien temple complex. I don’t know the exact measures, but it is 10x plus taller than me so i guess 20-25m or thereabout. Huge in any case.

Dalat: La Furiosa needs a fix…💉 😷 🏥

It wasnt too far to Dalat and the views remained superb. The bike, however, didn’t feel that good. It moved, but didn’t take gas well and required always high revs to move. Not great heading uphill into Dalat!

On the way i had already checked for oil – low! Maybe it was just that? Well, a certainly overdue oil change was done quickly (4$ including air top up and fastened drive chain). Lets see!

We headed to the hotel and right after to a temple. The bike still didn’t work well. But we had time to explore the temple and nearby lake before heading to the garage again. Turns out ‘La Furiosa’ needs a new clutch. Understandable in her age.

A morning later and the bike got fixed. Felt really good to ride afterwards, especially uphill! Thanks a million. By the way, new clutch & fitting for USD25 😁. Love 🇻🇳

Exploring Dalat

Dalat was originally designed as a resort town by the French as still evident today by colonial architecture. We used our time (not spent with mechanics) to visit the Truc lam Buddhist temple, the pink church, the crazy house, on our way out the Linh Phuoc pagoda and saw Dalat’s Eiffel tower copy.

The crazy house is a gaudi style designed house by Vietnamese architect Dr. Dang Viet Nga (daughter of the 3rd Vietnamese president). It essentially looks like a huge tree house with separate buildings connected by narrow bridges and staircases. Truly extraordinary and a lot more than we had anticipated.

The architects idea, we were told, is to bring people back to nature in response to human destruction of nature over the past decades. Construction remains in progress (since 1990) while she has settled down in Dalat and actually lives in her ultimate big project. If you want, you can stay there by the way.

The objective of the Truc Lam temple complex objectives of the temple is to recreate the spirit of Zen Buddhism during the Tran Dynasty that ruled Vietnam from 1225 to 1400. We liked the trees in all shapes and sizes most.

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The Linh Phuoc pagoda was only constructed from 1949 and features the heaviest bell in Vietnam (8,500km, 4.3m high). Quite a colourful place and, if you decide to climb a few stairs, with great views too.

 

 

Vietnam 🇻🇳 🏍: Magnificent Bao Loc & Dambri waterfall

Distance today: 205km|Total: 500km

Man it felt nice to leave Bien Hoa and head past the Ho Tri An lake towards the mountains. Many places on the way inviting for stops such as a lovely church (as so many in Vietnam, not that old) in Dong Nai where we spotted a couple taking wedding pics. Of course, we also stopped for more Pho soup! In any case, the most enjoyable day riding wise so far… Bum pain decreasing! 😁

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Laura’s comment: The waterfalls were a lot better than we had imagined. A lot of nature and an amazing view!

Mid afternoon we reached the small town of Bao Loc. How different to HCM! Clean, less traffic, organised. We quickly checked in to visit the unrivalled highlight of the day – the Dambri falls. Wow! Feels a bit like Rivendale in Lord of the Rings 😉

On the 15min ride from town you are surrounded by the coffee plantations and pass by some amazing temples (we didn’t stop for all of them though).

Something, however, wasn’t right with the bike – aka LA FURIOSA – as we named it. Didn’t take power that well anymore… Well, good enough for now.

Vietnamese food

Our main dish remains the Pho soup. A noodle soup to which they add either chicken (Ga), beef (Bo) or pork (Heo). Gets you by though it doesn’t fill your stomach for too long. Below a sample menu (1 EUR = 26,600 Vietnamese Dong).