Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

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What can i say we loved it. We stayed in a nice quite little hotel down a quite little alleyway right in the middle of the main tourist spot in the city.

There was this kool little bar just down the street about 10-15 metres called GO2 bar. It kinda reminded me of the bar and hostel i worked in in Cusco Peru last year called The Wild Rover which by the way you have to go to if you are ever in Cusco. They also served the best breakfast i’d had in weeks. Fried eggs and bacon on toast ooohhhhh yeeeehhhhh!!! And they had real heinz ketchup.

Me eating my eggs lol

Also while we were in Ho Chi Minh city we saw all the usual tourist places including the War Remnants Museum and Woman’s Museum. Ema also went and seen a couple pagoda’s and got sum calligraphy done by an old Vietnamese man who had been doing it all his life and it looks amazing but definitely isn’t the easiest way to write.

Me checking out one of the guns on a HU-1 Iroquois (Huey) helicopter

I tried to leave Ema in the jail but they wouldn’t take her

We also got massage’s and Ema got a manicure and pedicure which was our first in southeast asia but definitely not our last.

Ema getting her nails done

The traffic here is also the busiest and craziest we have encountered yet.

Just an example of a red light anywhere in Saigon. Hard to believe we were in the middle of this and survived to tell the story

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Last days with Uyen

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Well not much happened the last couple days with Uyen as we just rode as much as possible to get to Ho Chi Minh city(Saigon) so we could chill out for a couple days then head for the border.

Although there wasn’t anything extremely exciting those last days we did get to see and go swimming at some amazing waterfalls.

Ema playing at the waterfalls

We got to Ho Chi Minh around 2 o’clock and said a sad goodbye to our guide Uyen and went for a wander around the city.

Uyen the happiest i seen him drinking his snake blood vodka

Hoa Mac Co….and a cobra for dinner!!!

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We’ve ridden about 250 km today from Kom-Tum to Buon Ma Thuon. We’ve practically spent all day on the road surrounded by never-ending black pepper plantations. They dry the seeds of pepper straight away on the edge of the road, the smell was very intense.

Black pepper bush

I felt like a giant fried steak at the end of the day. We pulled over to chill out a little bit. Uyen showed us some plant in the ditch. It’s called Hoa Mac Co…i’ve never seen anything like it before but it closes it’s leaves when you touch it. (you can have a look for a video below).

http://youtu.be/5T1yj9ozuxc

There is a story about a king that once met a beautiful girl in the mountains. He fell in a love with that girl and proposed to her. She was very shy so when he kissed her she shied away. The king went to the war and when he came back to the mountains the girl was dead. He couldn’t find her anywhere, her soul came to this “shy” tiny green plant. Uyen sung a song about this beautiful mountain girl, it was so sweet!!!!

“shy” flower Hoa Mac Co

We went for the strangest dinner in my life. Uyen found a restaurant for us where they only serve wild mountain animals. Honestly that place reminded me of a zoo garden more than any restaurant. There were turtles crawling on the floor of the kitchen, huge  snakes preserved in bottles of rice wine, a cook was just preparing some sort of big mouse for barbecue.

poor turtle……

In half an hour they brought an almost 3 m long cobra to the restaurant…actually the video below is self-explanatory.

http://youtu.be/v_l3ZAGl_ZU

They served the cobra as 6 different meals and they drained the blood into a bottle with vodka. All i know is that I was pretty sick of drinking whole blood vodka and any spiritual or mystical moment didn’t come up. Below is an explanation of how snake wine is made, we had both versions of the mixed but with vodka not wine. The video above is the actual snake we ate and drank.

Adrian drinking snake blood with vodka.

Uyen and Adrian enjoyin a cobra dinner.

snake delicacies

There are two varieties of snake wine:

  • Steeped: A large venomous snake can be placed into a glass jar of rice wine, sometimes with smaller snakes and medicinal herbs and left to steep for many months. The wine is drunk as a restorative in small shots or cups.
  • Mixed: Body fluids of snake are mixed into wine and consumed immediately in the form of a shot. Snake blood wine is prepared by slicing a snake along its belly and draining its blood directly into the drinking vessel filled with rice wine or grain alcohol. Snake bile wine is done through a similar method by using the contents of the gall bladder.

Day one with Uyen

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We’re heading to Marble Mountains (Ngu Hanh Son) with our new guide Mr. Uyen. Our journey became so much easier without searching for the right way, at last we could enjoy riding through this wonderful landscape. Uyen took us to the workshops for stone carving around the mountain. Monumental sculptures of ancient budhistic gods next to Jesus or statues of Ho-Chi-Minh were creating interesting fusion. We climbed up the steep stairs, I wore warm treking shoes which was hell. But nothing could stopped me!!! We entered the cave and a spectacular view had opened in front of us. There was a giant statue of Budha carved into a rock at the ceiling of the cave. On the side we found a shrine of Goddess Quan Am Bo Tat,(something like Maria for Christians). It was fully stuffed by candles, aromatic sticks, fresh fruit and money. But the most exciting moment came later….Budhistic monks in their bright yellowish orange togas/suits showed up in one of the temples singing some beautiful melody. They stopped in front of a shrine of Phat To and prayed together with other people in the temple.

stone mason workshop

budhistic monks at  the mountains

cave temple in the Marbles mountains

We carried on  the road 14 B to get back on the Ho-Chi-Minh trail to meet some people from hill tribes. Ethnology was always the matter i was very interested in. It was just a huge experience, it was way over my expectations. Mountain sceneries were just breath taking and small tapioca or wild rice fields covering slopes looked like colourful tapistery. It is incredible how these mountain women manage to plant something on these steep hills. That would be a really hard job even with climbing gear for most people. We met Ktu people at the village Thanh My. They don’t look  much like other vietnamese people, their skin is very dark and they don’t have typical asian eyes. They looked quite strict but so peaceful at the same time. Isolated from the rest of world most of kids never go to school. They get married at very young ages and then the rest of their life look after tiny mountain fields  in impossibly tough conditions. Two Ktu boys kept an eye on our bikes while we went for a wonder around a waterfall with a hot spring, perfect place for swimming. Only annoying thing there were leeches in the jungle, one of them sucked on my leg and it was pretty painful to take it off grrrrr!!!

boys from Ktu tribe

Boys from the hill tribe Ktu looking after our bikes

waterfalls in Thanh My village

Next stop was the village of Sedang people in the province Kom Tum. They are known for their architecture. All their houses are made of bamboo mats covered with mud, one of the most ancient techniques. Iconic  is a building called dak war, the roof has the shape of an axe head, it serves to the whole village like a communal spot for some special ocassions.

Village of Sedang people, Dak war building.

Me with cute Sedang baby boy.

Sedang monkey changing setting on Adrian’s GOPRO

Finally the battery in my camera went flat that day, so i missed this great opportunity to take some fantastic picture of mountain tribes. Murphy’s law works perfectly.

Mr. Uyen – Easyrider

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Uyen our amazing guide

Well we have told you a little about him already but now we will tell you who he really is.

He is one of the kindest and gentlest souls we have ever met. He is in a word amazing. He is 54 years old and lives with his wife and 4 children in Danang city.

Uyen on his faithful steed a Suzuki GN125

As soon as we met him we knew we would get him to take us for a day or 2 just to learn a bit about Vietnamese culture and to show us some of those amazing hidden places only the locals know about. What we weren’t expecting was that he would be so good that we had no choice but to hire him to take us all the way to Ho Chi Minh city.

Uyen leading us down the Ho Chi Minh trail

He always makes sure we were happy and if we weren’t for some reason he would find a way to make us happy. As well as showing us the people and teaching us the culture he also made sure we ate the best local food at local restaurants and paid local prices for everything. Also he would book us into the best cheap accommodation with hot water in every city and town we stayed in. He even ran around all the rooms to find us the best and softest mattress.

He also brought a bag of tools with him to fix anything that would or could go wrong with our bikes. As well as doing all of our daily maintenance on our bikes before we even got outta bed.

Uyen checking my bike after a lunch break at the center of Vietnam

He provides many different services when it comes to motorbike tours of Vietnam including organizing buying or renting motorbikes or simply taking you and your backpack on the back of his bike and if you have friends he can organize his friends to take yours as well. And even though he lives in Danang he can and will meet you anywhere in Vietnam and take you anywhere you want to go or you can leave it to him to make the route of choice.

Uyen leading the way through a small town with me and Ema in tow

We can’t recommend him highly enough and if you come to Vietnam you just have to contact him and see exactly what we mean. His contact info is:

Mr. Uyen

Moblie number in Vietnam: 01686 777 625

Email: tranuyen58@yahoo.com

Address: 60 Cao Xuan Duc, Than Phuoc, Danang, Vietnam

And if you can’t figure out how to pronounce his name you can call him David. He has special business cards made up with this name just for tourists like ourselves but once you get to know him a couple days you’ll get the hang of his name.

Hoi An

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By far the best we have seen so far. This amazing little city is the jewel of Vietnam and even being very very touristic is the most amazing place we have seen and we will definately be back to see it again as we only had 3 days here and that just wasn’t long enough.

Almost as soon as we entered Hoi An a huge smile grew on both of our face’s. The atmosphre and feeling you get when entering this little city is like no other we have ever experienced. And as soon as we entered and as if on que a genuinely nice Vietnames man named Uyen rode straight up to us on a motorbike and introduced himself as a guide and asked if we would like him to show us around. As usual we said no but he persisted a little and even followed us when we drove away which was extremely lucky for us as he is now a very good friend of ours. Almost everywhere you go in Asia you get people coming up to you trying there luck to get you to follow them somewhere for something.

Just 1 of the many busy streets that make up Hoi An

Anyway after talking to Uyen for about 5 minutes we decided he was genuine enough to help us find a hotel and wow did he what. He took us to an Amazing little hotel in a very quite neighbourhood just 5 minutes walk from the city centre. After checking into the hotel we sat down in the hotel’s cafe with Uyen and talked to him for a while. And even though it goes against everything we are doing here we decided to hire him to take us to Ho Chi Minh city(Saigon). Best decision we have made so far.

Uyen dropping us off at our hotel

My seat on Sophie has been killing me the last few days and Uyen took my seat back to his home town Da Nang and had it repaired with an extra 5cm of padding ohhhhh yehhhh that feels better. Anyway more about David later.

Hoi An is i think the best place in the world to have tailor made clothes made. I had 2 suits made and Ema Had a dress, a couple pairs pf pants and a top made and all at different tailors but after we got all our clothes back we wished we’d had them all made at the 1 place that was the best. It was also the smallest place we went to called Nhat Lan, Address: 2/2 Le Loi St, Hoi An. There was an amazing women there who sized us up and made all our clothes herself and i’m not kidding when i say she was amazing as all our other tailors we had to get our clothes adjusted at our first fitting then come back to make sure they were right the next day. But here when we went to our first fitting there were no adjustments they all fitted perfect first time.

A very very small amount of the different fabrics colors and patterns you can get clothes made from

1 of my new party suits and walking cane

Check out all the moolar 8,000,000VND
Yay i’m rich hahaha

There is also a huge number of amazing restaurants here but the best we went to was Morning Glory. We went there after meeting a really kool couple from New Zealand in another restaurant and they suggested we go there. It is owned by a Vietnamese lady who takes authentic street foods as well as her mother’s recipe’s and serves them here in a most amazing style. She has also published her own cookbook. There are no words for the tastes we had here so i will leave it at that and if you want to know more you will have to come and try it yourself, and we highly suggest you do!!!

My roast pork and brown rice dish at Morning Glory restaurant

Just 1 of the many amazing views from 1 of the many amazing restaurants in Hoi An

As well as the food the beach here is equally amazing but don’t go to the main beach with all the other tourists because just a short motorbike ride away is An Bang beach which is not near as crowded and much more private. With the warm water and the beach to ourselves we throughly enjoyed relaxing there for the day before going to our tailor’s for our fittings.

Ema enjoying a cocktail on the main beach

Check the reflection in my glasses

Lazy day at the beach

And at nighttime the city changes to an even more beautiful scene than in the day. With colourful lights lighting the streets and candles floating down the river.

Just 1 of the places that light up Hoi An at nighttime

Hue to Hoi An

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This is supposed to be 1 of the most amazing coastal roads in the world and well i agree when you can see the coast it is but unfortunatly you can only see the coast for about 15-30km of it which was kinda disappointing. But even with only that much i would still highly recommend it to any1 doin a similar mission to what we are doing.

Here you can see the road snaking it’s way up the mountain pass

As you can see a beautiful coastal road