Originally we planned to ride together in a single file formation but we lacked the discipline so sometimes we get separated from one another halfway through the day’s riding. General rule is that the further north you get, the better the roads. We were extremely lucky in this trip because I was the only one to suffer any serious injury (the most experienced rider some more tsk tsk), and also because whenever we had mechanical problems e.g. bike wouldn’t start, throttle cable snapped etc. it was never the last person. So there was always someone who would eventually catch up and ride off to look for help. Odometer and speedometer didn’t work, there were no indicators for reserve fuel or high beam or engine oil, so we had no idea how much engine oil we had at the start of the trip. This would prove to be very very expensive.
Saw this when I was walking around town on the first day in Saigon. Though the only Ducatis I saw dragging first gear on the streets were in Hanoi..
The bar/restaurant at the top floor of Rex Hotel, the Viet equivalent to the Fullerton.
The trio with Tran a.k.a Vespa Tran of Saigon Minsk, whom we bought the bikes from. That's Yam on the left, Tran(pronounced Chan), me and JY
His address in Saigon. Its in the backpackers district, so its very convenient for us.
My bike with full pack on, a 75+15litre backpack which is more than sufficient.
We started off at 245pm. Tran’s assistant brought us out of Saigon to Highway 1 which was busy as hell with SO MANY motorbikes and trucks and buses. When he left us for good, we knew what laid ahead of us: a daunting 3000km of riding in unknown conditions in a foreign land with very old motorbikes with naught experience of touring. I had no auto-roaming service so my iPhone was basically an iPod Touch that can only Whatsapp with Wi-Fi, while JY and Yam could SMS each other. This would prove very useful in the trip. Of course as brash 21-year-olds we didn’t think of buying local SIM cards to contact each other more conveniently. 5 minutes after riding on the highway, other motorcyclists would bike past me and kept horning at me and gesturing and shouting in Viet. I thought,” what the hell are they doing? Maybe they’re just jealous I had a Chinese bike and they don’t. It was only when JY rode beside me and pointed to my sidestand that I realized what it was all about, a loose sidestand that kept dropping down. So there we had, our first mechanical problem. Which was easily solved using duct tape.
Got separated from yam just 45km out of HCMC. Waited half an hour for him to catch up but still we didn’t see Yam pass us. Naturally, I started to get worried since that was the first day of riding and without experience on those roads, a small mistake could be fatal. So I backtracked for 15 minutes to find him, since it could have been a small mechanical problem that caused his bike to fail to start, but there was still no sign of him. When I came back, JY told me Yam had SMSed to say he was already at the signpost pointing towards Da Lat where we had agreed to meet and would be waiting for us there (the waiting part was only obvious to us after 30min of riding PAST the sign and stopping to SMS him again. Oops).
The sign where we lost Yam
So we sped our way through traffic towards there. When we saw the signpost we continued to turn left and proceed. Saw no Yam beside the signpost (where he claimed he was). It was only after 30 min later when we SMS him n he said he was still at the signpost! So we continued our push to Bao Loc and told him to meet us there. Here it turns dark at 620 so for the next hour we rode in the rapidly setting sun. It was until around 720 when lighting simply disappeared and we had to rely on our atrocious headlights to continue. Needless to say, progress was slow. Potholes that appeared only when its too late added to the misery. Then it began to rain. We soon reached cloud level which further decreased visibility. Feeling emo by then and just wanted shelter and food and a warm shower.
This was brighter than what we travelled through that night. It was really pitch black darkness.
Bao Loc by then was just 25km or approx. 45 min away. We stopped to SMS Yam to tell him to cease riding in these bad conditions and just look for lodging, and he replied, yea already done that! Zzz So JY and I pushed on. JY almost got squashed between two buses during this part of the riding. I had overtaken a bus earlier on right before a right bend, but perhaps of tiredness or inexperience, he followed me and overtook the bus AT the bend (never overtake at a bend, that’s part of the lesson plan in FTT). He claimed he did not see any beam lights to indicate incoming traffic, yet there was a bus heading straight in his direction. At the last possible second, JY said both buses shunted him just enough for him to squeeze past both buses, this on a crappy Viet mountain road. No premature train ride to Hanoi for him after all. 25km of blinding high beams from buses and trucks later, we found this hotel which is cheap. Reached Bao Loc at 830. 200.000 dong a night. ~10USD. No ripoff! Definitely the most dangerous riding for the trip but we didn't realize it till a few days later. Lol. Highway 1 is absolutely the worst option if you want to enjoy the scenery, and since we only started climbing the mountain at night, we had no scenery to enjoy in the first day of riding. The view in Bao Loc in the following morning was OK, but couldn’t match the stunning beauty of Sa Pa.
Dinner was very welcomed that night