The Motorbike trip begins...

Trip Start Jan 09, 2013
Trip End Aug 01, 2013

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Flag of Vietnam  ,
Wednesday, January 23, 2013

It's Wednesday morning, I'm in a nice cafe having the Vietnamese coffee I promised myself I would not have today but Its out of necessity from last nights hangover... When btw I was unbeatable at pool, I even ran out of money near the end and started playing for drinks even though I didn't have anything to buy one with if I lost, but I was in the zone, I couldn't lose..! I even suggested a tournament tonight everyone putting in 20,000 dong!! (That's about 70p)..

So I've just picked up my motorbike from the mechanic, hopefully for the last time. I did the guided motorbike trip yesterday and very glad I did as it was great to practice on my bike and learn it a bit which I did but the guide also explained about the area, drove on some great roads and also showed me this rice paper making household after my home broke down... So yeah the electrics went but was easily fixable but also noticed I had a gasoline leak which they fixed today with a few other bits if spotted but that's it now, it's like a new bike!! Wilma that is? I don't know if I updated that I bought a Hpnda Win in the end and named her Wilma (name to be added on the bike when I can), I mean it looks cool but it's also comfortable rides smoothly but without some power I felt in a few other Honda wins but thats probably a good thing! And the gears are smooth but I'm sure it's done a fair few north to south Vietnam trips and back too so these repairs are weared parts and good to have done and actually watch have done to learn about bike mechanics, all before the trip started. The bike cost $220 and repairs about $80 so £200 for the bike and getting it in tip top condition... Amazing eh!!

Chatting to the guide he told me he plays footy so I asked if I could play and he said yes, no surprise because it seems a good status thing anywhere in Asia really to know a falang so to bring one to footy will definitely get him a few drinks bought after. There's a party after too he asked me on to so that should be interesting and will either wreck or prime me for the pool competition later. The footy is 7 a side and at 4pm so just starting to cool down but still gonna kill me.

Yesterday's bike trip was great, we went to Vietnams oldest most famous temple site called My Son, but to be honest it was crap!! Looked like a crumbling red brick building on some Mancunian industrial estate somewhere... But the drive and ferry/boat ride over the river was great... We then took loads of country roads seeing rice fields and farmers and just great local life... It was good just to drive and see and not worry about directions but it really showed me that the inland route is def for me, it's more beautiful and safer too, the main coastal highway isn't as bad as people make out but guess at peak times it could be worse but the trip showed me the two and it's not a hard choice to make which one to try and follow...

When my bike broke down he showed me a rice paper making household business over the road, about 6 people, all really friendly and welcoming and happy to show me the process and invite me to join them for lunch sampling the rice paper they just made... The rice paper ends up as square thin sheets, set hard like poppadoms, and about 10 inch square. They start by boiling the rice to soften it and then mix it with water to form a gloppy glue like substance. This is then put into a container and through a tap fed on to like a press, similar to a printing press actually, the main roller wrapped with a hard silk ream around a series of runners and the mixture pours on to this and is thinned out just after the tap so it spreads very thinly over the silk sheet where it then runs through a covered heat experience, and starts to turn in to a sheet but still not set until it comes out the other side when it's guillotined into those sheets and then taken off, placed on huge racks and put over a large charcoal stove where again it started to set more until it fully sets in the final stage when taken off the stove and left to fully set and cool outside. Anyway, that's how it looked like it was made, I think that the only reason it sunk in was because it was just like a paper press. Chris my friend, you would have loved it!!

So lucky for me I saw the last 20 minutes of a run before lunch which was, yes you guessed it, rice paper!! So what they must do is heat it slightly to turn it from a hard poppadom to a soft tortilla (but much thinner) so it's like a wrap, and we had veg, salad and chilli dip to wrap in them... I had about 8 of them, and we all asked the usual top three Asian questions; where are you from? How old are you? And are you married? And took some photos, everyone laughing and getting on and again having the guide to translate was great, really makes me realise that to keep doing things like that I have to grasp the language a bit more... Which leads me to today and again to my good friend Chris O'Grady...

Btw, I met Chris when working at Rowan, he was and still is the top sales man at a printers in Wolverhampton called Lion and we got on great and are still good friends today.. He's also quite a traveller and did a pilgrimage from his home all the way to Rome by walking, with the odd hitch hike and by just knocking on doors and asking for a bed for the night... Awesome eh!! Anyway, Chris told me I should try couch surfing years ago, so the other day I thought it would be good initially just to meet people in their home towns and they show me around and all being well try the actually free couch too at some point.. So I checked it out and I should have guessed that, yes, it's all students and I realise they use it for 2 reasons: Because of their pride in their country and mainly because they get to practice their English conversation ... So today I am meeting 4 student friends from the university here on theirs and my motorbike to see Da Nang... They'll be here in about 10 minutes... So I'll see how this goes but think its going to be a great way of learning about places, the country and maybe some of the language too and for free too!! Great!!!

So everything else is sorted, I'm ready to start the bike trip tomorrow, the am is to drive up to Hue via the Hoi Vann pass, an apparently amazing high mountain pass overlooking the sea and a highlight of driving in Vietnam... From there is largely inland down to the capital Ho Chi Minh City via mainly inland stop offs... Can't wait!!

So I'll upload this later when I have photos from today's trip and after football too... If I'm still alive!!

Wow.... what a day yesterday, by far the best so far.. I met the students, a guy called Thang and two girls called Trinh and April. They all spoke good english, enough to have easy conversations and they kinda had that young youthful energy and enthusiasm which at first made me feel really old to be hanging out with them but then enjoyed it immensely.. Thang is a nice guy, studying graphic design and we got on great... We all went on the motorbike to monkey mountain where I did see a family of red face monkeys but only 100m away or so but the views from up on the mountain over Da Nang were spectacular, you'd have no idea from the ground that it was so amazing... You know Da Nang doesn't really pop up on the tourist trail as anyway special probably because there isn't a 'tourist area' like other places have but that's a good thing, it's more 'Vietnamese' than most other places... Had a great time here and would love to come back..

I played football later and had a top time... I was shattered after the warm up though, a mixture of the heat and lack of fitness. They've could all play and were all pretty fast two but in the game I held my own and scored a hat trick too - the most cheered being a header from a corner as I was the big westerner and kinda expected to win everything in the air and there was always a big 'wohhhwww' every time I went for a header or 50/50!!

Great guys who all made me feel welcome and having food and beers after the game was feast, bypassing the language barrier with most if harm by learning how they do a cheers and also saying 'down in one' (Cham fan cham) which I already knew which went down well, so after a few cheers I was initiating them and doing a few down in ones and the more drink we got the more laughs there was... Mawt, hai, Ba Ho!! (1,2,3 cheers!!)... Great stuff..

I went out to the main bar here after and net a few guys id met in previous nights here, an Aussie teacher, local cool dude james dean type pool shark and a Thai guy working here too called Jot... We had top night playing pool and yeah, I was on fire again!!

Anyway, since then I've had some more great days here and also took a day trip to Hue and back which I'll post in a separate blog. I a m rearranging the trip a bit as I stayed here a few days longer than expected to see the people I met more but feels time to go and go inland too and off the party and people trail for a hit until Nha Trang and Saigon when it will be the lunar new year here and three days if celebrations..

Take care, and wish me luck...Love to all.. Xx
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Carrie on

Wow, sounds like you're having an amazing time already, the rice paper making looks very interesting. Glad Wilma arrived safely and is all fixed up now. Some great photos ..... love the one of you at Marble Mountain with sword sticking out of your head !!! Don't know how you're managing to win all these pool matches without me to help you out haha!

Love n hugs, Mum xxxxx

Delly on

Ooooh loving these blogs! You sound so happy broo - I can sense it in every word you write!
Gone now are the days of bike ball aches and upheaval and bring on the days of winning Wilma - in more ways than one - your bike Wilma, you winning at pool, scoring plenty of goals in footy - you're on a rolllll!! :)

So lovely to hear you're enjoying time with the locals and at your happiest off the beaten track :) Rice paper making sounds really interesting - the labour that goes into it, and so flexible in what its used for too!

Onwards and upwards bro, love from your very proud sis xxx

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