Is this Hanoi or the arctic circle?!

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


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Flag of Vietnam  , Dac Lac,
Wednesday, January 9, 2013

I am in Bangkok airport as i type with an overwhelming sense of deja vu... i must have been here 4 or 5 times now and also the fact i am back typing up the blog.... ahhhh, its good to be back...!!
 
I've just finished the hardest part of the trip, a 7 hour trip from Manchester to Abu Dhabi and then a 6 hour trip to Bangkok but i have almost a 6 hour connection and still have 3 hours to wait, its 9:30am but i should be in Hanoi, Vietnam by about 2:30 where ill take the shuttle bus in to Hanoi and shouldn't have trouble in the main tourist area finding where i should be able to find a room for a couple of days for about $10/night (about 6 quid). So pretty tired but Etihad flights are pretty good and i have kinda dozed on and off some of the way but definitely gonna just crash for a couple of hours when i get there.
 
There was a couple of hairy moments before getting the flight... at Jamie's the night before, only 11 hours before the flight and Jamie's suggests i check in on line but when i go to do it and it asks for my passport number it suddenly dawned on me that i had ordered a new passport which has a new number but my booking was on my old passport number... well, how often does that scenario come up?! My stomach just dropped and i got another deja vu moment from what happened in Bangkok on my flight home and again with Etihad. Anyway, i got through to the 24 hour international customer services who said it wouldn't be a problem but just in case my sis, Chris and mum kindly arranged to get my old passport to Chris's dad who was doing a Manchester airport taxi run at 5am, which was kinda lucky! so i got it from him but it turned out i didn't need it and no-one at any point ever questioned the whole passport number thing?! But what did make me nervous was when they asked for my Vietnam visa again at Manchester and i gave them the Visa approval letter i had paid for, downloaded and printed out which allows you to get a visa on arrival at Vietnam and not have to send your passport off in the UK for your visa. Anyway she looked puzzled and took it over to her boss who spent about ten minutes looking and frowning at the screen, the letter and then occasionally me and i actually think in the end he didn't have a clue if it was kosha or not and just told her to let me on but again i thought this whole visa issue was gonna crop up again, but the minute it didn't i relaxed and enjoyed the flight. One bizarre thing though was hand luggage because I'd bought my motorbike helmet in UK and put it in my hand luggage so had a heavy bag and when they tested the weight before check in i was 2kg over so i just stepped 2 yards to the side, emptied some stuff out, came back, weighed it and came in under 7kg, walked back and just put all the stuff i had taken out back in, right in front of the two women checking, and walked past, said thanks and went to check in?! Now here I'd expect it but in Manchester?! maybe it was due to the fact it was 5:30am!!
 
So I've just over two hours to kill, I've typed this up ready to upload so you all get an email and know the blogs new section has been started (name TBC) and just also to say I'm here and safe but also how much i enjoyed seeing everyone at Xmas and New year, the 6 weeks flew by but managed to do and see everyone and had a great time. As before, i loved reading your comments so keep em coming and I'll probably type bits and bats up as i go, maybe upload some, maybe not but will def update it by the time i leave each country and should have some great photos from the places i am going and from the great new camera my mamma got me for xmas ;)....

NEW
Its the 15th now and I've spent some pretty average days here in Hanoi, finding the motorbike and planning the trip... i finally found a motorbike after test driving about 4 or 5 and taking longer than humanly should to figure out the clutch on the full manual motorbikes i am trying - automatics or semi's are so much easier but apparently need a full manual for this kind of travel. So it was a toss up between the Russian Minsk, a bare bones beast of a bike but as i found was tricky to drive and very unreliable apparently so i opted for the Honda Win, still a cool bike but admittedly not as cool looking as the Minsk but ultra reliable, easy to repair and much easier to drive... so today i found the one i'll probably buy, from Jonathan, a French guy who had drawn, or had had drawn by mates, 2 huge penis's in tipex on each handle bar... only a French guy wouldn't even think to take that off before a sale.... anyway it handles great, has a few modifications and i bartered him down $100 to $250, that's only just over 150 quid, bargain. Anyway, i got a Vietnamese guy round in morning with his win but i want to just have a test run and compare as his are the same price but ill be buying one of them tomorrow either way.

In between bike hunting i have been planning the trip. I bought some good maps and went to work on the net researching the route. Sounds AMAZING! the hardest part probably just getting out of hanoi!! The one dilemma was the weather. I was worried the mountains would be even colder but on checking the weather and with a girl i met at an information place i found it was about the same so i decided to do the full loop though at one time i considered a train ride and then just do half and also just to head straight south to the sun but i'm here, it may be my only chance so i'm gonna do it! Another reason was the girl i met, she works at an information place and these places are great, they offer tours and tickets and everything as tourist could want but most also offer free info and they'll call places for you, check things out etc all free, not wanting anything and not getting anything as they are private companies but i found this in Saigon too. So this girl helped me out loads and on her day off met me with a friend and took me to a few museums which was great and invited me to her families village for new years which is on around 10th February here. At first i didn't think i would be here, i thought i would be in the South but with the Northern loop taking 3 weeks and ending only 100km from her village it ties in so i am keeping it open because come on, how many times do you get to spend new years in Vietnam Vietnam style?!

So OK, the plan i have worked out for the whole trip is as follows:

Jan 15th: Northern loop of Vietnam ending with New years and then a train journey to central Vietnam and then biking down the mountainous inland ho chi min trail zig zagging to the coastal towns down to Saigon and then through the Mekong Delta to the southern tip to cross in to Cambodia as apparently its tricky to get the bike across the border to laos so i'm going via Cambodia. Love that; just gonna visit this country, via this one... by motorbike....!!

15th March: In to Cambodia to Sihanoukville on coast, then up to capital Phnom Penh and up to Stung Treng to Laos border.

1st April: Enter southern Laos and bike up in a loop and come down to the centre to Vientianne, the capital and get a visa for Thailand and enter north east Thailand. Do the northern loop and visit Chiang mai again and possibly so my classroom TEFL training and finish at Chiang Rai to finish my enneagram training at new life where i stayed before. Here ill sell or leave the bike to be sold.

1st May: I have 3 months now and the change is to probably spend one month in Burma and two months travelling southern Thailand and maybe see Malaysia and then back to Bangkok for flight home arriving first few says of August. 

So that's it, i'll upload this now, upload the photos i have so far and the trip begins... ill make notes as i go but likely ill update on the train journey down to central Vietnam in about 4 weeks time after the northern bike loop and new years here. Wish me luck!!

OK, take care everyone, miss you all very much already but i know it will fly by and when i see you in August it will be like i never left! (except you'll all hate my amazing tan!!)

PS... remember i said the best beer in the world was BeerLao, from Laos strangely, well Hanoi draught is the new BeerLao, sold in either small beer outlets in huge vats with a tap or street vendors and food stalls sell it and guys just line the pavements with draught glasses and i know why, cos its awesome, best beer ever and strong too, i had 2 glasses and i was hammered! A real travelers beer..!
 
xx 
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Comments

Kerry on

Hey Lee!
So glad you are there and already starting on your next adventure! 4 weeks will be a long wait till your next blog but will be worth the wait.
Just go easy on the bike please, clean the visor on your helmet too !
Missing you already was lovely seeing you over Christmas
take care
lots of love xxx
Kerry xxx

Delly on

Just finally catching up on your blogs, and loving following you on your adventure already :) Love you bro and was amazing to have you over for those 6wks, makes the next 7months til we see you again a bit more doable xxxxxxxxxxxxx

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