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Thread: Hanoi Rocks

  1. #1
    3010 km down and I'm in Hanoi, resting my shattered nerves after the most unpleasant cycling I've ever done - a couple of hundred kilometres along Highway One, Vietnam's main transport artery. It's good to be staying in a decent hotel & eating solid food again, after over a week spent in dodgy whorehouses living off noodle soup, bananas and dust flavoured biscuits.The route across the mountains to Vietnam was great. The people there really didn't seem used to farangs passing through on bikes; rather than the usual hello's I often got stares of blank amazement. On a couple of occasions the kids just burst into tears and ran away when they saw me. OK, I look a bit rough after a day on the bike, but even so... After a mile of muddy no-man's land & an eternity going through Viet Immigration I crossed the border - and somebody turned the sun off. I've been cycling under leaden, monochrome skies for the last week and a half, with a lot of drizzle and strong headwinds. Highway One was a nightmare - maniac horn-blaring truck & bus drivers, incompetent bike & scooter riders wobbling out in front of me. It was like riding through a building site for 250 km.Commies love concrete even if they're crap at making it, and that's what everything's built from - none of the natural materials used in Laos & Cambodia because all the natural materials are gone, stripped out and replaced with the crops needed to feed Vietnam's teeming overpopulation. There are some potentially lovely areas of limestone karst but if you want to see them you'd better be quick - they're being enthusiastically converted into cement and aggregate by the looks of it. Not as many lumber wagons making their way over the border from Laos as I'd been led to expect - it all seemed to be petrol tankers heading the other way. Maybe they take turns....my friend, today it's your turn to rape the environment. No, after YOU, I insist...My sanity wasn't worth more than a couple of hundred km on Highway One, so I detoured to the NE, spending three days looping up through small towns across the Red River delta instead. I got lost a few times, but one of the easy things about Vietnam is that they use a romanised alphabet rather than a bunch of squiggles - I was able to find my way by showing people the map without too much trouble.

  2. #2
    So what happens now? Well....trip's over. It's been a difficult decision, but cycling in Asia is not what it was even a few years ago. The good bits on this tour have been spread too thinly between mediocre or simply unpleasant cycling. Rapid development has seen a large increase in traffic (without a concommitant improvement in driving skills) and construction. The locals would view this as improvement and progress, and while I wouldn't begrudge them that, good cycling it doth not make. Hanoi is a case in point - they're squandering an opportunity to learn from the mistakes made by other places in the region. Even a few years ago Hanoi was a city of bicycles, but now it's just another polluted snarl of motorbikes and trucks; give it five years and it'll be like Bangkok.I've found that I've increasingly been longing to escape into REAL wilderness - Scotland. Here, even if you're in a rural area there's always a face in it looking back at you - and in Vietnam, that face is usually bellowing HALLOOO-AA-OOO!!!" at you, throwing peanuts at the performing monkey to see how it reacts. It's a very different thing to the genuine friendliness of the Lao. I know from past experience that China will be the same...and frankly, I just can't be arsed. If I'm not enjoying something, I stop doing it. So. I fly back to Laos in a few days to spend the New Year with friends who live there, then return to the UK sometime in January.I'm not ready for work again ju-u-ust yet. Future cycling plans revolve around self supported wilderness travel: Iceland, the length of the Rockies, Alaska maybe. World's getting smaller and more crowded, folks - better get out there and see it while you still can."

  3. #3
    Muddy Bronco
    Guest
    May I wish you luck and say I'm jealous as f***.

  4. #4
    tom lovelock
    Guest
    wow

  5. #5
    Will (www.bikejobs.com)
    Guest
    You should post that as an article.

  6. #6
    And the first wilderness shall be....New Zealand. The Thai Air office here in Hanoi is closed, but internet research suggests I can fly to Auckland in a week and a half for about 400 quid return. I'll book the ticket tomorrow morning.Two and a half months of climbing and back country biking, in a country that cares for it's environment, rather than viewing it as an aid to ripping off roundeye tourists. Schwe-e-et...

  7. #7
    Senior Member Barry B's Avatar
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    You wouldn't get that sort of thing in Guilford.

  8. #8
    Senior Member
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    I think the american's robbed vietnam of much of its natural environment, forests etc.

  9. #9
    mikey Simo
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    Sounds like you've seen the one place that makes the UK look like paradise.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Adam Stephens's Avatar
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    I can fly to Auckland in a week and a half "That's one slooooow plane. ;-) (I'm sorry, I couldn't resist)Nice report."

  11. #11
    This one which went up last week is a tad better -http://www3.utsidan.se/corax-e/2002/2002.htmLike a dumbass I turned down a place on that trip due to work committments. What a twat.Mikey - the UK's got some of the best mountains and biking in the world. That's been part of the problem on this trip. I've been riding through the good bits thinking well, it's nice....but it ain't a patch on NW Scotland"."

  12. #12
    Well I have ticked Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia off the list then, you couldnt hold the NZ trip for a while and check out Borneo for me Monty, thanks.keep posting.

  13. #13
    I wouldn't be too quick to cross it off Andrew. I covered 3,000km in Laos and Vietnam last year and had a wonderful time! Although it has to be said that I've never seen so many cycle tourists on a tour before (I done quite a few) but it nice to swap stories on route and have some laughs. Depends what you want!

  14. #14
    I am going to Latvia over the easter break have you been any where near Anita? I will be arriving in Riga and setting off east. I know it is not much of plan but it is a start.

  15. #15
    Latvia? What a great idea! I have indeed done a biggie tour of Europe but never got that far east (more of a tip to toe route). I hardly know a sole who's been there so I expect you're in for a real adventure. Good luck! When are you going?

  16. #16
    I fly from Heathrow on the 18th April, and will stay with a friend in Riga. I will base with him and head off to Russia. I think they still have wolves in the more remote forests, so that sounds interesting.I am only going for a week so I will see what its like. I don't even know if it is hilly, flat or what....... :-)

  17. #17
    The Trento bikepages are always worth a look for Europe, although the emphasis tends to be on droning travelogues:http://www-math.science.unitn.it/Bike/Countries/Latvia/

  18. #18
    Senior Member
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    Fantastic people, a true experience travelling long distances by bike. But we all seem to be forced to the same conclusion that the infernal combustion engine is making it increasingly unpleasent for us all. Answer, go where there ain't no tarmac. The vehicles travel slower and the roads fall apart, slowing the motorised travel, if there is any, to a crawl. Now admittedly there are less and less of these roads, but you normally don't have to stray too far of the main routes to find them.It's what the mountain bike was made for.I'd love to go to vietnam, tried to get a trip off the ground some years ago for C4's to the ends of the earth programme. The idea, to follow the Ho Chi Minh trail up into china. But it was uninsurable, and C4 commissioning was run by a complete wanker at the time, who's response was can't see the point".The point was the humble bicycle was instrumental in the defeat of a super power by a country of rice farmers. Still if anyone else wants to go do it. Go for it. I do promise you will not see any cars or trucks."

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