Read about the trip here below; click the headline to get to the photos of that day.
Hellraisning Scooter Run in The Highlands, Vietnam 2008
After last years very successful and crazy experience of driving from Saigon to Hanoi, we just had to repeat it for this year, our first idea where to drive from Saigon to Laos and Cambodia and then back but current situation would make it almost sure that our scooters should be confiscated at the border...so another idea where born of a one more trip within Vietnam...Hellraising in the Highlands!
Below is our planned route, however if it will follow this route or something totally different will happen is yet not known as absolutely everything could and will happen!
January 20nd, Hong Kong -> (Saigon by flight)
Anders and myself took the flight from Hong Kong to Saigon at early evening. The other riders joined at Saigon Scooter Centre for a pre meeting/beer drinking session. And yes, my new baby was there, matt black powder coated with a PX200 engine that I smuggled in from Hong Kong and a vietnamese inspired evil air brush theme. Pat handed out a kit to all of us containing cables, tools, stickers, oil jug and a binder for the event where he have collected all the information and maps of absolutely everything we will be passing buy, impressing,
January 21st, Preparations in Saigon
Met up early morning at Saigon Scooter Centre for changing the cylinder and tires on my scooter and for me to kill Pat's MB240. Sorry mate. The whole afternoon where spent packing all the necessary things for the trip like 13 inner tubes, a lot of beer, gear boxes, cylinders, engines, sausages and other essentials. They have closed my favorite route to downtown and I got totally lost, but a Honda driver did help us out through the extremely hectic and crazy new year traffic back to our hotel. Met up Hamish he showed pictures of the progress of his series 4 106HP LD that is planned to be on the road/back wheel quite soon. Paul took us to a street market where his girlfriend barbequed and made very delicious fresh spring rolls for us, extremely delicious that is, thank you!
January 22nd, Saigon to Dong Xoai
The event started early with a tasty breakfast buffet at Mövenpick hotel, it took us about an hour to zig zag out of Saigon and onto the beautiful country side. The first 10s of kilometers went very well but suddenly Anders Vespa PX died. We sorted that out in no time with the help of a new feeding coil. Due to lubrication problems, Matt seized up his Vespa PX and locked the back well fully causing Anders to a sudden maneuver but only clipping his mirror however Quang the mechanic did crash directly into Matt but did survive without any body injures thanks to a true Jackie Chan stunt fall and roll. Quang's Vespa PX just got a crashed front mudguard and had the handlebars knocked out of line, Matt's rear chassis where smashed so badly that it blocks the rear wheel. Some adjustable spanners, hammers and true male power got it bended out and rideable again. Matt learned about that all other drivers where riding with two fingers on the clutch grip and ready to declutch at any time and Quang that some distance when riding is not an bad idea. The route took us through rubber plantations and Pat spotted perfect area where we could have a bbq lunch. Rubber three wood, 10mm spanner and a circlip pliers cooked the British bangers crispy and tasty, enjoying the food and drinks in the Vietnamese wilderness we noticed the very similar battle damage on Matt's PX to one of the PX's last year, also that one in an accident because of a lubrication problem. In Dong Xoai, there is only one hotel where foreigners are allowed to stay, so there we stay. Just outside is a very loud sound system that on the evening is telling about how to achieve the joys and benefits of a good communist life and well we all learned that it also includes work out instructions five am and then onwards until 8am just very bad music.
January 23rd, Dong Xoai to Gia Nghia
Early rise and full throttle out of the by God forgotten town. Just after a short while my kick start drive seized throwing the kick start down to the tarmac and fully blocking my dear Hong Kong engine. We occupied a small cafe with a Honda workshop where Quang opened my engine case and found the root cause to be that the kick start drive have been sleeved with a too tight play and without any oil grooves. Quang grinded up a good play and I cut two groovy oil grooves and the engine where together soon after the girls finished cooking our brunch At the next stop Paul where offered a duck for 400000VND (20€) however we found some flowers for free to suck on instead. The rest of the day were a steady climb and at 600m above sea level we arrived at a top class resort where we turned in the band stand into a barbecue and soul party place.
January 24th, Gia Nghia to Lake Lak
My imported Hong Kong flu really hit me during the night and the local witch doctor arrived at the hotel on a Honda and looking not so sharp in his fake leather jacket and brown teeth but surprisingly he could prescribe both known and unknown medicine. We continued to climb up to about 1500m and passed by the cambodian border. We made our first stop at Buon Ma Thout for the must to take photo in front of the tank and a delicious lunch at a DIY rice paper roll restaurant we found last year. It's just before Tet (Lunar new year) and everybody are getting some new furniture for the new year and surely both king size beds and 4 seater sofas with chairs are transported on hondas as everything else in this country. The rest of the drive did went along a very bumpy road through rice fields and at one bridge a big hole where repaired by simply poured sand over it causing all of us to take off into the air but we all landed safe and catches up Paul and his broken down back up car. Luckily his car broke down at a very beautiful location so we had a well needed rest and got his car up and running again. We arrived at Lak Lake resort rather late and where pusseld that the resort offered "Ride elephant through the lake" as we just wanted to drive the car into it.
January 25th, Lake Lak to Dalat
Before heading up to Dalat we made a detour to the kings old palace looking over Lak Lake. Today's drive is through an almost deserted mountain pass that is only partly surfaced and the temperature drops as higher we gets. At a small road side cafe we found a big jag of strong alcohol containing snakes, lizards and some undefined testistecles...well I just had to try and it was the best snake wine I ever had even if my travel companions strongly doubted it. We cooked our lunch at an extremely beautiful spot overlooking a rainforest covered valley. As well as having a tasty lunch we found out that Paul's car just did run on three cylinders and even if that is three times more than our scooters do it's a quite bad thing. After driving slalom through cows, pigs and chickens a while the car finally gave up just after a deserted re-education camp. We decided over a beer that our best chance was loading up our scooters and get going. The drive into Dalat at 1700m elevation was awesome passing buy the old palace like french buildings. Our home and workshop for two days is a converted french villa from the 1920's. As this is new years eve most of the places are closed but we managed to get some rat tasting rabbit and to enjoy a lion dance.
January 26th, Dalat, day trip
Dalat is a truly beautiful mountain city and we got into a really touristy mood in a cable care ride over the wine fields. Yes they make wine here, but Dalat Red is not really the best wine in the world. A lot of people where cruising around town in their new years clothes and surprisingly many with their whole family on Vespa Sprints and in classic cars. A new years buffet at Novotel followed by an after party at the hotel with Hanoi Vodka and Number one soon got it into a good start of the year of the ox.
January 27th, Dalat to Nha Trang
Nick, a nice and crazy guy from US/Vietnam joined us for today's drive on his far too ugly Vespa. Rumors told about a new mountain pass have been finalized and opened. It took quite a while to find it and well, it where not really finalized but anyway just drivable. Anyhow the mountain pass were almost deserted and took us as far up as 2400m and down through jungle with natural waterfalls and ending at sea level where we cooked lunch and prepared for our re-entry in the beach and party town of Nha Trang.
January 28th, Nha Trang, daytrip rafting in Nha Trang
Bruce, a fellow scooterist organized a day of river rafting and bbq on a riverbank. Why the beer contained formaldehyde is a mystery that I might not want to know the answer of. We had a nice evening ride out north on Highway 1 to a scenic seafood place outside town. Our last day here ended with Polini tuning of our brains and finding some northern soul songs that we planted at a place here last year.
January 29th, Nha Trang to Tuy Hoa
We all did try to buy flight tickets from Danang to Saigon but we soon realized that somebody had booked each and every ticket around Tet making them only available from the black market, however the cute girl at the travel agency also did sort that out for us, she wanted to get married and we introduced her to Matt... We rolled out our scooters from the hotel reception and rolled away along the water. Paul took us to a local beach with seafood and fast food market and yes it where delicious as almost everywhere else in this country. At the next petrol station they tried their best to cheat Matt and me of our money and after some kilometers we understood that they also sold mixed petrol, maybe with snake wine, as our scooters became almost undeliverable. Some good fresh duel got us back on track again. The rest of the drive went on unsurfaced roads and it where propaganda PA-systems exactly everywhere and yes it is very annoying. When a Lambro 550 full of people passed buy us it got our moods back for arrival in Thy Hoa and dinner at a newly opened beach restaurant consisting of two different fish hot pots.
January 30th, Tuy Hoa to Kontum
Early morning start as today's drive is long. The first leg where amazing on an almost deserted road running along a canal in with people washing clothes, themselves, their cows their clothes as well as taking a leak. After that the road becomes really bad and soon Anders got the trips first puncture. The further we drive the more animals is is on the road, first a black small pig run out in front of mea and missed my front wheel with just 10cm, Anders had to make a full stop to avoid being owner of a dead pig and a crashed PX. Nest in line was a cow who speeded down a hill and jumped down in front of Mark who also just missed at with centimeters. Busses own the roads here and one pushed Pat of the road and he had to drive cross country another 400m before he safely came on the road again. We occupied another roadside cafe where we barbequed our lunch and serviced our scooters, why the cafe have a really ugly bird tied up to a tree on their backyard beats me. The day ended with a hair style competition using Paul as a model, who started it is another story
January 31st, Kontum, day trip to Cambodian border
Paul, Linh, Mark, Quang at me had an early morning and we decided to drive east towards Cambodia. We had a really nice drive through deserted roads into the closed border area and took a detour and met some local ethnic people. When the signs started to have sanskrit on them we understood it where time to turn back before anybody else found out that we where here. 140 km later we arrived back at the hotel and cooked a late lunch with the other guys who just wake up. As this boring town only seems to have one good restaurant we went there again and had an early night.
February 1st, Kontum to Kham Duc
Kick started at 8am and headed north along coffee plantations while watching out for water buffaloes and tour busses. We stopped for a drink at a very dodgy place and did notice that they re-filled Hanoi Vodka bottles with moonshine. They also sold Champagne made in Saigon for 30000 VND (€1,5), but is really champagne dark red and smells of sugar and rice wine? Anyway we got two bottles just for fun. A steady climb along Cambodian border took us up to 2100m and through villages and roads that haven't changed much the last hundred of years. Today's drive was a real long one but we anyway arrived early at Kham Duc and had a beer toasting for the new year with the locals at a grass weighting station that doubled as a bring your own bottle moonshine fill up station. Staying at a ethnic minority resort is nice but when the champagne is fake and truly undrinkable Matt, Anders and myself took our scoots for a spin in the wilderness. Matt and myself got stuck in a swamp but with jointed efforts and overlooked buy the local gang on minsks we were back on solid land and headed for the jungle where we found an ancient road most probably leading into Laos and we also found some very old and interesting villages. The day ended with Paul eating duck embryo at the local bar where we met a guy who was out an refilled his water bottle with moonshine. You could surely notice that the moonshine did it's trick but we didn't really belie him when he told us his name was Beckham as he actually looked more like Brad Pitt.
February 2nd, Kham Duc to Hoi An
Woken up by hard working minsks outside the resorts is rather nice and we set of for this trips last leg. Just 5km on the highway and eastwards on an almost finalized road through villages where kids headed for first day at school after new year and others where walking their cows and buffaloes just as they where dogs. This new road is as dusty as beautiful. Just after a graveyard two hondas came full throttle on a side road and had me breaking hard to avoid a three vehicle crash and continuing one more kilometer a car pushed me out for some motor cross riding that just ended luckily. We stopped at a crossroad to ask some local guys for the road while they where putting pigs in baskets and loading them up on their motorbikes. The remaining ride went along the scary highway number one where you always have too look out for speeding busses overtaking sometimes three in parallel. We arrived safely in the old town Ho An at early afternoon giving the possibility to have two meals at miss Ly's place. Now it's just to load the scoots on a truck and take flights back to the reality.
To Pat who organized this amazing event
To Paul who drove the rescue car(s)
To Quang who serviced and fixed our scoots all the way.
To all nice and friendly people we met on the way.
Summary and facts:
Spareparts used: 2x M8 washer, 1x spare wheel, 3x sparkplugs, 1x feeding coil and 1x carburettor gasket.
The driven distance was about 1700km (precise figure to come)
The myth that a Vespa is more reliable than a Lambretta is busted.
Vespa is not a suitable vehicle to drive in a swamp.
Pat Joynt – Lambretta series 2 200cc
Calle Krokstäde – Vespa Vbc/Sprint 200cc
Anders Poulsen – Vespa PX150E
Matthew Sparrow – Vespa PX150E
Paul Schaefer – Back up car
Mark Brooks – Lambretta Silver Special Mugello 186
Quang the mechanic
– Vespa PX150E
Hangarounds and chefs:
Linh and Linh
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