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Week Two Chapter - 10 ~ 16 Sep 2007 - Vietnam

Starting Location for This Week: Saigon, Vietnam (Asian Continent)
Ending Location for This Week: Hoi An, Vietnam (Asian Continent)
Planned Mileage for this Week: 847 miles (1,363 kilometers)

Welcome to Week Two of The IndoChina Expedition

Yes, we have the bikes, two days late and lots of patience, but we have the bikes and it feels wonderful. Customs had a field day with our paperwork and we still can't believe that we finally were given the "all clear" to ride out the gate. Talking to a customs broker that had come over to admire the bikes, we were told that he, once before, had seen a bike similar to ours arrive in a box. Customs had opened the box twice before it was returned to where it had come from. He had no big hopes for our process, but wished us good luck. Great! Just what we needed to hear after all our hard work and high expectations.

As part of the process of receiving the bikes, and the paperwork involved, we needed to have engine numbers and frame numbers copied from the bikes. We were told that this was done by copying the engraved numbers to a piece of paper using a pencil. The last time I saw this done was when I visited the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, DC. Kids would sit on the shoulder of a parent, and by holding a sheet of paper over the names on the Wall, then rubbing a pencil lead over the paper, could copy the names onto the paper. We tried to do this ourselves for the VIN number, but the result was not good enough. Our ever-so-resourceful partner in Saigon, Phan Than, had the solution to this dilemma too. From other side of town a Professional Copier, "kidnaped" from the local DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles), was brought to the Customs holding area to take care of this job. He was good . . . very good, and from talking to him we learned that he had built his life's career around this bureaucratic mayhem of the requirement that all vehicles in Vietnam had to have their frame and engine numbers copied to a piece of paper as proof of ownership.

Leaving Saigon was very interesting to say the least. I felt like we were part of a new movement, promoting mass communication on two wheels. Never in my life have I been surrounded by so many two-wheeled vehicles coming towards me from all angles. At first ,it is quite intimidating, but faster than one would think, the simple rule of "do not make any sudden moves" actually works, and it all flows nicely. Not once did I see an angry person or any other form of road rage that evening as we left Saigon in the midst of rush-hour traffic.

Chris and I had a blast this first day of riding in Vietnam, while Sterling was all a big smile as he was shooting video from all kinds of angles, doing a great job capturing the action on tape.

We are now one week into riding here in Vietnam, and we are all blown away by the great roads and variation of scenery that we have put behind us. Avoiding Highway 1 (along the coast), the small mountain roads that we have been following have, for the most part, been good sealed roads as they wind up and down mountainous terrain. It is a biker's paradise and we are loving every minute of it.

Well, I better get off and start to upload this week's installment. Enjoy, and tune in next week for more stories and pictures from the road in Vietnam.


Helge Pedersen

Hello There,

We are having a fantastic time in Vietnam! Helge and Sterling have their cameras running nonstop trying to capture all there is to see. But to no avail - it is impossible to record it all. But they keep filming. Everywhere you look, is a photo waiting to happen - a rubber plantation with a lady collecting latex, a hill village long-house that needs to be looked at, incredible mountain scenery. And there is always the road full of activity - the ubiquitous mopeds transporting any and everything. Sometimes I think every Vietnamese is issued a wheeled motorbike at birth.

Today we are in Hoi An; it is a rest day and of course, we are out and about. We took a city tour of this old port city this morning. Sterling and Helge even stopped at a tailor shop and were sized-up for some fancy new riding suits. They will pick up their custom-tailored suits this evening, talk about quick service.! Our guide had arranged for us to visit a secondary school as they were departing for the afternoon, all the students wear uniforms and it was quite a sight. Later today, we'll return to the old city to visit a Japanese covered-bridge and maybe take some photos.

The food has been excellent. There is lots of seafood to keep our Norwegian happy! I have been enjoying soup for breakfast every morning, and the Vietnamese coffee puts Starbucks to shame. It is delicious and very strong and I like it black, but the locals add lots of sugar and thick milk to theirs.

I have passed on some of the more "exotic edibles" like, bat, snake, mouse and I won't even mention some common pets (sorry Lucy). [Editor's Note: "Lucy" is Chris, and his wife Mary's, pet dog.]

We started our trip in Saigon, and then drove to the Mekong Delta while our bikes waited at the customs warehouse. After we returned to Saigon, we were able to get our bikes released, thanks to the persistence of Mr. Than. We departed Saigon and stopped in Ma Da Gui for our first night on the road. We rode to Dalat the next day, and after a tour of the town, we headed over the mountains to the coast. We went back up into the mountainous interior the following day where they grow lots of coffee and rubber trees. We parked the bikes and took a hike to visit a beautiful waterfall. I haven't even mentioned the rain - we have ridden through some real downpours, but it doesn't matter, we just press on, and guess what, there is sunshine on the other side.

It is time for me to sign-off and maybe find the local market and see what is for dinner.

Ciao for Now,

Chris Poland

Helge Pedersen Images from Vietnam, IndoChina Expedition 2007

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