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Monday, May 21, 2012

A Slow Bike to China - Day 2. Ha Giang/Dong Van

Day Two:
We stick with the plan and were on the road early to make up for lost time. The new plan was to be in Ha Giang by about 9ish, grab some brecky and our permits from the immigration office and head for Dong Van (start of the Ma Pi Leng Pass). It took us about 2 hours to cover the 100kms to Ha Giang and a picturesque and uneventful morning did indeed have us at the immigration office by 9.15 am. To proceed North of Ha Giang you need a permit from either the Ha Giang Immigration office or the Police station at Meo Vac. Stories, including from Anh, suggested that the immigration office would rip you off and try to force you to hire a guide before heading out of Ha Giang. Even Lonely Planet guide said we would be over charged to the tune of $20 Usd per person. In actual fact the lady at the Immigration office was lovely and the whole process took about 20 minutes and cost us $7 Usd for the four of us. Having said that it certainly helps if you speak Vietnamese and I'm sure the fact I said I lived in Vietnam made a big difference as well.
QL2 Road into Ha Giang and the gang under the Ha Giang Sign... ½ a day later than expected

The immigration office in Ha Giang

The supposedly illusive travel permit

If you happen to get stopped on the road, Police may ask to see your permit and I am told you will be sent back to Ha Giang (or Meo Vac) if you cannot produce one. More importantly however, you will have difficulty checking into a hotel or guest house without it.

After some crappy eggs on toast and a coffee for breakfast we headed off about 11 am towards Dong Van. We were in no rush as we only had about 170 kms to cover and were feeling pretty confident we were back on track now. Problem was the scenery was magnificent leading us to stop quite a bit for photos which put us back under the hammer. So much so that we did indeed run out of daylight and also copped a massive thunder storm for the last 45 minutes of our journey. We intended to take the 4C route, which seemed like a more developed road, but somehow missed a turn and took a combination of the 4C and TL176. The distance is six of one, half a dozen of the other and am pretty sure either would be just as spectacular, so if you get off the intended route I wouldn’t worry too much as long as you are heading in a Northerly direction.

Not much to say really... except the best is yet to come.....seriously!

Riding at night in Vietnam is not advisable due to the many hazards, not least of which being locals driving without their lights to “conserve their batteries”, but riding a bike at night in a torrential storm on a mountain pass with sheer drops is definitely one to be avoided if possible. My disposable poncho was disposed of after 20 minutes and I eventually rolled into Dong Van one very soggy Moggy indeed. Then like a shinning beacon, was the Rocky Plateau Hotel/Guest House. Very easy choice as it seemed to have a restaurant of sorts attached to it. The Manager was a young bloke with really good self taught English, who showed us the best rooms in the house that were clean and spacious for 390,000 vnd ($18) per room. He was also proud to announce his restaurant was hosting a party of 50 people that evening so we had better order early to avoid disappointment. Only issue was the whole town had no power, but at least we had a chance to get dry and quench a hell of a thirst.
Road to Dong Van just before the heavens opened up on us.

Turbo rounding up a local.

Walking tree people as night falls.

The other reason we ran out of time on what was suppose to be one of our easier days, was that Pete's XR developed motorbike asthma as soon as we hit the mountains. When heading up hill it had barely enough power to pull the skin off a rice pudding. Not good considering the terrain ahead.
Luckily the Manager of the Rock Plateau escorted us next door to his friend the mechanic with whom we developed a close relationship over the course of the next hour and a half as tried to fix the bike. In fact we met most of the town whom seemed to come past at some time or another to offer their two cents worth and give Pete's bike a good old rev to red line as though it would make a difference. We got Anh on the phone to speak with the mechanic but that didn't help things much as according to Anh the problem was an imaginary one because the bike had a new engine and had been tested, ergo.. there could be no problem. Ok... lets just hope there were no rice puddings needing the skin pulled of over the next two days!!!
The fabulous Rocky Plateau Hotel.

Main street of Dong Van

Dinner was an interesting affair with intermittent black outs, more torrential sideways rain and half the town cramped into the restaurant. Bloody great bowl of noodles though, again 
plenty of Hanoi Beer, a couple of cigars with great friends and Ha Ha levels were overflowing.  Stay tuned for the highlight of the ride!

1 comment:

  1. Really enjoying your posts, Nick. Can't wait for the next installment.


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