Nha Trang to MDrak

Rice Fields, Sugar Cane and the Foothills of the Vietnam Central Highlands

Rice Fields, Sugar Cane and the Foothills of the Vietnam Central Highlands

I leave Nha Trang mid-afternoon after spending most of the day with my Russian friends and seeing them off to the airport; sadly, they are headed home and I will miss their company. I get no more than 15kms before I have my first flat tire of the trip.   I go 300 meters and find a shop that repairs my tire in under five minutes for the price of 10,000 Dong (50 US cents).

I slide up the coast and head inland, my first foray into the Vietnam Central Highlands. Into the mountains I go and QL26 is the road I am taking. I think I might head for Buon Ma Thuot, the coffee capital of Vietnam. But I don’t make it there. Too many stops for photos, and a very hilly, bendy road. Continue reading

Gotcha: Extending a Vietnam Visa

Vietnam Immigration Law

Vietnam Immigration Law

Popular opinion is that renewing a Vietnam visa is easy.  They say, “if you have a three month visa, you don’t even need to leave the country, either go to immigration or have a service process your extension for you…three more months…no problems.”  You can do it three times – a full year of Vietnam travel without ever having to leave the country.  Excellent!

Well, not so much.  Be forewarned, sometimes it’s not all that straightforward.

I recently got denied entry into Thailand.  Here’s my (cautionary) Vietnam visa tale. Continue reading

Communist Leadership and a Vietnamese Prison

Nhiem, (Chairman) Dihn, and Friends

Nhiem, (Chairman) Dihn, and Friends

Today, I wake up and meet Nhiem, the man with whom I spent Christmas evening. This morning, he is taking me out for coffee to meet his brother. He is the recently retired district Party Chairman.

Hammer and Sickle

Hammer and Sickle

As in “Communist Party”.

Yep, one of the senior leaders of the Communist party. Responsible for 1.1 million Vietnamese people. Continue reading

Rach Gia and Ha Tien

Flames on the Bike

Flames on the Bike

Subtitled:  How to Make Your Motorbike Faster

I left Tra Vinh feeling very positive about the town.  Situated right in the heart of the Mekong Delta, this town has a nice vibe.  And strangely enough, it’s almost completely ignored by the major travel guides.  There’s quite a bit to do and see; it’s very relaxing as well.  I suppose it’s too far away from the Saigon day-trippers and other places closer to “experience Delta life”.

I’m headed for the southern coast.  There’s not a lot written about this area either.  But my goal of going edge-to-edge in Vietnam mandates that I take the bike to the sea.  And I really liked the town I first stopped in when I crossed into Vietnam, so I’m headed to the fishing town of Rach Gia and Ha Tien on the Cambodian border. Continue reading

Time to Hit the Road

Shrimp and Mekong Grass Salad

Shrimp and Mekong Grass Salad

I am ready, my bike is mostly kitted out, and I need to put some miles on her.  My plan is to head back south as the first part of this journey was done by bus.  I want to dip the rear wheel in the Bay of Thailand before I set out to touch the front tire to Chinese soil.

Through a friend, I was put in touch with an Australian woman who lives in Ho Chi Minh who operates a Street Food Tour business and is a food blogger and writer.  Perfect.  I need to learn more about Vietnamese food and have a truckload of questions.  When I touch bases with her, it seems she is leaving the next day to head into the Mekong Delta south of the city to do some research for part of a Fodor’s travel guide she is writing.  Even more perfect.  I’ll get to accompany her while she researches, a learning opportunity with a broad professional view, I presume.  And I’m headed south too.

She invites me over to have dinner with her Vietnamese husband and meet her two children.  We’ll meet and eat this night, then head out of town the following morning.   Continue reading