7 jan 09 Biking Vietnam

Our traveling companions may have thought we were crazy to rent bikes in Vietnam. Sometimes it seems like you need a helmet just to cross the street here. The rental bikes only come with one gear; helmets are definitely not part of the package. We were getting anxious to get out of town on our own power, other than our feet, however, so I threw my helmet rule aside and we rented a couple of bikes in Hoi An one day.

Atypical intersection in Hanoi -- they actually stopped for the light

Biking almost seemed easier than walking in Vietnam. Instead of trying to cross the flow of bikes, scooters, and cars, we were part of the flow. The courtesies and protocol that apply to wheeled vehicles now applied to us and it no longer seemed like everyone was out to hit us. When the road gets a little crowded, overtaking vehicles give a quick toot of the horn to let you know they're going to pass. You can look to see what's oncoming to determine if you have to get far to the right or hit the ditch.

the famous China Beach, a great bike get-away mid-week in the "winter"

We pedaled out to the beach, about 5 kilometers out of town, and explored the coast north and south for another 10 kilometers. This was the winter season and mid-week, so the beaches were almost empty (except for a few of us from northern continents). As we passed a school, kids were hopping on their bikes to go home for lunch. We followed a few who turned off the main road. We rode through a small village and found a stretch of beach with a dozen almost-empty restaurants that were trying to get a little business in the mid-week, winter season lull. We wheeled to a table, toed the kick-stands into place, and sat down for a stir-fry of fresh fish.

Asama City cruiser, my first foray with a single-speed in 35 years

Click here to see more SE Asia bikes (including a Hello Kitty cruiser!)

20 dec 08 Half a Century

celebrating Kathy and Paul's 50th birthdays,
the impetus for our trip,
at the trippy Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

24 dec 08 Trekking in Upcountry Laos

As I look back through our photos of our days in Laotian villages, I am struck by the simplicity of these people's lives. No electricity at two villages because they don't have enough water to generate power. No outhouse or water, other than shrubs and the spring, at those villages either. At all the villages, timber-framed houses with bamboo-mat walls; most of these don't have windows so the heat can be retained in the winter and the smoke in the summer to keep out the mosquitos. If the houses aren't raised on stilts, then the floors are dirt. The same structure, just larger, is used at the schools. The kitchen is one or two pots over an open fire or rough fire pit.

Off the paved roadways, the villages are accessible by dirt trail. A motorized vehicle, something like the front half of a tractor, can pull a trailer over most of the rutted tracks that are wide enough. The numerous creeks have no bridges.

Our Anchorage home seems very palatial in comparison. Even our Talkeetna cabin, without water or electricty, seems like a luxurious house.

Click here to see more photos of the villages in the Nam Ou Valley that we reached by hiking and by boat.