Vietnam (Part 7)

The next morning I headed out to Kon Tum. The beginning of the road didn’t have anything that shocked me into taking especially interesting pictures. The first 3 hours of the ride I spent just enjoying some of the classic Vietnamese scenery of the shops, stretches of rice fields and the mountains coming closer in the distance.

There is a certain relaxation in just driving even when the scenery doesn’t blow you away or give you the best new content to share. The driving is a great time to just think, or give your mind a chance to step back and just enjoy the ride.

Here is one building that caught my eye.

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Bicycle catching a ride 

From reaching the top of one mountain pass I wanted to stop for a bite to eat or at least a drink. Parking the bike, I smiled at the locals sitting inside. They smiled back and I knew this was going to be an interesting interaction. The older people signaled a younger woman over to try and communicate with me. Doing my best, I tried to signal if they had anything to eat, a menu, or Pho. It wasn’t going too good and I decided very quickly to just get a drink. Thankfully, I could just point to a coca-cola and she nodded. I paid for the coke and sat down. Whew.

While I was sitting there, the young woman motioned to me asking in very broken English if I would join her for lunch. I moved my chair over and kept my money handy to pay.

Here are the girls sharing lunch as we chatted as best we could about ages, where I was from, and if I had a girlfriend.

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An older lady walked over and I was introduced to their grandmother. They girls signaled to me asked if we could take a picture together and I scooted over for a great group pic. : ) They offered me a very soft, very green, and very tasty sticky rice that apparently is specific to Vietnam.

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I pulled my money out when standing up, and asked three times if they would take some, but they would not even consider it! I bowed my way out, saying thank you so much!

And I rode away with a lot to think about.

A few more hills, and the land started to open up a bit.

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The GPS guided me to a quiet back road and painted a smile across my face as I passed groups of people moving cows along, and saw some young kids trying to kick start their bike.

I sometimes like to think that a smile is a superpower. It’s great fun to just put on the biggest one while driving past people and see how their faces light up too. Some of these locals might wonder what I am doing driving way out here, but when I see them and smile like they are my best friend I haven’t seen in a long long time, they can’t help but smile back. It’s a pretty neat thing. When I can’t speak their language and they can’t speak mine, a genuine smile does so much in communicating something really special.

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Pulling into Vietnam Phuot Homestay, the beautiful garden immediately caught my attention. The very friendly Vietnamese host immediately phoned her English speaking daughter for me to speak with, and find out how long I was staying and if I wanted dinner.

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I had the cozy dorm room all to myself.

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There was a exceptionally nice Scottish couple staying in the private rooms that I got to enjoy dinner with. As the stories and information about each other starting circulating between us, I couldn’t help but get sucked into listening to their strong accents. : )

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When we would eat a little room into our once full bowls, the hosts would fill them back up with pieces of fish, pork, small spring rolls, and everything else on the table! They made sure that we were each super full! Neither of the hosts knew more than about 3 words in English, but were incredibly kind, and would use google translate when there was something important to say. Afterwards, we acquiesced to the living room for some tea.

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Peoples kindness and generosity blows me away. It is such a warm metaphorical hug when people do nice things for you without expecting anything in return. Before the Scottish couple headed out, they decided to tuck some money into the seat of my bike for some oil changes. Thank you both so much, from the bottom of my heart.

I hopped on my bike to explore the city of Kon Tum and enjoyed the sites of the corn drying on the street. A cool little bridge popped up and I found some more well placed chairs.

It was around lunchtime that I came back to do some work on my computer and the hostess insisted on me having some lunch. She really wouldn’t take no for an answer, and I enjoyed a nice bowl of ramen.

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The hostess with the mostest and her grandchild

In the late afternoon, I went out for a coconut and sat down to be offered a sour mango with a salt and hot pepper mix.

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I really don’t think that there are many foreigners at this spot I am visiting now.

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Kids on a bike

 

And for now, goodnight. A pleasure as always my friends.

See you next time.

 

 

Vietnam (PART 6 BABY!!)

Hello Everyone! Or as they say in Vietnam “Xin chào!” (Hello) To me it sounds like SIN CHAO. Anyway… Vietnam is an enchanting country and I am so thankful to be on this trip.

From the hostel in Quy Nhon a group of us decided to hit up some beaches and off we went! A group of 9 foreigners taking the streets through a busy city to a small little fishing village.

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I couldn’t help but think how we are just a bunch of kids. No need to prepare for work or other responsibilities. GRAB your bag baby cause we are going to the beach, and if we don’t like that one, we will go to another one or even another one! Traveling is very much a learning experience of letting yourself dream. What does your ideal day look like?

I love getting to meet people my age and get to have fun with them swimming, climbing, talking about life back home, dreams, etcetera.

The Vietnamese people have the most interesting boats here. I have seen them on the water and its quite the motion the driver does to propel the boat forward with the one tied in oar.

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After soaking up some sun we headed to the next stop. If you like looking at the maps the first beach is on the South Eastern tip of the peninsula right at Qui Nhon. The second one was just North of the first one. The view on the way was absolutely spectacular.

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Gorgeous!

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I set up my hammock and had a nice little nap while listening to the sound of the waves coming in and out.

I did get some better shots of the group on the way back. 20180404_16463320180404_16502220180404_170612

We grabbed dinner together, enjoying the city at night. They have some interesting areas for kids to do these small carnival rides near the water and other areas set up so you can enjoy your meal looking at the ocean. I really liked the plastic chairs for people to sit near the water. It is neat to not have a bunch of fancy restaurant charging a ton, but instead a group of small food and drink vendors making your meal or drink. What a way to watch the sunset with friends, on a date, or even just to look and listen to the waves under the moonlight. 20180404_214614

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Very cool.

Tomorrow, Kon Tum.

 

 

Vietnam (part 5)

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This hostel had the most amazing layout with a soccer field in front of the main building, volleyball courts, basketball courts, hammocks, swings, and (as you can see) is right on the ocean. They even have their own spa!

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Going kayaking to a cliff jumping spot

 

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Two of the guys I came with, (Tom and V) had been here before and decided to come back because they loved it so much! Mark still had some trouble with his bike and dropped his bike off at a shop nearby where they would be working on some serious engine replacement that would take 3 days.

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Mark would be heading up North once it was fixed, while Tom and V were going south…I am really going to miss them. They are extremely cool guys and let me try out their new Honda’s. 20180402_130656

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V locked up the back brake when trying to stop on my bike, and told me how terrible my front drum brake is! Laughing, he told me how his eyes would get real wide whenever trying to stop on my bike. To be fair, their bikes would stop on a dime.

On Easter, they had a raffle for everyone staying at the hostel and I won a bungalow for a night! : ) It was lovely!

The next morning I set off to head up to Qui Nhon. Here are some better pictures when there was some more sunlight. Such a beautiful spot.

Watch out for cows! And lots of other animals too.

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Enjoy these other pictures of my nice drive along the coast!

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Drying seaweed. I think.

 

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GORGEOUS lookouts

 

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Sleepy boats

 

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Small detours

 

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#Style

 

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That fresh ocean air

Some of the places I came through had these huge roads and very little traffic. I really liked coming into these cities and having even more room on the road then on the back roads. There hasn’t been an experience for me like this yet. The only thing I can think is that they are building for the city to get really populated and it just hasn’t yet. Look how big the roads were.

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When driving Vietnam, so many school kids are driving these electric bicycles. I see them everywhere and a lot of times they will have someone on the back seat too. 20180403_103837(0)

On this ride, I noticed one girl giving here friend on a regular bicycle a nice boost by setting her foot on her friends bike to push them both on the motors power.

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Qui Nhơn

It blows my mind how many people on this trip I meet who haven’t ridden a bike before and come here to learn and really do a trail by fire. I wouldn’t recommend this and please please be careful if you decide too. On my way from Dalat to Nah Trang I watched a tourist on a scooter wipe out. Walking into hostels it is almost guaranteed to see a handful of people with bandages or healing knees, arms, and elbows.

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Until the next time then.

Vietnam (Part 4)

I was heading towards Nah Trang to stay on a peninsula an hour North of there.

Three other guys were heading the same way so we started out! In less than the first hour of riding V (short for something but I don’t remember… (He is from the Czech Republic and his name is a tough one)) got a flat tire.

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From left to right its Tom (white shirt), Mark, and then V

Mark and I pressed on. Mark just traded his scooter for a Honda Win to have a sexier and more exciting ride for Vietnam.

Less than 30 more minutes up the road Mark’s chain came off the sprocket and he needed to go to a mechanic. Thankfully Vietnam is full of bike mechanics!

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I was thankful that my bike was doing so well and pressed on. The roads were absolutely lovely through the mountains and actually kinda reminded me of some of my other motorcycle trips.

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The higher up I got the more my little 110cc bike struggled. The engine was working so hard and I had to be in 2nd to make it up at one point. (Fun FYI. There are 4 gears)

It got SO cold! 20180331_13585020180331_14020320180331_142744

My camera normally does a very good job, but this whole area on the other side of the mountain has to be seen to be believed. The road slowly wound down the whole mountain with waterfalls cascading down the rocks on the sides of the road. The lower land below (in the picture with my bike,) was easily seen by the eyes as it basked in the sun. I am very disappointed looking back to see that my camera did not capture it well at all. This was a spot you could just sit and feel small with the land far far beneath you and the sides of the mountain on each side of you. It was very awe inspiring.

Down below, had a wonderful warmth that started to warm my hands back up. The rice fields were so rich in color and swayed peacefully in the wind.

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I wondered if my friends were going to hopefully catch up to me and that everything was alright. It had been about 4 hours now since I had left them.

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The guys on the dirt bikes had been riding Vietnam and were able to ride quite fast on those bigger 150cc bikes with their great suspension.

While I was soaking in the beauty of the sun hitting the hills and trees around me, I saw my buddy in the mirror and got so excited! We stopped right in front of the toll booth to catch up a bit and then headed off towards our hostel. No sign of Mark close behind them. His bike was still acting up with a gearing problem. They thought he was about an hour behind.

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We drove right by the toll booth and turned to go on this quieter stretch in between the rice fields, carefully avoiding the cows in the way.

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This winding road took me to some more view points that, I believe, with the right camera and sunlight would blow your mind like it did mine. It was getting darker but I was still forced to stop and just take it in. It isn’t always with my nomadic life that I catch myself being surprised at where I am, with always seeing new sights everyday, but this was one of the those times.20180331_173833

On my way out I’ll be trying to capture this a lot  better. I made it to the hostel with Tom and V. Mark ended up arriving about 2 hours later. :/ Poor Mark.

 

I hope all of you guys are really doing well. Love ya Grandma, and ALL of my family!  Happy Birthday Jen! Love you tons!

Until next time!

Here’s a picture of me. (Mom specifically. I know you’ll appreciate it. : )  )

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Vietnam (part 3)

I spent most of the day inside with all the rain in Da Lat. Our (my new friends and I) plans to see the waterfalls had gotten pushed back a day. The average temperature in Da Lat for this time of year is very much cozy sweatshirt weather in the evenings and night. The day can be a bit brisk too if the sun isn’t out. The city is centered around a beautiful lake that creates a nice place for people to walk, go for horse carriage rides, fish, or just enjoy the park and sunset with your family and friends.

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While I was sitting here, enjoying the view, a monkey came along riding this dog. The kid in the backgrounds face is my favorite. Mine probably looked the same when I first saw the animal duo too.

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We had gone to see the Elephant falls and the pictures don’t do it justice at all. I had forgotten how loud a big waterfall like this is and the mist that forms.

When we went back to the city we grabbed some food and walked around the markets.

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It’s funny and cool to me how relaxed people get when sitting on their scooters/motorcycles.

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I don’t know if this other guy was selling pets or what, but he had a crazy assortment of fish and even little turtles in a bunch of bags on the back of his bike.

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Karaoke is a really big thing here and getting to the busiest part of the city I saw huge signs for Karaoke. Even the hostel I was staying in had a Karaoke night!

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They have a lot of food options with people serving all types of dishes from the sidewalks of the city.

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I was so taken aback when I walked in front of this lady with her pots when a rat came out from her area and then scurried back into that hole you can see in the picture. (It looks like cardboard)  I don’t know if it was a pet or rats are just running around with all the trash on the street. Haha.

People just stack up small amounts of trash on different corners and other people come around every night and clean it all up. I didn’t really see any trash cans on the street. Very interesting.

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And here is a picture a like.

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Looking good Jay

 

 

Vietnam (Part 2)

Dana (The previous owner of the bike, had said how her bottom got really sore from all the riding.) Mine hurt a lot yesterday as well. Her solution was sitting on a towel and it was looking like I should too.

I left Coco beach resort heading to Dalat! I noticed a supermarket and pulled in to see if they had anything good for breakfast. The front door was closed but a lot of motorbikes were parked on the side. Huh. I walked through the side door and started shopping around. Everyone in the store was looking at me strange again and I figured they just weren’t used to a foreigner. The workers there were talking among themselves and I felt really out of place. Not being able to find anything besides a milk, I decided to check out and one gentleman speaking Vietnamese called a woman over who asked if I could wait 10 minutes till they open. I felt so bad!! She asked if I could just shop for a little bit longer. Embarrassed, I kept looking around till 8 oclock.

There weren’t any signs in English! : /

I looked at some towels and settled on a plush comfortable bath mat along with my milk.

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SO much more comfy

Ahhh much better.

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It wasn’t long before another giant of a building came up.

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See how small that truck is next to it?

 

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Along this highway to Dalat, a lot of dragon fruit was being sold.

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You may have thought that the hammock thing was an isolated incident but that is where you would be wrong! Here I am at another rest stop.

The white fungus drink was a very strange one. I couldn’t help but try it, but won’t be choosing it again based on favorites. Haha.

If you decide to do this trip yourself, I have a great tip for you. When the toll booths come up, don’t sweat it! There is room on the side and just go for it! Every single toll section that has come up has had an area for the bikes to just slip right on by.

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When I was able to turn off the highway again to keep heading North, I was all smiles at all the space around me and beautiful scenery.

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It was then that I saw it… other foreigners on bikes! They were at the gas station and I pulled in to top off. Chatting with them, I decided it was much better to meet them than be the first trail blazer.

A little bit further down the road three more foreigners on Honda Win bikes zipped by me heading South! Two more were sitting on the road taking a break up ahead! These motorcycling foreigners were everywhere!

I drove up the mountain and stopped for a bite to eat.

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The two that were taking a break caught up to me and I got to meet the really wonderful Max and Anne from Germany. They were headed to Dalat and we set off together. : )

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Making it to the hostel for the night, 4 more people arrived by motorcycle. (Who were also soaking up the amazing adventure of motorcycling Vietnam.) While having a family meal together (thanks to the hostel), I smiled at being able to talk to all these different people in English, and even more hear about all their tips and crazy stories.  20180328_184040

It’s fun seeing their eyes light up as they recount to you the day they had winding through these quiet village towns all the way to Dalat, or that time driving through Cambodia, and more.

I’ll try and take some good pictures of Dalat, It’s a pretty neat place.

It’s time for me to go to bed.

I have two more bonus pictures today of a huge Bonsai tree and my bike looking cool!

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Vietnam (Part 1)

I was ready to head out from Ho Chi Mihn in the morning and was actually quite nervous! A new bike, in a new city, with a whole new way of driving. Every bike handles differently and it takes me a while riding a bike before I get comfortable and trust the bike.

Quickly, before we come to how I get on, I do want to add a few interesting things about Ho Chi Minh. HCM city has a bunch of interesting little alleyways. They beckoned to me while I was walking around. They played on my fantasies of snake charmers hidden in the alleys and new sights I had never before seen.

I explored those alleys, when I saw them, and found peoples houses tucked into the walls. Sometimes they would be eating a bowl of soup and look at me oddly. Farther down I would find these very secluded spas were the lady out front begged me to come in. There were little fruit stands, barbershops, and even little restaurant with a very special aura that the alley uniquely bestowed upon them.

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It was really cool being transported to this place that took me away from what I was more used too.

This was just before the night I was set to leave. Outside of the alleys, along the main strip, I met a group of 5 guys who were trying to by bikes like mine to do the trip up North.

I thought that originally this trip wasn’t something tons of people would be doing and I would really be in the thick of it being among people that didn’t speak my language or were used to seeing people that looked like me. Hmm… I guess we will see.

Now where was I? Ah Yes. Timid and afraid! Even with all the motorcycle trips I had done… One thing goes wrong and boom, you get seriously hurt or may owe someone a lot of money. What!? That’s not the right attitude!

I set off excited but extremely cautious. I started driving with a LOT of traffic trying to pay attention to the GPS, road, and all the scooters around me. If I hadn’t been driving the last 4 months in Indonesia and Thailand getting used to people being 1 foot away from you it would have been much worse! A little down the road I started to feel a little more comfortable, and as I entered a tunnel, couldn’t help but make a little shout as the feeling of adventure poured over me.

I wanted to take a picture for you lovely readers, but knew it wouldn’t be safe. :/

Just down the road I stopped to capture some interesting buildings on the way out.

I was heading East! To the coast! Before long I came to a ferry and people were walking between all the bikes collecting money for the ticket. I was very nervous about getting charged more and was feeling very out of place. Looking around, I took out the same size bill as the local to the right of me. Handing the gentleman 5,000 Dong, he gave me back two. Sweet. That’s a cheap ferry!

The swarm of bikes in front of me had been cut off by an official guy saying the boat couldn’t take any more and I waited maybe 5 minutes in cue to drive onto the next one.

I was so thirsty and bought a nice Tang like drink on the ferry, from a woman who was walking around with them. In less than 10 minutes we were at the other side.

I stopped for a coconut drink at a place just down the road and was pleasantly surprised with all the looks I got. The lady didn’t understand anything I said, and I had to point and smile. There is a nice and more exciting feel to be the trail blazer instead of just someone following along a very well blazed trail.

Pushing on, there were the most amount of hammocks I have ever seen along the road by these little rest areas. Look at them all! Vietnam is CRAZY about hammocks!

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The road brought many interesting building into view along with these two. Pictures really don’t show the scale well. They were huge!

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This road East had thinned out with traffic and I couldn’t be feeling better. As I was cruising along people who saw me would smile and 2 young guys even gave me the thumbs up or enthusiastically shouted hello!

The road got pretty quiet, and I finally hit the coast; soaking up the cooler air and enjoying these beautiful views.

There was some wild and extremely luxurious hotels that signs said were coming soon.

Heading further up the coast I was getting close to my destination for the night of Coco Beach Camp. In Vietnam you can always expect to see some exciting stuff being carried by motorbike. Earlier in the day I saw one guy carrying about 5 truck tires.

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I made it to my little home for the night and was blown away by how nice the spot right on the ocean was.

If you click on the photos you can see which one I had. (Its the little house with the beach chair out front) Anyway… if you are just south of Mui Ne by La Gi, you should stay here! My room was 17 dollars. I had AC, my own hot shower, bathroom, queen sized bed, little chair out front, two free waters, and they even had sealed toothbrushes and soaps in the bathroom!

Until the next part then!

P.S. Here’s a bonus picture!

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And one bonus bonus picture FROM Ho CHI MINH

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Vietnam (The beginning)

Many people I have bumped into have talked about motorcycling through Vietnam. Being in Southeast Asia I decided why not.

Ho Chi Minh was a good starting spot to acquire some new wheels.

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I was staying in a 5 dollar hostel that included breakfast.

There was a lot to see walking around the city.

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I had taken out 4 Million Dong when I was at the airport which is about 175 dollars. 1 U.S. dollar is around 23,000 Dong.

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YUM, coconuts.

Getting to the bustling street of Bui Vien, I tried to take everything in, from the people walking around trying to sell you sunglasses to all the spa’s, restaurants, and shops packed so close together.

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Mmmm..

The scooters and motorcycles here don’t stop. In the busy sections, with their constant flow through the streets, you have to just walk out and slowly keep moving across. On my taxi ride from the airport we came to a traffic circle and the hazard lights came on. He just kept inching forward, forcing the cycles to give him room.

At night, the busy touristic street of Bui Vien became packed with people as gates were set up making it a walking street.

20180325_22251620180325_22311720180325_223600  Loud music poured out of the restaurants and other clubs.

One of the guys staying in my hostel was teaching English at a school as part of his college program. He also was interested in driving a motorcycle up north and let me know of a good Facebook group to purchase my own.

Within 24 hours of looking at the FB group, I had met with two travelers who drove all the way down from Hanoi, and had gotten my own set of wheels.

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Dana, the legend. 
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Here she is!

While she (the bike,) isn’t the most authentic of Honda’s, it makes for quite an interesting time to see what will go wrong. For $220 dollars it is hard to complain. What she doesn’t have in perfect reliability, she makes up for in character. I know that she has at least done this trip from North to South 2 times before me. Dana, the previous owner, hadn’t had any trouble with it on the way down.  (Fingers crossed! :  ) )

I set out tomorrow to make my way East and then up the coast. There are going to be lots of exciting views, challenges, and adventure.

Dana bought a nice pink helmet and was kind enough to give it to me with the bike. Here I am looking soooo good in a very colorful helmet.

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Looking good Josh, Looking good!

 

Tune in tomorrow if you want or maybe the next day. I plan to update this epic trip at least every 3 days!

P.S. There are lots of interesting things here in Vietnam for food. 20180326_092927

 

Oh… P.S.S.

I found this funny restaurant that apparently Obama visited.

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Fire Camps in California!

Over the last two months I have had the privilege of helping out at the fires on the West Coast. The first camp I worked at first was in Orleans, California. I got the job through a friend from my previous travels and began work for a mobile kitchen company. I was picked up from the Medford airport in Oregon and was shocked at the incredible amount of smoke in the air while driving to camp.

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The smoke was very heavy and firefighters lined the road. Large logs laying just off the pavement still smoldered and dark patches of completely burned areas kept popping up as we drove along. A pilot car was leading the group of us safely through the area. Arriving to the camp I was put to work right away.

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In camp

Starting in the freight department, work was moving, cleaning, and doing whatever else needed to be done. I had a tent to sleep in and woke up to be ready to work at 8:30. There were 600 to 800 firefighters at this camp who would go out for the day after grabbing breakfast. The kitchen served food at 5 and stayed open till 9:30 for breakfast and then roughly the same hours for dinner. The mobile kitchen unit company provided the lunches for the firefighters as well. I helped make 600 sandwiches in the refrigerated semi trailer that was used for food prep. We had other boxes of snacks, condiments, instant coffee and more that was put into the sack lunches. At night the workers who weren’t cooking and serving dinner worked on assembling the 800 sack lunches. We would form an assembly line with one person opening the bags and dropping in the ziplock bag, while the next would add the fruit and carrots, and so on. When I first arrived it was very long days from 8 to 11 at night. Usually there were a couple hour breaks in the mid afternoon.

Freight crew was also responsible for unloading the large semi trailers full of fresh produce every couple of days and pulling all the foods needed for making breakfast and dinner and putting back the extra from the kitchen that wasn’t used.

Here they are unloading the huge deliveries into either the freezer semi trailer, refrigerator trailer, or the other food prep trailer.

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Here is a picture of where we would assemble the sack lunches and store all the dry goods.

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With the long firefighter hours and difficult work the lunches were pretty hefty!

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After a few days my boss found out I had previous experience in the kitchen and switched me to working in there. Some of the other cooks were leaving. The pay was about 11.25/hr for starting in the kitchen and there was a hazard pay from working near the fire with the smoke and danger of an extra 4.75 an hour if I remember right. Kitchen hours started at 3:30 A.M. to 10:30A.M. (11 and 11:30 sometimes too with other cleaning that needed to be done.) Dinner shift was about the same of 3:30P.M. to 10 or 11. It was a LOT of work but very rewarding. With the fires there is no weekends or holidays. I was putting in close to 100 hours a week.

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At dinner and breakfast time we had an assembly line forming the plate with all the food and passing it out the window to the long line of firefighters. A catwalk had been built outside the windows. Going down the steps they had another tent full of a salad bar, desserts, chocolate milk, coffee, juices, etc.

 

It was generally quite smoky in the mornings, but the area was really beautiful when the smoke cleared.

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While it was very long hours and tough work it was fun. Some times were hectic from having to make more food last minute when more people showed up than were ordered. It was a lot of cooking throughout the whole work shift as much of the food was made pan by pan as we aimed to keep it the freshest. I don’t know if it was always being on my feet, and using my hands for grilling hundreds and hundreds of pieces of pork on the grill, or always wiping down and scrubbing hard on the dishes, but my hands would actually get quite numb… and stay numb.

I got concerned about this for a little bit and asked my buddy “JJ” working with me in the kitchen if his feet or hands had lost any feeling. After he said yes, we laughed about it together and kept up the hard work, mentioning how difficult this job in the kitchen really is.

We made fresh eggs every two days for everyone for breakfast and when we ran out of fresh eggs and the people in line had to wait just a minute for some more eggs we would shout out “FRESH EGGS, COMING UP,”! Normally two people would work the buffet line setting up the plates with the first three dishes before passing it to the other person to finish adding the other three options. The line got really full and we would be passing out nicely organized plates with tri-tip , veggies, a quinoa dish, bread, and more.  Some people would get picky in line and when people looking through the windows would say “no veggies” we would sometimes joke with them and get a smile by yelling out “EXTRA VEGGIES!” (with the windows and noise of the kitchen vent fans it was fairly difficult to hear the special requests.

We were cracking over 1000 eggs on the grills. One person normally was on egg duty and the other grill was used for something like pancakes, unless a huge rush came and both flat top grills had to be switched to egg duty.20170910_094700

One of the other cooks I was working under was burned out and decided to head home. My boss hired this other cook to come in and he lasted less than a half hour. You have to really fill the flat top and use all the “grill estate” or you won’t be able to keep up with the rush or finish your other breakfast dishes in time. It is a very demanding job, and this new guy was not nearly up to speed.

I mostly slept and worked for my whole month working here. The whole fire camp was exciting with all the other facilities they offered to the firefighters. Other converted semi trailers were showers and laundry facilities. Other sink trailers were around the camp along with many other important mobile homes/trailers for medical support and the big wigs making the big decisions managing the firefighters and resources. There were 4 Mobile sleeping semi trailers that were a life saver.

Rows of bunks 4 high with little curtains and dim lighting provided the firefighters and I a nice cool place to sleep during the hottest times in the day. Trying to sleep in a tent with the midday sun was unbearable. I was so thankful for these trailers and the very precious time off work when I was able to sleep in them.

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Mobile sleepers

Near the very end of the month (September) it had cooled down a lot. When it wasn’t too hot in the afternoon I would also take naps in my hammock.

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We did have some ash rain early on in the month just covering absolutely everything and sometimes slightly irritating your throat.

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Firefighting teams came from all over to help with the Orleans fire. We even had Samoans who performed one of their traditional dances on their last day.

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And here’s a few bonus pictures of camp showing my friend enjoying some left over delicious pork and the beautiful campground. It was a blackberry patch on someones farmland that was whacked down for us to set up camp. I am sure the land owner was paid very handsomely. I was told the mobile sleeper units were costing the government around 2800 dollars for one of the trailers for 1 day! I looked into working for them and would have made 220 dollars to start on much more normal hours checking people in and cleaning the bunks. I ended up working into a kitchen manager position and was so excited to be making 1800 a week before taxes!

 

*Firecamp part 2*

I stayed in California with a friend and ended up getting quickly hired on for the next fire with our base being out of the Sonoma county fairgrounds.

This time I was on the Porta-Potty crew and it was both exciting and gross. Doing something I have never done before is always kinda fun to me with the aspect of learning something new and getting into a new routine you have never done before. Even with cleaning Porta-Potties there was a lot for me to learn!

The company already had about 200 on the fairgrounds set up and ended up having 100 more ordered. With the new ones I was pumped for the amazing opportunity of using a BRAND NEW never before used Porta-John.

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A previously untouched mobile bathroom!

We woke up in the morning to go to breakfast at around 7 to grab some breakfast as a team and then start on the morning service of cleaning all of them.

With so many toilets we had a couple trucks working on servicing them.

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Taylor and his truck

They were serviced twice a day and we normally would pump out the waste from our trucks to one of the bigger ones so we could start empty on waste and would fill our water tanks from a fire-hose.

I already LOVED this much more relaxed schedule (to me) from getting up super super early.

Breakfast seemed leisurely with there being no immediate concern to have the toilets done as fast as possible in the morning. My old kitchen job was filled with constantly checking the time to make sure we were on schedule with having everything ready by 5 A.M. and 5 P.M. It was great with this job cleaning toilets to be able to relax a bit and not have to be so time conscious.

Having just worked in the kitchen I was extremely curious how this camp ran theirs and the quality of the food they served. Instead of the Forest Service in Orleans this Sonoma Fire was being taken care of by “CalFire.” The Calfire kitchen was run by inmates.

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I was super impressed; so much food options in cereal oatmeal, pop tarts, good fruit, yogurt, delicious muffins, and more. These pictures above are even before getting to the trailer that cooked and handed out the hot food.

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I really found it all quite tasty and very well done. They had other tables set out with all kinds of juices, milks, teas and coffee.

Besides all the great food this job paid well too! There were two positions of a wiper and the other driver/pumper. The driver ($275/day) was primarily responsible for knowing where to go on the fairground and using the hose to suck out the porta-jons. And the wiper ($200/day) would be spraying, wiping, and changing toilet papers. I started as wiper with Taylor going through behind him with a very powerful chemical we called J-spray. It smelled like cinnamon and left the area smelling wonderful.

AFter sucking all the waste out we would typically put 5 gallons of water into the holding tank and splash a very blue detergent that also smelled great and looked even better. This detergent was great at covering any unpleasant sights if you were to look into the bowl.

A water hose was attached to the truck and I would go through spraying out each of the units and then wipe down each of them; from the seat and seat area with one rag, to the floor with another. We had some heavy gloves we wore to protect us.

When lunchtime rolled around I couldn’t wait to see what the Calfire lunch looked like and almost jumped for excitement at the incredible amount of goodies. 20171012_120236

These packs even included GUM! It is hard to see all that was included in the picture. There is even a summer sausage! : )

After lunch we moved around some porta potties and other new ones to better spots. Here are a few pictures of the camp.

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Each of the porta potties banks had sinks with them that we would check to make sure had soap, paper towels, fresh water, and that the grey water had been sucked out.

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Some of the showers and inmates

We grabbed some delicious dinner quick. 20171013_203538

Night time rolled around and we each grabbed our headlights to be able to see what we were cleaning during our second and last service of the day!

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Smoke from the fires

While working as a wiper for Taylor, I got to go on one of the outside loops servicing the other toilets that were placed at the helicopter bases, fire stations, and other areas.

This is when I really got to see all the burned down homes, fire-station and incredible damage this fire had caused. We even drove by this completely leveled neighborhood with News Crews standing in the middle of it capturing their own breathtaking footage.

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This fire had already killed around 20 people and the military were even involved.

Here is a shot from the helicopter base.

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When we didn’t have any other toilets to move in the middle of the day we would normally have a couple hours off to relax back at our camp. We stayed in an RV park and had a few tents set up next to our bosses camper. We could stay in the camper if there was room too, but the people with seniority got first pick of course.  20171015_172109

My friend Tiana from Puerto Rico was the one that got me this job and with the long 10 hour days was exhausted. Poor tired Tiana. 🙂 20171016_170753

With the way things rolled we had a few more trucks come down and I got the opportunity to be a driver! Here is the real A-Team with “my” truck! Crushing it!  20171027_131639

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Unlike wiping I actually had to look in all the toilets now to make sure I got what I needed to get and that there wasn’t something that was going to clog the line. I found a cellphone, shirts, underwear, apple’s and all kinds of trash in the waste.

It was bewildering how some people could miss the toilet and occasionally get poop everywhere! I spared you all by not taking these disgusting pictures. My co-worker Tiana saw one so bad that someone had roped off the Porta-potty with caution tape, and she came very close to quitting.

At one time they had over 5,000 firefighters working this fire and it was very big in the news. We had local businesses that came to the fairgrounds offering their services for free to help out as well. Some professionals came and set up a spot for giving out massages. Starbucks also represented in coming and handing out their coffee. 20171016_085646 Peets coffee was there with one of their mobile trucks handing out their cold brews, hot chocolate, and regular coffee. One family even cooked a bunch of pasta and set up a buffet for anyone who wanted it. The side fences around the campground were filled with signs “Thank you first responders!” and others showing the appreciation for all the firemen and support team work in saving houses, lives, and in stopping the fire. 20171019_080745

Policemen worked at the gates waving through vehicles through the fairground if they had the right pass displayed on their windshield and military personal, with a rifle slung over their back, stood checking at the other gate.

The RV park housed some of the people that lost their homes and the American Red Cross brought food and other basic care items for those who were not allowed to return to the evacuated areas.

With all this publicity this fire received, B&B portable toilets was even was in a magazine! 20171016_100710

That is about it for now.

Here’s a few more pictures I like from camp. Hope you enjoy.

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Really some great lunches and dinners!

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Chicken Cordon Blue

P.S. As my curiosity leads I did find out that the mobile toilet companies really make money from the servicing. It is a dollar a day per unit for being on the property and around 30 something dollars per service per Porta-john. If you do the numbers with around 300 toilets it ends up being a ton of money raked in a day. Just one unit can be from 750 to 1,000 dollars new though. It is also very expensive dumping the human waste at treatment plants.

For the kitchen company I worked for I found out we made 20 dollars a plate, and about 26 dollars for the lunches. The other cost for the fresh food way out in the boonies and 700 dollars a day for just propane cost can really add up. STILL, this business side of things was fascinating to me. I think the government is really paying very well for these mobile services in emergency situations.

 

P.S.S. As I write this I am sitting in the Toyko airport on the way to Jakarta, Indonesia! Until the next time then?

West Coast #17

This is the last West Coast Post. I stayed at the nice Teton hostel one more night before trekking south to Steamboat springs, Colorado. And ate a big bowl of cereal, 3 eggs with a bagel, two yogurts and some tea to hopefully stave off any hunger and extra road expense due to my stomach.

I grabbed some gas and cleaned off the ole motorcycle visor due to all the bugs making it difficult to see.

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I came through the neat little town of Jackson before taking 191 South towards Colorado.

I was soon between more beautiful mountains and the elusive Willy Wonka river of chocolate. Look at all that Chocolaty goodness!!20170603_10034520170603_101147

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YUM!

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The open range came next and I sang “Home on the Range” for a while after one of the ranches I drove past was called exactly that.

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As I came up to Rock Springs, I saw this beautiful off road area right off the highway, and couldn’t help going off road for a bit to tear up the trails.

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I didn’t see any signs or any other people enjoying these cool ruts, hills, rocky technical areas, or sandy bits. Exceptional stuff! : )

After playing around for a while and getting really hot with how much work it is, dirt biking challenging areas, I kept on to Steamboat Springs.

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The Yampa River fest was happening and the spot right by the Library was being used in a competition. Kayakers would position themselves into the wake and do spins, rolls, and even flips! An announcer would cheer them on and or say some discouraging words when they would slip out of the wake and drift down river after a failed attempt.

I then went to Strawberry Park Natural Hot Springs and experienced the most beautiful hot springs I have ever been too. 20170603_18533720170603_18554520170603_18555720170603_19084820170603_191141 There were 6 different pools alongside the river all with varying temperatures that you could plop down in and enjoy the beautiful view of aspens around you and sounds of nature. These springs are about 20 minutes north of Steamboat in the middle of nowhere. No cell phone reception at all, and the most gorgeous cold mountain river flowing right alongside these wonderfully warm pools of water.

I couldn’t help but hop into each of them right as I got there. When you got too hot, if you were brave enough, you would jump into the river and be instantly cooled down. I did this a few times while making some new friends to play a “who can stay in the longest game.” Haha. Out of the four of us, the older ones dropped first and it was just down to me and this other young kid. At this point, I was quite numb and while laughing asked my new friend if he wanted to just tie because it wasn’t even hurting anymore. Hahahaha. He agreed and we both got out smiling and shivering. When you climbed back into the hot pools it really felt like a bunch of needles all over your skin or a sharp tingling sensation! It was wonderfully fun. I wish you guys could all have come with me so we could enjoy these hot springs together.

I was able to stay with a couch-surfing host named Robert in Steamboat and was shown incredible kindness. He is an exceptional human being who made me feel right at home. He invited me to join him and his friends for dinner and truly showed what it is like to love others like yourself. 20170604_191208

I went downtown with him that night and enjoyed some live music. Robert had a kayak technical race he was doing in the morning and I went to watch. 20170604_11324120170604_11554120170604_11573520170604_120137

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Those eyes!

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In the fast flowing river you had to maneuver through a series of gates while being the fastest on the clock. Robert told me how some of the competitors, including his teacher, were very skilled kayakers winning other kayak events around the U.S.

I still had a lot to see in Steamboat with the ski jumps up the hill and downtown area.

There was a marathon that was being run through downtown and I hiked this hill to get a good lookout over the city. 20170604_12570320170604_13332520170604_13435520170604_135334

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A hidden hiking trail with an overgrown bench.

This bench had a cool sign on it saying “Live everyday like it’s your last.” I really like how no one else was up here and the bench hadn’t been trimmed out. It looked a lot better all rugged and slightly hidden by the foliage.

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There was also an amazing ride and slide I found at the top that I SO badly wished was in operation.

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Robert very kindly texted me while I was exploring asking me if I wanted to go tubing with them. Um YES! I went quickly down the hill to my motorcycle to meet them at his apartment. His place is right on the river and we could hop in at his place and go roughly 3 miles downriver before taking the free bus back!

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If you are thinking that the water was cold… you would be right. It was chilly and made you feel ever so alive! Rob had a dry suit he was wearing while I braced the cold in my swimsuit. The three of us, including Rob’s friend Jazzy, laughed and smiled and laughed our way downriver. As we floated by the restaurants downtown people couldn’t help but smile as I grinned at them from my tube. We stopped at one area with a warmer stream of water coming out into the main river. As I stood in the sun warming myself. There were two ladies getting into the summer spirit with their sunflower cruiser bicycle, flower shorts, and swimsuits, sunbathing on a nice blanket; creating a beautiful picture right on the water. With their permission, I was able to capture the moment with the camera on their phone. Lovely!

IMG_17281 Robert, even though he worked the next day, let me stay an extra night on his couch so I could leave early in the morning, reminding me to also make sure to grab some breakfast from the fridge.

I headed out the next day after profusely thanking Robert for everything and showing me by example what an incredible world this can be with people as kind as him.

The route (14) to Fort Collins was beautiful and had a few exciting signs.

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Some nice rain cleaning off my riding gear and dirty motorcycle.

Making it back to Brian’s house we hoped on the roof with some of his roommates and enjoyed the view.

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It’s been real.

P.S. I haven’t really raised any money when asking about donations from my blog, and still don’t want to try and make money through ads. I had hoped this would help supplement my adventures, and don’t know if I will continue blogging or not yet. I currently am planning on heading down through Texas then through New Orleans and who knows where after that. Europe is on the horizon, along with Central and South America.

I figured out that I like adventuring so much because I feel that I am accomplishing something. I am not sitting at a desk waiting for a paycheck, or playing into someone else’s financial aspirations. It feels good to be free.

If I had 500 million dollars, I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else… yet.