Sunday, December 23, 2012

Riding Bicycles in Hanoi (with video)

So, my wife and I recently got bicycles.  She has ridden bicycles in Ho Chi Minh City for awhile (and back home, nearly all her life), but I didn't know how I'd be able to handle the traffic.  And there is a bunch of traffic here, zinging around in every direction.  But I went ahead and got one.

At first, the trick was just to find one that fits, as there aren't many tall bikes here.  I found a couple of them but they were $700 and $1000 respectively -- high-end mountain bikes.  Finally, I found a tall 21-speed Schwinn for $350, including narrow tires, fenders, and a book rack.

The first ride was from the bike shop back home -- a couple of kilometers through all kinds of traffic.  My inaugural ride.  I tell you, once I pushed the bike into traffic for the first time, I took off.  It was amazing.  I could see over the traffic and could bob and break effortlessly -- much more nimbly than on a motorbike.  I could maintain nearly 30 km/hr, so, going to Doi Can, I was passing most traffic.

Since then, I've been riding to work daily and my wife and I have gone around West Lake each weekend.  That's a 17 km ride and it takes a good hour + with stops.  We're able to explore more on bicycles than on motorbikes as we're so much more aware of and connected to everything around us.  My motorbike is collecting dust.

Here is a video of our going to the B-52 museum to show you how it is going through traffic on a bicycle in Hanoi.  This is relatively tame traffic but it's a good representation of the experience.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

We're Going to Travel to Beautiful Sa Pa, Vietnam

Christmas vacation is upon us and we're going to take advantage of living in northern Vietnam by going to Sa Pa in the Lao Cai province

Sa Pa is so far north, in fact, that it is just a few minutes from the Chinese border.
I've heard from fellow travelers that it is quite stunning.  And cold.  People said Hanoi would be cold, but I'm still waiting.  It's about 80 degrees F today and will get down into the 50's early next week.  However, I'm taking these reports about Sapa more seriously.  In December and January, it can get down to 1 degree C, or just above freezing.  Still not super cold but it will require some planning, like making sure we get a heated or room... or one with a fireplace.

Which brings me to my plans.  I'd like to travel all the way to Sapa, then sit in front of a fire, perhaps looking out over some rice-terraced mountainside, then read, and drink wine for 4 days.  Alas, I'm guessing that my wife will have other plans.  Just in case we do go hiking, or at least touring/shopping, I'll be bringing the GoPro and get some HD shots.  What I'm guessing is that it will be cold and so foggy you can't see the oxcart coming at you head-on.  I'm bringing 2 books, just in case, which will come in handy on the train up.

We're leaving Thursday night at 10.  I'm NOT a big fan of taking a train for any longer than about 6 hours, but it was either that or a bus.  A bus rambling along winding, bumpy roads.  Given that I can't really sleep anywhere but in a bed that isn't moving, the 9 dark hours are not exactly going to fly by.   Not to fear: that is why booze.

I'll try and post some good video shots as well as still ones (and also some more practical travel info), should we see beyond the winter fog.