Day 8 – Kon Tum to Kham Duc – 170KM

21 04 2012

I would like to slap thank the following persons. Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman for giving me the desire to do a long motorbike trip (Long Way Round). Messr’s Clarkson, Hammond and May for giving me the idea to do said motorbike trip in Vietnam, although I am doing a different route to them. Gentlemen, if by some Googly freak of nature you happen to read this blog…thank you for giving me the insane idea. I am already wondering where to do it next, Norway for sure. Although North Korea has a certain bent appeal !

Although I didn’t have a great nights sleep, I felt rested. Following the now familiar and filling Pho based breakfast, we explored Kon Tum. My first impressions were that it was a quiet city, and people seemed happy. I got more smiles and “Hello’s” today than any other. Usually it’s just the stoney faced “Asian Stare”, but today warm smiles greeted me. I quite liked Kon Tum, and I enjoyed it’s vibe.

Out first stop was the Wooden Church and it’s Orphanage. Whilst churches are architecturally appealing, I don’t care much for the religious side of them. Unfortunately the two go hand in hand. I made a beeline for the Orphanage. I have never visited one before, and to be perfectly honest was quite apprehensive. How do you into a place where kids have nothing, and not feel guilty ? The Orphanage was set up by the French for the Bana tribe and continues to take in orphans. It receives both private and Government funding.

My apprehension was soon washed away. The kids were happy to see me, and even happier to pose for pictures. I sat and played with them for ages, taking pictures and then showing them. This is a small selection of them, I will clean all of them up and get them onto Flickr when I return to the UK.

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I actually got told off for taking pictures, I understand why though. I had a few packs of gum which I opened and shared with the kids. What surprised me was how gentle they were taking the gum. Usually with kids if a pack of candy is opened they become a pack of ravenous wolves ! These kids were gentle and took their turn, only taking one piece each. I left here feeling humble and blessed. You know no matter how crap you think your life is, their really is always someone worse than you. We should all give thanks to whatever deity we feel fit.

Pushing on we visited the Bana tribe ‘Rong House’. This is a ceremonial house slap bang in the middle of the city.

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Saying goodbye to Kon Tum city, we pushed on towards Kham Duc. Despite it raining on and off, the ride was great. I now love my rat bike and hopefully soon it will have it’s front brake replaced…as it’s pretty much none existent. I can depress the front brake lever fully whilst riding and feel a gentle stopping motion. Not ideal for all too frequent emergency stops.

We soon hit Dak To, a sleepy little town. I was surprised that the streets were literally lined with the hammer and sickle, and Vietnam flags. They looked brand new, and I was surprised at the sheer number of them for the size of the town. Toan told me that the North Vietnam Army had secured a major victory against the South Vietnam Army and the US Forces. The 30th anniversary is on the 24th of April. So I seized the opportunity to take some pictures (as always).

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Leaving Dak To we continued up into the Central Highlands towards the Lao border. We briefly stopped at the former US Forces ‘Phoenix Airport’, although the only thing left was the landing strip. Reaching the town of Pleiku, the IndoChina Three Way, close to the Lao and Cambodia borders we took lunch. It was a really tasty squid hotpot. Toan said a funny thing to me. He said “You know this place is good, because all the locals throw their napkins on the floor”. It struck me as funny because it would be the exact opposite in Europe or the USA. Regardless the hotpot was excellent.

We turned back onto the Ho Chi Minh Road, which thankfully was much quieter on this stretch. It allowed for a cheesy photo moment.

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The skies darkened as we started to climb into the mountains. It was time to don the rain gear. Looking like a black waterproof slug, we navigated the twists and turns rising to just under 1400m altitude. It was on the downwards side that I realised how poor my brakes were. There is nothing better to tighten one’s sphincter than braking as hard as possible whilst travelling towards a sheer drop…and not stopping. Nevertheless, it was breathtaking. Seeing the mountains shrouded in mist whilst riding through jungle. This was the experience I had been looking for. This picture…this is what Vietnam is to me.

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We reached another tribal area in the hills. There was a precarious looking rope bridge across an angry river. Apparently the bridge had been there years, and had outlasted a modern bridge that had been swept away. The tribes people were carting sand over to the other side to begin construction on a replacement bridge.

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We eventually reached the small town of Kon Tum after an uneventful ride. It was lovely cruising along with my iPod on, waving at the kids as I went past. The hotel was very surprising. I was expecting the usual grim thing over shops, but this place is quite swish. It’s called the Be Chau Giang hotel, and if you every find yourself in Kham Duc…it comes with a three star Llama rating !

Nothing to report on the “Things seen on motorbikes today”.

Tomorrow, Kham Duc to Hue. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a 333 Export waiting for me.

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5 responses

21 04 2012
lisa

Inspiring stuff Dan x

22 04 2013
John Flanagan

Nice Blog. I am that guy from San Francisco. ; ) Thanks for the Mention. Hope all is well with you ; ) I am still up here.

30 04 2013
dannyllama

Hey John. What a strange coincidence ! Nice to hear from you, and even better to hear you are good. Do you still have the Yamaha ?

1 05 2013
John Flanagan

YES . and I just Bought another one. Now I have a 2007 Yamaha WR 450F.
The WR250X is still running great ; )

4 08 2013
dannyllama

Hey John. I bought a KTM 640 Adventure here in Norway, but it was a bit tall for me. So now I have a BMW Funduro to play with…far more manageable. How are you getting on with the WR450F?

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