Crazily veering through the haphazard traffic of ha noi on my way out to the country was a truly liberating experience with the smoke, bustle and sinh cafe crowds slowly receding as the hooting and smoke thins out behind you. A few short hours later and we were having a lunch of pho and bia hoi in a quiet town amongst towering hills that seem to grow out of the backyards. The 5 day adventure had begun. On the second day the roads gave up all pretence of being convenient public conveyances and the minsk came into its own. These incredibly tough and suprisingly comfortable machines are the perfect answer to the rock and mud strewn tracks that wind through most of vietnam and are light enough to give one a suprising amount of manouvreability. Having never ridden dirt bikes before I was fast becoming addicted as we tackled some spectacular mountain passes and were rewarded with magnificent views of rivers, rice padddies and distant hazy villiages.
This was the vietnam i had always imagined visiting and having a translator and vietnamese teacher made the experience that much more rewarding. In fact for the rest of my time in vietnam the language basics that I learned on this trip were to prove invaluable. The minority tribespeople were fascinating and their curiousity and humour made the me feel really welcome werever we went. Seeing the Khau Pha (how far) pass and the spectacular paddies of the Nga Ba Kim valley from the back of my minsk are experiences I will never forget in spite of the vast quantities of "medicinal" rice liquor that made the evenings with the locals so amusing and companiable. It was the ultimate holiday and a real adventure thanks to the faithfull minsk and our guide the minskmeister. I'll be back, just have to cross the rest of africa on my minsk first. Chup suc khoe and cham van cham.
Justin Youens from South Africa