My First Vlog is Up... and I'm Nervous.

I have decided to start going a bit of a different route. I will be creating more videos as updates instead of doing blog write-ups. It’s more engaging to me, I can do it on the go, and I feel its easier for an audience to get in to. Podcast is coming soon as well. This will also let me focus more time on uploading photos.

The website will be constantly evolving to suit my needs until it is perfect for what I’m doing. Which, right now, is constantly evolving as well.

Take a look at my video and tell me what you think. And if you see any adverts on this site, please click them as I receive ad revenue. It’s not much, but it bought me 2 meals last month. A good start.

Sorry for the quality. My software downgrades it.

A game of pool, a famous dog, and the city of Hoi An.

           Callum took a bus from Da Nang to Hoi An a day before Marco and I left for the same city by motorcycle. It’s only a 30 minute ride, but we waited a day, hoping that the rain would let up. It didn’t.

            On the way out of Da Nang, we stopped to pick up Marco’s visa extension, and then made our way to an electronics store where I could score a small external hard drive. My computer was beginning to run out of memory due to the drone, GoPro, and Nikon footage I’ve been taking. My credit card was rejected (!!!???) for some reason. I knew this was going to be a bigger problem that I would have to deal with later, but Marco covered the cost, and we set out on the road in the rain, again, to Hoi An.

            I don’t know how, but somehow, within that 30 – 40 minute ride, we managed to get more soaked than when we drove through the roaring typhoon. The negative effects of the rain were off-set by my new crowd-sourced playlist. It is by far the most diverse playlist I have ever put together. Major props to everyone that participated on Facebook and to those that decided to subscribe to it!

            We made it to our hostel without a hitch. It’s called “Paddy’s Hostel” in Hoi An. At first, I was a tad upset because the only beds available were $9 per night. But, the girl behind the front desk gave us a deal for $8 and said we could move to the $6-a-night room the next night. The expense includes free beer once a night, free breakfast, pool access, and some of the nicest bathrooms I have come across at any of the hostels I have visited.

            The manager of Paddy’s is Moon. She is the sweetest lady. Always smiling about everything. She definitely brightens up my day every time I see her. But… there is another star of this show.

            Polly. Polly is the mascot of Paddy’s and she is quite the celebrity. She is half English Bulldog, and half Cocker Spaniel. As one could imagine, this combination of genes has produced a dog with very interesting characteristics. I thought there was a little Bloodhound in there at first, but I was told that isn’t the case. She has the body-type of an English Bulldog when it comes to the legs, extra skin, and thickness, but she is a little longer. Her head is a mix between the two. The under-bite is pronounced and her tongue is always out. If you don’t fall in love with Polly, you may have severe issues.

            Polly may jump into your lap while you’re sitting on the couch, but she’ll scram if you try to pick her up. And there’s a reason for that. She was once kidnapped, along with her mother, and held for ransom. Her mother was never found.

            Our first night here, we didn’t go out. I entered into a pool tournament with Callum and Marco at our hostel for a small pot and a bottle of rum. Marco turned out to be the only person in the tournament that gave me a run for my money, but this isn’t what this story is about.

             When I was playing Marco, a couple of Aussies decided it was their privilege to interrupt the game by sitting on the table and posing for a picture with the “Jameson” logo painted on the wall behind the table. I know I was probably more upset about this than I should have been, but I am extremely competitive, and it’s very easy to wait until after the game for you to take your picture because you “really love Jameson.”

             After noticing that I was a little ticked, the girlfriend decided to come and put me in my place. Before I go on, you need to realize that I’m 2 beers and 2 shots in. Whatever this girl has to say to me is about to get disassembled like an angry 2 year old next to a jenga tower.

             “Are you upset?”

             “A little. That was kind of rude to interrupt our game.”

             She gets this cheeky grin. She was pretty, so I guess she’s used to getting away with being a bitch. I don’t know exactly what she’s going to say, but I know she probably thinks it’s “well thought out” and “quite a witty remark”.

             “Well, baby. You’re in a hostel. We’re in close quarters and you just need to learn to deal with it.”

              “So, if I’m in a hostel, I can omit my patience and be rude to people? They could have easily waited until we were done. Jameson is literally painted on the wall. It’s not going anywhere. You’re wrong and shut up.” She did.

              When I got to the finals, I played the guy who’s friends interrupted the game with Marco to take their picture on the pool table. He had a conversation with the rude girl before we started the game. There was obvious tension in the air, and he might be the biggest asshole I have ever played in a game of pool. After I asked Marco to get his friend away from the table because he was interrupting me while shooting, my opponent (we’ll call him Man-Purse, because he had one to match his man bun) decided to try and verbally interrupt me while I would take my shots.

              About the third time I shot and he interrupted me, I had to say something. I brought him to the side.

              Calmly, I said, “I know what you’re doing, and I would really appreciate it if you would stop.”

              “What are you talking about, mate?” he responded with a cheeky poopoo-chomping grin.

               “You’re trying to talk to me right before I take every shot.”

               “I don’t know what you’re tal-”
               “Yes you do.”

                He laughed it off in my face.

                “Look. If there is money on the line of a pool game, I treat it like a gentleman’s game. I give you the respect of staying quiet and free of detractions while you shoot. It’s a respect thing. What you’re doing is rude and childish. I’m above that. Are you telling me that you are below that?” as I gestured different levels with my hand.

                “Yes.”

                “Noted.”

The insults began to fly in my direction a lot more after that conversation. I kept my mouth shut for a while, but I noticed something. The more I fumed, the better my shooting was. I was now shooting with a chip on my shoulder. When he called me a pussy, I decided to start playing his game. It worked a little, but I didn’t do it every time he lined up to shoot.

I won the first game, with him leaving a ball on the table.

He racked the balls again like a smart-ass. The only ball with correct placement was the 8-ball.

By this time, a couple of people have told me they really need me to beat this guy to shut him up. A small crowd of 4 or 5 has made their way to the pool table to watch the drama unfold.

I broke and didn’t sink a ball. His shot. He pocketed one ball to decide that he is solids. After a miss, I found a bit of a groove.

We traded blows like a couple of prize-fighting amateur boxers, but it only lasted for a bit. I lined up behind the cue ball. The cue stick became an extension of my body. The rear thickness of the cue was welded into my hand despite my chosen handicap of the short stick. The mid section pressed against my ribs while the front half grazed my chin. My left hand formed a bridge for the tip to rest on softly but firmly. It formed a perfectly straight trajectory that my eyes could not mistake.

Man-Purse continued with his verbal mind games that got worse and worse, which did nothing but fuel my fire. I started to dismantle the Aussie like a childhood Erector Set. Deliberately. Decisively. This was my game. I dropped 3 balls with authority.

 Then the game changed a bit. When he was backed into the ropes, his immature banter gave way to a bit of silence. I missed the 4th. Boom. Man-Purse sinks one. Boom. Another one.

“GABRIEEEEEELLLLLLL,” he antagonized in his light Australian accent just as he did every time he sank a ball during the first game. A third ball falls into a pocket. The clack of it hitting a previously sunk ball echoed with a sourness that made half of the now larger crowd gag. “GABRIEEEEEELLLLLLL,” he beckoned again, laughing like a drunken adolescent. He became overconfident. He missed.

I get to the 8-ball. All I have to do is call my pocket and sink it. I missed. He has 3 balls left. He scratches. Controversy ensues.

The rules here differ from the US. I wont explain all of them, but I’ll cover one. If your opponent fouls, you get 2 shots. If you sink a ball on your first retort from being given 2 shots off of a foul, your second shot doesn’t carry over.

He argued that I only get one shot on the 8 because it’s the last ball. We referred to the manager to squash this disagreement, and I got my second shot (pssst- that means I was right ;) ). I missed again because of the amount of real-estate between the cue ball, the 8-ball, and the uneven table. But, I did put the ball into a good position.

He had 2 balls remaining between him and his first attempt on the black ball. Seconds felt like minutes. He lined up behind the cue with the cockiness of Floyd Mayweather stepping into a battered women’s shelter. But that would not equate to skill. He missed.

I knew that the cue ball would remain on the south end of the table while he shot at his solids, which is exactly why I moved the 8-ball to the north end on my previous shot. I had put it just off center of the corner pocket, but well within my range of confidence if he misjudged his shot speed. He did just that.

Marco gave me a few words of encouragement as Man-purse fired some low blows. “I cunt understand your English mate. You talk funny,” I heard him say.

“Hey, don’t let him get to you”, said Marco. “He’s only trying to piss you off. You’ve got this. Sink it and let’s drink some fucking rum.”

“Nah, homie. I realize that I shoot way better when she has me steaming mad,” I said just loud enough for Man-Purse to hear. I lined up with my non-traditional low profile form after calling my pocket. Man-Purse opened his mouth one last time with an insult that fell on deaf ears (Sorry Callum, I’m not talking about you). I made contact right in the middle of Man-Purse’s scorn. Eight ball, corner pocket. Game. Set. Match.

The guy that really wanted me to win (Justin) was as excited as I was. He grabbed the bucket of Vietnamese Dong (their currency) and dumped it on my head.

I got the money and we got the rum, despite his best efforts and exposing his lack of self-respect. I won.

USA – 1, AUS – 0 (Aussies are still some of my favorite people in the world even though this guy was a crappy ambassador of other backpackers from his country).

Due to his lack of sportsmanship, I chose not to shake his hand unless he apologized for his insults. He never apologized, so I never shook his hand. There was no need for the things he said. We weren’t trying to sell tickets to a fight, and the pot was a whopping $8. He could go fuck himself while we reveled in our cheap rum which turned out to be absolutely delicious. I know it was cheap, but I have never in my life tasted rum with that flavor. Or maybe, it was just a little sweeter because the asshole lost.

Now, on to Hoi An. If you have saved money by not buying things in Vietnam up to this point, and you plan on continuing that trend, just don’t go to Hoi An. This city has some of the most recognized tailors and leatherworkers in the world. And it’s “cheap.” I say “cheap” because it’s relative. The cost is much cheaper than the cost it would be at home, but you’re still looking at dropping over $200 on a suit. But, it’s tailored to fit perfectly and they save your measurements for 5 years!

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You choose the material. You choose the style by pointing to pictures on Pinterest and Google. You tell them what you would like to change. You go back for fittings 3 times. And boom. You have a suit. A perfectly-fitting suit. I didn’t buy one, but Marco got 2 and Callum had some custom shirts made (his blog logo).

Obviously, the more you buy, the cheaper it is and it takes about 3 days.

I decided to buy a leather bag and send it home to a friend. I got the same service Marco and Callum received in the tailor shop. I picked the material and showed them the style I wanted, and a day later, it was done. Both businesses will ship the goods home.

The market is popping with vendors selling everything from veggies, fruits, and meat  to motorcycle parts and shoes. We made our was through the spice vendors. The aromas were intoxicating. So many smells. Is this what dogs go through when they’re running around smelling everything? Because, it’s great.

We found ourselves with the butchers shortly. So many good looking cuts in every direction. But, then we saw a lady cutting up her pieces on the floor. This wouldn’t have stopped us from buying from another vendor, but we didn’t have a kitchen at our disposal in Paddy’s Hostel.

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The fruit and vegetable vendors are whet you would expect. Unfortunately, the smell of the fish being sold on the other side of them hindered the excitement of my sense of smell.

The city has delicious food, and the hostel workers in Hanoi made sure I knew this.  I have had the best Banh Mi (pronounced Bahn Me, and it’s basically a Vietnamese sandwich on a baguette) I have ever had at a place named Banh Mi Queen. It has a 4.6 rating on google. We also visited the competition a few days later. A place called Banh Mi Phuong. It seems to be a bit busier, but that’s due to the fact that it was made famous by Anthony Bourdain. I’m telling you now that Banh Mi Queen is better, and that Anthony Bourdain missed out if he didn’t eat there

At Bale Well, another restaurant, I ate some things of which I forget the name. Pork skewers wrapped in greens, a spring roll, and an egg (small omelette-style) wrapped in a rice paper. And it came with a dipping sauce. Get. In. My. Belly.

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When we left Banh Mi Queen , we headed deeper into town and saw more hostels and your typical coffee shops. Then we saw it. It’s not the first or second time I’ve seen it, but it was the first time that I knew I was going to share it when I did see it. Dog meat.

I know the idea will gross some people out and upset many others, but this is the real world. This is planet Earth. It’s their culture. It’s not everywhere in Vietnam, but it exists in every city. You don’t have to eat it, but you will see it. I know this photo may offend some people, but I have decided to post it anyway. Despite your feelings, this is going to continue to happen. Don’t worry, though. This wasn’t someone’s pet. It was farmed.

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Nightlife here is less exciting than nightlife in Hanoi. I can’t compare it to Hue or Da Nang because I didn’t get into the nightlife there. I did make it out to a bar in Hoi An, though.

The bar was called “Tiger Tiger.” If you listed everything in the world that a human being could ever do throughout their entire lifespan, visiting ‘Tiger Tiger” needs to fall after “falling into slow-moving machinery and catching AIDs.” Don’t go there. The bathroom smells like someone vomited feces into your nose. The drinks are over-priced. Aaaaaand, you have to buy a drink to gain access to their dingy dance floor that smells like a dumpster fire behind an abortion clinic. Just don’t go.

The next night, we went to the older part of town and did some exploring sans bars and nightclubs.

We approached the river, which was overflowed when we arrived. Everything was lit up along the way. Lanterns hung between every building. One of the foot bridges was lit up and covered with tourists. The smell of the food from the street food and restaurants flowed into the street and enlightened the senses. The city was sprawling but not over-crowded.

Small cigar-shaped boats with points on both ends transported eager visitors up and down the river. The businesses across the water were alit with different colored lights while paper boats shaped like opened Chinese take-out boxes with designs cut into them floated by lazily. It was loud and quiet at the same time.

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The night market was great. You can walk around with a beer in your hand. The vendors are a little pushy, but the deals are great. I bought a handmade cognac leather wallet with a built-in money clip. Cost? $4.40. No brainer, right? I bought a few other gifts for friend at home and then we did some more exploring.

The last place we visited that night was next-level incredible. Rehahn Photography. Rehahn is one of the world’s most famous photographers. He works with all of the major brands. From National Geographic to the BBC. This man is a legend. His photos are in the Women’s Museum in Hanoi. They plaster the internet and the world’s most renowned photography magazines… and we were in his studio.

Occasionally, you can catch him at one of his two studios for an autograph. The saleslady at our stop, that was very helpful and informative, told us that he’s very friendly. Do yourself a favor and google this man.

I’ll be adding a small ad to certain areas of the site soon as well as an area to donate. I have considered blatantly asking for donations on social media to fund a visit to Son Doong, but I’ve decided against that. I plan on eventually having t-shirts for sale. That will be my revenue to fund my venture to the cave. I will, however, ask for you to click the ad whenever you see it. I only get a couple of pennies per click, but that might buy me a meal one day.

I’m going to enjoy my meal at Paddy’s now. Btw, the food here is the best I’ve had at any hostel so far. Have a wonderful week. I love all of you.

Current mood... OASiK - BROHKE

Get busy living, or get busy dying.

 

Finally made it to Da Nang. Here's the juice I can remember.

            After being bogged down in Phong Nha for what felt like forever, Marco, Callum, and I decided to weather the storm. I don’t know if you missed it on the news, but at the time, the tail end of the worst typhoon in 16 years was still between us an Hue city. But, are we not men?

            We decided the best course of action was to just pilot our motorcycles directly into it. And we did. The weather got worse and worse as we approached Hue. At first it was light feathery rain. Then, out of nowhere, it was an unrelenting downpour of baby fists. The rain drops were big and they were everywhere. Then we hit the flooded areas as we pulled into the city.

            We got the bikes to the backpacker hostel, and settled down for a beer…or 6.

            My buddy Daniel was in Hue, but he was in another hostel. Far enough away to prevent me from braving the torrential rain again. I promised him I would see him again up north over facebook messenger. He was leaving that evening on a bus Hanoi anyway, so there wasn’t that much time to catch up

            At first glance, the backpacker hostel was great. They had a nice downstairs area with plenty of seating, and a bar with a solid drink menu… and free beer and breakfast (which, we have learned at this point, is offered at a load of hostels across Vietnam).

            The room was another story. It was dingy, tightly packed, no AC, and the fan screamed like it was some sort of dying adolescent animal.

            In the midst of my third beer, a van pulled up right in front of me. The chair in which I was sitting face the street. DANIEL’S HEAD POPS OUT THE WINDOW. “Whats up, bruv”.

            He ditched his $20 bus ticket and stayed with us for a few more nights. Drunken debauchery ensued. Next thing I know, there are 5 of us heading to a bar down the street, and every last one of us is in a romper or a dress. And we were not fucking shy about it. I was the only one not wearing underwear and I made sure everyone I crossed knew it.

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            Drinking songs, shots, rescuing a damaged American flag (another story for another time), a pissed off Frenchman, and games of pool. This hangover was real.

            I was also given the honor of spending the birthday of my beloved Corps in a city deeply entrenched in Marine Corps History. Semper Fi. Ooh Rah. Yut yut. Kill. Blood makes the grass grow, Marines make the blood flow. House to house, street to street, all that moto jazz… but I digress.

            We switched hostels the day Daniel left for Hanoi. WELL WORTH IT! The new place was called New Life Homestay. This is the place where you need to stay in Hue city. Nicest rooms, the bathroom had a damn bath tub (that I used, duh), and free breakfast. Plus the guy that ran the place was nicer than your grandma, and could help you find anything you needed in the city.

            I heavily considered not writing this next part due to self-incrimination, but this is probably the kind of shit you came here to read. I would like to apologize to Susan and my Aunt Earline ahead of time. I know what I did was wrong, but lets hope the guys that wronged my friend will think twice before performing the same stunt on another unsuspecting traveler.

            On our way to an abandoned water park in Hue, Marco needed to have his back rim straightened out, I needed a new headlight, and Callum got ANOTHER flat. This time it was a puncture. A helpful stranger took us to a place where Marco could have his rim repaired, and on the way there is when Callum got his flat. A second seemingly helpful guy decided to show Callum to a different tired repair shop.

            After Marco and I were squared away on our repairs for a very reasonable and fair price, Callum pulled up. The shop changed his tire, chain, and oil. But they were not fair or reasonable. What they charged him was an outrageous price. In the position he was in, he was forced to pay. I’m going to leave the price out of the story, but he was ripped off badly.
            He showed us to the place where he was ripped off. We pulled up and positioned our motorcycles for a quick get away. We were either getting his money, getting something we needed, or getting ugly. I was prepared for all of these situations, but I probably should have let my company know. Oops.

            As we walked up, Callum brought it to our attention that the guy that overcharged him by 500% wasn’t there anymore. That’s when I realized that we weren’t going to get his money back. Now its time to get something we needed.

            While Marco did some talking, which he really has a gift for (Seriously. This man is blessed), I strolled right into the mechanic shop, and well, I started shopping. After seeing guys work on my bike across the country, I knew that it would be a lot cheaper if I had the right tools. I started grabbing a few wrenches and other various items that would help out in changing my out, tightening my chain, etc… Marco immediately took notice. When my hands were full, he said “Got all the tools we need, Gabe”. I replied with a “Yup. Lets roll”, and we proceeded to big league these guys right in their faces. They stood and stared at us in awe.

            They knew exactly what we were doing, and they knew exactly why we were doing it. They had probably assumed that Callum was alone and wouldn’t be back for a fix. I paid Callum for the tools, and now I can perform my own maintenance without a labor fee. We rode off like three Hell’s Angels. We were officially a motorcycle gang.

 

            We didn’t make it to the waterpark until the next day on our way to Da Nang. It’s a cool place to check out in Hue. Not much to do, but its pretty. I recommend it if you ever find yourself in the area. A good spot for photos and even better for a drone.

            Finally, after two and a half weeks of riding our sweet hogs through the countryside and down the coastline of Vietnam, we had made it. It was night, so there wasn’t much to see, but we could tell that there was something different in the air here. The tail end of the journey to Da Nang was wild. We took what is known as the Hai Van pass, but the locals call it “the foggy road”, and we learned why.

My new headlamp was out, so I couldn’t see much, but having a headlight wouldn’t have helped anyway. This was the thickest fog I have ever seen. Marco had to ride just to the left of my tail so I could sort of  use his headlight, but we could really only make out the road markings no less than 10 feet in front of us. It was a slow steady ride, but it gave us an idea for the morning.

            Our first hostel was called Lucky Bee. It was on the outskirts in the northern area of the city. Very quiet and away from the bustling action near the center. And of course, we had beer. I would recommend this hostel to anyone that’s older but still doing the hostel life in their travels. The staff is very nice, and they have a corgi! Her name is Honey, and she’s the sweetest. The only downside is that our blankets felt a tad damp, but I think they just hadn’t been properly dried, because they definitely smelled clean.

            We woke up at 4:30 AM to take a trip back up the Hai Van pass, and oh my lucky stars was it worth it. One of the most beautiful sights I have EVER seen was that sunrise. So, go ahead and add that to your bucket list right now. I’ll wait.

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            There was a restaurant that had a lookout point along the side of the mountain. We stopped and had a beer (yes a beer at 6 am) that I will remember for the rest of my life. Coffee just didn’t seem right in the moment. Some events in life are more appropriately celebrated with a beer than any other beverage. It was glorious.

            The colors of the sunrise pinging off of the water only to be deflected onto the lush green vegetation were hypnotic. My mind emptied for a short time. There was nothing else around. Just something awe inspiring at which to look, and a delicious drink to compliment.

            After we collected ourselves, finished breakfast, and played with kittens, we were back off. We had to find the top.

            The views never got old, and the air grew more and more crisp. The occasional breeze would make contact at just the right times while we cranked our bikes around what felt like a Formula ! inspired road that had no business being on this mountain, other that for racing. Even the curbs were checkered white and red. Am I in heaven? (no seriously. If you know me closely, and know how I look at the world, this is a serious question)

            We doubled back to the hostel, and were greeted with bright blues and whites that weren’t present during the sunrise on the way down the Hai Van pass. It was truly another place all together, Definitely a site to behold.

            After switching hostels, we landed on the other side of Da Nang. The beach has nice sand, clean water, and sometimes the waves curl perfectly. The only downside is the lazy lifeguards. They’re so lazy they don’t let anyone in the water. They don’t want to take the slightest chance in having to pull someone out. You’re only allowed in at the calmest times of the day. Heartbreaking.

             In the distance, you can see a gigantic white statue on top of one of the mountain bases with the mountain right behind it. This is known as the Lady Buddha. It’s the tallest Buddha statue in Vietnam. She stands at over 232 feet tall. We had to visit. But not after a night of partying with some German friends we had made in a previous city. Fynn and Vivian. They’re a great couple. If you’re reading this, safe travels my friends. We love you.

             You don’t really understand how large the Lady Buddha is until she is right in front of you. Nature has a way of doing things on a large scale, but every now and then, mankind flashes its hand. Lady Buddha deserves a standing ovation.

             The grounds surrounding her has ornate temples and a beautiful Pagoda that stands out from a distance, but not quite like the Lady herself. I sent up the drone and got some cinematic shots for those wondering. The video is Imbeded at the bottom.

             When we left, we took a mountain road around the backside of the 236 foot glorious girl, and it made the day, as if it weren’t already perfect. The challenge of getting the bikes up the steep inclines was a bit of a rush. A small rush, but a rush none the less. We were trying to find the launch point of some paragliders we saw dancing in the sky, but we never did. Undaunted, we continued through the trees along the incline in front of us. The view was so mesmerizing that I managed to drive off of the road at one point. I couldn’t have been more lucky. There wasn’t a drop-off at that spot.

              After a little trouble with the my bike carrying Callum and I up such a steep incline, and another traveler’s scooter’s engine flooding, we found what we didn’t know we were looking for. A lookout point at one of the peaks. We had an endless ocean on 2 sides, mountains to the other, and we could see the entire city of Da Nang below us. But I wanted a certain type of picture, and there were too many tourists joining us for me to fulfill my wish.

              When we left, we found the perfect spot. Not far down the road, there was a clearing to the left. I resembled a gravel parking lot, and Da Nang was there to feast our eyes upon. Three of use got naked next to our motorcycles and showed our asses to the camera while giving Da Nang the business end. Lol. (I think this is the first time I’ve type “lol” on my blog)

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              The ride home was smooth. Downhill the entire time. I put my bike into neutral and never even started the engine…. UNTIL WE SAW THE MONKEYS!

              We were on “Monkey Mountain” and I finally found my monkeys. These monkeys aren’t used to people (which is for the best) and they kept their distance. But I finally saw a monkey in the wild. Bucket list checked.

              So far the best bowl of pho I’ve had since I got to Vietnam is in Da Nang. The pho in the south. It is closer to the recipes we are used to in the US.

              Now we’re waiting for the rains to calm down so we can make our way to Hoi An.

              Oh yeah, and I’m under budget for the month. By $400. That means I will have made $400 by the end of this month just by being here. And, that includes a plane ticket. To where? Thailand. For Christmas. I’m spending Christmas in Thailand with friends I have made along my way around Vietnam. Like I said, is this heaven?

3 days turned into much much more.

          So much for a 3 day motorcycle ride to Da Nang. Sometimes you just ride the wave that life puts behind you.

           I left Hanoi and headed straight to Ninh Binh to meet up with some friends (Callum, Claudi and BiBi). The drive was nothing special. It took roughly 2 hours. I arrived at a homestay on a lake and Callum greeted me.

          The homestay was on a lake of some of the clearest water I have ever seen. A canal carried tourists through the winding lake. Without proper knowledge, one could easily mistake the lake for a river. Two hammocks hung between trees next to the "lazy river". Breakfast was included in the cost of staying there. Less than $7 a night. 

          That evening, Claudia and Bibi showed up and we walked them to their homestay which was located directly behind ours. 

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          The next day, we hopped on the motorcycles and headed to a tourist attraction which became one of the most incredible things I have ever seen or done in my life. Hang Mue. You pay $4.40 at the bottom of a mountain and take the stairs up. There was a couple doing the most dangerous wedding photoshoot conceivable, but damn it looked good. Obviously the views got better as we went higher, but I was simply astounded by how beautiful the view was at the top. You could see countless miles in every direction. Lakes closed in on two sides, a small village on one side, and the ridge of the mountain stretched out into the fourth side. The peak was decorated with a 100 foot concrete dragon, a pillar with some writing etched into it, and a pagoda. 

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          During the walk down, we decided to take a detour and check out another staircase that lead to a slightly lower separate peak with equally breathtaking views. Thats when I stripped all of my clothes off and took a full nude photo from behind (The girls did the same but they only went topless...psh) :D.

          We checked out some small caves after our descent, but the highlight was definitely the peak of the mountain. We headed back to get some food and waited for Marco, Pra, and Thomas.

          The Trang An boat tour was boatload of eye candy. We all piled up into 2 small boats and were guided by ladies through some epic scenery and water that looked like glass. Limestone mountains jutting out of the water on both sides. A handful of caves only added more wonder to the journey. Green plants growing straight out of the rocks. My jaw remained in my lap for most of the time I was on the boat. 

          We made a couple of stops to give the ladies a well deserved rest from rowing us around and to explore some temples. We were made very aware that this is one of the places where King Kong was filmed. 

          Marco, Collum and I left a day after everyone else. We took the Ho Chi Minh trail down and ended up in a little town called Hoang Mai. This is a night that we will remember for the rest of our lives. 

          After booking a room for the three of us, I went downstairs to ask the hotel manager for a bottle of whiskey. He said it would cost me D100,000.00 ($4.40). I paid him. 5 minutes later, he returned with a bottle of vodka. I did not complain. It's only $4. We polished that bottle off with a quickness (it was watered down) and decided we would go find the next bottle on our own (we suspected we were gouged by the hotel manager and damn we were right). 

          Callum stayed in the room to work on his blog while Marco and I went to find some whiskey. We didnt walk 50 feet before seeing a busy restaurant across the street. 

          This is where things got wild.

          We walked in to see 2 hot pots surrounded by 10 guys each. One look and Marco and I and these guys went nuts. We had just made 20 best friends. They all wanted selfies and arm wrestling matches. 

          After beating everyone they threw at us in arm wrestling, they called in a ringer. This guy was about my size but he was strong as an ox. I couldn't beat him, but Marco did. Nobody bothered asking Callum to arm wrestle for obvious reasons. They wouldn't have stood a chance. 

          After they fed us, paid for our vodka (which turned out to be way cheaper that $4.40... $1.75 to be exact), and gave us some of their whiskey, they took us to THE CRAZIEST KARAOKE BAR I HAVE EVER SEEN! I had to ride on a scooter with 3 of them to get there but it was worth it. Callum rode on another scooter and Marco walked. We only went about 100 feet. You get your own karaoke room. The walls were designed in such a way that is impossible to describe. Imagine Alice in Wonderland meets Skrillex.

          The guys paid for everything. The karaoke and all of the beer. Then a realization came upon us. All of them were gay and they wanted some westerners (Crying laughing imoji).

          We made it back to the hotel safely, and checked out pictures that we forgot about the next morning before we hit the road for Phung Nha.

          The trip to Phung Nha took way longer than we expected. Five hours turned into 8 due to Collum's scooter (dubbed the Tampon Rocket) getting 2 flats. But, we picked up a couple of fellow backpackers from Germany along the way and made it there safely just after dark. 

          I called it an early night after dinner. Marco and Callum, however, decided to celebrate the journey with a couple of beers. Callum got back to the room at around 2 AM and Marco woke up on a couch at the bar hostel down the street AT 6 AM!

          The next day, all of us (Marco, Callum, Claudia, Bibi, and I) went to the botanical gardens. We walked through the garden for nearly 2 hours. We saw monkeys, peacocks, and waterfalls. Marco and I took a dip in one of the lagoons at the base of the smallest waterfall, which helped out Marco's hangover tremendously, and we all climbed to the top of the largest fall and saw yet another of one of the most incredible views I've ever seen. The entry to the park was about $2 and it was one of the best $2 I've ever spent.

          The girls went to Hue city this morning, and we'll be heading there tomorrow. It should be about a 4 hour drive unless we take the scenic route.

          Since I have been here, I have stopped biting my nails, had tears in my eyes at random points in time out of shear happiness, and no depressing thoughts. This is living. 

          

          

Prepping the Shaman

          Yesterday was a prep day for The Shaman. I took him down to the highest rated motorcycle mechanic in the area and had a full tune up. Oil change, new brakes, and a new tire. That ran me $19.83. Not bad considering its my primary source of transportation. I also invested in a full sized helmet. 

          Tomorrow morning, Sunday, I start my 3 day, 472 mile, journey to Da Nang. I have a few stops planned along the way that should be great for memories and photo ops. If I go straight through, it is over 14 hours of riding. And thats just absurd. Da Nang might be home for a while. I'll definitely be traveling a lot more, but the beaches there look amazing, and I've been told the food is better in the south. 

          This is stepping out of my comfort zone. I don't know anyone in the stops along the way. Isn't that the point? I do have a Londoner to meet up with in Da Nang, though. His name is Daniel, and he's the bee's knees. A tough SOB that I get along with when we drink. 

          This past week, he informed me that he scored us some tickets to the X Factor (TV show) in Thailand in November. A friend of his is performing. Aaaaaaaaand I may have booked a villa on a beach in Thailand for Christmas with a few other friends I have made along the way. 

          Hanoi. This city is chaotic. Beautiful, but chaotic. I love it, but I cannot wait to waive goodbye. Ill obviously be taking trips back to pick up friends and to finish my tattoo (8^o), but its going to be wonderful to finally visit the rest of this country (besides Ha Long).

          Tomorrow, I will begin to put more milage on a motorcycle in 3 days than I have collectively throughout the rest of my life. Wish me luck.

From here forward...

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     I'm only going to fill you in on one story about what I've done since I've been here. Not because I'm lazy, but because the first time I wrote everything out about my past month in Vietnam, it didn't save. Squarespace somehow malfunctioned and didn't save what I had typed.

   So here is the story of the craziest thing I have ever done. 

     I decided that it would be a great idea to ride a motorcycle from Hanoi to Ha Long Bay. This was a terrible idea. My GPS took my on a route where motorcycles are not allowed, so I was forced into finding a route around. I managed to do this without much effort, but it was arguably one of the most dangerous things I have ever done. The route to Ha Long is supposed to take about 3 hours by buss. so, 3.5 - 4 hours by motorcycle. 

     The first hiccup of my journey was when my rear tire blew out doing 70 K/hr. I would be lying if I told you I didn't panic. After realizing why my rear end was sliding around underneath me, I managed to decelerate and get the bike off to the side of the road. As my luck would have it, right in front of a mechanic shop. He had a new tube in the tire in 30 minutes and I was on the road again. 

     About a minute later, I was swerving out of the way of someone that decided to drive up the wrong side of the road in my lane. I swear you could not have fit a piece of paper between our bikes, but we both managed without harm. 

     I finally got to Ha Long after several more sphincter tightening incidents, but hey, I'm still here safely, and it was pretty exciting. 

     The ride back was just as intense. I got off of the beaten path and rode through some roads separating farmlands and small living areas. The locals couldn't help but stare at me, and I couldn't blame them. I imagine the reason being that they don't see to many westerners in their area, but I want to imagine its because I'm so damn good looking. 

Thats all I'm going to type today, but hopefully I'll feel like filling everyone in on the earlier stories later. This journey has been absolutely incredible.