Shelve & Valet

SHELVES & VALETS

Room Furnitures Design

Shelve & Valet

Room Furnitures design

Peristaltic Pump

Peristaltic Pump

Conception & 3D Print

Peristaltic Pump

Conception

The peristaltic Pump is largely used in food and medical industry for its two main advantages.

It’s able to deliver a very accurate quantity of liquid (even viscous) and the transfert is done without any contact between the mechanical parts and the liquid. 

The depression is done by pressure points on the tube containing the liquid. 

Design

The pump was designed to irrigate a indoor garden and to be added to the Automatic Drink Dispenser.

It is powered by a Nema 17 (StepMotor), as these are widly used by makers & 3D Printer Enthusiats.

The pump has an industrial look and it’s been printed in PLA.  It’s taking approximately 24 Hours to print all parts to build one full Peristaltic pump.  

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Parts to assemble
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Printing hours / Pump
0
ml/minutes

working principle

A peristaltic pump, is a type of positive displacement pump used for pumping a variety of fluids. The fluid is contained in a flexible tube fitted inside a circular pump casing [The body].

The rotor has a number of “wipers” or “rollers” attached to its external circumference, which compress the flexible tube as they rotate by.

The part of the tube under compression is closed, forcing the fluid to move through the tube. Additionally, as the tube opens to its natural state after the rollers pass, more fluid is drawn into the tube.”

3D Rendering

Power & Control

Initially powered by a 12VDC with buildt in Gearbox, the design has quickly moved toward a Nema 17 type (0.59Nm).  The precision of the stepper combined to the peristaltic pump increase the accuracy of the whole device.

Using a Stepper forced the system to be properly dimmentioned. The Stepper torque depend on few parameters:

  • The driver used
  • VRef Adjustment (on the driver)
  • The power supply voltage
  • The Speed Requested
  • The acceleration

I am using the highest step resolution achievable  with an A4988 by setting all MS pin “High” (See Electrical diagram below). The resulting resolution is:

1 step = 1.8°/16 = 0.1125° (3200 Steps for one rotor full revolution)

This resolution has two main advantages: A better acceleration to achieve the expected torque at certain speed and noise reduction while the engine is working (as the frequency reach the limit of the range human ears can hear).

To Simplify the wiring, I advise you to use an A4988 extention Board. It is existing in different versions: With One Driver connection slot or Four Driver connection slots.

  • Power Supply - 12VDC to 35VDC

    Here the power supply used is 19.3V (Recovered from an old laptop)

  • Arduino Uno x1

    Can be replaced with an Arduino Nano

  • Stepdown - LM2596 x1

    DC/DC Voltage Converter - Input 19.3VDC output set at 9VDC

  • Stepper Driver - A4988 x1

    Can be replaced by a DRV8825 if a higher torque is required.

  • Potentiometer - 2000 Ohm

    Used to modulate the speed of the Stepper

  • Stepper Motor - NEMA 17 (0.59 Nm)

Code

// Creative Commons - www.ben-amar.com - 2021
// This Code was written for Ben-Amar.com under CC license: BY-NC-SA  (Attribution Mandatory, NonCommercial & ShareAlike)
// You must you credit "Ben-Amar.com" to remix, adapt, and build upon your work non-commercially. You must license your new creations under the identical terms.


//=======================
//======== CONTANTS ====
//=======================

const int stepPin = 4;            // stepPin for Stepper Driver
const int dirPin = 5;             // Direction pin for Stepper Driver
const int enPin = 3;              // Enable pin for Stepper Driver (Low = enable)
const int rPin = A0;              // Potentiometer Analog Reading Pin

//=======================
//======== VARIABLES ====
//=======================

int vit;                  // Declare Variable "vit" as integer for potentiometer raw value reading
int vMap = 0;             // Declare Variable mapped speed after convertion to match with expected values
int microSec = 500;       // Declare Variable for Step duration

void setup() {

  pinMode(stepPin, OUTPUT);    //  defines stepPin as Output
  pinMode(dirPin, OUTPUT);     //  defines dirPin as Output
  pinMode(enPin, OUTPUT);      //  defines enPin as Output
  pinMode(rPin , INPUT);       //  defines rPin as Input for analog reading

}

///=======================
//========= MAIN LOOP ====
//========================

void loop() {

  digitalWrite (enPin, LOW);              // Enable the Driver and the step motor (Holding Torque is ON if Enable)
  digitalWrite(dirPin, HIGH);             // Give the driver the expected direction
  for (int j = 0; j < 100; j++) {         // Stepper rotation Main for Loop
    vit = analogRead (A0);                // Reading the Potentiometer value
    vMap = map(vit, 0, 1023, 30, 250);    // Convert the value of the potentiometer in the range of speed expected for the engine
    for (int i = 0; i < 10000; i++) {     // Stepper Motion SubLoop (With acceleration)
      digitalWrite(stepPin, HIGH);        // Set the Value of stepPin at 1
      delayMicroseconds(microSec);        // Delay of define microSec
      digitalWrite(stepPin, LOW);         // Set the Value of stepPin at 0
      delayMicroseconds(microSec);        // Delay of define microSec
      if (microSec > vMap) {              // SPEED MODULATION LOOP - Speed Comparison (microSec will Move toward vMap value in this loop)
        microSec --;                      // SPEED MODULATION LOOP - If (microSec > vMap) microstep will decrement of "1"
      }                                   // SPEED MODULATION LOOP - This will occur at each iteration of the sub loop until statement is false
      else if (microSec < vMap) {         // SPEED MODULATION LOOP - If (microSec < vMap) microstep will increment of "1"
        microSec ++;                      // SPEED MODULATION LOOP - This will occur at each iteration of the sub loop until statement is false
      }                                   // SPEED MODULATION LOOP - If Both statement are false, nothing happens, speed is not modulated
    }                                     // End of Stepper Rotation Sub Loop
  }                                       // End of Stepper Rotation Main Loop
}                    

Torque Calculation

PP - Round R - 01 FINAL v1

As the lever is 4.5cm long the total torque at the extremity of the 3 arms is:

100 Ncm / 4.5 cm = 22.2 N

The Total and Maximum torque available at the extremity of the 3 arms is 22.2 N.

The torque can overcome a rolling resistance of 2.3 kg (22.2/9.8) in this configuration.

If required, it is be possible to play on several factor to reduce the rolling resistance, such as:

  • Shorten the Arms (Reduce the lever)
  • Modify the Diameter / Form of the Rollers
  • Changing the thickness of the silicone tube
  • Increasing the Reduction Ratio of the gears

Here I have used Silicone tube 8mm Outer Diameter and 6mm Inner Diameter.

The Nema 17 used here is rated 0.59Nm, which means, its holding torque is 59Ncm.

The holding torque normally is the highest torque the stepper can produce. At 300 RPM should be around 80% of the Rated Torque. For this project I have consider 45Ncm. 

Stepper Motor torque is tenflod by a gear box, the ratio is 0.41 as the driving gear is the smallest. 

The Torque available on the biggest gear would then be:

(45Ncm/0.41) = 109 Ncm

Due to the friction, I have considered 100 Ncm Max.

References

Peristaltic Pump
  • Working Principle on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peristaltic_pump
Stepper Nema 17 & Stepper Driver
  • Stepper on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stepper_motor
  • Stepper Motor Basics: https://www.controleng.com/articles/stepper-motor-torque-basics/
  • Stepper Motor Basics: https://www.geckodrive.com/support/step-motor-basics.html
  • Torque Curve Explaination: https://www.orientalmotor.com/stepper-motors/technology/speed-torque-curves-for-stepper-motors.html
  • Torque Curve Explaination: https://www.linearmotiontips.com/stepper-motor-torque-speed-characteristics-explained/
  • Tutorial for Stepper & A4988: https://howtomechatronics.com/tutorials/arduino/how-to-control-stepper-motor-with-a4988-driver-and-arduino/
  • Driver DM8880: https://www.pololu.com/product/2133
  • Driver A4988: https://www.pololu.com/product/1182
  • Vref Adjustment: https://forum.arduino.cc/t/update-current-adjustment-for-motor-drivers-drv8825-a4988/400151
  • Vref Adjustment A4988: https://ardufocus.com/howto/a4988-motor-current-tuning/
  • Vref Adjustment A4988: https://e3d-online.dozuki.com/Guide/VREF+adjustment+A4988/92
Lever & Torque Calculation
  • https://www.engineeringtoolbox.com/levers-d_1304.html
  • http://www.comfsm.fm/~dleeling/physics/torque.html
Human Ear Frequency Range:
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hearing_range

Just a test

Just a test

Recipe by EliasCourse: Dessert

Servings

6

servings

Prep time

4

hours 

20

minutes

Cooking time

6

hours 

40

minutes

Calories

99999999

kcal

Ingredients

  • Sesame

  • Honey

  • sugar

  • Oil

Directions

  • acheter 30 kg de sesame
  • trier les 30 kg
  • Ajouter du sucre
  • Mélanger
  • Ajouter de l’huile
  • Faire frire
  • Tremper dans le miel
  • Laisser refroidir
  • Manger

Recipe Video

Notes

  • This is just a demo!
    Les photos doivent être jolies et faire envie.

Automated Blind

Automated Blind

CAD - 3D Print - C++ - Arduino

Automated Blind

Specification

Automating a standard venitian blind (Manual – 3 lift cords) with customized system based on a microcontroler and a step Motor.
 

Venitian blinds working principle is extremely simple. A set of cords allow you to lift/put down the blind and a rotative rod control the slats orientation.

This project is meant to automate only the lifting system, it must hold the curtain even if it is not powered and the blind must be equaly lifeted on both ends for aesthetic reasons.

Design

Minimalistic. A simple box where the lift cords enter from the top to be rolled around a shaft with two buttons to control the device.

The system is entirely 3D printed, except for the central axis, bearings, screw and nuts. The electronic area is physicaly separated from the mecanical area.
 

The device is pulling all lift cords through a comb and winding them around a compartmentalized roll, each cord being rolled on its own section to avoid overlaying.

CAD

3D Printed

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Description

Working Principle

 
Inked2021-07-27_LI

The lifting cords are pulled and individually winded in their “compartment” around the main roll.

The system is based on a wormgear reducer, which has two main advantage:

  1. Hold the blind position even when the system is not powered, due to its non-backdrivability. The movement can only be transfered from the wormgear to the spur gear
  2. Greatly increase torque at the price of a greatly reduced speed. The ratio is 30:1 in this configuration.

The compartimentalization of the main roll combined with the comb shaped feeder will ensure the ropes would not overlap each other while being winded. Overlaping create disbalance in the lenght of each cord rolled to lift the blind and result in an asymetric raise of each end of the curtain. After testing each solution independantly, the combination appeared to give perfect result.

The comb shaped feeder also prevent any accident by blocking the access to the mechanism.

The mechanism is separated from the command & power supply by a wall to avoid hazards.

2021-07-27 (1)
 

Worm Gear Reducer

As seen previously using a wormgear reducer had multiple advantages. Nontheless, the two main issues coming with the use of this solution are:

  1. The speed is drastically reduced on the output, increasing the time required to lift the blind
  2. High friction between the gear causing waste of energy, and potential damage or premature wear of the gears’ teeth

Despite the reduction ratio, the blind take less than a minute to be lifted or put down, which is totally acceptable for its purpose. In order to reduce the frictions, the gears are lubricated with PTFE Lubricant Spray and after few month of use the system is still working flawlessly. The wormgear has been 3D printed horizontally to ensure the maximum radial resilience.

Code

// Creative Commons - www.ben-amar.com - 2021
// This Code was written for Ben-Amar.com under CC license: BY-NC-SA  (Attribution Mandatory, NonCommercial & ShareAlike)
// You must you credit "Ben-Amar.com" to remix, adapt, and build upon your work non-commercially. You must license your new creations under the identical terms.

//==============================================
//=============================== CONTANTES ====
//==============================================

const int stepPin = 4;            // Step Pin A4988 Driver for Stepper Motor
const int dirPin = 7;             // Dir Pin A4988 Driver for Stepper Motor
const int enPin = 8;              // Enable pin for Stepper (Low = enable)
const int suPin = 5;              // Button to open
const int sdPin = 2;              // Button to close
const int esu = 6;                // End Switch Up
const int esd = 3;                // End Switch Down

//==============================================
//=============================== VARIABLES ====
//==============================================

boolean suState;                  // su = Switch UP: Button to lift the blind (Start & Stop on same button)
boolean sdState;                  // sd = Switch DOWN: Button to Put down the blind (Start & Stop on same button)
boolean esuState;                 // Endswitch Up: Upper Endswitch. The lifting stop if trigger
boolean esdState;                 // Endswitch Down: Upper Endswitch. The lifting stop if trigger
int microSec = 250;               // microsec is used to control the speed of step; initially set à 250

//==============================================
//=============================== VOID SETUP ===
//==============================================

void setup() {

  // ---------------- defines pinMode -------------------

  pinMode(stepPin, OUTPUT);
  pinMode(dirPin, OUTPUT);
  pinMode(enPin, OUTPUT);
  pinMode(sdPin, INPUT_PULLUP);
  pinMode(suPin, INPUT_PULLUP);
  pinMode(esd, INPUT_PULLUP);
  pinMode(esu, INPUT_PULLUP);

  // ---------------- Initiate Serial -------------------

  Serial.begin(9600);
}

//==============================================
//=============================== VOID LOOP ====
//==============================================

void loop() {

  Serial.println("Start Loop");
  suState = digitalRead(suPin);         // Variable to read value of puch button to lift blind (Puched or not)
  sdState = digitalRead(sdPin);         // Variable to read value of puch button to put down blind (Puched or not)
  esuState = digitalRead(esu);          // Variable to read value of End Switch up (Triggered or not)
  esdState = digitalRead(esd);          // Variable to read value of End Switch down (Triggered or not)

  if ((sdState == LOW) && (esdState == HIGH)) {         // If with 2 statement to put down the blind
    delay (250);                                        // wait
    digitalWrite(enPin, LOW);                          // Enable stepper Motor
    Serial.println("Go Down");                          // display text on S. Monitor
    digitalWrite(dirPin, LOW);                          // Choose direction for stepper motor
    do {                                                // START function do...While C++
      esdState = digitalRead(esd);                     // Read statu of end switch Down (to stop if reach limit)
      sdState = digitalRead(sdPin);                    // Read statu of button to put Down (to stop if pressed again)
      digitalWrite(stepPin, HIGH);                      // Start step
      delayMicroseconds(microSec);                      // Step Duration
      digitalWrite(stepPin, LOW);                       // End the step
      delayMicroseconds(microSec);                      // Break duration
      if (microSec > 15) {                              // (Acceleration) If microSec Higher that targeted value: statement true
        microSec --;                                    // decrement the microSec value of 1
      }                                                 // end of the acceleration IF function
    } while ((sdState == HIGH) && (esdState == HIGH));  // END function do...While C++
    digitalWrite(enPin, HIGH);                         // Disable Stepper to reduce Consumption (NO MORE TORQUE)
    delay (250);                                        // wait
  }
  microSec = 250;                                       // Reset microSec to its default value
  
  if ((suState == LOW) && (esuState == HIGH)) {         // If with 2 statement to lift the blind
    delay (250);                                        // Wait
    digitalWrite(enPin, LOW);                          // Enable the stepper
    Serial.println("Go up");                            // Display text on S. Monitor
    digitalWrite(dirPin, HIGH);                         // Choose Motor Direction
    do {                                                // START function do...While C++
      esuState = digitalRead(esu);                      // Read statu of end switch up (to stop if reach limit)
      suState = digitalRead(suPin);                     // Read statu of button to lift (to stop if pressed again)
      digitalWrite(stepPin, HIGH);                      // Start step
      delayMicroseconds(microSec);                      // Step Duration
      digitalWrite(stepPin, LOW);                       // End Step
      delayMicroseconds(microSec);                      // Break Duration
      if (microSec > 15) {                              // (Acceleration) If microSec Higher that targeted value: statement true
        microSec --;                                    // decrement the microSec value of 1
      }                                                 // end of the acceleration IF function
    } while ((suState == HIGH) && (esuState == HIGH));  // END function do...While C++
    digitalWrite(enPin, HIGH);                         // Disable Stepper to reduce Consumption (NO MORE TORQUE)
    delay (250);                                        // Wait
  }
  microSec = 250;                                       // Reset microSec to its default value
} 

BLOCK WEBSITES

Fighting your web browsing parasite habits

Methode 1: Download an Add-on / Extension to your browser

Leechblock is totally free and does an excellent job. It’s available on Firefox, google chrome and Microsoft Edge.

Methode 2: Modify the File “Host”
  1. Open Windows Explorer (Press Windows key + “E”) then browse to C:\Windows\System32\drivers\etc
  2. Search for the file named “hosts“and double clic on it
  3. Select Open with Notepad

Lines starting with a hashtag are just lines of comments, to block a website you need to place your cursor at the end of comments lines write and add a line as follow:

0.0.0.0 www.websitetoblock.com #Website blocked

See example below:

A space is requied between the 0.0.0.0 and the website address.

Ignore other existing entry, they are probably used by some of your softwares.

Websites added to the list will then be sourced locally and wont be found. You can add as much websites as you want.

QR CODES

MAKE YOUR OWN.

There are many application & websites to create QR-Codes (Quick Response Codes). Many will require payment or limit the customisation possible.

Some QR Code or QR code Generator can represent a Threat, and for instance, you should not scan any QR Code if you don’t know its origin.

Nonetheless, if you need to create your own use a secure & reliable website. We recommande : https://www.qrcode-monkey.com/

Ender 3 – Rotating Spool Holder

Improved Spool Holder

Smooth rotation with bearing for Ender 3 & Ender 3 Pro

Improved Spool Holder

Creality Ender 3 & 3 Pro - Smooth Plastic spool rotation with Bearing

Specifications

Many printers are equipied with a simple cylinder as filament spool holder. The Creality Ender 3 and the Ender 3 Pro obey to this rules.

While the Machine is printing, the extrusion motor is pulling the filament from the spool and the friction between the spool and the cylinder may mechanical issue, low print quality or print failure.

To cancel the resistance on the pivot connection between the Spool and the printer, the easiest way was to simply add bearings.

 

Design

The design was constrained by the original Ender 3 mount. In order to avoid waste it was meant to be improved, but fully reused.

Reusing the same mount system would make the spool holder easy to install on its original mounting plate and ensure reliable position for the spool.

The entire system will be 3D printed, excepted: the Shaft reinforcment rod, Bearings and the resued cylinder.

ORIGINAL SPOOL HOLDER - SQUEAKING

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Hours of 3D Print
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3D Printed Parts
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Frictions since installed

FROM CONCEPT TO 3D OBJECT

GScan - Copie 2020-10-30 - Copie

GALLERY

A 5mm aluminium rod has been inserted in the shaft as the plastic would probably not hold the spool very long before to break. The support on which the spool holder is mounted is not from me and can be found on thingiverse, here:

https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:3757724

NON 3D PRINTED PARTS

3D Printed Parts (.Stl)

Drawings and Parts can be downloaded here:

Garden Irrigation System

Auto-Watering System

Automatic Garden Irrigation

Garden Watering System

Automated Garden Irrigation

Specifications

The rainfall in mm per year may be equal to Zero in this region of the world, so the system is connected to the water supply network.

The watering will is initiated when the system is powered and depending on the mode selected will repeat once or twice (every 12 or 24h) a day for a certain time.

Changing the watering mode should not affect the watering time which must remain the same (Based on the time the system was powered on)

Design

A 12V electrovalve is used and connected directely to the tap. The hose pass throught the plants which are watered from the drip heads along the line.

To power the device, we are using is an old Laptop Power Supply 19.3 V DC output and some stepdown to get the expected Power Input.

A simple push button will allow you to switch between the two mode “Summer” and “Winter” defined beforehand in the code.

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Hours of conception
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Hours of Coding
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Years of Automated Watering
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Breakdown
  • 2 x LM 2596 Board - StepDown

    The LM2596 is a commonly used popular step-down switching regulator IC. The adjustable version can take in input voltage from 4.5V to 40V (Here 19.3V from an old Laptop Power Supply) and convert it to variable voltage sourcing upto of 3A of continues current.

  • 1 x Arduino Nano

    Open-source electronic prototyping platform enabling users to create interactive electronic objects.

  • 1 x Relay

    A relay simply is an electrically operated switch.

  • 1 x Rectifier Diode L4007

    Will absorbe Parasites generated by the movement of the solenoïd when it's turning On / Off.

  • 2 x Resistor 220 Ohm + LED

    To indicate the Mode selected

  • 1 x 12V DC Electrovalve

    Normally Closed type. Will let water run under 12V DC

About the Rectifier Diode

The rectifier diode is mandatory here. If missing, some parasites may disturb the functionment of the entire system each time the solenoïd turn on/off. The Rectifier Diode must be as close as possible from the solenoïd itself.

Before to find this solution, I had tried many options to limit the parasites. Using 2 No. of LM 2596 is one of my tentative to limit the problems. But it was not enough.

It’s possible to use only one LM2596 with 12V Output since both the Arduino and the Valve work with that  voltage and wouldn’t reach a consumption  of 3 Ampers.

// Creative Commons - www.ben-amar.com - 2021
// This Code was written for Ben-Amar.com under CC license: BY-NC-SA  (Attribution Mandatory, NonCommercial & ShareAlike)
// You must you credit "Ben-Amar.com" to remix, adapt, and build upon your work non-commercially. You must license your new creations under the identical terms.

//===========================================
//=========== VARIABLES DECLARATION =========
//===========================================

const byte ledhiv = 7;                // Indication LED "Winter"
const byte ledete = 8;                // Indication LED "Summer"
const byte interruptPin = 3;          // Pin for Push Button to switch Summer to Winter
const byte relay1 = 12;               // Relay to operat the Electric Transformer (230V)
volatile long jour = 86400000;        // Millis in 24h
unsigned long debut = 0;              // Variable to start counting a 24h or 12h sequence
unsigned long gHiv = 120000;           // Time to irrigate during winter (120s)
unsigned long gEte = 160000;           // Time to irrigate during winter (160s)
volatile int season = 0;              // Variable for season in ISR
int seasonapplied = season;           // Variable for season in void Loop (Is it necessary? Does Volatile In works in "Switch" and "If"?)
int trigger = 0;                      // Button trigger: variable used to detect a change of season and turn the adequat ledPin High
volatile long debounce = 0;           // To insure NO button bouncing
volatile long test = 0;
volatile long testint = 0;

//===========================================
//===================== SETUP ===============
//===========================================



void setup() {
  Serial.begin(9600);                                                               // Start Serial Monitor to follow step on Screen (Problem solving)
  Serial.println("--- Start Serial Monitor ---");                                   // Serial Monitor Information
  pinMode(ledhiv, OUTPUT);                                                          // Set ledhiv pin as Output
  pinMode(ledete, OUTPUT);                                                          // Set ledete pin as Output
  pinMode(relay1, OUTPUT);                                                          // Set relay1 pin as Output
  pinMode(interruptPin, INPUT_PULLUP);                                              // Set button pin as Interrupt
  Serial.println("...");                                                            // Serial Monitor Information
  Serial.println("--- PinMode Set");                                                // Serial Monitor Information
  attachInterrupt(digitalPinToInterrupt(interruptPin), timetogive, FALLING);        // Interrupt mode Definition (Pin, ISR loop to execute, Mode)
  Serial.println("--- Interrupt Set");                                              // Serial Monitor Information
  digitalWrite (ledhiv, HIGH);
  digitalWrite (relay1, LOW);                                                       // Set relay1 pin LOW => Power transformer ON (the Relay trigger "LOW")
  Serial.println("--- Setup Watering initiated");                                   // Serial Monitor Information
  delay (120000);                                                                    // Delay 120 seconds to water as Initialisation mode
  digitalWrite (relay1, HIGH);                                                      // Set relay1 pin LOW => Watering OFF (the Relay trigger "LOW")
  digitalWrite (ledhiv, LOW);
  Serial.println("--- Setup Watering Finished: 30 seconds");                        // Serial Monitor Information
  season = 0;                                                                       // Set season variable as Winter (0) - if Value = 1: Summer
  Serial.print("Season : ");
  Serial.println(season);
}

//===========================================
//======================== LOOP =============
//===========================================


void loop() {
  seasonapplied = season;                                                           // copy the ISR variable value to the Variable used in the loop
  if (seasonapplied == 0) {                                                         // Main IF : Season checking
    if ((millis() - debut >= (jour - gHiv)) && (digitalRead(relay1) == HIGH)) {     // Compare "jour" Value - time to give in winter with the actual amount of millis (interval)
      digitalWrite (relay1, LOW);                                                   // Set relay1 pin LOW => Power transformer ON (the Relay trigger "LOW")
      Serial.print(" Season = ");                                                   // Serial Monitor Information
      Serial.print(seasonapplied);                                                  // Serial Monitor Information
      Serial.print(" --- Hiver watering ON: ");                                     // Serial Monitor Information
      Serial.print(" millis = ");                                                   // Serial Monitor Information
      Serial.println(millis());                                                     // Serial Monitor Information
      digitalWrite (ledhiv, HIGH);                                                  // Turn On the LED indicating the WINTER mode is giving water
    }

    else if ((millis() - debut >= jour) && (digitalRead(relay1) == LOW)) {            // Compare "jour" Value with the actual amount of millis (jour is the laps of time during watering (here 23h:59m:30s)
      digitalWrite (relay1, HIGH);                                                    // Set relay1 pin HIGH => Watering OFF (the Relay trigger "LOW")
      debut = millis();                                                               // Update of the value debut to check the following interval starting from this instant!
      Serial.print(" Season = ");                                                     // Serial Monitor Information
      Serial.print(seasonapplied);                                                    // Serial Monitor Information
      Serial.print(" --- Hiver watering OFF: ");                                      // Serial Monitor Information
      Serial.print(" millis = ");                                                     // Serial Monitor Information
      Serial.println(millis());                                                       // Serial Monitor Information
      digitalWrite (ledhiv, LOW);                                                     // Turn OHH the LED indicating the WINTER mode
      season = 0;
    }
  }
  if (seasonapplied == 1) {                                                             // Main IF : Season checking
    if ((millis() - debut >= ((jour / 2) - gEte)) && (digitalRead(relay1) == HIGH)) {   // Compare "jour" Value - time to give in summer with the actual amount of millis (interval)
      digitalWrite (relay1, LOW);                                                       // Set relay1 pin LOW => Power transformer ON (the Relay trigger "LOW")
      Serial.print(" Season = ");                                                       // Serial Monitor Information
      Serial.print(seasonapplied);                                                      // Serial Monitor Information
      Serial.print(" --- Summer watering ON: ");                                        // Serial Monitor Information
      Serial.print(" millis = ");                                                       // Serial Monitor Information
      Serial.println(millis());                                                         // Serial Monitor Information
      digitalWrite (ledete, HIGH);                                                      // Turn On the LED indicating the SUMMER mode
    }
    else if ((millis() - debut >= (jour / 2)) && (digitalRead(relay1) == LOW)) {          // Compare "jour" Value with the actual amount of millis (jour is the laps of time during watering (here 11h:59m:00s)
      digitalWrite (relay1, HIGH);                                                        // Set relay1 pin HIGH => Watering OFF (the Relay trigger "LOW")
      debut = millis();                                                                   // Update of the value debut to check the following interval starting from this instant!
      Serial.print(" Season = ");                                                         // Serial Monitor Information
      Serial.print(seasonapplied);                                                        // Serial Monitor Information
      Serial.print(" --- Summer watering OFF: ");                                         // Serial Monitor Information
      Serial.print(" millis = ");                                                         // Serial Monitor Information
      Serial.println(millis());                                                           // Serial Monitor Information
      digitalWrite (ledete, LOW);                                                         // Turn OFF the LED indicating the SUMMER mode
      season = 1;
    }
  }
  if (trigger != season) {                                                              // This if detect the change of season with the varible volatile in the ISR. Then it light the appropriate LED.
    trigger = season;                                                                   // We reset trigger as Season to detect further change
    if (season == 0) {                                                                  // If variable season = 0 : winter light activated
      digitalWrite (relay1, HIGH);                                                      // Set relay1 pin LOW => Power transformer OFF (the Relay trigger "LOW") FOR SAFETY : Don't let the water Run by mistake.
      digitalWrite (ledhiv, HIGH);                                                      // Turn ON the LED indicating the WINTER mode. It will stay On until next watering.
      digitalWrite (ledete, LOW);                                                       // Turn OFF the LED indicating the SUMMER mode
      Serial.println("button has been pressed now Hiver mode");                         // Serial Monitor Information
    }
    else if (season == 1) {                                                             // If variable season = 1 : summer light activated
      digitalWrite (relay1, HIGH);                                                      // Set relay1 pin LOW => Power transformer OFF (the Relay trigger "LOW") FOR SAFETY : Don't let the water Run by mistake.
      digitalWrite (ledete, HIGH);                                                      // Turn ON the LED indicating the SUMMER mode. It will stay On until next watering.
      digitalWrite (ledhiv, LOW);                                                       // Turn OFF the LED indicating the WINTER mode
      Serial.println("button has been pressed now summer mode");                        // Serial Monitor Information
    }
  }
}

//===========================================
//========================= ISR =============
//===========================================

//=== ISR ===
void timetogive() {                 // Name the ISR, it will be executed if the pushbutton pressed
if (millis() - debounce > 500) {    //Comparison to avoid Bouncing Button!
if (season == 1) {                  // Change the Variable Season value IF == 1 turn it to 0
season = 0;
}
else if (season == 0) {             // Change the Variable Season value IF == 0 turn it to 1
season = 1;
}
debounce = millis ();               //New value for further comparison
}
}

// Creative Commons - www.ben-amar.com - 2021
// This Code was written for Ben-Amar.com under CC license: BY-NC-SA  (Attribution Mandatory, NonCommercial & ShareAlike)
// You must you credit "Ben-Amar.com" to remix, adapt, and build upon your work non-commercially. You must license your new creations under the identical terms. 

About the ISR

Using an ISR (Interruption Service Routine) wasn’t really necessary. The ISR is interesting if your code is running step by step and you need to interrupt it as any moment to execute a certain action (For Example during a “Delay”).
But here I have used a “Blink with No Delay” type of program which doesn’t stop at all. It’s just comparing the time set for each action with the clock and execute tasks when necessary.
A simple Input Pullup would have done the job since its detection could have been done at any moment.

Conclusion

The system is very satisfying. Over 4 Years of use by the time I’m uploading this project here and I had only one breakdown: The relay stop working. Easily replaced and since, the system working like a charm.

Potential Improvements:

  1. Potentiometer to increase / reduce the watering time.
  2. Development of a “non stop watering” mode to calibrate the dripping head without hassle.
  3. Integration of a screen with the time since last watering, the mode selected instead of the LED, the amount of watering / day.
  4. Integration of a Soil mosturising control system to avoid wasting water on raining days.
  5. Integration of a Solar Panel Based power supply to reduce it’s Carbon Footprint.
  6. Creation of a 3D printed Box to improve the hardware organisation & wiring.

Drink Dispenser

AutoBar

Automatic Drink Dispenser

AutoBar

Automated Drink Dispenser

Specifications

Fully automated drink dispenser was designed to serve drinks, elaborated from a simple wall mounted manual dispenser.

Only two motors are required, one servo motor  for the raft linear translation, and one stepmotor, for the serving mechanism, integrated to the raft.

Except the wall mount, the system was developed 100% in house. The spare part was concepted on a CAO software (Fusion 360) and 3D Printed on an AlfawiseU30.

Design

Invented from scratch, salvage materials were used to build the structure of the prototype. The attention was fundamentaly focused on the technicality of the prototype, rather than aesthetic aspect.

The number of motors was restricted to the minimize the cost of the finished good and its environmental impact. This project was meant to initiate the learning of Arduino & 3D Printing.

There are several rooms for improvement but the system was a succeful proof of concept.

0
Hours of conception
0
Hours of 3D Print
0
Hours of Coding
0 +
Cocktails served

Conception

Raft V2
Raft V1
Transmission Mount V1

Code

// Creative Commons - www.ben-amar.com - 2021
// This Code was written for Ben-Amar.com under CC license: BY-NC-SA  (Attribution Mandatory, NonCommercial & ShareAlike)
// You must you credit "Ben-Amar.com" to remix, adapt, and build upon your work non-commercially. You must license your new creations under the identical terms.

//====================================================
//================================ BIBLIOTHEQUES =====
//====================================================

#include <Servo.h>    //Import Bibliotheque for "Servomotor"

//====================================================
//=============== OBJETS & VARIABLES DECLARATION =====
//====================================================

Servo leServo;        // Define "Servomotor" name

//=====================================================
//============================== DEFINE CONSTANTS =====
//=====================================================

int RED = 22;       // RGB Led Pin Red (Can be declare like this: #define RED 22)
int GREEN = 23;     // RGB Led Pin Green (Can be declare like this:#define GREEN 23)
int BLUE = 24;      // RGB Led Pin Blue (Can be declare like this:#define BLUE 24)

const int trigPin = 52;      // Trigger Pin of Ultrasonic Sensor
const int echoPin = 53;      // Echo Pin of Ultrasonic Sensor
const int stepPin = 4;       // StepPin A4988 for Stepper Motor
const int dirPin = 7;        // DirPin A4988 for Stepper Motor
const int enPin = 8;         // Enable pin A4988 for Stepper (Low = enable)
const int pinFc = 50;        // End Switch Pin (Fin de course)Trigger the position of the raft when back home
const int pinServo = 45;     // variable pour stocker le pin pour la commande

//=====================================================
//============================== DEFINE VARIABLES =====
//=====================================================

int stateFc;            // Read the value of FC PIN, set as high to ensure the
int RaftFound;          // Variable for "Raft Back at Home"
int cumul = 0;          // Valeur cumul pour le temps d'appui et incrementation si besoin
long duration;          //
int distance;           //


//========================================================
//======================================== VOID SETUP ====
//========================================================

void setup() {
  
  // ---------------------------
  // ------ Define PinMode -----
  // ---------------------------
  
  pinMode(RED, OUTPUT);
  pinMode(GREEN, OUTPUT);
  pinMode(BLUE, OUTPUT);
  pinMode(stepPin, OUTPUT);
  pinMode(dirPin, OUTPUT);
  pinMode(pinFc, INPUT_PULLUP);           // Sets the Endswitch as Input Pullup
  pinMode(trigPin, OUTPUT);               // Sets the trigPin as an Output
  pinMode(echoPin, INPUT);                // Sets the echoPin as an Input
  pinMode(enPin,OUTPUT);

  // ---------------------------
  // ------ Attach Object  -----
  // ---------------------------

  leServo.attach(pinServo);                 // Attache the Servo to the Pin on the Arduino (Constant)

  // ---------------------------
  // ---- Init S. Monitor  -----
  // ---------------------------

  Serial.begin(9600);                       // Start Serial Monitor
  Serial.println("Initialisation...");      // Display Text 
  Serial.println("");                       // Display Text 
  Serial.print("FC State : ");              // Display Text 


  // ---------------------------
  // ----- Read Var Value  -----
  // ---------------------------
  
  stateFc = digitalRead(pinFc);             // Read the Value of the EndSwitch
  Serial.println(digitalRead(pinFc));       // Display the Value on Serial Monitor

  
  // ---------------------------
  // ----- Servo Position  -----
  // ---------------------------
  
  leServo.write(0);                       // Go to Position 0 (Minimum)
  delay(2000);                            // Wait
  leServo.write(180);                     // Go to Position 180 (Maximum)
  delay(1000);                            // Wait

  digitalWrite(RED, HIGH);                // Set RGB led (Raft) Color
  digitalWrite(GREEN, HIGH);              // Set RGB led (Raft) Color 
  digitalWrite(BLUE, HIGH);               // Set RGB led (Raft) Color
  digitalWrite(enPin,LOW);                // Enable the Motor

  // ---------------------------
  // ----- Bring raft Back -----
  // ---------------------------
   
  raftohome ();                           // Call Function "raftohome" 
  delay(1000);                            // Wait

  // ---------------------------
  // ----- Set Raft Color  -----
  // ---------------------------
  
  setColor(0, 255, 0);                    // Call function "setColor" & Green Means Raft Ready!
  
}

//========================================================
//========================================= VOID LOOP ====
//========================================================

void loop() {

  // ---------------------------
  // --- Detect Glass On Raft --
  // ---------------------------
  
  digitalWrite(trigPin, LOW);             // Ensure trigpin was Low before action
  digitalWrite(trigPin, HIGH);            // Sets the trigPin on HIGH state 
  delayMicroseconds(10);                  // for 10 micro seconds
  digitalWrite(trigPin, LOW);             // Set TrigPin Back to Low
  duration = pulseIn(echoPin, HIGH);      // Reads the echoPin, returns the sound wave travel time in microseconds
  distance = duration * 0.034 / 2;        // Calculating the distance   
  Serial.print("Distance: ");             // Prints the distance on the Serial Monitor
  Serial.println(distance);               // Prints the distance on the Serial Monitor

  // ---------------------------
  // - Action (Glass Detected) -
  // ---------------------------

  if (distance <= 7) {                    // If Distance < 7cm it's due to the presence of a glass
    delay(2000);                          // Wait (People Removing their hand after putting the glass)
    Serial.println("Go to Position 1");   // Print Info on S. Monitor
    digitalWrite(dirPin, HIGH);           // Enables the motor to move in a particular direction    
    setColor(255, 0, 0);                  // Call function "setColor" & Set Raft RGB Color to: Movement color
    for (int x = 0; x < 295; x++) {       // Makes x pulses for making one full cycle rotation
      digitalWrite(stepPin, HIGH);        // Motor Move One Step
      delayMicroseconds(1500);            // Change the time to Change the speed
      digitalWrite(stepPin, LOW);         // Motor Stop Step Completed
      delayMicroseconds(1500);            // Change the time to Change the speed
    }
    setColor(0, 255, 0);                  // Call function "setColor" & Set Raft RGB Color to: Serving color
    leServo.write(0);                     // Servo Pulls the Serving Mechanism
    delay(5000);                          // Wait service to be finished
    leServo.write(180);                   // Servo Releases the Serving Mechanism
    delay(1000);                          // Wait for last drop    

    Serial.println("Go to Position 2");
    digitalWrite(dirPin, HIGH);           // Enables the motor to move in a particular direction    
    setColor(255, 0, 0);                  // Call function "setColor" & Set Raft RGB Color to: Movement color
    for (int x = 0; x < 495; x++) {       // Makes x pulses for making one full cycle rotation
      digitalWrite(stepPin, HIGH);        // Motor Move One Step
      delayMicroseconds(1500);            // Change the time to Change the speed
      digitalWrite(stepPin, LOW);         // Motor Stop Step Completed
      delayMicroseconds(1500);            // Change the time to Change the speed
    }
    setColor(0, 255, 0);                  // Call function "setColor" & Set Raft RGB Color to: Serving color
    leServo.write(0);                     // Servo Pulls the Serving Mechanism
    delay(5000);                          // Wait service to be finished
    leServo.write(180);                   // Servo Releases the Serving Mechanism
    delay(1000);                          // Wait for last drop    

    Serial.println("Go to Position 3");
    digitalWrite(dirPin, HIGH);           // Enables the motor to move in a particular direction    
    setColor(255, 0, 0);                  // Call function "setColor" & Set Raft RGB Color to: Movement color
    for (int x = 0; x < 400; x++) {       // Makes x pulses for making one full cycle rotation
      digitalWrite(stepPin, HIGH);        // Motor Move One Step
      delayMicroseconds(1500);            // Change the time to Change the speed
      digitalWrite(stepPin, LOW);         // Motor Stop Step Completed
      delayMicroseconds(1500);            // Change the time to Change the speed
    }
    setColor(0, 255, 0);                  // Call function "setColor" & Set Raft RGB Color to: Serving color
    leServo.write(0);                     // Servo Pulls the Serving Mechanism
    delay(5000);                          // Wait service to be finished
    leServo.write(180);                   // Servo Releases the Serving Mechanism
    delay(1000);                          // Wait for last drop   

    Serial.println("Go to Position 4");
    digitalWrite(dirPin, HIGH);           // Enables the motor to move in a particular direction    
    setColor(255, 0, 0);                  // Call function "setColor" & Set Raft RGB Color to: Movement color
    for (int x = 0; x < 505; x++) {       // Makes x pulses for making one full cycle rotation
      digitalWrite(stepPin, HIGH);        // Motor Move One Step
      delayMicroseconds(1500);            // Change the time to Change the speed
      digitalWrite(stepPin, LOW);         // Motor Stop Step Completed
      delayMicroseconds(1500);            // Change the time to Change the speed
    }
    setColor(0, 255, 0);                  // Call function "setColor" & Set Raft RGB Color to: Serving color
    leServo.write(0);                     // Servo Pulls the Serving Mechanism
    delay(5000);                          // Wait service to be finished
    leServo.write(180);                   // Servo Releases the Serving Mechanism
    delay(1000);                          // Wait for last drop   

    raftohome ();                         // Call Function "raftohome"
    
    for (int x = 0; x < 100; x++) {       // Raft Blink: Drink it Ready 
      setColor(0, 255, 0);                // RGB Green Color       
      delay(100);                         // Wait
      setColor(0, 0, 0); // Green Color   // RGB Off
      delay(100);                         // Wait
    }
  }
}

//========================================================
//================================== Void raftohome ======
//========================================================

/* Function to Bring Raft back to Initial position - Before serving*/

void raftohome () {
  
  stateFc = digitalRead(pinFc);           // Read State of Endswitch (Fin de course)
  RaftFound = false;                      // Set "RaftFound" statement as False
  Serial.print("FC State : ");            // Display text on S. Monitor
  Serial.println(digitalRead(pinFc));     // Display pinFc Value on S. Monitor
  Serial.print("Found Raft?  ");          // Display text on S. Monitor
  Serial.println(RaftFound);              // Display the Value of the RaftFound Variable (Set to False)

  // ---------------------------
  // -- Action bring raft back -
  // ---------------------------
  
  if (RaftFound == false && stateFc == LOW) {           // If with 2 Conditions
    Serial.println("Where is the Raft");                // Display Text on S. Monitor
    setColor(150, 0, 255); // Purple Color              // Set Raft to Raft Search Color
    digitalWrite(dirPin, LOW);                          // set the motor to rotate in "Back Home" Direction
    while (RaftFound == false && stateFc == LOW) {      // Start While (with 2 statements) 
      digitalWrite(stepPin, HIGH);                      // Motor Move One Step
      delayMicroseconds(1500);                          // Change the time to Change the speed
      digitalWrite(stepPin, LOW);                       // Motor Stop Step Completed
      delayMicroseconds(1500);                          // Change the time to Change the speed
      stateFc = digitalRead(pinFc);                     // Read the value of the 
    }                                                   // End While
    RaftFound = true;                                   // If pinFC = HIGH then Raft Found = True ==> raft at Init Position
    Serial.println("Raft is Home, Ready to Work");      // Display Text on S. Monitor
    setColor(0, 255, 0);                                // Call function "setColor" Set RGB raft To "Ready" Color
  }
}

//========================================================
//================================== Void raftohome ======
//========================================================

/* Function to set the color of the RGB led of the Raft*/

void setColor(int red, int green, int blue) {
  analogWrite(RED, red);
  analogWrite(GREEN, green);
  analogWrite(BLUE, blue);

} 

The system has shown its reliability over few events.  First project realised from my 3DPrinter, I was surprised how resilient printed parts were and overall how the device has functioned  flawlessly for about 1 and a half year. Experiencing few problem with the transmission system over time, I have decided to shut it down until I have time to develop an improved version.

I imagined this project just as a way to learn more about the combination of 3D print, CAD, Arduino and coding. But experiencing the confort of the automated drink dispenser over few gatherings I found it more practical than expected and I am thinking to create a Version 2.0 in the future, with few improvements:

  1. Boxed, cleaner design
  2. Include a display & buttons to choose over different cocktails
  3. Add some extra drinks options with taps & Peristaltic pumps
  4. coat the 3D printed part to increase their lifespan
  5. Review and improve the design of all necessary parts

De Hội An à Hồ Chí Minh

Malgré la gentillesse des gens ici, au Vietnam, l’autostop est devenu très compliqué. L’idée me trotte dans la tête depuis mon entrée sur le territoire Vietnamien, mais, arrivé à Hội An c’est décidé, je continuerai à Moto. Si j’ai bien quelques notions de conduite d’un deux roues boite auto (type Scooter), traverser un pays sur une moto manuelle d’un autre age, sans assurance, sans permis et sans aucune expérience comporte bien quelques risques… d’un autre côté c’est pour ça que je suis là.
Je commence donc ma prospection, souhaitant dénicher une Honda “Win” d’occasion en “bon état” et pour 250$ maximum. Les Honda Win sont de vieilles motos manufacturées aux quatres coins de l’Asie du Sud Est et qui ont été très utilisées au Vietnam. La flotte de ces Honda Win est vieillissante et ce ne sont très clairement pas les motos les plus sures, ni les plus simple à conduire, mais hors de question de traverser le Vietnam en scooter. Le look de ces vieilles bécanes, le ronronnement du moteur, les suspension bien trop lâches reflètent l’authenticité que je suis venu chercher. Plus qu’à en trouver une… et à apprendre à conduire!

En explorant la ville je remarque que certains guides touristiques arpentent les rues paré d’un veston estampillé “Easy Rider”. Ils proposent des tours à moto et semblent les plus compétent pour m’aider à dénicher ce que je cherche. Je propose un deal à l’un d’entre eux. Moyennant quelques milliers de Vietnamese Dong, plutôt que de m’emmener faire un tour de la ville il part en mission pour me dénicher une moto potable et prendre le temps de vérifier qu’elle est en bon état. Je promets un bonus si je conclue une affaire grâce à lui.
Je ne me rappelle plus de son nom, mais il ne faudra pas plus d’une heure et demi à ce biker “Easy Rider” pour revenir se garer devant le café ou je l’attends et m’informer qu’il à trouvé ce qu’il me faut.
Cette fois je monte avec lui, et en quelques minutes nous sommes aux abords de la ville. Il ralentit, sur ma droite un magasin de moto devant lequel s’entassent des dizaines de scooters. Il m’accompagne dans le magasin, pour les Honda Win, il faut s’aventurer dans une partie reculé du magasin, ces motos n’attirent plus les locaux et sont majoritairement vendu aux étrangers qui veulent partir à l’aventure. Pas besoin de les exposer. Lorsque le propriétaire du magasin m’aperçoit, je peux lire la surprise dans ses yeux. Il ne s’attendait pas à un Européen. Le prix a été discuté par le guide touristique qui m’a obtenu un très bon prix pour une moto en très bon état: 240$!
Le vendeur essaie bien de remonter un peu le prix, mais le guide qui s’est occupé de la transaction veille et s’assure que tout se passe bien. Je fais le tour de la moto, j’ai bien quelques connaissance mécanique, mais je n’ai jamais bricolé de moto. Je feins de m’y connaitre et lâche un “Looks good!”, dans l’espoir de me rassurer un peu.
La transaction se fait, dès qu’il est payé, le guide “Easy Rider” disparait. Maintenant, c’est moi et ma moto. Enfin, “ma” moto. Officiellement, elle n’est pas à moi. Elle m’est vendue avec les papiers d’un Vietnamien, la moto est donc à son nom. Je n’ai pas trop d’info sur la règlementation vis à vis de l’achat d’une moto par un étranger, ce que je sais avec certitude c’est qu’il n’est pas autorisé de conduire une moto sans permis et sans assurance. Je n’ai aucun des deux. A ce moment précis, je ne suis pas tellement inquiet de prendre une potentielle amande ou que ma moto soit même saisie. Lorsque je démarre la moto pour la première fois la seule phrase qui me vient en tête c’est “Maintenant, il s’agit de rester en vie”!

Le vendeur m’aura brièvement montré l’emplacement de l’embrayage, les vitesses et les freins. Ce sera la seule formation Moto avec laquelle je vais parcourir les 1000 km qui me séparent de Hồ Chí Minh City. Si passer la première vitesse n’est pas un soucis, gérer l’embrayage, l’accelerateur et le passage des vitesses sur une moto aussi capricieuse n’est pas un coup facile à prendre, les commandes semblent fonctionner en “Tout Ou Rien”. Je ne suis qu’en première, mais j’alterne accélération et freinage de manière saccadé. Le vendeur qui m’avait quitté ressort de son magasin en voyant que je n’ai pas l’air très à l’aise sur la moto, court vers moi et me propose dans un anglais incertain “Automatic? Motorbike Automatic?”. Si sa proposition de changer pour un modèle de à transmission automatique est plutôt attentionné, elle a le dont de m’énerver. Je refuse aussi poliment que possible et me dis que cette p***** de moto va m’obéir, de gré ou de force!

Je réussi à parcourir plusieurs centaines de mètres, sans trop savoir comment retrouver le centre ville et mon auberge, lorsque je me retrouve dans une rue quasi-déserte dans laquelle il me semble idéal de pratiquer quelques compétences clés pour maitriser la moto: Freiner! Çà me semble être la plus importante chose à apprendre, Débrayer et Freiner, doucement ou en urgence en utilisant le frein avant, situé au niveau de la Main droite, et arrière, situé au niveau du pied droit. J’accélère en première, et je freine. Tout simplement. Je répète l’opération près d’une cinquantaine de fois, Jusqu’à ce que je me sente à l’aise et que cela devienne un réflexe!Passer les vitesse. Une fois que j’ai compris comment freiner, il faut maintenant prendre l’habitude de passer les vitesses. Je refais une vingtaine d’aller retour en alternant la première et la seconde de manière répété. Ce petit entrainement m’aura pris au moins une heure, mais les bénéfices sont immédiatement au rendez-vous. Lorsque je reprend la route ma conduite est bien plus souple, il reste bien quelques saccades, mais je suis à même de les maitriser sans problème et je parviens à rentrer à l’auberge malgré quelques détours.

Pour célébrer mon achat, je décide d’aller camper à la plage. Je prends quelques affaires, laisse mon sac à l’accueil de l’auberge et je pars à la nuit tombée en direction de la côte, à travers la ville. Au détour d’une rue plutôt déserte, je passe à côté d’un bar bondé dont l’ambiance me force à m’arrêter quelques instants. J’ai acheté une moto et appris à conduire cet après midi, il fait nuit et j’ai encore une dizaine de kilomètres à parcourir pour arriver à la plage: un verre, pas plus.

Deux verres plus tard, je tombe et alors que je suis résolu à partir, je tombe sur Marty, un irlandais dont j’avais croisé la route à Hanoi quelques semaines plus tôt. Il me parle un peu de son trajet en bus et m’explique qu’il se dirige vers le sud sans itinéraire précis avec pour idée principale de rejoindre Hồ Chí Minh. Je lui explique alors mon projet de rejoindre Saigon via Hồ Chí Minh Trail, à Moto et lui propose de se joindre à moi. Proposition qu’il commence par décliner en ironisant sur mes chances de survie. Lorsqu’il jette un oeil à ma Honda Win, baptisé “Sally 2”, garé devant le bar, il semble soudainement reconsidérer ma proposition. L’aventure que promet ce mode de déplacement est bien plus intense, bien que plus risquée. Il me confie n’avoir conduit une moto qu’une seule fois et n’être donc pas vraiment serein. Je lui explique avoir appris à conduire dans l’après midi et lui promet une formation éclair s’il accepte, formation qui le laisse perplexe. Il se laisse tout de même convaincre mais incertain de sa capacité de discernement au vu de l’heure tardive et du nombre de verre que nous avons partagé, il me propose d’en reparler le lendemain à 10h autour d’un café.

Je quitte la soirée, content d’avoir trouvé un potentiel compagnon de voyage, et prend la route de la plage à moto. Il pleut des cordes, la route est glissante et j’ai bu un peu plus que prévu. J’arrive sans problème à la plage, mais la tempête m’empêche de dormir. Le vent est infernal et arrache les sardines qui retienne la housse imperméable de ma tente et fera aussi tomber la moto que j’avais garé sur le sable. Je me retrouve trempé et couvert de sable. Impossible de dormir. Je reste éveillé jusqu’aux premières lueurs du jour et reprend la route du centre ville où je doit retrouver Marty d’ici quelques heures.

La suite, Marty l’a rédigé sur son blog de voyage dont j’ai recopier articles ci-dessous. Disponible uniquement en anglais, sa plume est pragmatique, hilarante et criante de vérité.

Hội An, Vietnam

10 November 2012

So today Tea [a Local Friend] invites me to her house for lunch, with her brother and his fiance. They are going to cook for me. So this is pretty cool, another insight in to how people live here. She picks me up and takes me to her house. It is literally just one room. With a washing area off it, for shower, toilet and washing. They make a feast, with rice, spicy pork, spinach soup, tomato mackeral and deep fried tofu. Delicious. Really really good. Tea tells me how she buys fresh ingredients every day and cook everything from scratch, that’ll be why it tastes so good then. Nobody other than tea speaks english so she is acting as translator. Her brother has even bought me some beer to drink with my lunch, how nice. After lunch Tea and I grab a coffee before she has to head to work.
When I get back to the hostel I chat to a couple of Chinese girls who are waiting for their bus to Nha Trang. They are going the same way as me, so we exchange details and maybe I will see them further down the line. —– I head to a western bar for dinner tonight. I am craving some meat, it’s hard to find that here, just the suggestion of meat. I feel like I have had my entire months consumption of vegetables this week, and not even my daily consumption of meat. So it’s a burger tonight, maybe with some bacon and cheese. Mmmmmm. While I am waiting for my burger another guy in the bar asks if I fancy a game of pool. Poor b* doesn’t know what he has got himself in to. So we play and my food comes, John from USA. He takes an awful beating, but is spirited in his defeat. Brad and Kristina come to the bar and we play some doubles. Then Dung and Long and soon the table is filling up, with a winner stays on policy. Later on and we rock on to Why Not? —– When we get there I bump in to Elias, the French guy I met in Hanoi. He is telling me how he has just bought a bike and is off down the country. He tells me he is looking for a biking buddy, and wonders if I am interested. Hmmmm. In my heart I want to say yes, as soon as he asks. However considering that I have only rode a Moto once, and the one that he has got is manual, I decide to sleep on it. The fact that I have also consumed some alcohol this evening also leads me to believe that making a split decision at this time is probably not the best idea. For the rest of the evening all I can think about is the possibility of getting a Moto. I am filled with excitement even just at the thought of it. I have to give it some serious consideration, but at the same time I do not want to kepp Elias back from his travels. So we decide to meet at 10 tomorrow and discuss over some coffee. —– Moto taxi home and the gate vault befor bed. I am Moto on the brain.

Hội An, Vietnam

11 November 2012

Up at stupid o’clock to meet Sinh [a Local Friend of Marty] for breakfast in the usual place. I tallk to him about me thinking about buying a Moto, I want to get his thoughts. The bike I am thinking about is a Honda Win, of course not a real Honda Win, one that is made in China, as it is considerably cheaper. Of course Sinh tells me that they are not good bikes and that Vietname people don’t want to buy anything from China. I expected his response, but I am leaning towards the purchase regardless.

After breakfast I meet Elias to talk about a few of the finer details. He shows me a map of the planned route, tells me how the bike was tricky at the start but he is now a pro. I think he uses that term quite loosly. He offers to give me a go on his bike to try it out. I’m feeling a little scared, but after some discussion it is time to put in to practice what we have been talking about. First things first, this is a real bike, not like those scooters you see, or the automatic Moto I was on the other day. It is big and has a great pur when you get her going. I get her powered on and try releasing the clutch slowly to determine the biting point. I give it a little go just down the street. So far so good. I am concentrating so much on changing gears that I am aware that I am not dedicating my full attention to the road in front of me. That has to change. I refocus. The accelerator could not be described as smooth. More of an all or nothing accelerator. This makes maintaining a constant speed almost impossible. Of course, as this is my first time I am sure I am not doing things properly. After a quick rip down the street and back up again I have a feel for it. I now have everything in place to make an informed decision. I tell Elias that I will let him know by the end of the day, so I can discuss with some more people.

Tea gets me later in the day and we go back to Da Nang. I ask her about me getting a Moto and I am met with a resounding ‘No, too dangerous’ Ha, just what I expected. I’ll take on board her opinios and add it to my decision making. I have expressed interest in getting a camera lens. After playing with her friends 50mm, I asked Tea to find out the price for me. $90 which is cheaper than I bought it for at home. I’m not sure why I didn’t bring it with me. Aww well. We are going to go and see if we can get one. In to Da Nang and I get out the phone as we piggy back some free wifi. Get to the camera shop and they have the lens. Tea gets a little discount and I buy. Happy Christmas Marty. We go to get something to eat, and we end up in this place that does, chicken and rice. So I get a half chicken, bones and all. Normally not a fan, but it tastes so good that I literally destroy that half chicken. Nom Nom Nom.

I have decided that it is now time for me to go and see the new Bond movie. There is a cinema here and so we decide to go. I think this is the best cinema I have ever been in. The picture quality was superb, the sound was clear and crisp and on top of that the seats were comfortable. Bond wasn’t too bad either. It was in English with Vietnamese subs, so it was perfect for me, being the only foreigner in the place. Though I had heard that going to the cinema in Vietnam was a disaster. I can see why, because it is all sub titles it means that the Vietnamese people have no problem answering their phone or talking loudly to each other. This proved to be a little irritating after a while, but not enough to distract me from the movie,

We get back to Hoi An and Sinh want to meet for a drink as tonight is my last night. We stop at a little restaurant and Sinh soon arrives. He orders up some food and the crate of beer that is customary in these places. We share a some bottles and it is clear that Sinh is somewhat worse for ware. It gets to a point where he is just leaning on his hand sleeping, Tea and I laugh. The scary thing is, he then gets on his bike and heads homw. Crazy. Tea drops me back to my hotel and I send Elias and email. I’m in.

Hội An, Vietnam

12 November 2012

I wake up this morning with a swollen face. My left cheek is puffed up along my jaw line, and it’s fairly sore. I’m not really too sure what it is. Time to call on my local Vietnamese friend. I go for coffee with tea and explain to her what my issue is. She decides that a trip to the pharmacy is in order. She chats with the pharmacist, who asks me some basic questions like if I feel sick or have a fever. Next thing I know I have 3 sets of medication, that I need to take 3 times a day for 5 days. I still have no idea what is wrong with my face. Tea does not know the English words to describe the issue, so it is off to somewhere with wifi so we can get this translated. Turns out I have a blocked saliva duct. How does that even happen? I also want to check what all these pills are, I don’t take pills, so I want to know what they are before I start. I have an antibiotic, paracetamol and an anti inflammatory. All seems fine to me, so I start, hopefully feel better in a couple of days. It’s so different to home, you just rock up at a pharmacy and you can get whatever you need, no questions, no prescription, nothing. Madness!!

Tea takes me to try some bikes today. We head to the street where Elias got his, and I see a Honda Win, they are more than happy for me to take it for a test drive. Me?! With my whole 5mins experience. Anyway, after a couple of stalls, the guy from the shop decides it would be best if he jumps on the back. No English. Just good old body language. Once I get her going it is easy enough. We rip down the road a bit and then I stop and come back. I’m not convinced this is the one for me. So we head off to another place to try another bike. The place we stop at say they are getting a couple in later in the day. So Tea and I go off to grab some lunch. We have make your own spring rolls, and a seafood hotpot, delicious. Then we get the txt, bikes are in, let’s go. I get to try the Honda Win, this time on my own. It is better than the other one I looked at. I have a look at the bike after my test drive and make a list, mirrors, indicators, new oil, neutral light, luggage rack and I want the speedo to be working. All agreed, I commit and say I’ll buy. The guy who does the fixing isn’t working today, so I’ll have to come back tomorrow. No problem. I’m excited. It’s all pretty real now, I have just agreed to buy a Moto! Ha ha ha. My god! This is either the best thing I have done, or a complete disaster, time will tell.

The rest of the day I have a massive smile on my face, just thinking about my bike. Ohhh I can’t wait. I go for dinner with Tea and then we go to a bar that is playing live music. When i say a bar, nearly everyone is drink coffee and juice, me included because of my medication. The live bar is pretty cool, a mixture of Vietnamese and English songs, with various singers and a full band including a piano. There is a dance floor and there are people doing ballroom style dancing along with the music. It was a good evening and we leave around 10 then take an early night. I email Elias and ask him if he can pick me up tomorrow, as my bike will be ready at 11. He says no problem, so it’s off to sleep and to dream about my bike.

Hội An, Vietnam

13 November 2012

Elias arrives at 10.45 and it is off to get my bike. When we get to the garage, it doesn’t look like they have even started any work on my bike. Elias gives the bike the once over and he thinks it is a good one. Only thing is the back tyre doesn’t look the same as the one I had yesterday, after some negotiating they change it for an extra $5. We are in the shop for a good 3 hours before my bike is done and ready, I also got new brake discs on the front, only because they broke when the guy was putting the wheel back on! You should see how they do things here. If something doesn’t fit, you just hit it with a hammer, or grind a bit off until it fits. They’ll try anything before they have to go out any buy a new part. If that’s what the need to do, one guy jumps on his bike and disappears off to buy whatever is needed. Of course we are working in Vietnam time, so that’ll be why things take longer than normal. When everything is done I pay my cash, $250 and get my keys and papers. Tea has given me a helmet, so I don’t need to worry about getting one of those. I get on my bike, wave bye to the garage and off I go.

I have just bought a bike! Mine! All mine! I have not had a test. No one has verified I can ride this thing, but I have it! Ha ha ha. Only in Vietnam! I email Elias, I think we should take the bikes on a good run before the trip, just to open them up, see if anything goes wrong, then we can head back to the garage and get it sorted. So it’s off to Da Nang, Elias hasn’t been so it’ll be good for is to do the 30km each way. So off we go, it’s quite busy as we leave Hoi An, lots of bikes and people and everything a real challenge. The thing about driving in Vietnam is that you do not stop. If you are coming from a side road you just power out on to the main road, it’s actually more dangerous if you stop, as the people behind you will have to swerve round you. Obviously this is quite hard to get used to. When you have the fear all you want to do is stop. Not an option! Once we get on to the main road things are much easier, nice big 2 lanes carriageway. It’s great getting the biker up to speed and enjoying the open road. We get to Da Nang and check out the beach before heading for some food. We stop off at a place along the front, I know it’ll be more expensive, but having been in to Da Nang with Tea, there is no way we are heading in there today! We order up a seafood platter, and we get some quail eggs, and a salt and pepper and lime juice dip. With a heap of MSG in it. You can actually see it. I am all over it! Ha. After lunch we head back. We need to get some supplies for the trip so I follow Elias in to the centre of old town. My god. So many people. Driving slowly is an issue I’m having. My accelerator appears to be either all or nothing. Steady cruising doesn’t appear to be an option. Of course, I have just started riding, I’m probably not doing it right. Anyway, after a few stalls we get to the shop, and I didn’t kill anyone, so I’m feeling good. In the shop we get plastic bags, bungee ropes, some rope and I invest in a good quality rain coat, poncho style. After this Elias and I head to our hostels.

Well, I try to go to my hostel. I stall my bike about 10 times. There are so many people around, I’m struggling with the pressure. As I’m at the side of the road, struggling, some guy comes over saying Moto. He take my bike to the side suggesting that he can fix my issue. I ask him how much, $1, I can live with that. When I get off the bike and take a look I can see that my clutch is bed. So it’s convenient that this guy was here. Now for some reason after 2 hours my bike is still not fixed. Then this mechanic tries to leave. I’m not having this, so I start questioning him. Useless, he speaks no English, so I phone Tea, she doesn’t answer, so I phone the hostel to get the receptionist to translate for me. So basically, I need a new clutch cable, but apparently everywhere is closed, so I’m to push my bike back, then this guy will come in the morning and fix it. b*s! I’m not really very happy, but I have little choice. So off I go, pushing my bike up the street. As I’m pushing I meet one of the guys from Easy Rider, this is a company that does tours around Vietnam, off the tourist trail, on the back of pimped out Motos. They guys speak really good English and are all so friendly, anyway this guy tries to sell me a tour and I tell him I have just bought a bike. He offers to be my guide, but I say it’s ok. Then he asks me why I am pushing my bike. I tell him I have no clutch, he tells me I don’t need one. He jumps on, puts the bike in first, then gives me a push and tells me to drive like normal. Sure enough, off I go, working a treat. I do t get very far when my mechanic appears in front of me and flags me over. It is only at this stage that I think to myself, how am I going to stop with no clutch? Dick?! Why did I not ask the Easy Rider guy? I manage to change down a couple of gears then I turn the engine off, it works. Good thinking Marty! So the mechanic fixes my cable and the bike is all good. Off I go to my hotel, at night, brilliant! First day! I hope this is not a sign of things to come! I get home 3 hours after the guy first started on my bike.

I head out for dinner with Tea and say goodbye as I am leaving in the morning for the Moto adventure! We also go to the Japanese bridge and I buy a candle, that is in a little paper boat. You then place this in the river and off it floats. You are supposed to make a wish, as you place it in. I’m glad I got to do this, I have been meaning to but just never got round to it, but as this is my last night I do it. The candles look cool as they float off. After this Tea drops me home and I get some sleep before the adventure tomorrow. Elias will be here at 8.

Quang Nam province, Vietnam, Vietnam

14 November 2012

So I am up early because I have not packed my stuff yet. I was going to last night but I was too tired, so I get it packed this morning. I am downstairs and ready to go at 8. 9 comes and goes, 10 follows and there is still no sign of Elias! I send him an email, as he has no Vietnamese phone. 11 arrives and still no reply. I am starting to get concerned. Maybe he is dead? Or lying in a ditch somewhere? I don’t even know where his hotel is, so I can’t even swing by and see if he is there.

Eventually Elias pulls up outside the hotel, he wasn’t feeling well this morning and so had to go to hospital. He tells me he just has to wait for some results and then he is good to go. I am relieved that Elias is still alive, the trip will happen. It’s 12 before Elias returns all packed up and ready to go. We are heading to My Son today, this is some ruins about 40km away, then we plan to head on to a small town further south. The start of the trip we plan to go through the mountains, then in the later half we will work our way to the coast. Of course, the plan is loose, so anything can happen.

The bike feels totally different with all the luggage on the back. We manage to negotiate our way through the town and out on to the main road. This is it! We are on our way, let the adventure begin. As we make our way we come in to various towns of different sizes, of course no board showing the name of the town. They all typically have a main street, straight and long, with various junctions along it. So the main road goes right through the heart of towns, the traffic density is vastly increases in these towns, with people, bikes, trucks and animals likely to appear for anywhere, one has to be alert. We stop in one of these towns for some lunch, we figure it’ll be cheaper here than when we get to My Son. We park the bikes up, as I get off my bike I burn my leg on the hot exhaust. Just a touch, but so painful. When we get in to the the place we are having lunch, they have a sink, so I have my leg thrown up on to the sink running some cold water over my leg to help the burn. The people in the restaurant think this is very funny, but I don’t want a blister forming.

After lunch, we arrive at My Son after passing through a lovely road section, lined with trees. We buy our ticket and take our bikes down a cobbled road. I am having the life shaken out of me on this road. Elias flies off ahead, I decide to take it a little slower, maybe save my suspension. After what seemed like, never ending cobbles we get to a clearing and park the bikes up. There are no signs, just a couple of restaurants. We make an educated guess and walk in that direction. It isn’t long before we get to another collection of shops through the forest, just beyond we can see the ruins. The weather has been kind to us and so when we arrive the sun is shining. As a bonus there is hardly anyone else here, which make is great for photos. I haven’t seen anything like this before, red bricked buildings, covered with grass, from dwellings to places of worship. We wander around and take some photos, the site is massive, with 4 excavated areas. We look at 2 of them, and it was really only the first one that was impressive. It was cool that you are able just to wander around, few areas off limits. After a few hours we get a drink in one of the restaurants, have a look at the map and see where we will stay tonight. The plan is Kham Duc, or there are a few towns close if it starts to get too dark. So we head back out the same road until we get to a turn, no signs. We ask a couple of locals if this is the way. From what I can gather we can go this way, but the road is a dirt trail full of potholes. They suggest going back towards Hoi An and taking a better road, making the journey about 20km longer. As we are debating what to do Elias’ face drops. He has just remembered that he has forgotten his laundry. So we have to go back and get it. Ha. I start laughing, what a dick. I’m not annoyed at all by this set back, I just think it is funny.

As we are passing through one of the towns Elias stops suddenly in front of me. I have to slam on the brakes and swerve to avoid him, instinctively I stick my foot out, and trail it along the road, pull the clutch and end up revving the engine. Once I calm down and roll to the side of the road I ask Elias what the hell he was doing. Turns out that his brake lights don’t work, that was the issue. After this near death experience we make our way back to Hoi An, rush hour when we get there. We decide to stay in the hotel Elias had been in before because it was cheaper than mine. We get back before dark and get checked in.

We end up staying in the same dorm that Elias had been in, he even gets the same bed. The dorm is a joke! 3 beds in a converted beauty salon. So humid in here, but then I not paying a lot and its only for one night so its ok. There are free cocktails here between 6-7 so we head down for some of those with Nicole from Netherlands, who is also in the dorm. After a few of these I decide to go out for dinner with Tea and Elias stays in the hotel.

Some good old rice and grilled chicken for me! So good. I am starting to become a fan of the half chicken, maybe only due to lack of choice. Ha. After this Tea takes me to a local university where we get to watch a talent show. Everything from singing, dancing to instrument playing. I am most definitely the only white person here. We were late arriving and so we have no seat, just standing at the back, I’m glad because the heat coming out of the place is suffocating. Luckily I can see over the Vietnamese heads to the stage, Tea on the other hand is too small and has to move about to get a view. When I can’t take the heat anymore Tea drops me home and I get all my stuff ready for tomorrow. Bike ride adventure, take 2.

Hội An, Vietnam

15 November 2012

Today is terrible. Torrential rain beating down. We decide that this is not the day to set off on our adventure and so decide to stay one more day. With tomorrows weather looking much better. I don’t really fancy starting the journey with the rain beating down on me, though I am sure that it will happen at some time, but not to start.

I just have a nice relaxing day because there is not much to do in the rain. Elias has to get his lights fixed today as the reason we had to rush back last night was because if it got dark Elias would have no lights to drive with. There are only street lights in the towns and there are no cats eyes on the road, so if you have no lights you are as good as dead if you are driving at night.

I watch a couple of movies today, the best thing to do on a rainy day like today. I head to a local restaurant for dinner and get a delicious beef noodle thing. Then I get an early night, because we are actually going tomorrow, no excuses.

Kon Tum province, Vietnam

16 November 2012

So we are up at 8.30 but by the time we get something to eat and pack our gear on to out bikes we don’t end up leaving until 11. Of course Elias didn’t bother to fix his lights yesterday as he thought he would melt in the rain, so we are going to have to look in to doing that somewhere along the road. Elias is so cleaver that he left his helmet outside on his bike all day yesterday, and it was upturned, so he now has what can best be described as a bowl of soup, to put on his head this morning. Ha ha.

We heads back out the same way as we did yesterday, though this time we take the correct road heading towards, Khum Tuc where we stop for some lunch. Lunch was not the best thing I have eaten, the usual chicken parts and rice. We pick through some of the bits of chicken but end up ordering some more rice because we are hungry and can’t be eating any more of the rice. They end up over charging us badly, we offer them some of what they want and they seem happy enough so we are on our way. We stop somewhere to get some petrol, I can fill my tank for £5.50, so quite a difference from the prices I am used to. Elias is sick of driving with a fish bowl on his head and so stops at a local shop to buy a new helmet. We had been driving though the rain and so he decides to get one with a visor on it. I have a look but decide that the quality is not the best and so I don’t buy. It isn’t long before we stop and Elias is messing round with his visor, I tell him to be careful, but as he is French he doesn’t listen. Crack! He breaks the visor on one side, I think we got a whole 5km before he broke his helmet. As we drive along the road the wind catches the flapping visor and rips it from the helmet. So Elias buys the helmet for the visor, and now he has none. Good job Elias!

As we motor along we start heading up a hill and I notice that my Moto is spluttering, with the power fading on and off intermittently. It gets to the point where I my bike just dies on me, and I can’t get up the hill. Elias rips off in to the distance, but it is not long before he is back. While I am waiting, a Vietnamese guy stops and asks me what the problem is. I explain and he tells me that he knows a garage where we can get it fixed. When Elias returns we decide to follow the guy to this garage and see what the problem is. After the mechanic takes a look it appears that the pump is clogged and so when I am going up a hill I can not get the power I need. So the guy takes the pump out and gives it a good clean and then puts it back in. It was probably the crap petrol that we put in earlier. I have decided that we will only use a petrol stations for our petrol from now, and not the little pump on the side of the road that we used today. Once my pump is fitted I take it for a test drive while Elias gets his lights replaced. I had back up the hill and there is no problem with the bike, great job. After I get to the top I pick a spot to turn around and head back. I wait for a couple of bikes to pass and then I start my U turn. What happened next was a culmination of stupidity, lack of confidence and inexperience. As I start to turn round I realise I am going too fast and not turning enough. In this moment of panic my mind tells me to slow down. In reality what actually happens is I apply more power. Normally these type of events happen slowly, not this one. I am accelerating towards the side of the road. Then I see it. A 4ft concrete ditch, running the length of the road. Interesting that I had not noticed this before. My panic turns to fear as I plunge my bike into the ditch. Somehow I manage to jump from the bike and land on the road. My Moto now sitting in the ditch. I start to think about what type of damage I will have done to my bike and how much it may cost to fix. Then I realise that I am not going to be able to get my bike out of the ditch as the sides are so steep. What am I going to do? While I am standing here like a dock, I think about what has just happened and I relise that there were many options to avoid this catastrophe. I could have pulled the clutch, applied the brakes or even just taken my hand off the accelerator. So many options, but I choose to power my Moto in to the ditch. Good choice Marty. I hear a bike coming, he stops when he sees my Moto in the ditch, he can’t help but produce a smile at my predicament. He speaks no English, but then I don’t think that this situation needs much explaining. He flags down the next Moto passing and another guy comes over to help. They point to my leg and it is the first time that I notice the damage I have done to myself. Removed a good chunk of skin off my right calf, I am bleeding all down my leg and on to the road. Now I can feel the pain. Obviously a by product of my hasty dismount. The three of us manage to get my Moto out of the ditch and back on to the road. The front light is hanging off and so one of the guys just gives it a tap back in to place, then the second guy heads back to his bike, while the first one continues to talk to me in Vietnamese. I think he is asking for money, and so I offer him some for his help. He gives it back, it is then clear that he was trying to tell me to slow down. Little did he know that this was a low speed incident. I thank him again for his help and move off slowly back down to where Elias is. I pass him on the road and so turn round and we head on our way. I explain to Elias what had happened. Of course he laughs and is as understanding as you might have expected.

As night time approaches we are no where near anywhere! It starts to rain and so we are on with the sexy ponchos. As we drive my light is shining in to the sky, like the bat symbol, a result of my visit to the ditch I suspect. The rain is coming down very hard and visibility is next to zero for me as I have a column of light shining directly up in front of me. Elias is not in much better shape as his light is turning on and off as if he is communicating in morse code with the trees. This situation is further complicated by the fact that the front light dims when you are not accelerating, we are going down hill so we are not doing too much accelerating. Suddenly the good road that we were on disappears without warning. Speed reduced, we are dipping in and out of potholes trying to avoid the largest ones. We see a sign for the next town, only 22km, we will stop there. This driving is brutal, I can’t wait to get out of the rain. As we get to where the town is supposed to be, the sign changes to another town, 40km away. Our town is nowhere to be seen. It just disappeared. There were no turns, it just doesn’t exist. We have little choice now, we have to keep going. As we continue to drive the rain is getting heavier, and when lorries pass on the other side of the road I am getting coated in a spray and blinded by the lights. It is not just on coming traffic that blinds me. Everytime Elias brakes it is like a flash bang going off in my face, but I have to keep close as I can not see anything with my light. There is a thunderstorm coming and as we wind our way through the mountains we are treated to a light show. Every few minutes the whole sky is illuminated with bright flashes and I can see the silhouette of the mountains, beautiful. After what seems like an eternity we get to a town, I see street lights, the rain eases. We coast through the town stopping at the hotels to get the prices. We end up finding somewhere for $5 each for the night.

We roll the bikes in to a covered garage. At least they will be dry in the morning. We start the lengthly process of removing our gear from the bike. Many bungee ropes later and we have the stuff off and in to the room. It is such a relief to be at a hotel and have not died. We nip over to a local place and have some dinner. You can tell that this place does not see a lot of foreigners, we even get the real price for the food, which is nice. We come back to the hotel and have a few beers and some tea before we retire to the room. Elias plays some guitar and we try to watch a movie, but I am so busted that I fall asleep. Haven’t talked about the plan tomorrow, needless to say it will not involve driving in the night again. My mattress is more like a board, but after my day I don’t care.

Pleiku, Vietnam

17 Novembr 2012

We get up and head for breakfast. It consists of Cosy Marie [Biscuits] and some coffee, just what you need for a day on the bike. It is hot today, much hotter than it was yesterday, there looks to be little chance of rain which is good. I have had enough of that. In contrast the road quality is not as good as yesterday and so the time it takes us is longer. We have a plan, Pleiku tonight. It is the next big city according to our map.

We are so concerned about having to drive at night that we completely skip lunch, in fact we only stop to to take a photo of a large village style house in a town that we pass through. It is at this point that Elias notices that I am leaking some oil from Jessie (My Moto) so we stop off at a garage. They mechanic just puts a new seal on, now when I say seal, it is like some rolled up tissue paper, i’m sure it will so the job. Elias has a rattle when he drives, his chain has a bit of give in it and it is hitting against the casing, driving him batty. He says to the guy, but it is difficult to convey what you want done when there is no English to be spoken.The guy takes a piece of the casing and grinds a bit away, later on we find that this did not solve the issue. Awww well. We stop for a coffee but they serve no food, so I bust out some pringles that I have, not that they do much for the hunger situation. Then we check how far away we are and work out that we are making good time today.

After a lovely stress free day of Moto we arrive in Pleiku before dark. It is a big city, the biggest one we have been in on the bikes. This throws up the new challenge of city driving. It is amazing that after only a couple of days how much more confident I am on the bike, with the exception of the U turn. We pull up at a hotel near the centre and get it for the same price as the night before. As we are unloading the bikes there is another westerner, Dave from USA, works in HCM, and he is cycling. Now that is brave. Not sure i’d be up for that! I notice today how bad my sun burn is, compounded by the wind burn. I have changed many many shades browner over that past couple of days. Perhaps by the time I get to HCM I will be black. The 3 of us head out for dinner and we get the good old half chicken and rice combo with a few beers. Elias and Dave order two portions of chicken, I just order two portions of rice. Dave tells me how he has been in Vietnam for 5 years and has no plans to go home. He is 43 and has a Philippine girlfriend who is pregnant. After dinner we find a wee spot on the street and ask about beer, the guy just takes off to the shop and buys us some cans. Then sells them to us, ha. Genius. We sit down and enjoy the beers, Dave offers for us to stay at his house when we get to HCM. What a result, may well take him up on that. We all head to bed, more biking in the morning.

Buon Ma Thuot, Vietnam

18 November 2012

Of course the plan is to leave Pleiku early, but that never materialises. By the time we get up and get the bikes packed it is after 10. Never worry, we will make good time. Sun cream has to be applied today as I am really starting to show the burn. My arms are black, with the exception of where my watch and bracelets are. I look ridiculous. Not much I can do about it now though, just some sun cream to stop it getting worse.

The road today is terrible. I think it is the longest stretch of bad road that we have had on the whole trip. Woeful! It is like being on the shaking plate in the MOT. A combination of tarmac, concrete and just stones, sand and anything else lying around. Today is Sunday and so i thought that we would have had less traffic, but that was not the case. More lorries, trucks and busses than normal. This makes the whole bad road conditions a lot worse. What happens is that you over take the lorry on a particularly bad pothole section because they slow down so much, only to have the lorry overtake you on the slightly better sections. The fumes are toxic from the lorries and buses and that is why most Vietnamese wear masks. We were advised not to because when the police are out doing random checks there is a chance they may pull you over if they can not see your face. Though when they see you are white they don’t bother with you. So we just have to contend with the fumes, to save the bribe that would be in order if we are pulled over.

After a bone shaking couple of hours Elias pulls over for our lunch stop. When I get off the bike my arms are still shaking from the onslaught that they have had all morning. Elias doesn’t seem phased by the potholes plunging Sally 2 in to them as though they were not there, while maintaining speed. I have taken a slightly more cautious approach, driving slower and trying to weave my way in and out of the danger zones. When we get to this place for lunch we are greeted by an incredibly enthusiastic Vietnamese man, who quickly turns out to be fairly well on his way. We get the prolonged hand shake followed by pats on the back. He sits with us for the whole meal, talking away, we even write in his book, telling who we are and where we are from. He seems so happy that we did this for him, it was no effort at all. I ask to go to the toilet and I am shown out the back, there is no out house in sight and it quickly becomes clear that I just go anywhere, nice! Lunch was fantastic, with some meat, fish and noodles. Just what we needed after our trip here.

Back on the road, just a quick stop. Need to make sure we get to Boun Ma Thuot before dark. In the second half of the day we are greeted with the same terrible roads, but in addition we have these tractor type things. The engine is in the front and it looks like a lawnmower engine, steering is taken care of with a set of 4ft handlebars behind, where the driver sits. Then on the back it carries a trailer, either full of people, or full of logs. These things are so loud and so slow. I think over the hour that we were travelling we must have seen at least 100.

Eventually we arrive in Buon Ma Thuot, which is the biggest city that we have been to so far. We arrive while it is still light and drive around looking for somewhere to stay. After having no joy using this approach we stop in a cafe that has wifi, so we can check online for somewhere. We have somewhere picked out and so we head there, the usual $6 a night. After the arduous job of unpacking our bikes we get our stuff in to the room. Head out for dinner and just stop at some local place on the street. There are still the plastic chairs, but they have backs and are much higher, so you don’t feel like you are sitting on the floor. It is about 7pm and we start to hear the pumping dance music. Curious, we head over to the cafe that was across the street. They have a DJ playing and everyone is enjoying coffee. We grab a coffee before retiring to the room, where Elias plays guitar and we listen to music before bed.

Buon Ma Thuot, Vietnam

19 November 2012

We get up in the morning and we check out how to get to the national park, where there is the opportunity to ride some elephants. It doesn’t appear to be too far, maybe an hour by bike. Get some breakfast, of bead, eggs, coffee and tea. The tea here is delicious, when you drink it, it tastes like cake. We call it cake tea, and in a lot of places you get a free glass when you order a coffee. We are about to head off when Elias discovers that he has sheered his luggage rack. How does that even happen? By driving too fast in to pot holes, that’s how. Elias decides that he will get it fixed when we get back from the elephants.

We head out on another glorious day towards Ban Don. The first part of the road could not even be called a road. Just sandy gravel with pothole after pothole. I mean you would be forgiven for thinking that it was just some lane, but no, this is a road, it appears on maps. Elias doesn’t even adjust his speed considering Sally 2’s injury, poor girl. As usual I am lagging behind, but have confidence that Jessie is in good health. After the usual bit of asking where we are, and getting the language barrier, we eventually find what we are looking for and so drive the bikes in. When we get down to what looks like an office, there are a number of people having lunch. One of them comes over to us and we ask about the elephants. There is no one else here, perhaps we are in the wrong place. This woman makes a phone call and it is not long before someone who speaks English arrives, we talk about the prices and decide that after some lunch we will take the elephant ride for an hour. We get some lunch in the place we just saw and then it is back to the office.

We follow the guide across the bridge to where we are going to meet the elephant. As we are in Asia I am not sure how big the elephant is going to be. For our money we are both going to be on the same elephant, with one guide controlling the beast. After a short walk we see the elephant emerging from the forest, an impressive sight. It’s only about 9ft tall but is is still a hulking beast. It gets maneuvered over to a podium that we are able to climb up. It has a large frame on its back that has a back and sides, and a wooden plank for you to sit on. The guide is just sitting on the head of the elephant. We clamber up the stairs and Elias gets on to the elephant first, then I follow. We pass our cameras over to our guide so that he can take a few photos of us on the best before we set off on our trek. The skin is so tough, and the hairs on the back are like the bristles of a yard brush. Apparently takes about 10 years to get the elephants fully trained, a long process.

As the elephant starts to move it becomes clear that this is not going to be a comfortable excursion. The metal frame sticks in to your back as we are being jolted from side to side with the motion of the elephant walking. There is also not a lot of room for the two of us on the seat, so it is cosy. We move through the forest with the elephant stopping periodically to rip a particular plant up out of the ground, we find out later that it is after the root to eat. The guide gets the beast back on track with a swift kick to the head. It is some experience being lead through the forest, and although we do not see any wildlife, we get to see a Moto, in the wild. Beep, beep beep! As we progress through the forest the guide gets off the elephant and walks along side, all I can think about is what would happen if it just decided to run off. Run away elephant, with us on the back. Then, to my horror, our guide spots a spider in amongst the trees, he uses a pole and removes it from it’s web and starts playing with it. Ehhhh! I say to Elias in as calm a voice as I can muster, that i’m not so fond of the spiders and I hope the guide doesn’t bring it anywhere near me. Luckily he plays with it for a short while and then puts it back on a tree, thank god. As we near the end of our hour the guide lets us get on to the head of the elephant to try that out. It is significantly more comfortable here than in the back. Though there is not anything to hold on to, with my feet resting either side of the elephants eyes. I feel like I am some real safari, we get a few photos taken and then it’s back over to the platform to get off. The elephant is so tame, I mean we can sit on it’s head, pat it, stand right in front of it and pat it’s trunk. It is just amazing, what an experience.

Quick drink and then it is back on the girls as Elias needs to get his sheered luggage rack fixed before we set off tomorrow. Heading back out the road with the sun sitting low in the sky, then suddenly Elias starts slowing down in front of me. We pull over and surprise surprise, another issue with his bike. It won’t even start. We discuss the very real possibility of me towing him back. That idea is parked quickly, and we decide that we should try and flag down a truck for his Moto. Thumbs out, the first truck that passes stops. A little English, and no problem. The 3 of us scramble the bike up in to his truck and off we go. Elias rides in the cab and I follow behind. It’s only a bout 20km to BMT, so it doesn’t take us too long, and the guy drops us right to a garage. It is quickly identified as a spark plug, out with the old and in with the new. I take the opportunity to turn my light on and shine it in to the sky to see if the guy can fix that, as it is now dark. To my horror he just smiles, grabs the light casing and points it down. That’s it! Unbelievable. I didn’t even think about doing that> Dick. Ha. With my light now working we head back to the hotel, the garage we were at did not have any welding facilities, so we will have to get that done in the morning before we head off.

After dinner we head back to the cafe/bar place with the pumping music, and have some coffee and beer for a couple of hours before heading to bed. Garages open at about 8, so we want to get the work done quickly and be on our way. Here’s hoping.

Nha Trang, Vietnam

20 November 2012

Up early and Elias has dropped his bike in to get the repairs done. Then he comes back and we get some breakfast, the good old baguette and pate combo. Then we head back to see his Moto. I decide it is probably a good idea to fix my indicators and change the oil. Elias, on the other hand, has a long list of repairs, including, all his lights, luggage holder, foot rest and of course the oil. After getting this done and dusted it is back to the hotel to check out and get the luggage on the bikes. Of course when I am loading up Jessie, she decides to fall over, again. With all my luggage on. Right in the hotel, petrol starts pouring out. I call for Elias to help me lift her up, but the French p****just starts laughing and reaches for his camera. The two women in the hotel end up helping me, while Elias chuckles away to himself. Thanks Elias. After this I put the bike up on to the back stand, so it is level when I am putting my luggage on, and hopefully more stable. The situation deteriorates further when I try to remove my bike from the back stand and end up scraping 6 inch marks in the tiled floor. Ohh my god, I need to get out of here now before I do any more damage.

We navigate out of BMT and the destination today is Nha Trang. No bother for the pros. Great day on the bike, the weather is fantastic and we make some good time. This is the first time that we are going to be on the coast since we started the trip. We weave through the mountains, and down through the villages before we emerge from the hills and see the sea. What a sight, now this is the Vietnam I want to see on my bike. We pass rice fields, fish farms, and lakes on the way down to the sea. The road starts getting busier as the light is fading. Then suddenly the road forks, with no signs telling you which way to go. We pull over and Elias asks someone the way. Now, you must know how Elias does this. In his thick French accent he pulls over beside a local, no hello, just shouts the name of the city, pronouncing it completely wrong. The local looks completely confused, so Elias shouts louder, with every iteration of Nha Trang you can think of, except the right one. It is pronounced Nung Chung, spoken with the throat and not the mouth. Ha. Eventually the guy points in a direction and Elias shouts ‘Gammon’ (correct pronounciation ‘cam un’) The road is really starting to get conjested, and everyone is travelling at speed, we have bikes, buses, trucks, the lot. The main roads have a lane on the right hand side for bikes, but if you want to over take you just move in to the other lane to pass the bike, no need to look or indicate, as it is always the responsibility of the person behind to avoid you. The issue on this road is that there is a ramp down to the bike lane, meaning that I am feeling nervous moving up and down it. Don’t want to unbalance the bike. So with all this going on, and the light fading, I am glad that we have had a few days practice on the bikes, wouldn’t have fancied this at the start.

I am pleased as we pull in to Nha Trang and there is still some light, we stop off for a cup of coffee and to see if we can find some cheap accomodation on the internet. It has become a bit of a habbit of ours, drive all day, get to the city, find a coffee shop and then find the right part of town to get somewhere to sleep. Coffee drank and we set off in search of our budget accomodation. Directions are sometimes a little sketchy when using the map, and about 3 or 4 streets can have the same name, so it can be quite a challenge. After a few poor places we eventually find the place we were looking for, The Ruby Hotel. Elias goes in a checks the room because I don’t want to leave Jessie on her own, given her tendancy to fall over. The people are friendly and Elias says the room is good so we roll the bikes in to the underground garage and unload the gear. This is really the only annoying thing about having the Moto. Everyday starts and ends the same, with the luggage, i’m not too bad I just use 4 bungees, and a couple of bags. Elias takes at least 10mins at each end for his removal process, far too long.

We get our stuff in the room and then just head down the street to find somewhere to eat. I end up getting a pizza and some chips, I’m not feeling the Vietnamese food tonight. Elias gets the burger and then a banana pancake with chocolate sauce. He is disappointed as a crepe turns up, and not the 3 inch thick pancake that he wanted. He does a good job of destroying it none the less. We head to another bar and have a few beers and play some pool. Elias is really good at pool. Not! Ha, but a good sport none the less. We have quite a few beers and then back to the hotel, no plan for tomorrow decided, but we are going to stay here.

Nha Trang, Vietnam

21 November 2012

Big lazy day today. Crawl out of bed after midday to go down and get a coffee. We end up picking this place that does western coffee, so we get ourselves an Americano, nice to have a change from the Vietnamese coffee. I decide that my leg is not making the progress that I would like, so I decide to go to a pharmacy and see what the craic is. Although her english is good, the medication that she has does not have much English. I look at various tablets and creams and bandages. I decide to go for a cream and some bandages, I think I might try covering it and see what that looks like. I think a dip in the sea is in order today and that way I will be sure that it is clean.

We head in to the sea at about 5pm, not sure why we left it so late, but whatever, we are here now. I must say I am looking particularly hot with my tan lines on my arms and legs, it musters quite a few smiles as I head to the sea. Ha, the sooner I get in to the water the quicker the laughing will stop. So 21/11/12 and I am going for a swim in the sea, madness! The water is so warm, and as I swim further out I would go so far as to say that the water was hot. The salt water does not hurt my leg as I thought that it might have. Of course, Elias informs me that if I don’t feel any pain, I am in the early stages of gangrene, a comforting thought. We end up staying in the ocean until the sun goes down, messing around in the surf. The beach is busy with many people in the sea having a laugh. It’s hard to believe that it is nearly Christmas and here I am in Vietnam. Elias and I laugh at the lunacy of it all, and give a moments thought to back home and how people will be getting up for work now, I know what I’d rather be doing.

We head back to the hotel and I get a shower, wash all the salt off me. My leg is feeling tight with the salt, and the water has removed the premature scab, just leaving a soft, fleshy white film over part of the wound. I put some of the cream on my leg and then wrap it up with some gauze and tape. Lets see if this improves the situation. On the way out for dinner we tell reception that we want to go on the island tour tomorrow, which starts at 8. When we get down the town we notice a supermarket of sorts. This place must be an absolute gold mine. It has everything a westerner could need, bread, milk, cheese, even chocolate and crisps from the west. Of course with this selection comes a hefty price, though only expensive in comparison to what you can get elsewhere. We decide that muesli and some natural yoghurt is the way to go for breakfast and so we pick up some of these. Afterwards it is dinner and some pool before an early night due to the early rise tomorrow.

Nha Trang, Vietnam

22 November 2012

Up early and have some of the lovely muesli that we got yesterday. It’s not exciting but it does the job of keeping hunger at bay. We are down promptly for 8, though I don’t know why, as I have been on a few tours and I know that we operate on Vietnam time, not real time. True to form I think it is closer to 9 before we are picked up. On to a little bus and we stop at a couple of hotels to pick up some more people. The usual obnoxious English making up some of our bus. Its about 20min drive in the bus before we get to the port and get herded on to the boat. On with the compulsory life jacket for departure and we are off. The guide speaks decent English and from the offset it is clear that this cruise is focused heavily on people buying drinks, with many of the English getting stuck in to the Tiger beer first thing in the morning. Not really my idea of fun.

Today is an absolute scorcher, and the good weather does a great job of making the sea look majestic. The water quality is much better here than it was in Ha Long Bay, beautiful turquoise sea with the glistening sun reflecting off the surface, directly in to my eyes. First island we get to has an aquarium on it, though this is an additional charge and so Elias and I decide that it is not for us, instead we walk the opposite way round the island and just find a nice spot to relax and apply some sun cream. Scrambling over the rocks proves to be quite a challenge for me and my gammy leg. Today my leg looks the worst yet. The cream that I put on last night has broken down the scab tissue and had the effect of keeping my wound wet. As it dries in the sun I get a lovely orange puss seeping from my wound. Sexy. Of course everyone is quick to tell me that it is infected, though I am not convinced, I think it is just the by product of the cream and scad combo. Never the less, I am eager to get in to the sea and give it a good cleanse.

After our brief stop here we move to the second island. This is where we get the chance to do some snorkelling. I am pretty excited because of how clear the water is. We get off the boat and over to the area where we get to pick up our masks and breathing tubes, from a communal bucket. My mask is a lovely merky brown/orange taint to it. Lovely. After attempting this mask and a number of others I give up with the snorkelling idea, instead I find myself a pair of googles and just dive in. Much better. On the way to the sea Elias has managed to kick a rock, and cut under his big toe. It looks pretty sore and he is not dealing with the pain particularly well. Ha. Elias has a waterproof camera and so we are able to take some video and photos under the water, which is pretty cool. When I get a little further from the shore I am able to see large areas of coral, and plenty of fish as I dive down to the sea floor. It is beautiful and it feels like another world as you plunge down, with the noise of the English muffled and the heat of the water coupled with the view. While I am enjoying the scenery the English are beached on the shore, ordering more beer, throwing their old cans in to the sea. I can’t say I am surprised.

Back on the boat and it is time for lunch. The wooden benches that we had been sitting on get transformed in to one long table, with everyone sitting around the sides of the boat. A makeshift tablecloth is thrown over and then the food starts coming out. Many, many different dishes appear and it is much better quality than I had expected, having been disappointed by the food before. I help myself to plenty of food, stretch or starve appears to be the order of the day. Once lunch is finished the boat moves to the third island. We don’t get off here, instead what happens is that a band appears on the boat, the crew produce a drum kit and some electric guitars and we all move to the front of the boat. Two more boats pull up beside us and it is now time to party. Elias is cheery as ever at this revelation, a smile from ear to ear. His absolute disgust at the drinking/party culture only adds to my amusement. Ha ha. One of the cabin crew dresses up like a woman and gets up to sing, while one of the English guys starts dancing with him in a somewhat inappropriate manner. Elias fails to hide his revulsion at the whole affair. Next up, we have some Korean’s from another boat who start dancing to ‘Gunnam Style’ that was hilarious and caused a big cheer from all the boats. The band disperse and it is now happy hour with a crew member and a cool box in the ocean, offering free drinks to all that come to see him. The English, first in of course, making a beeline for the boos. I get approached by a Irish girl, who is as drunk as the English, she is so happy there is another Irish on board. She can not contain her excitement, unfortunately this excitement causes her to lose the power of balance, as she falls backwards with the elegance and grace of a sumo wrestler being toppled. I help pick her up and she starts singing Irish songs, while holding on to me, to prevent another burton. A true credit to the country, ha ha ha. I take my opportunity to remove myself from her company and jump in to the water. She follows later, fully clothed, and rather than jumping in, the move she performed would be better described as falling. Elias gives me his camera and I take some slow motion video of him jumping from the top deck of the boat. I must say it looks particularly cool in slow motion. As we are summoned back to the boat I notice one of the English throwing up in the sea and then trying to shoo it away with his hands. Initially I found this quite amusing, however when his expulsion started moving towards me it became a different story as I hurried myself up the ladder and in to the boat.

Elias is still complaining about his toe as we head to the last island, I kindly remind him about my leg and that his lack of sympathy and support has caused him this injury. Well, that and stupidity. When we get to the last island there is fee to pay to get on the island, but you get the use of a deck chair included. How wonderful. On we go and this is like the tropical paradise. Sitting in a deck chair over looking the sea, watching the shimmering of flying fish in the distance, streaking across the surface of the sea. I decide that my leg has had enough salty water today and so I just sit in the comfort of my chair, while actively avoiding any eye contact with the Irish girl, for the fear that she may come and talk to me. Elias, being the big French girl that he is, just wants to moan about his toe. Ha. Rather unbelievably while I am relaxing I notice that bokey English guy heading back to the boat to get more beer. I’ll bet if I ask him if he had a good time that he would tell me that it was amazing. Crazy freak.

Back to dry land and on a bus back to the hotel. Shower time to remove some of the salt from my gash. I decide not to apply cream and the gauze today after the disaster this morning. Just leave it open and let it dry, that is the new plan.
We head out for dinner with some people that we met on the boat. Hannah from Malaysia, Nathan from Australia and Spencer from America, though he is half Vietnamese and so can speak the language no problem. We end up grabbing a table by the road and spencer orders us up a selection of veg and meat and stuff. So handy having someone who can speak Vietnamese. We get some of these cracker things, they are about as big as a dinner plate, with sesame seeds on the top, delicious. After this we go in search of a banana pancake for Elias, but have no joy. Instead he settles for a fruit drink for a street stall. My leg has entered a new stage of pain. If is stand still that is when I have a problem, I feel the blood pulsing down my leg and it feels like I am being stabbed. To counter this I just pace around in circles when the guys stop. Hannah decides that she will pace around with me so that I don’t look completely ridiculous by myself. Thanks Hannah. The evening is drawn to a close with some pool and the exchange of Facebook and phone numbers, all except Nathan, no one is interested in his contact details, and as the night has gone on it is clear that he is only interested in talking to Hannah. Spencer is on holiday and is living in HCM and tells us to hook him up when we get down, Hannah extends an invitation for when I get to Malaysia. Something I am sure I will take her up on when I get there. We want to get away early tomorrow, the plan is Da Lat.

Ninh Thuan province, Vietnam

23 November 2012

Up at a reasonable time, some delicious muesli and get the girls loaded up. The plan is to Da Lat today. Another hot day, you know I think I am going to stop talking about it being a hot day. Suffice to say that every day hot, just some crank the level right up. As Jessie has not been on the rip for the past few days the electric starter is a no go. I’m pretty sure that the battery in my girl is not the best, it’ll hold a little charge overnight from a days worth of driving, but leave her any longer than that and it is no joy. Time for the kickstart, which I am yet to master. Of course Sally 2 starts with no problem, as usual. After a few goes on the kickstart the only thing I have succeeded in doing is opening up my scab when the lever swings back after slipping off my foot. I now have agonising pain in my leg, and a pleasant trickle of orange fluid slowly creeping down my leg. I limp myself over to Elias who kindly starts Jessie for me. I know he is good for something. We eventually get away and are on the road for about an hour when Elias pulls over, I hope that Sally 2 isn’t playing up. We chat about the plan for the day, maybe Da Lat will be too rushed, we want to be in HCM on the 26th. If we go to Da Lat today, we will arrive late, and then we will have to go tomorrow and so we will not see anything. We head to a coffee shop to look at the options. We find this wee spot down an alley, and I think it is one of the best coffees that we have had, nice and strong, and with the accompanying ‘cake tea’ [Tra Bac] so good. New plan, Mui Ne, let’s go.

The good thing about this decision is that we will travel in land for a short while and then we will head back on to the coast. The road is good today and so we make good progress and decide to stop in Phan Rang Thap Cham for lunch, possibly the best name for a town, ever!! Lunch is good, even with the addition of some meat and the exclusion of a ridiculous price. We go next door for a coffee afterwards, while the girls wait outside. We don’t even get a coffee as it is so hot, instead we just order some fresh juice. The menu is only in Vietnamese so we just pick a couple of choices and we’ll see what get. Best way to try something, blind luck. I translate our choices after they arrive. I have hit the jackpot and got some apple juice, Elias has some sort of weird coconut thing, and our tea, though this time it is Jasmine and not the lovely cake tea, can’t have it all the time eh? We actually spend a long time sitting here, with Elias making a few calls home and I take the opportunity to so the same.

By the time we leave we have decided that we are not going to make it to Mui Ne, but instead we will try and find somewhere on the coast that we can stay, then head to Mui Ne tomorrow. The complete flexibility that you have on the bike is fantastic. We can just change out mind on a whim, completely change the direction of our travels, or stop at a moments notice, you can’t beat it.
As we get back out on to the coast Elias pulls over as the sun is setting. There is a hotel right there, right on the waters edge. Elias goes in to check it out. It’s a little more expensive but we are prepared to pay to have this view. We waste no time in getting our bags in to the room and Elias gets himself straight in to the sea. I venture down with my camera and get a few snaps of the sunset and the fishing boats. A change from the busy cities that we have been staying in. I think we are the only people in the hotel. It is like having your own private retreat. After Elias has finished his swim we head out for something to eat, not too many choices here as it just on the road side. We ask for a recommendation from the guy at reception who speaks good English and we go to that place, just to the left of the hotel. I order up grilled shrimps, and Elias the fish hot pot. Now for some reason I thought I had ordered squid, and so I was a little disappointed when my large plate of shrimps arrived. Full shrimps not shelled and sill with heads and legs. I cut the head off and start to de-shell, I quickly get bored of this process and just start eating the shell as well. Ha. After dinner we head back to the hotel and it is packed. People everywhere, there is a nice outside area and it appears to be popular with the locals. All sitting having coffee and juice. We get a drink before bed. The plan is to be up early tomorrow and have an early morning swim
.

Phan Thiet, Vietnam

24 November 2012

6am comes and 6am goes. We wake up but are so tired that we just go back to sleep again. We do manage to get in to the sea for 8am so it wasn’t a complete disaster. The water is fresh this morning, if fact to be honest it is pretty cold when I get in, hesitation on my part prolonging the shock. When I do get in it is great, just swimming out in the sea before a day on the bike, this is the life. We swim over to the shore and clamber out on to the beach for a look around. I am aware that my back and shoulders have been completely toasted from my previous days on the boat. I know I probably shouldn’t be in the sea again as I should be keeping my leg dry, but I can’t pass up an opportunity like this.

After the swim we get some breakfast in the hotel, some fried eggs and bread, and the coffee and cake tea combo. Beautiful way to start the day. The guy who speaks English comes and sits with us, again I am the victim of the over friendly Vietnamese guy, hugging me, patting my leg and doing the infamous prolonged hand shake, you know the one. After my abuse we get our stuff loaded up, as usual I am waiting on Elias putting 400,000 ropes round his gear. We had to wait for Elias’ laundry so we were not in a massive rush this morning anyway. We only have about 100km to Mui Ne so that will be no problem.

We are on our way and while we are motoring through I am thinking about the bike journey so far. It was something that I didn’t think I would have got the opportunity to do. Truth be told I didn’t really make any effort to make it happen, more it happened to me. That is the real beauty of travelling. You have opportunities that come your way on a daily basis, some more significant than others, but all equally as important to the overall experience. An example, had I not gone over and talked to Elias in Hoi An, I wouldn’t have bought a bike. You meet someone in the street or in a club, do you have a coffee with them? What potential experiences can you garnish from any one encounter? Maybe it is just because it is different from the western world. The experience is so much more a personal one than anything from back home. It is about interaction and from my experience people are as interested in my life as I am in theirs. I will be sad to give up my independence when I sell Jessie, I’ll try not to think about that now, rather enjoy this drive.

Right on cue at one of our stops for a photo, Elias notices that Sally 2 has been rattling the life out of his luggage rack and that it is starting to come loose. Brilliant. Next stop a garage. When we pull up, we actually have to wake the mechanic up, because of course he is just chillin’ out and having a wee snooze. Sally 2 gets tightened up and we set off, not that we get far. Elias is at the side of the road again, what now? Sally 2 won’t start, yes!! I scout out the nearest garage, there is one across the street. Using body language we act out the issue. The mechanic opens the fuel tank and takes a look inside. Dry. Good one Elias! Though to be fair it is an easy mistake as the old girls don’t have a petrol gauge, so you just got to open her up and take a look. Ha ha. Along comes a 2L bottle filled with lovely petrol, ready to get Sally 2 back on the road. I decide that I will be pulling over in the next garage to top up Jessie so I don’t encounter the same issue. While we are at the pumps we get the arrival of another traveller on a trusty Honda Win. He is heading in the same direction as us and so I invite him along for the ride. Ohhh dear. This guy was from Holland, and I can best describe him as a maniac. He was ripping along at 80-100km, now that is just not the speed that we travel at. He also was driving too close and I’m not even convinced that he was giving the road his full attention as I often saw a phone in his hands. It wasn’t long before the crazy man disappeared off in to the horizon. I was not disappointed.

Lunch time. There are all these wee places along the side of the road that just have some hammocks and places to eat and get a drink. I fancy one of these and so we pull up. Get off the girls and I get straight in to a hammock. Then I hear a loud crash, I open my eyes and look up to see Jessie has just taken herself to the ground. Why Jessie?!?! Why are you doing this to me?! I jump up to find her pouring out the power juice, all over the ground. JESSIE!!!!! At least this time I have the help of Elias and we get her back upright. The guys in the restaurant help me move Jessie to more stable ground. I look at her, one indicator smashed, front light hanging off. What a b****. I’ll have to get that fixed before I sell her.

We get back on the road and head to Mui Ne. We get off the main road and head down towards the coast. The road is epic, full Tarmac, winding through little villages. A very different side to Vietnam than I have seen on the journey. Lots of plantations and farms, I can see the soil changing as we get closer to the coast, more sandy in texture. The we see the ocean to our left, with lovely golden sand dunes to the right. As we continue down the road the sand dunes get even more impressive, with the golden sand turning to a mars red colour. We get in to Mui Ne, a small fishing village, and we are treated to the sunset over the ocean with fishing boats in the foreground. We decide to head on down the road as it is Saturday night and maybe there will be more going on closer towards the city. The road from Mui Ne to Phan Thiet is a straight one, hugging the coastline, full of shops and guest houses. We try a couple and end up getting a good room about halfway along.

We get our stuff in the room and then we are back on the girls to find somewhere to eat. The joy of having the bikes, we can eat anywhere that takes our fancy. We head a few km out the road and end up in this restaurant where we get a meat and cheese filled baguette with some chips. So healthy. Back at the hotel we meet an Austrian girl and she comes out with us. She was boring and forgettable. Nothing of interest to say, about anything. We end up at some club that had just opened, right on the beach front, and busy. There is a massive Russian population here, and even a few dedicated shops. This club has a promotion where by girls can get free cocktails if they dance on the pole in the centre of the bar. You can imagine the state that some of them are in. The place is full of westerners, not a Vietnamese in sight. Luckily they have a pool table, and this is where we spend most of the evening. We even have pool gloves! That’s right, two fingers and a thumb. You look like a right gimp, but it does ensure that you hand doesn’t sweat and effect your game. Of course, with me being a professional, this matters. Ha ha ha. We end up staying quite late and get back home close to 3.

Phan Thiet, Vietnam

25 November 2012

After our late night we have a lie in today. We eventually peel ourselves out of bed and head to the sand dunes. We decide we’ll get something to eat when we get there. As we approach the area kids coming running from everywhere trying to get us to rent sleds to slide down the dunes. We aren’t interested, but it doesn’t stop their persistence. Elias picks a spot for us to stop. It is pricey. So we just order some coffee. First of all, they take so long to bring the coffee, then, my coffee is not what I ordered. I ask again. I think I have to wait 20mins before it arrives, despite us being the only people here. Elias is getting agitated, he hasn’t eaten, and so is a little cranky, the true French comes out. Ha ha ha. Then when we ask for the bill, they even get the price wrong, all in all a complete disaster! I’m still laughing though, which is more than can be said for Elias.

Next we tackle the dunes. They are on the roadside, very little shade on the climb up, being bombarded by the sun. We hike up the dunes and there is a breeze, which is very welcome. The dunes extend inland and you would be forgiven for thinking that you were in the Sahara. So strange having these massive dunes, just at the side of the road, and unlike anywhere else in Vietnam. After about half an hour, and plenty of photos, we get back on the bikes and head in search of something to eat.

Find this nice local place, where the guy is an Easy Rider. We talk about our plan to go to HCM today, he advises that it is too late in the day and we should wait until tomorrow. We discuss the idea of heading down the coast a little and making some progress today, make the journey less tomorrow. We decide against it and just stay here. We will get up early tomorrow and get on the road so we make the 230km journey in the daytime.

We head back to the same place as last night for dinner, but I go for the burger this time. Yummy. Then we just head to the pub across the road from our hotel, after a failed attempt to get Elias a banana pancake. Instead of beer we go for coffee and tea. I’d never though I would drink both together, but now it is difficult to imagine not doing it. We head back to the hotel and listen to some music. I’m sleeping by 12, it’s an early rise tomorrow. The alarm is set for 5.30, let’s see how that goes.

Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam

26 November 2012

So we get up at 5.30, and i’m not feeling fresh. Pretty tired actually, but I am looking forward to this day of riding. As it has been a whole day since I had my bike on the road, that of course means that I need to kick start her. The electric starter is just not doing the job. After messing around with this for a while I eventually get her started and it is about 6 by the time that we leave.

On the road, less than 2km and Elias’ bike dies. What a surprise! I scout forward and try to see if I can find a garage that is open at this time. I return having had no success. In my absence Elias is talking to a guy who offers to take us to a garage, he ends up pushing Elias along, while on his own Moto, with his foot on Elias’ quite the impressive feat. I had tried something similar earlier, but with no joy, perhaps not the experience required. He moves us up the street I had just been up and turns off down a narrow alley. We roll in to someones house and then the guy disappears. The owners of the house, who speak no English inform us that the mechanic will be here in 5mins. I think we are there for the guts of an hour before we decide to just head back out in to the street and see if there is another option. We find someone who is open just a couple of doors down, as we pass our mechanic on the way out. He tinkers away at Sally 2 and it is not long before he has here ready to go, with the chain tension tightened up we are back out on the road, it’s 8. Glad that we got up early.

We head on our way and it is not long before we are on the infamous highway 1. Busy busy busy. Luckily we are experienced on the old girls now so this is not a problem. What is interesting is that, I had thought with this being the main road in the whole of Vietnam, that there may be some more safety precautions in place. Wrong. Just like any other road, except much more traffic. The road is lined with shops and business for miles, it is like you are just in a never ending city. In addition I have all the hazards that I come to expect; children walking on the road; kids cycling from school; ducks; dogs; geese; shops set up in the bike lane; people taking a piss at the side of the road. After all this is Vietnam. ON the plus side, the road quality here is good, so we are able to make good progress.

We stop for breakfast at about 10, as we have both been up for quite a long time. We get the coffee and tea combo, and even though this place doesn’t sell any food, across the road does, and so our waitress heads across the road and gets us some breakfast. After getting the cake tea I head over to try and find out the name of this brand of tea. After a few failed body language attempts it is out with google translate and I eventually get the name ‘Tra Bac’ I’ll maybe see if I can get some when I get to HCM. It is so good. After a short stop we are back on our way. As I am ripping along I take a dragonfly in the throat. It is important not to underestimate just how sore this is. A dragonfly has quite a mass when you combine it with the 70kph that I am doing. At least I had my mouth closed. We stop only one more time for a coffee break as we decide to wait to eat until we get to HCM.

It is clear when we arrive in HCM because the traffic increases 10 fold, the road gets wider and we have the introduction of road signs and traffic lights that people actually pay attention to. We have marked on a map on the iPhone where the general area for hostels is. Although we make a few wrong turns we eventually end up where we want. The driving here is crazy. There are so many bike and buses and people, I am glad it is at the end of our trip. Just need so serious concentrating. We get checked in to our dorm and head out for a coffee. We are in the main backpacker area and so there is no shortage of the usual tourist stuff, with bars and street sellers a plenty.

We txt Spencer and he meets us for dinner. We head to one of the places on the street and I opt for some beef fried noodles,. First thing I notice is just how much more expensive everything is in HCM, easily the most expensive city that I have been to in Vietnam. Elias and I have a drink to celebrate the safe passage to HCM, it really has been quite an adventure, one that I will never forget. Elias has not decided if he will sell his Moto and so he want to think for a couple of days. We are having a few beers when I get a txt from Tea asking if I am in HCM, I reply yes and she says that she is on holiday here for a few days and so she comes and meets us for a few drinks. We head to a bar to play some pool, not too busy in HCM this evening. What is also different here is how the girls react to a foreigner. When we are playing pool, for example, the girls are over talking to us, trying to get us to buy them drinks, and being very friendly. I have my suspicions as to there intentions. Every bar around here is the same, and a simple walk up the street is riddled with the echoes ‘hello you come in, beer cheap’ I haven’t experienced this type of heckling in the rest of Vietnam. After a few beers we head home, pretty tired after the long day on the Moto.

Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam

27 November 2012

A nice little lie in today and so when I get up for breakfast Elias has already left and so I have some noodle soup with Tea and then just explore the city. It’s much hotter here, with it being further south, and so I remember my earlier experiences with Mr Chaff and so a reduced pace is the order of the day. We walk through the streets, absorbing the hustle and bustle of the biggest city in Vietnam. Tea is looking for an iPod cover, so this involves looking in all the little shops along the way. HCM has a lot more little alleyways than other cities, and so it is fun just wandering down one to see where it leads. Often with little guest houses, masage parlours and houses lining the alley, and of course Motos flying up and down, even though there is barely the space.

For some reason I am still pretty tired today and so I retire to my bed for most of the afternoon. I think I really needed it, sometimes it is nice to just have a good long sleep. By the time I wake up it is nearly dinner time and so I txt Elias, Spencer and Tea and see who is interested in eating. Elias and Spencer have already gone out and so Tea and I head out. We take the short walk past the night market and get to this place that does BBQ. I am salivating at the thought of all the meat that I am going to get. We order up a veritable feast. There was beef with cheese, chicken, pork and vegetable kebabs and fish. I am so stuffed by the end of it, especially by the addition of rice. I think I was able to eat more than normal because we had to cook all the food ourselves so it was dinner, drip feed style. On the way home Tea looks in the market for a bag. They are even charging her a small fortune, even though she is Vietnamese. They can tell from her accent that she is not a local, and so it would appear that you need to be a true local to get the real price. I head home after this for some more sleep, as clearly I didn’t get enough today. Ha

Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam

28 November 2012

Elias has told me that he has found a buyer for my bike, so after breakfast I go for a look around to see how much it will cost me. There is a place opposite the hostel that I check first, he is looking 500,000, I know that is ridiculous an so I’m not interested in that. I check another few places in the surrounding area, a lot of them don’t fix the Honda Win, bizarre as there are so many here with the amount of back packers. I decide to give spencer a call and see if he can shed any light on good places to go. He meets me and we head out into the busy streets of HCM, with him on the back of my bike. First time I’ve had a passenger, and it’s in the busiest place in Vietnam. Ha. Spencer is a brave man. We head down a narrow little street where spencer gets his bike fixed. The guy comes over and takes a look at the issues. He says he will have to go and buy the parts as he doesn’t have them, so we decide we will just go to the market and buy ourselves. I show him my electric starter, he starts it with no problem, tells me I don’t need it changed. Turns out that you don’t need to put on the gas, just push the button. Right enough, I give it a go and off she starts, purring away nicely. Would have been good to know this from the start, would have made things a lot easier.

So we head to the market, must take us about half an hour, with spencer on the back checking the directions on his phone as we go. We eventually get there and I park the Moto, instantly some guy comes running from one of the stalls asking what we are after. Spencer talks with him about the lights I need fixed, the guy then comes over and takes apart my lights so he can go and find them in the market, Spencer goes with and I wait with Jessie, make sure she doesn’t fall over. When he comes back I move my bike round the street to where the guy is going to fix it for me. All in we are getting it done for 300,000, so it was well worth the trip out here. You can literally get everything for your Moto here, stalls are so full of stock it resembles dad’s garage, the difference being that they can find what they are looking for. This is typical of everywhere in Vietnam, every stall, shop or street vendor packed to maximum capacity. I am not sure they will ever sell all their stuff.

After the fix it’s time to get Spencer back because he has a job interview. One has to drive with purpose to make it back in time. As I get to one of the busy roundabouts I feel Jessie spluttering, I’m pretty sure I know what’s going to happen. She dies right in the middle of the roundabout, Spencer jumps off and starts pushing me. I am out of petrol! Spencer is panicking about his interview, I tell him not to worry. Ha. He pushes my round a couple of streets until we find a petrol station and get some juice in my girl. Fuelled and ready to go we head back out and I manage to get Spencer back in time. He is pleased. I head on to get Jessie washed, she is somewhat dirty from the trip, a nice clean up will have her shiny and ready for sale. The boys do a good job of cleaning her up, in fact she looks so good that I want to keep her, but, no time to sell. I let Elias know that she is ready and he tells me he will let me know when he meets the guy.

The 4 of us head out for dinner, we ask at the hostel for some good Vietnamese food and we head out. It is a good dander but we get to this place on the street that has a BBQ. They have no tables so we are about to move on when suddenly a table gets lifted from the back and 4 chairs placed around it. Brilliant. In this place we have some new food to try. A delicacy. Some delicious goat’s nipples. That’s right. Goat nipples! We get a portion of those bad boys ordered up. When they arrive they don’t look like the nipples I imagined. It is a longer thin strip, I think they take a lot of skin, and nipples, then flatten it out. Mmmm delicious. On to the BBQ, when I first try, it tastes exactly how you think a nipple would taste. The texture, the chew. Not so good. The second piece I try I cook it for a lot longer, the nipple is much more tender and enjoyable. After the nipples we have a seafood hot pot and I order some of the sesame crackers from a street seller. A great meal, where I end up taking the piss out of Elias’ accent, I have myself in tears.

After dinner we head out to find a bar, Spencer is in the mood for some shisha and so he takes us off in that direction. The place we head to ends up being closed, so Spencer asks for directions to another. We get to this shisha bar, very clean and very fancy. We choose raspberry and pomegranate. It soon arrives in an ornate pipe, and we get treated to a belly dancing show. Trying the shisha was interesting. The flavoured tobacco fills your mouth and I would liken it to candy floss. An experience. After this we head home for some sleep.

Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam

29 November 2012

Today is a day of relaxation. I spend the day trying to come to terms with the fact that Elias has sold his bike, and the deal he had for mine has fallen through. I will have to see about getting something sorted for the sale of my Moto, because I can’t leave here until I do. Luckily there are many posters around the place looking to sell Motos, so there must be a demand. Obvious my poster will need to be the best and not one of these generic crap ones, I’ll get my thinking cap on.

I look at some information about Mekong Delta, the river running through HCM. I might organise a tour. I head round a number of agencies and I think the best price that I can get is $18 for a 2 day, 1 night tour. I think the 1 day tour would be too short due to the distance I have to travel. Armed with my information I ask the guys if anyone is interested in doing the tour with me. Spencer can’t because of an interview, Elias will think and Tea says yes. I’m looking to go tomorrow, so Elias has until the end of the day to decide.

I head up to the market in the afternoon, just for a nosey. The usual selection of fruit and clothing, but it’s still nice to dander around and just see the pandemonium! Elias bails out of the Mekong trip so Tea and I go to book it. Pick up is at 8 tomorrow morning and so I take an easy one so I can be fresh!

Hồ Chí Minh City, Vietnam

03 December 2012

Right so, enough messing around, I need to get this bike sold. I have made no effort other than getting my bike repaired and cleaned. Not really a conscientious endeavour. So after a morning coffee and tea with Elias it is back to the hostel to create a poster to get my bike sold. To be fair Elias creates the whole poster and I just change the poor English and add a different photo. It is then off to get some copies of this bad boy. I would have thought that this would have been easy based on how many places I have seen during my time here. However, the reality is that the first place we went printed one bad copy, then photocopied it, badly. It was running out of ink. Whatever. We split up and I head to get my posters done, Elias goes with some tape to stick up our bad copies. I end up round the corner in some professional print place, instead of the travel agent/hotel/printer place. I get my 20 copies done, and of good quality then I head back up to meet Elias so we can get these up in the hotspots. I meet him on the way back and he tells me that he has found someone who is interested in my bike. What a result, I nearly break in to a run in my return, the guy is having a beer just outside our hostel. The interested party is a Canadian guy, who’s name I have since forgotten. I take hime over so that he can meet Jessie, with it being a few days since I’ve powered her up, I’m feeling somewhat nervous. My anxiety was justified as it takes me at least 10 pumps to get her started. Once she starts though, the guy is impressed by how quiet she purrs, at least she does something right! Ha. We head back over to where he was sitting, he starts asking me Moto related questions, I don’t lie to him. We talk about the dodgy starter and the give in the accelerator, but I tell him mechanically I have had no problems. He wants to take it for a test drive, so I grab the stuff for him. He rides bikes back in Canada so I don’t mind him having a try. He gets on and off he goes. I go an sit with his mates and chat. One of his other friends is getting a Moto tomorrow and he is excited. I keep talking about the bikes and the fun to be had, keep the enthusiasm going. It’s not long before the guy is back. With a big smile, ear to ear. He has decided to go for it, so I nip upstairs and grab all my gear. I buy him a beer to celebrate his new purchase. I wanted $300 for Jessie, but in the end the guy offered $275 and I was happy to take it and get the quick sale.

What a result! In the end I didn’t even need to get my posters done. The bad ones that Elias was putting up were enough. That is one worry off my mind. One day of effort and the Moto is gone. Great. I get paid in Vietnamese Dong, which is not ideal but I’m just thankful for the sale, so I take it and I’ll get it changed later. I head back the Cheeky Monkey with Spencer and Kea Tyu while Elias sleeps. the Korean loves a sing song and so take the opportunity to jump up and give a song a whirl. He is in a band back in Korea and it shows, good set of lungs on him. Our singer this evening isn’t as good as the girl from last night, but still the best entertainment that I have found in this area. It’s not a late one.