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Okay then, the story starts when a friend of mine thought it'd be a bit of a giggle to recreate the Top Gear episode where the 3 presenters travelled from Saigon to Hanoi by moped.....
.....but without the support of a full crew, a big budget, local translators and a load of researchers....
....being stupid, and finding time on my hands following my retirement, I said that I fancied having a go at that - after all, how hard could it be?
As time went on, so the whole thing grew and developed, and I found myself recruiting other 'stupid' people to come along as well. (Well, Nige Leigh is coming with us!). The end result is that 20 intrepid (stupid?) people will be making their own way to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) by various means, from all over the former British Colonies, and meeting up at a dubious pub at the beginning of March, whereupon we will acquire some suitable transport and then leave the city at 1000hrs on Tuesday 4th March, arriving safely in Hanoi on Friday 14th March...
...so - how hard can it be?....
…In my case, it’s a simple drive to Heathrow, flight to Hong Kong, flight to Hanoi, internal hop down to Saigon – job done….
…..another guy is Leaving Scotland on 24 Feb, Stornoway - Reykjavik (supply ship), Reykjavik - Vancouver (Icelandair), Vancouver - Vladivostok (Aeroflot cargo), Vladivostok - Hanoi (Koreanair), Hanoi - Ho Chi Minh City (VietJet Air) – so I have it easy!
...Well, the 'transport' can only have 2 wheels - Oh, and it can't cost more than £200 ($320US).
Each person has to be ‘self-sufficient’ for the entire journey, carrying or ‘trading’ anything which is required along the way – it’s nowt like a highly organised military logistics exercise, and the mantra of “No-one gets left behind” doesn’t apply to this Vietnam journey (if you don’t recognise the quote, you haven’t seen the relevant films from the Vietnam war!).
When (if) we arrive in Hanoi, the mopeds will be donated to a local charity which is run by an Aussie to build infrastructure for Vietnamese orphans… have a look at www.projectvietnam.com/ for details – the bikes and anything else we can leave with them, will get sold off and the funds used for their current orphanage project.
Back to the transport of choice……. In Vietnam, a ‘moped’ is anything with an engine of up to 160cc (anything bigger needs a special licence which isn’t easily available to us ‘foreigners’) – some have gears, some don’t.
The ‘sensible’ choice is to buy a Japanese bike (something like a Honda XL125 trial bike would be great!) – but they are well above our price limit (an old one will still cost about a grand)..
So then we look at the budget – we should have a choice between a pile of crap Soviet 2-stroke 125cc (only about 40 years old), and a Vietnamese copy of a Chinese copy of an out-of-date Honda 100cc 4-stroke!
There are other choices, but I don’t want to do 1200miles on a 50cc auto scooter over poor roads in any weather – so hopefully will manage to get the ‘upmarket’ version with 110cc and 4 manual gears!!!
Anyone who knows me will (hopefully) agree that on 4 wheels, I’m fairly okay – but on 2 wheels, anything can happen – it doesn’t matter how well trained you are, I’m a little out of practice.
Luckily, no driving licence is needed (other than a UK one to fulfil the requirements of the Travel Insurance), but if I could speak the language and take the test, I’d be allowed a temporary licence to use a ‘proper’ bike and could hire a nice BMW touring machine – but that’d be far too sensible.
My knowledge of the Vietnamese language is limited to ordering noodles and beer (so that’s fine then!), so when we get lost, anything could happen.
So – I’m officially stupid – what can you do to help?
1. Well, you can simply donate some money to this great cause (or any other cause you want to give to).
2. You can help me to look stupid whilst being stupid – I’ll happily wear a tee shirt to promote YOUR company whilst riding (in return for a small donation)….Just think of the publicity photos you can put up in reception when I get back – and the extra free publicity you’ll get if you’re lucky enough to be the ‘tee shirt-of-the-day’ when I actually fall off the moped – those BBC news photos of a foreigner in an ambulance will amuse you for hours!!!!
3. You can enter a sweepstake to guess how far I’ll get before admitting defeat and getting on a train (it won’t happen – I’ll be on the back of Clemos bike to get to the next town to acquire a replacement well before I get a train).
Just for the avoidance of any doubt – this is an adventure, NOT a holiday (yeah, right!) – how hard can it be?
I am funding it all myself – no pledges or donations will be used for anything on the trip – It’ll all go to charity.
I originally wanted to split it 4 ways, between http://projectvietnam.com/ www.macmillan.org.uk/Home.aspx www.alzheimers.org.uk/ and prostatecanceruk.org/ , but I can’t do that easily, so here’s the deal……
Friends and family have been affected by the 3 UK-based charity conditions, so are close to my heart….
…there are many other worthwhile causes which I support, but I don’t want to spread myself too thinly on this enterprise…..
….the Vietnam charity will benefit from a direct donation from those of us who make it to the end….
…YOU can donate to any one of these charities, and just let me know that you’ve done so, but the easiest way is to click the link from this page to donate to Prostate cancer UK – and they’ll sort out all the admin and claim back the ‘Gift Aid’ if you are a UK tax payer. (and if you are a Company or Business, it’ll be tax-deductible!)
What can possibly go wrong????