Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Happy Christmas

We're still here ... the months seemed to pass by so quickly and I never got round to post anything and before you know it's Christmas Eve! 

So Season's Greetings ... hopefully will update before the New Year.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Lake District

Dad has had a couple of days in the Lake District. Yesterday he cycled part of LEJOG with Jacob and Charlie. They are cycling to raise funds for the air ambulance. Dad stopped just south of Gretna Green (think he was worried he might say "I do" at the wrong time!) and the lads carried on to Bonnie Scotland. Dad did around 35 miles, but the lads were aiming at 70 miles. Weather wasn't great, some rain and a head wind. Not good for cycling.

Today he has had a day out with his friends along the Solway coast. Brilliant weather.

Tomorrow he is heading back to Scotland to stay with a friend at Oban.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

A quick pit-stop

Dad came home last night. Had a good journey back but it was just a quick pit-stop and he was off again today just after lunch. This time he's heading for the Lake District for a few days and then back up to Oban. He's hoping to catch up with Jacob who is currently cycling Land's End to John O'Groats and raising funds for the air ambulance. Here is Jacob's just giving page.  This time Dad has packed his bike and he's hoping to maybe cycle a few miles with Jacob tomorrow.

Dad will head up to Oban probably Tuesday/Wednesday.

Friday, April 26, 2013

An update from bonnie Scotland

Spoke to Dad on Thursday. They'd had a day walking. They'd set off from the hotel and did around 10 miles with quite a bit of ups and downs round the hills (or are they classed as a Munroe!).  They'd spotted a herd of deer. Weather had been mixed with rain the morning and a sunny afternoon. 

Food still good in the hotel. On Wednesday evening Dad had had soup followed by gammon and pear and ice cream for desert.  They'd had a couple of musicians as evening entertainment which Dad had said were very good.
The shower in the room isn't working so well, so they've been having a bath. I'd bet if Dad had got his tools he'd been sorting out that shower!

The plan for Friday is walking. Probably catching the bus out to somewhere and then do a walk.


Well Friday was a walking day. Weather has been pretty good. Couple of hail showers but other than that the sun has been out. Mountain tops have snow on them.  The coach trip today was to Fort William so Dad and few others got dropped off and walked along the West Higherland Way. They did around 11 miles. The coach then picked them up on the way back through from Fort William.

On the menu tonight for tea is haggis - well you can't have a trip to bonnie Scotland without sampling haggis.  The entertainment is a piper, so definitely a "Scottish" theme tonight.

They head back home tomorrow. Bags need to be outside the room by 6.00 am (I'd be tempted leave mine out tonight!), breakfast is 7.00 am and then they're on the road by 8.00 am.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Trip to Oban and Mull

Spoke to Dad earlier. They'd had a great day today. They've been on a trip to Oban and then over to Mull. Weather has been good with blue skies and just a bit of rain as they boarded the ferry over to Mull. Dad also had time for a wander around Oban.

Hotel is very good and very efficient. They managed to serve meals for all 150 guests. Last night Dad's evening meal was pate for starter, fish for main course and followed by peach melba. This morning breakfast was porridge and a full English (or is that Scottish?) breakfast. Entertainment last night was an accordion player.

Tomorrow the plan is to go walking.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

He's arrived !

Just had a quick phone call with Dad. They've arrived in Bonnie Scotland. Been travelling most of the day - but hey this retired folk having nothing to rush for!  The coach was an hour late picking them up this morning so they nipped into the Salvation Army hostel and had a free cup of coffee. Dad did say he'd booked in for the night on his return journey!

They had to change coaches in Tebay and then met up with two more Heritage holiday coaches. Hotel is very nice. Got a big room with white fluffy dressing gowns !  Dad did say the hotel doors are locked at 10.45 so they won't be going far in the evening.

Tomorrow he is planning on taking the coach trip out to Oban and then taking the ferry over to Mull.

He's off to Bonnie Scotland

Well Dad is off on jollies again. This time he's off to Bonnie Scotland, on a coach holiday!  He left this morning and the coach was picking them up in Stoke. There are around 25 folks from the walking group on the trip.

The trip they are doing is the Scenic West Coast with Higherland Heritage
They are staying in The Dalmally Hotel in the village of Dalmally in Strathorchy. Looks ok but I'm wondering what the "live" entertainment will be of an evening!

I think the plan is that the coach will drop them off somewhere and then they'll do some walking.

Hopefully I'll get updates (if there is a phone signal!) so will keep you posted.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Dougie Mac Bike Ride 2013

Dad is taking part again this year - well he has to, he's managed to get his photo on the entry form again !  Here is the entry form 

Anyone fancy having a go, details are below.  Dad will be doing the 50 mile and I'll probably be hanging around Wrinehill with my camera.

Event:Ruby Bike Ride
When: Sunday 19th May 2013
Where: Michelin Athletic Club
Challenge yourself - if you have joined us before why not try a different route!
Whether you are a beginner or seasoned rider there is a route to suit all abilities from 10 -110 miles! Riding through Stoke-on-Trent, Cheshire and Wales.
  • Llangollen - 110 miles
  • Nantwich - 50 miles
  • Local - 10 miles
In our 40th anniversary year every entrant will receive a commemorative medal and t-shirt!

Friday, April 12, 2013

and some more photos from Vietnam

These are some photos that Steve from the group shared ...
A well earned break

The group

A pit stop

Trying to hitch a ride

That's quite a load.

One of the posh hotels !

Rain coming in

Rain arrived

Some photos from Vietnam

Thanks to James who was on the trip with Dad for these photos ...

So Dad did have a wash while he was there !

Doubt Dad did any washing though !

Soon to be available in the UK !

Dad making hard work of it.

Very surprised Dad didn't stop for a trim.

Deep in thought.

Out on the road

Dad and James

Looks like they wanted get their photos taken

So cute !

Friday, March 29, 2013

The photos ...

Well Dad isn't "advanced" in the digital technology world. He took a couple of disposable cameras with him to Vietnam. He dropped them off at the local Asda to be developed. Not only are they disposable cameras, they are disposable photos as well. He collected them from the Photo Centre and then proceeded to leave them in the trolley. He remembered a few hours later and zipped back to Asda. Went and asked at Customer Services and no one had handed them in. Went and asked at the Photo Centre and no one had handed them in. Went and spoke to one of the trolley lads and they went and searched the trolleys .... and thankfully they were still in the trolley!

They are not brilliant quality, they never are from disposable cameras.  However Dad has received photos from others in the group and I'll hopefully post a few of on here in the next few days.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

He's back !

Got a text, a missed phone call on my mobile, a voicemail on my mobile and a call on my landline .... yes Dad got back early this morning!

He managed swap his National Express ticket for £5.00 for a coach today - and they wanted to charge me £51.00 to do the same thing !

I arrange to meet him in Hanley. I got there with 10 minutes to spare and parked up. I could see the coaches arriving. I was messing around on my mobile and noticed a National Express coach pull up with "Birmingham" on the side. I watched as a few people get off but no Dad. I waited a few more minutes in the car and still no Dad. So I went over to the coach and got on, thinking Dad may have nodded off on the coach. I said to the driver that I was expecting my Dad to be on the coach and I had a quick look around - the folks in the front seats are giving me funny looks. Then the coach driver tells me it's the coach from Manchester going to Birmingham. Wrong coach so I make a speedy exist off! No sooner as I'd got back to the car then Dad's coach turns up.

36 hours of travelling and he's home to be greeted by freezing temperaturs and several inches of snow!  He's had a great time. Got a bit of a tan and in need of a hair cut/beard trim. A brew and a good nights sleep and he'll fill me in with all the stories. 

We've had around 1,700 hits on the blog while he's been away from all over the world including Vietnam, USA, Germany, Russia, Sinapore to name just a few. Hope it's inspired a few to get on their bikes and head off somewhere. You're never too old to ride your bike.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Day 28 - Homeward bound

Dad should be arriving at Heathrow at 5.25 am tomorrow morning. Was trying to work out if his flight had departed Kuala Lumpur yet but I can't tell from the flight information I can find online and Heathrow isn't showing arrival information for tomorrow yet. However I think it probably has.

No doubt he'll have lots of interesting stories to tell when he gets home. How quickly has that month gone!  Will update when he's back.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Day 27 - last day in Hanoi

Dad caught the overnight sleeper bus back to Hanoi. He'd ask for a bottom bunk but they'd tried to put him on the top, but he dug his heels in and got a bottom bunk. The bus had two toilet stops. Dad said he slept well and was back in Hanoi by 6.00 am - so a 12 hour journey. It cost £18.00.  He wasn't able to get a taxi so had to take a scooter taxi with his luggage! Dad sad it was a scary ride and he was glad it wasn't rush hour! Scooter bloke wanted £18 off Dad for the 1/2 hour scooter ride - Dad said he gave him £6.00 ! Got to the hotel at 10.00 am.

Today he has been to see Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre which was really good.

Today is his last day in Vietnam.  Exodus are sending a car for Dad to take him to the airport.

I've tried swapping his coach ticket (he'd booked Saturday instead of Sunday) but National Express wanted £51.00 to change - it only cost £37.00 to buy a single ticket. A bit of a Rip-off if you ask me! Shame on you National Express.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Day 26 - heading back to Hanoi

Dad text me this morning to say "yes he gets back on Sunday". What's he like ! At least he's not got to worry about going back to work on Monday though. There'll be an empty seat on the National Express on Saturday unless he texts me back with his ticket number so that I can swap it.

He went out for a set menu evening meal last night. Five courses and they all came at the same time! The meal and beer was only £3.00. You'd just about get a pint of beer here for £3.00.

He's had no luck hiring a bike, plenty of scooters but no bikes. Don't think he's done much cycling this last couple of weeks.

Today he's been for a walk around Sa Pa and found the plumbers merchants. I bet he went in for a look around. He'll be coming home with a tub of Boss White and half a dozen washers.  He's also been for a walk around a lake. He's started heading back now and caught the local bus from Sa Pa to Loa Cai. Apparently he got a seat with the driver so had great views! The local mountain people work very hard on the hillsides which are terraced for growing food. There are footpaths that go way up into the mountains.

He'll catch the overnight bus back to Hanoi. Hope he's got decent seat where he can sleep. Hopefully it won't take 19 hours get back!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Day 25 - back in Sa Pa

Dad's few days in the villages/homestay came to an end today and his plan was to have an overnight stay in Sa Pa and then catch the train back to Hanoi.

This morning his breakfast comprised of six pancakes but Dad only managed eat two so he offered the others to a young lad, aged about 10 who was carrying a big basket of wood. The lad ate the lot ! Dad then got a scooter taxi but his helmet was too big. Every bump they went over the helmet would slide down over his eyes! If that was me I'd be too scared to let go to push the helmet back up !

Dad visited the Cat Cat village . There was dancing and music show which Dad enjoyed.  Hope Dad didn't partake in this local custom !

Tourists to Cat Cat are most attracted by its unique customs, including the custom of "pulling wife". A man can ask his friends to lure a girl he likes to his house and keeps her there in three days. During these days, if the girl agrees to become his wife, a wedding will be held. However, the girl can happily go home after three days if she does not like him.
He was back at the hotel in Sa Pa by lunchtime. Still non the wiser what the hotel is called as when Dad gave me the name last time and I looked it up, the only thing I found was Vietnamese coffee!

Dad has had a change of plan and may catch the sleeper bus from Sa Pa. If he catches the train he first has to get a bus from Sa Pa to Loi Cai and then catch a train, plus he'll have the hassle of then trying to get his bed on the train.  I was starting to panic thinking he needed to get back to Ho Chi Minh City but his return flight is from Hanoi, so he may as well stay in and around Sa Pa rather than going back into the city.  Mind you I'm a bit confused as to when he's actually coming home. His itinerary shows he leaves KL on 23 March at 23.55 and arrives Heathrow at 05.25 +1 (where +1 denotes next day). The note he's left about what time his coach arrives back in town says back 23 March at 2.30. I'm useless when it comes to working out times but something doesn't add up here !

Dad's plan for tomorrow is to hire a bike as he's met a biker who has hired one in Sa Pa.

I also received a postcard off Dad today - it's still nice to get a good old fashioned postcard.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Day 24 - Giang Ta Chai.

Dad caught up with me with a few texts today. He had a great meal last night with Peter and Elizabeth from Paris who are also staying at the same home.  They chatted over various holidays they'd done. Just hope Peter and Elizabeth are good at English as Dad's French is not that good !

This morning he's had the best breakfast so far while in Vietnam- pancakes, honey, banana and coffee. You can't beat good old fashioned home cooking !  A late start today for Dad as the walk did not start til 10.30. He then walked for a couple of hours on that "mina road" again (minor roads) to the village of Giang Ta Chai. Dad not that happy as he'd arrived there by 12.30 which is a mere stroll for Dad!  So after lunch Dad went for a walk in the bamboo forest. Lots of big colourful butterflies. Dad said there is not much wild life in Vietnam as most is eaten !

He also been for a swim in the river with the local children.

I'm assuming that he's having another Homestay tonight with the locals.

Found this cool 360 photo of Giang Ta Chai

Monday, March 18, 2013

Day 23 - Ta Van Village

Received a text off Dad this morning which I was surprised about. I thought maybe as he moved further into the mountains he'd start losing reception on his phone. That's not been the case. There has not been a day when he hasn't been able to text.

Dad met up with his guide this morning and they walked out of Sa Pa on the "Mina Road" which probably isn't the name of the road but he meant a minor road ! He then picked up the scooter tour bus. Not sure what Dad meant by this! Was it a scooter or was it a bus ??? They did a two hour tour before stopping for lunch in Lao Chai.

Dad said many of the mountain ladies follow him to try and sell things ! After lunch they had a one hour walk to Ta Van village. He will be staying with locals in their home. Very basic. Mattress on the floor, wc and shower. There are also a French couple staying as well. They will also eat with the family in the home.

Found this photo of Ta Van village

He'd just been for a walk to the river water bed and watched a local man fishing. He said the weather is still hot in the mountains - I think he's just rubbing it in as it is so cold here at the moment.

Found the following on Trip Advisor about a company that do Homestay at Ta Van village. Think this is the sort of thing Dad is doing. Sounds right up Dad's street !

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Day 22 - Sa Pa

Received a couple of texts of Dad. He had a good meal last night in Sa Pa with the group of Vietnamese people. One of the group spoke a little English. No doubt there was a lot of talk very slowly and arms flapping from Dad ! After the meal he went for a walk about town. He said there where "thousands of folk" walking the streets on Saturday night looking for their "match" ... what's up with these folk have they not heard of Internet dating sites !!! Sa Pa is obviously pretty busy at weekends and from what I can tell from his text his hotel was a bit on the noisy side! This morning he's been out for breakfast - pancakes, honey, coffee and a bowl of fruit all for £5.00 which for the Vietnamese people is quite expensive. Dad is intending to have a couple of days in and around Sa Pa and will catch the train back to Hanoi.

Received another text later on to say that he booked himself a 3 day, 2 night stay in one of the lower level outlying villages. He's out on Monday and on Wednesday he'll return back to Sa Pa. Today he's been for a big walk in and around Sa Pa and was grateful he'd packed his trainers. Lots of women in very colourful clothing from the mountain villages selling things on the streets.  Doesn't seem to be much cycling going on though!

Apparently Dad's beard is getting a lot of attention as Vietnamese men don't grow them.

Many thanks to James and his brother Burt for getting Dad to Sa Pa and looking after him.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Day 21 - He made it to Sa Pa

Had a couple of texts off Dad. He caught the mini-bus to Sa Pa at 8.00 pm and 19 hours later he arrived! It did stop off a few times for food and a visit to a temple where they burnt paper horses - sounds interesting! I think they must have been on slow roads as Dad did say that at times they were only travelling at 15 mph! Sa pa is just over 200 miles from Hanoi - travelling that distance in the UK would probably take 3 - 4 hours .... unless you are travelling on the M6 and then it is probably 6 !

The last part of the journey from Lao Cai they climbed 1600 metres up to to Sa Pa. He said he'd booked into the Trung Nguyen hotel but when I tried to find this it came back saying "Trung Nguyen" is Vietnamese coffee!   Weather is much cooler. Tonight he was out for a meal with 18 Vietnamese people who he'd travelled with on the mini-bus with. Only one of them speaks a little English. That will be an interesting night out for Dad!  Hope Dad doesn't pick dog off the menu!

On Saturday Sa Pa is a thriving market town where local villagers flock and many wear traditional dress.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Day 20 - and a change of plan

I got into work this morning and opened up my email to find an email and a photo of my Dad from James.  James had meet Dad yesterday.

Dad and James (sitting to his right)

Not long later I received a text from Dad that said he'd had a big change of plan. He'd caught the local bus to Do Son which was around 45 kms and cost £2.00.  While out for breakfast he'd met James and his friend. They are from Singapore and are working in Vietnam in the oil industry. Dad went back to their offices and watched an oil container being opened.

Dad spent the day in Do Son and he met some students practicing their poetry (if you are reading the blog ... keep practicing that poetry!). He also tried to hire a bike but they'd only got a tandem and as we all know a tandem is built for two ! As Dad says it worked out for the best as he'd not have met James if he'd gone out on a bike!

He then had a family meal with James who told him about Sa Po which is on the border with China. Just been reading up on it and it does sound very much like a place my Dad would visit.

The Hoang Lien Son range of mountains dominates the district, which is at the eastern extremity of the Himalayas. This range includes Vietnam's highest mountain, Fan Si Pan, at a height of 3143 m above sea level. The town of Sa Pa lies at an altitude of about 1650 m. 

Looks like the climate is a bit cooler as well which Dad will like.

Dad has cancelled his bed in Do Son for tonight and will take the overnight coach (with friends of James) to Sa Pa which is around 250 miles. He's also had a few attempts to get money from the ATM and has actually managed to get some this time without any blood loss by the sound of it!

Chilling in Halong Bay

I received this photo from Naomi who had been on the Exodus trip with Dad.

Great photo of Dad "chilling" on the boat around the Halong Bay.

Looks like he's also sipping a cocktail ! ? What a life.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Day 19 - Haiphong

Had a very early morning text from Dad. He was up early as he was catching the ferry to Haiphong at 9.00 am. While he's been on Cat Ba he has been having his meals at the same restaurant. It is a family run restaurant and Dad has been having hugs and "high-fives" off the owners son, so the family have been looking after him well ! He said he'd been eating a lot of sea-food, but to date he'd seen no improvement in his spelling! Would have to agree with Dad on that one :)

He text later to say he'd had his last breakfast with the family and caught the bus, then the ferry and then another bus to Haiphong.  Dad said only he got off in Haiphong, the rest of the bus were heading to Hanoi.  He has got a room at the Duyen Hai Hotel (I can only find a Vietnamese page!). The hotel costs £16 a night, ensuite, TV but no air con and Dad says it's very hot at the moment (he ought to be here!). There is no bike hire at the hotel so he went for a walk instead. His text says "dun miles" which at first I thought was a place, but then realised it meant he'd walked miles !  He had found a big lake with the help of a map. He had also found a museum but it was a closed. Dad hadn't met another tourist but the local people are really friendly. Tomorrow he is hoping to get a bus to the Do Son region.

Dad did text again later to say Haiphong is basically a big container port town and a gas terminal. He has today had the worst meal of the trip in his hotel and that he won't be having breakfast there in the morning!  He reckons he's been spoilt in Cat Ba. He did say the beer was pretty good though !

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Day 18 - Cat Ba Island

Received a text off Dad early this morning to say he'd used the ATM for the first time. First one he tried, no luck. The second one he tried, no luck. The third one he tried he managed to get £6.00 out and managed to get his finger stuck in the ATM (heaven's knows how!) trying to get the rest of the money out!  Quite a bit of blood apparently and he had to go get the lady from the bank to help. In the end he managed to get £60 out!  So Dad is walking round with "blood" money at the moment.  I've got visions of Nepal all over again!

Received another text later this morning to say that Dad had hired a private guide to Cat Ba National Park. He was picked up by scooter but this time he did get a helmet. Had a bit of a scare when I read the next line of the text which said "went to a hospital .... " as I thought he might have fallen off the scooter, but the text continued ".... hospital cave that was used in the war". It is three floor building, so it must be a big cave! His tour continued to Giao Forest where he climbed a 250 metre mountain with a watch tower at the top.

He was back to the hotel by 5.00 pm. Tomorrow he is heading back to Haiphong on the mainland but this time via the fast ferry which takes just 45 minutes.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Day 17 - Cat Ba Island

Was starting to think Dad had been captured by pirates .... he'd text yesterday to say it's 5.30 and we are still at sea and then I heard nothing else !  Had visions of being asked to pay ransom or Dad walks the plank !

This morning at work I heard the familiar text alert on my "Dad" phone (long story ... he seems to have blocked me on my normal phone) and was expecting the ransom details .... but it was Dad. He'd arrived on Cat Ba at 6.00pm last night and managed to find a small hotel, with no stars! His text says the hotel is called Xuan Hong hotel, but they only place I can find on Cat Ba of that name is a floating restaurant!  The room is good and has balcony and the sea front is only 200yds away (so it can't be the floating restaurant!). Cost is only £5.00 a night.

He's managed to hire a bike today and was away by 9.00 am. He had lunch in a small village and the family tried to marry Dad off to their mother-in-law ... not sure what is worse pirates or proposals of marriage!  Anyway Dad declined the offer.

He got back to the hotel about 4.00 pm having done around 50 kms.  I'd text him to say how cold it is here at the moment and he text back to say it's currently 30 degrees!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Day 16 - Cat Ba Island

Received a couple of texts off Dad today. First one said he'd been trying to get postcards but the hotel was in a "non-tourist" area and he'd not managed to get any. However a taxi scooter was dispatched and came back with some.

His plan for the day was to go to Cat Ba Island but as there were no ferries he planned on hiring a boat. However he managed to get on a boat with a tour group and headed out to the Islands. He text to say at 5.30 pm that we was still on the boat.  Not heard anymore ... hope it wasn't a pirate boat he went out on !

Just noticed that we are fast approaching 20,000 hits on the blog. I think we've clocked up 1,000 while he's been out in Vietnam. Thanks folks for visiting his blog. Dad will be right chuffed.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Day 15 - heading back to Halong Bay

Had a couple of texts off Dad today. First text said that he was on the local bus heading back to Halong Bay. The bus stops at all the villages on the way and it cost £5.00. Had a look on the map and the trip is about 90 miles. It cost me £4.00 the other day to get from Kidsgrove on the local bus and that's just over 4 miles away !

Dad sent another text when he arrived in Halong Bay. He's booked himself into Thuy Duong Hotel. He's got a sea view and a balcony but the room is not so good, so will probably only stay the one night. Plus there isn't the facilities to hire bikes !  The local bus didn't actually come into Halong Bay but dropped Dad off on the highway, so he got a scooter taxi. Dad said it was a bit scary ... it must have been for Dad to say that! 

Dad will be getting withdrawal symptoms as he's not been on a bike for a few days now !

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Day 14 - off the itinerary now !

Received a couple of texts off Dad this morning. They'd had a good farewell party last night as it was the last day of the tour. Dad's plan now is to have a couple of days in Hanoi. He's staying at Thien Thai - well it is the best boutique hotel in Hanoi ! He's paying $45 dollars (approx £30) for B&B. He's not going to hire a bike as it's much too busy on the roads. On Sunday he'll catch a bus back to Halong Bay, book himself a hotel and hire a bike for a couple of days.

Today he's had a walk around the Hoan Kiem lake in the old district of Hanoi. He stopped off for lunch (£1.00!). He then saw the rest off the group off to the airport. He then spent a few hours at the military museum. Weather is good, 26 degrees.

Will keep you posted.

I take no responsibility for accuracy in these blog posts, there is a great deal of guess work involved in trying to decipher Dad's texts.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Day 13 - Cruising and Hanoi

Received a short text off Dad first thing but he was texting off the bus. He'd had a good time on the boat and three good meals. They'd been inside a big cave and done some canoeing off the boat. I received another text later to say it was hard texting on the bus (crumbs knows what sort of bus they are on!). They are now back in the hotel in Hanoi. En-route back they'd been on a tour of Hoa Lo Prison which the US prisoners called Hanoi Hilton! They'd also visited the Temple of Literature. Tonight is their last night together as a group, so they are out for a farewell meal. That two weeks has gone by real quick.

Not sure yet what Dad has planned for the next couple of weeks, but he did say he'd text me with the details.

Details of the day from Exodus
Day 13 (Day 14 Ex London) Cruise in Halong Bay & return to Hanoi

We continue to cruise around Halong Bay this morning before
returning to port. We then drive back to Hanoi, and take a sightseeing
tour of the city: this will include visits to the Temple of Literature, Hoa
Lo Prison and the Old Quarter of the city. This charming city contains
many beautiful old buildings, and the atmosphere is completely
different from that in Saigon in the south mainly due to the much
more conservative nature of the North Vietnamese. Also, unlike its
industrial counterpart, the centre of Hanoi has a faded charm with
broad tree-lined avenues dating from the French period as well as
some attractive lakes and pagodas. In the evening there is the option
to enjoy a performance of Hanoi's famous water puppets.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Day 12 - Hanoi

Had another early morning text from Dad. They arrived at Hanoi at 5.30 am. Took a bus to the hotel. They are now at the Thien Thai, which is apparently the best boutique hotel in Hanoi. Not actually sure what a boutique hotel is ... but it sounds impressive and the blurb reads "With its French-inspired architecture and sensually rich decor, the Thien Thai Hotel will seduce and pamper you, allow you to indulge your senses". They've not had much time for seducing, pampering or indulging as no sooner had they arrived they were off again to Ha long Bay were they have caught a boat for an overnight stay. Dad said food and weather were great ! Ha long Bay is a World Heritage site and features thousands of limestone karsts.

Found this photo of the bay and the karsts. I'm sure Dad will forgo a couple of days on the bike to be cruising around these !

Details of the itinerary from Exodus

Day 12 (Day 13 Ex London) Hanoi to Halong Bay and cruise

We usually arrive in Hanoi in the early morning and stop for a local breakfast and a stretch of the legs, before we are met by our bus for an approximately 4 hour drive to Halong Bay. This is one of the most stunningly beautiful sights in South East Asia with around 3000 limestone peaks rising directly from the clear emerald sea. We cruise amongst this amazing karst scenery, stopping to swim and kayak in the sea, allowing us to get to places inaccessible by boat (weather permitting) and enjoy a seafood lunch on board.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Day 11 - overnight train to Hanoi

Got an early morning text off Dad. They've spent the day in Hue.  They've visited the tombs and Nguyen dynasty, the Imperial City, the Citadel and finished off with a boat trip on Huong River (Perfume River).  Found this great photo of the river at sunset.

Perfume river

It was then back to hotel to pack their bags as they were catching the overnight train - Reunification Express to Hanoi

Details of the itinerary from Exodus

Day 1l (Day 12 Ex London) Hue to Hanoi

Hue claims to be the cultural and historic centre of Vietnam| and there is plenty to see. We take a guided tour of the city and surrounding tombs. The most memorable site is the Citadel, with walls six miles in length: inside are the palaces and halls of the Mandarins, and the remains of the Forbidden Purple City. where only the emperor and his eunuchs and concubines were allowed. Then we take a boat along the Perfume River to the elaborate tombs of the Nguyen emperors, who ruled Vietnam from Hue. Tu Duc's Tomb is very elaborate and set in beautiful gardens, along the way we will visit the famous Thien Mu Pagoda. The pagoda was a centre for anti-government protest in the early 19605 and it houses the Austin car that transported a monk, Thich Quang Duc, to Saigon in 1963 where he burned himself as a protest against the president. The photograph of his self-immolation
was printed in newspapers all around the world.

In the afternoon we will board the,Reunification Express for the overnight ride to Hanoi, 600km to the north. Ride approx. 25 km

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Day 10 - Hue

Dad text this morning to say they are now in Hue City and are staying at the Gold Hotel. Just looked the hotel up and it looks pretty impressive. They've cycled around 40 kms today and 10 kms of that was climbing up Hai Van pass which is 487 metres about sea level. Fastest to the top was 35 minutes and bringing up the rear was Dad at one hour.  On arrival at the top Dad received rapturous applause from all the coach parties. Thanks to Naomi for this action shot of Dad arriving at the top.

After lunch there was a further 20 kms ride in the wet. Not sure from Dad's text if he's been on the bus today.

Details of itinerary from Exodus

Day 10 (Day 11 Ex London) Hai Van Pass to Hue

Today we turn north again for the drive/cycle to Hue. The route passes over the spectacular Hai Van Pass the 'Pass of the Ocean Clouds'; the views are stunning though those who prefer to avoid the 580m climb can always take a lift in the support vehicle. Once at the top it will all seem worth it as you plummet back to the ocean, then continue through small villages and timeless rural scenes to the outskirts of Hue, from where we transfer to our city centre hotel. Approx 2.5 hours ín the bus today.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Day 9 - rest day in Hoi An

To make up for the fact that Dad didn't text me back yesterday, today he's sent me a couple of texts! Yesterday then had a stop at My Lai Memorial was was the site of the My Lai Massacre. Following that they had a 5 hours on the bus along Highway One - I'm sure Dad would have preferred to have cycled along it ! I found this map of the highway.

Monsoon rain accompanied last night's evening meal and they were given free ponchos to get back to the hotel. That'll be in Dad's bike bag for future use!  A few in the group also went to be measured for suits and dresses .... Dad must have declined. As he says there is still plenty of use in the suit he has and it does keep coming back into fashion !

Today has been a rest day, but a very wet rest day with lots of flooded areas. They've cycled approx 20 km around the local area. Some of the group have been for water buffalo rides, which apparently were good fun.They've also been and collected the dresses and suits there were measured up for last night. I wonder if they'll put on a fashion show.

Details of the itinerary from Exodus

Day 9 (Day 10 Ex London) Relaxing in Hoi An

This morning we take a guided walking tour of Hoi An to explore some of the structures of historical significance in the Old Town, including bridgesl temples, wells and houses. Those less interested
in architecture can cycle the 5km to the lovely Cua Dai beach or cycle to the Marble Mountains, which are 19 km from town. These five marble hills, formerly islandsI contain many caves, some of which were used as Buddhist (and Vietcong) sanctuaries. Also nearby is China beach, a famous US  spot in the war, and Danang where there is a Cham Museum, which despite being in poor condition, is very interesting. It is also possible to visit My Sonl one of the most important Cham temple sites in Vietnam where Cham kings were buried as early as the fourth century. Although wartime bombing has destroyed much of the site, there are a number of interesting stone towers and sanctuaries.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Day 8 Hoi An

Got a quick text off Dad this morning that said ... "just a quick one, we are out for a evening meal soon. We are now in Hoi An and staying at the Hoi An hotel. Cycled just 30 kms today and had around 7 hours on the coach". It finished off - will text later .... and I've not heard anything since.

Just checked out the hotel ... he's probably signed up for one of the Cooking Classes :)

However I did receive the following photo from Damien taken on the Nhon Hoi bridge across the Thi Nai peninsular. It is the longest sea bridge in Vietnam with a length of 2477.3 metres (not as long as The Golden Gate Bridge he cycled over though.)

Damien and Dad

The following is the itinerary from Exodus

Day 8 (Day 9 Ex London) Quy Nhon to Hoi An

Leaving Quy Nhon we travel through a new economic zone over the
Thi Nai Peninsula and Nhon Hoi Bridge, the longest sea bridge in
Vietnam. Getting off our bikes we will visit a market, where its not
unusual to be pulled aside for a photo as this part of the country does
not see many western tourists. The coast line features secluded bays` sand dunes and beaches with colourful fishing boats bobbing on the
South China Sea. We will cycle until we arrive at Phu Ly and then drive to Hoi An. If time permits, we will cycle the last 12 km once we turn
off Highway 1 into Hoi An.

Hoi An, the original European trading port in Vietnam dating back
to the mid-sixteenth century is now a living museum, with attractive
wooden merchant's houses and pagoda-style temples with Chinese,
Japanese, Vietnamese and European architectural influences. It is also a marvellous place to wander around and enjoy the thriving riverside
market. We spend two nights in Hoi An which is also a fantastic place
to buy local art or have some clothes tailor-made for you. Its best to
bring a picture or a sample of what you want made. Approx 6 hour in
the bus today. Ride approx. 50 km.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Day 7 - Quy Nhon

Got a text off Dad late morning. They are now in Quy Nhon staying at another posh hotel - the Seagull Hotel. This morning they had a 7.00 am start from the hotel in Nha Trang and headed off on their bikes. Cycled around 30 kms and then took the bus for 3 hours. After lunch they cycled another 53 kms through small lanes and villages. Lots of children around wanting to do high fives !

One week down and the total miles cycled so far is 208.

Received the following photo from Naomi - check out Dad's bike !

Nha Trang Bay

Detail of the itinerary from Exodus

Day 7 (Day 8 Ex London) Nha Trang to Quy Nhon

We set off early in the morning for the ride to the beautiful fishing
village of Dai Lanh. A short transfer out of town past the Po Nagar
Cham towers brings us to a high point and from here today's ride is
predominantly flat. The beautiful beach at Dai Lanh ls a perfect place
to stop for a swim and lunch before continuing by bus around the
spectacular coastal cliff road towards the town of Tuy Hoa and on
to Quy Nhon. (Approx 4 hours in the bus today). Ride up to 90 km
according to preference.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Day 6 - Rest Day in Nha Trang

Received a text off Dad this morning. Today is a rest day. They've been on a boat trip around the islands, been swimming and snorkeling. They had a good meal on the boat (I feel sea-sick even thinking about it !!).  He also said there are a lot Russians holidaying along the coast.

Many thanks to Damien for this photo of Dad following their evening meal on the beach.

Extract from Exodus itinerary

Day 6 (Day 7 Ex London) In Nha Trang and cruise around islands

Having a rest from the bikes today, we take a boat trip around the
islands offering a chance to swim and snorkel around the many reefs.
This is a wonderful experience with stunning views of the mountainous
coastline that lies to the north of Nha Trang and an opportunity to eat
some of the freshest seafood available. Those not fancying the boat
trip can relax on the beach, have a massage, go scuba diving or ride
off to other nearby beaches such as Hon Chong, a fishing village lined
with coconut palms, mango and banana plantations.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Day 5 - Nha Trang

Had a text off Dad this morning.They are now at Nha Trang and staying in the Asia Paradise Hotel ... normally when  see a hotel called Paradise it's far from it! However having checked this one out it looks pretty posh to me, swimming pools and close to the sea ! However on the downside it's next to the airport so it may be a bit noisy.

They've been in the mountains all day and cycling through the Bidoup-Nui Ba National Park. They've cycled around 100 kms today and only had one and half hours on the bus. Dad will be happy about that.  Looks like it was a 30 km descent from Dalat at 1500 metres which took them best part of an hour. There would have been no pedalling from me and I'd have had the brakes on the bike ALL the way down.

The bay at Nha Trang is considered to be one of the most beautiful bays in the world so hopefully he's got a few photos. Saying that Dad hasn't really moved on into the digital age and he's taken two disposable cameras with him.

Details of the itinerary from Exodus

Day 5 (Day 6 Ex London) Dalat to Nha Trang through Bidoup N.P.

Today's ride is predominantly downhill through pine forests and
paddy fields as we descend nearly 1,500m travelling through the
Bidoup-Nui Ba National Park. This area is home to rare pine forests
as well as small villages inhabited by the ethnic minority people of
the central highlands. Once we arrive at the coast, we head by bus
(approx 1.5 hours) to Nha Trang. This beachside town is idyllic, with
swaying palms, golden sands and the beautiful deep blue water of the South China Sea. Ride up to 100km according to preference.

LEJOG and raising funds for a good cause

Two years ago Dad's friends Pete and Uni had a horrific car crash.  In fact Dad was heading into the Lake District the day of the crash to visit them but instead of visiting them at home, he headed to the hospital.  Well to cut a long story short, Pete and Uni have made a remarkable recovery. Pete's life was undoubtedly saved by the air ambulance and his grandson Jacob is cycling LEJOG in order to raise funds.

So if you have a few quid spare and would like to donate to a worthy cause Jacob's justgiving page can be found https://www.justgiving.com/Jacob-Tonkin

Hopefully my Dad will be making a "guest appearance" on the ride and so will Pete.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Day 4 - Dalat

Dad had a early start this morning. Up at 6.00 am and away by 7.00 ... so I doubt there was time for an early morning swim in that posh hotel !

Today they've had four hours on the bus and cycled around 80 km and a bit of a hilly ride. They stopped off for lunch at Di Linh .

They are now in Dalat  which is 1500 metres above sea level! I wonder if they had to cycle up to it or the bus took them. Reading up about Dalat it looks it might be a bit cooler which will suit Dad. The area is well known from it's flowers and confectionery - sounds like a girls dream. 

Tonight Dad is staying in Dalat du Parc Hotel which according to Dad isn't as posh as the last hotel. It looks pretty posh to me !

Received another photo of Dad today this time from Damien. Looks like Dad is admiring the view and what a great view !

Today's itinerary from Exodus.

Day 4 (Day 5 Ex London) Cycle to Dalat

We cycle towards Dalat; the route is undulating with occasional
climbs. Along the Way we pass coffee and tea plantations as well
as flower gardens and pine forests as we reach higher altitude. We
rejoin the bus before the road climbs steeply to the mountain town
of Dalat. We spend approx 3.5 hours on the bus today. Dalat is a
pleasant hill station, formerly known as Le Petit Parisl and has been
described as the most beautiful town in Vietnam. lt was favoured by
the French for its climate` and is now a popular honeymoon resort for the Vietnamese. Ride approx. 60 km.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Day 3 - heading to Mui Ne

Had a text off Dad this morning. There are 11 people in his group, four females and seven males and all younger than Dad (I don't suppose there are many 78 year olds doing this type of trip!). Dad reckons the average age is around 30. Just one couple on the trip and two brothers. Dad is sharing a room with another bloke.

Received this group photo earlier today (thanks to Naomi!)

Cu Chi war cemetery

Today they've cycled around 50 kms and spent 3 hours on the bus ! They are now at the coast at staying at Sea Links Beach Hotel in Mui Ne. Apparently it has FOUR swimming pools ... if Dad wears his "usual" trunks he'll be in one of those on his own !  Just looked the hotel up and all I can say is "Wow" ! A bit posher than his usual standard !

Below is an extract from the Exodus itinerary.

Day 3 (Day 4 Ex London) Saigon to Mui Ne

After an early breakfast we head out of Saigon by bus and start our
cycling _towards Mui Ne on the coast. We spend approx 4-5 hours on
the bus today. We hit the backròads and head through tropical fruit
and rubber plantations. also passing some small fishing villages as
we make our way closer to the coast. We finish the ride in Mui Ne, a
tranquil white sand beach where we can enjoy a swim after the day's
riding and witness our first sunset over the South China Sea. Ride
approx. 50 km. 


Monday, February 25, 2013

Day 2 - Cu Chi Tunnels

Got a very brief text off Dad early this morning to say they'd cycled 20 miles to the Cu Chi tunnels. It was followed up a few hours later by another to say, sorry for the short text I was on the bus! To me an ideal opportunity to be texting. 

The Cu Chi tunnels  are an immense network of connecting underground tunnels located under part of Siagon.  My Dad did say I'd of hated them. Very small and loads of bats! My worst nightmare. 

Found a photo on Wikipedia of the tunnels.

Cu Chi Tunnels - Niels Aage

Weather is hot at 30 degrees. I text him back to say it's very cold here!

Below is the itinerary for the day from Exodus which gives a bit more detail than Dad's 140 character text.

Day 2 (Day 3 Ex London) Ride to Cu Chi Tunnels

This morning we drive out of the city, before riding to the Cu Chi
Tunnels. This offers a great introduction to cycling in Vietnam and a
chance to fine tune the bikes. The tunnels were Vietcong sanctuaries,
used by the guerrillas as living quarters and escape routes, the
network covers 3 levels and approximately 240 kms of tunnels.
Although originally very narrow, some parts have been widened for
tourists, but even so it is still necessary to crawl on hands and knees.
Claustrophobes may prefer to stay outside in the sunshine! lf you
prefer not to visit the tunnels you can have an unguided free day in
Saigon. Places of interest include: the Emperor of Jade and Giac Lam
pagodas, the former Presidential Palace (now the Reunificatíon Hall),
Ben Thanh market and the War Remnants Museum. Ride approx. 35

Sunday, February 24, 2013

He's arrived !

Got a text off Dad this morning at 6.00 am - thankfully phone was downstairs so it didn't wake me ! He's arrived after a 12 hour journey (or as Dad text "jerny"). He did manage to get some sleep on the way though. Dad has got his luggage but some in the party haven't but apparently that not unusual ! I wonder if Dad will be dishing out his smalls :)

They are staying in a hotel called Huong Sen in Ho Chi Minh City (or Siagon) which Dad says is great. Just looked it up on Trip Advisor and it looks pretty decent. He was off for a kip now.

Hopefully get and update later but this trip we are limited to texts only and Dad is the SLOWEST texter EVER ! It's good to know his Asda mobile works though. Hotel has free internet but Dad's basic phone doesn't have the capability. It would have been cheaper though.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

and so the journey begins ...

I dropped Dad off at Hanley bus station in the small hours of this morning. I had thought there would been more people (when I say people I mean drunken idiots) about at that time on a Saturday morning but there were just two other people waiting for the bus. I hung around with Dad until the coach came, waved him off and then I hurried back home to get in bed.

The coach was due in Birmingham at 2.40 and then he'd got a couple of hours wait until his next bus at 5.00. However there was a bus to Heathrow at 3.00 am. Dad asked if he could hop on that - no problem. It was a brand new coach with just four people on it, so Dad had virtually the pick of the seats!  He arrived in Heathrow around 5.00 but this coach was dropping off at Central rather than terminal 4. Dad found the free shuttle bus and made his way to terminal 4. He'd still got a few hours to kill but at least he was at the airport.

Breakfast and the papers killed an a hour or so. Fully monty and coffee £15.00 !!!! Dad is used to paying a fiver at Audlem bikers cafe, so I bet them came as a shock when he had to dig out another £10. He did say next time he'd nip Audlem for breakfast before he left.

His bag has gone through and he'd got himself a coffee. Dad is not used to these "fancy" coffee places with a choice of coffee and ended up with an Expresso, so had to re-order to get a decent cup of coffee.

When I spoke to him at 9.00 am he was just waiting for the gate to open.  Flight is due to leave at 10.50, so hopefully I'll be able to track that later so I'll know he's arrived in Vietnam.

Edited at 11.30 am ... I checked the status of the flight and it says "airborne" so he's definitely on his way now.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

It's hours not days now ...

Well it's just over 36 hours til Dad leaves home for Vietnam. He's got a bit of journey before he leaves the UK via Heathrow. First there is a taxi from home into town to catch the National Express at some small hour of the morning when most people (ie me!) will be tucked up snuggly in bed! Told Dad to go and find out today where he needs to catch the coach, seeing they are currently in the process of "moving" the bus station! Dad then has a few hours wait in Birmingham coach station before the onwards journey down to Heathrow. I just hope he doesn't nod off and miss the connecting coach !

He then has a few hours wait at Heathrow and time for breakfast before he flies out on Saturday morning to Kuala Lumpur. It's then onwards to Ho Chi Minh City where he arrives on Sunday morning (local time).

Hopefully he'll not lose his mobile phone on this trip ! I've had to go and get myself a new sim for an old mobile phone seeing Dad has somehow "blocked" my current mobile number and none of my texts are getting through! He can still text me, but as he's not got a message from me in his inbox to just "reply" to, he's struggling a bit even do that !So for the next month I'll be wandering around with TWO mobile phones (I'll be needing a bigger handbag !).

Will update the blog as and when I hear from him but I've got his itinerary so hopefully I'll be able to keep you up-to-date where he is and highlights for that day.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

He's off again - this time Vietnam

Sorry for the lack of blogs ... I have had a rubbish few months and not had time to blog but hopefully we've turned a corner. I could write you epic blogs on hospitals, dementia, social services, care homes, funding (or more like "funding yourself") etc, etc but I won't bore you with all that!

Anyway Dad is off on his travels soon ... in fact towards the end of this month. This time he's off to Vietnam for a month on a biking holiday. He's not taking his own bike this time as the trip he is doing provides you with a bike. However he is taking his saddle and pedals. Apparently your saddle is like your most comfy pair shoes and moulded to fit !

As he's not got to maul his bike he's taking the National Express from the local bus station down to Heathrow and he flies out 23rd February and returns on 23rd March. The biking trip he's doing is only two weeks but he'll be "doing his own thing" for the other two weeks. Not sure how far he'll get with just a saddle and a set of pedals! So if you are free and fancy a biking holiday in Vietnam or in Vietnam during that time give us a shout.

He's currently reading up on Vietnam so any useful information on things to do, see or where to avoid would be greatly appreciated.

Hopefully I'll get back into the swing of blogging again and keep you posted on his travels.