V8Nam – the greatest hits

In one of the biggest developments to hit 80breakdowns since the invention of the wheel, I’ve just joined the modern media age by signing up to instagram.  In addition to the abject confusion and occasional moments of panic which occur every time I embrace some new technology, this has had the unexpected side effect of finally getting me to properly sort through the photos from V8Nam; an undertaking which has resulted in much looking backwards through rose-tinted glasses, a heady dose of nostalgia, and the blog post you see here: in ascending order, the ten best individual moments of V8Nam – the drive of 2013:

First, up at number ten we have northern China.  After 4 days of red tape at the border, this part of the world had to be interesting to redeem itself – and interesting it certainly was.  Massive landscapes, even bigger infrastructure projects, whole cities being built in the desert, and a bemused indigenous Muslim population trying to make sense of it all as massive immigration by Han Chinese threatens to make them strangers in their own lands.IMGP1969 - Copy

The 9th greatest moment occurred in Transylvania, gunning the still-fresh Corvette along sweeping mountain roads lined with moody forests and ruined castles, and trafficked by as many horses and traps as motor cars.  Northern Romania is certainly worth a visit if you get the chance!

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In eighth place was our return to the Aral Sea in Kazakhstan.  When we’d been there while completing the Mongol Rally 7 years previously, the road had been non-existent; a rough track through the empty steppe.  During V8Nam, however, the story was somewhat different, much to Brummy’s relief:

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At number 7 we have a nuclear missile silo, because, well, why not?  This was located in the Ukraine, and gave us the chance to descend 20m below the surface to explore the control room of a Tactical Nuclear Missile silo, where during the cold war people lived 24/7, ready to rain death on the west, should the cold war have turned hot.

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No.6 finds us in the flat grasslands of southern Russia, where we passed poignantly through the site of the greatest battle the world has ever seen – Stalingrad.  If ever you want to go somewhere which makes you feel small and humble, the big sky Volgograd region of Russia is hard to beat…

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Fifth place brings us to our two-wheeled interlude – the Vietnam Special.  This was Brummy and my 1,400 mile ride from Hanoi to Saigon, on a couple of motorbikes which cost the combined total of about £300 and broke down 12 times in 12 days.  It was dangerous, painful, scary, exhausting and stressful, but that’s kinda the point – I wouldn’t change it for the world!

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In at number 4, we have the week I spent away from the Corvette, exploring the past and present of Burma.  Soaring golden stupas, epic plains full of ancient temples, smiling faces, hopeless poverty, heavy handed police and rampant corruption – as weeks go Burma packed in the emotions pretty tightly.

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In the bronze medal position, we have Xiahe Monastery in China – one of the great centres of Tibetan Buddhism.  Showing up in a couple of bourgeois western sports cars is a great way of breaking the ice with the usually reserved monks, and both us and the monks enjoyed our glimpses of ‘how the other half live’.  Although, despite the differences, some things are apparently constant among all of humanity – a striving for the latest iphone being high amongst them…

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In second place, we have an obscure Thai fishing village called Hat Yao.  After visiting then running away from the tourist trap of Krabi, this tiny settlement a few miles down the coast was a godsend, consisting of a few hundred muslim fishermen, several miles of empty beaches, a couple of dozen longtail boats and… no other westerners.  The few days I spent here writing, relaxing and strolling the beach are some of my best memories from V8Nam.

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…and at Number one, we have this photo of the Corvette at Angkor Wat – a photo which nearly didn’t happen.  To achieve it, we had to sneak the Corvette past the security police and into the temple complex before sunrise – no mean feat given the Corvette is probably one of the most unsubtle objects SE Asia has ever played host to.  But somehow we managed to make it past the sleeping policemen and hold an impromptu photoshoot among the ruins.  I think it was worth the effort…

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So, that’s the top ten – and the instagram feed which inspired it is at here – go forth and follow if you feel the need for more random road trips in your life.  Next week I’ll make a follow up post covering 80breakdown’s top 10 moments of all time, so stay tuned.

PS- if you’re here looking to see if the V8Nam film is ready yet, I’m afraid it isn’t yet, as things keep getting in the way of finishing it.  Such as work.  And people going away on holiday.  It’ll be done soon though, I can assure you…

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