Before i Forget : Simon Jones's blog


Photography and TravelThursday, December 31st, 2015, (9:20 am)

Back in 2012 I embarked on what I thought was a minor photography project of publishing one picture taken that day. 366 Pictures turned out to be anything but a minor project, and perhaps against my better judgement, I’ve decided to do it again next year, which of course starts tomorrow!

366 Pictures 2016

This is a very last minute decision, and hopefully one that I won’t regret! At times doing 366 pictures was exhausting. My travel itinerary that year was grueling. I travelled to 20 countries around the world, with the hardest stretch being 10 countries in 100 days, spending ten days in each country.

Along the way I had a few disasters, the worst of which was losing my passport in Japan, or so I thought. I actually found it in a hidden pocket in my luggage at the end of the project as I packed my case in New Zealand to return to Australia. (Seriously, I really did look hard for it! Losing it changed the entire itinerary!) But all of those minor catastrophes were eclipsed by the experience of really being engaged with every single day of that year.

So, I’ve decided to do it again! Just as in 2012, I have no real idea of what the itinerary is. It’s going to follow a rough plan, but where I’ll go, and what I’ll do, that’s unknown.

I’m going to hurriedly try and review the current site over the next few days, and I’ll probably archive it to make way for the new material. Like I say, this is all very last minute so give me a few days to get up to speed on this.

I really hope you’ll come along for the ride. I’ll do my best to try and have a little more social media interaction on the site too. Head over to and start following me there.

I will also be launching the first season of 5 Minutes of Somewhere in 2016 too. Probably February, but we’ll have to see how that goes.

I hope 2016 will be another amazing year, and I hope it will also be amazing for you too.

Happy New Year everyone!

Creative Media and TravelTuesday, December 8th, 2015, (5:00 pm)

So I have this idea I want to run by you. I want your opinion, your honest opinion, about a podcast idea I have. You can leave those opinions in the comments section, and really, I do want to hear what you have to say.

5 minutes of somewhere

So lets start with a little background. Back in 1999 I recorded an ‘online radio’ series called ‘Reality Radio.’ This was before the days of podcasting and iTunes. I used a handheld tape recorder to capture key moments in my trip to the States that year.

At the end of each day I used a cumbersome setup to get the clips from tape to my hefty laptop, then edited the clips and compiled an episode which I released the following day. The reason for recording audio wasn’t because I was particularly keen on radio, but instead because I couldn’t afford a video camera.

The resulting episodes of Reality Radio are so much more valuable to me than the hours of video tape that I might have recorded on a video camera. Those video clips would likely never see the light of day, and would more likely have become lost in time as video tape quickly became outdated.

Of course, like most of us, my recorded memories are primarily captured in photographs, fragments of time frozen in two dimensions. But back in 2012 as I sat on a cliff in Indonesia watching golden waves roll into shore beneath me and a setting sun, I was struck not just by the sight of those rolling Indian Ocean waves, but by the the sound too.

Uluwatu, Bali : From

It was a standout moment, in a year full of standout moments, but it also got me thinking about how sound is somewhat overlooked in our rampant sharing culture. We share billions of pictures and millions of videos, but sound on its own is a rare format. That’s a little strange really when you consider that the world we live in is anything but silent.

Now I don’t really know anything about capturing sound in the most effective way, but nonetheless I got myself a professional grade sound recorder. I took it along with me and just started recording moments in a similar way to how I had done back in the 90’s with that old $30 tape recorder I got from RadioShack.

This time, however, I was recording the background sounds, no narration, no explanation, just sounds. I’ve recorded all kinds of things including storms in the Himalayas, cafes in Melbourne, singers in the Parisian Metro, humming birds in Colorado, and even the audio assault of Japanese gaming arcades.

The thing is, while I was collecting the clips, I had no idea what I wanted to do with them. A podcast perhaps, but about what?

So here’s my idea, and in all honesty, I am not entirely convinced its a good one. I can always come back to the sound clips at a later date and do something a little more creative, but for now I am thinking about creating a podcast series called ‘5 minutes of somewhere.’

A younger me in the days before podcastingThe premise is pretty self explanatory. I’ll briefly introduce a five minute clip of somewhere and then that’s pretty much it. The listener can just sit back wherever they are, close their eyes maybe, and just listen to 5 minutes of somewhere.

We’re so used to Youtube clips, 24 hour news coverage, and moments we capture using our smart phones, but really, how often do we just listen? How often have you stood somewhere and just listened to everything going on around you?

Maybe that sounds like a boring endeavour, but ask yourself this; If those moments you chose to photograph had been stripped of their sound, how would that have changed your experience of them?

I’ll make a website to accompany the episodes, maybe include a picture or two for those who wanted to get some visual context. I suppose a Google street view link might be cool where relevant, but on the whole this would be about the sound itself, and pretty much nothing else.

So what do you think? Does that sound like a boring idea? Would it be something you might listen too? What would you do differently? I’m honestly interested to hear your opinions. Check out the two minute sample I’ve compiled below. They’re clips I’ve recorded, offering a taster of what’s to come. You can leave a comment below.

[soundcloud url=”″ params=”color=ff9900&auto_play=false&hide_related=true&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

TravelTuesday, November 25th, 2014, (10:45 pm)

You know you’re in good company when there can be a period of comfortable silence. That said, it’s been more than a year and a half since I’ve written anything here and I think perhaps that’s amounts to a little more than a comfortable silence.

Vintage postcards

The last post I made here was from Vietnam after a period of riding a motorbike around the country and ruining my clothes in sketchy Vietnamese laundries. Since then readers of my blog could be forgiven for thinking I had fallen, or at least rode, off the edge of the world, and I suppose in some respects I did!

So where the hell have I been in the last eighteen months? That’s a good question, but a list of countries seems boastful and wouldn’t really answer the question, would it?

I twice swapped an Australian winter for a summer in the sun of the northern hemisphere. I spent time with friends and, of course, made a few new ones along the way. I got thrown out of China, travelled across the United States by train, had my laptop stolen in Paris and my wallet stolen in Venice, collected (and left) parking fines in the UK, pretended to be famous in Singapore (even signed autographs!), drove a race car down under, rode motorbikes in dusty far away places, and still didn’t get around to joining facebook!

A few of my friends have taken to calling me a vagabond, which is a title I embrace. I might put in on a business card so I can give it to the next person who asks me that awful, but somehow obligatory question “What do you do?”

Getting a motorbike in VietnamIn fact, I already have a ‘business’ card. I printed them to give me something to exchange with people who hand me their card. It’s not so much a business card but more of a somewhat cheeky response to that mechanical exchange. They thank me, we shake hands, then they glance at it, pause, then usually say out loud, “Rule bending consultant?”

That card has actually been a lot of fun to give out. I considered re-designing my website into some very business looking site that touts the services of me, a ‘rule-bending consultant.’

Of course, as a ‘serious business’ website it would have to include some of those terrible stock photographs of people smiling while gathered around a computer, and men wearing hard hats and holding clipboards while one points up at something out of shot.

“Simon Jones has been at the leading edge of rule bending for over 30 years, developing strategies and programs to flex even the most rigid of rules. A founding member of the F.U.N. (Federation of Unwavering Nonconformity) Simon helped thousands find their inner rule bender and move toward a more flexalogical life.” Oh how the marketing BS would flow.

The thing is, I’ve been out in the world, bending rules and vagabonding my way from one story to the next, taking pictures along the way, but not writing. I simply got out of the routine, not that there was much of a routine here before then.

So as 2015 approaches I’m going to make a deal, though I suspect that my readers have long since moved on, so this is probably a deal with myself; I’m going to try and write a regular weekly blog post. This should give me the opportunity to share more photographs and maybe even help me find the inspiration to write more.

Also, I think this blog is long overdue a make-over. It’s looked pretty much the same since 2006 when my friend Joelle and I first hacked around with WordPress and this design.

I’m having a lot of fun being a rule-bending vagabondsman out in the world finding stories to be told, so it’s about time I got back into the habit of telling them, before I forget!

If you’re still out there and you’ve read this far, please say “Hi!” I’ll be back in Melbourne soon, so if you’re a Melbourne local lets get together and have coffee!

TravelThursday, May 2nd, 2013, (7:01 pm)

I’ve had a few people ask me for advice about doing motorbike tours in Vietnam. So I decided to write a post to share my tips and experience about how to get the best from a motorbike tour of Vietnam. If you have any questions or tips you want to share, leave a comment below.

How to ride a motorbike around Vietnam - Simon Jones motorbikes through Vietnam.

Riding a motorcycle in Vietnam isn’t an act of bravery, nor is it an act of madness. The roads in the cities are completely crazy, but if you can cross the road in Vietnam, you can ride a motorbike there. Traffic tends to swarm into every available gap in the road, but you’ll be just fine if you just take it easy.


Because seemingly everyone rides a motorbike in Vietnam, there are no shortage of dealers selling used motorbikes. There is no real advantage to be gained in buying from a dealer. There won’t be any kind of worthwhile warranty and you should certainly not pay more for one.

At a second-hand dealership the motorbikes are unlikely to have a price on them, so you’ll have to be ready to bargain hard for the right price. It’s no different to buying a used car anywhere in the world, so don’t be afraid of being a little theatrical in your negotiations if need be.

A lot of locals and travellers sell their motorbikes on Craigslist. It’s also worthwhile visiting backpacker hostels where you’ll often find people selling off their motorbikes. That requires some leg-work, but you might be able to get yourself a good deal as the seller may be short on time and therefore open to considering lower offers.


A lot of people will buy old motorbikes like Hondas and Russian Minsks. These are okay, but you don’t have to go this route.

Getting a motorbike in VietnamMopeds (motor-scooters) are also fine. I rode around Vietnam on a 110cc 2004 Yamaha Nouvo (pictured above) that I paid $151 (£100) for. That’s a good deal cheaper than the average of $3-400 that most people want for those old Honda Wins and Minsks.

With more than 50,000 kilometres on the clock, my Yamaha cruised on the highways without any issue at 60-80kph. It crossed many a rough surface including mud and sand, and climbed the mountains north of Hanoi without grumbling once. I got one puncture that was quickly fixed at a roadside garage for less than $1.


As mentioned above, when you buy your motorbike make sure you get the paperwork! That is important because while it’s unlikely that you’ll have any run-ins with the local law, if you do they are going to want to see the bikes paperwork. Without the paperwork you’ll find the bike much harder to sell at the end of your tour.

You will also need to get yourself a helmet and wear it too! I suggest getting something that looks like it might actually offer you some protection in the event of a crash, however, it seems that any kind of flimsy helmet is acceptable.

It’s a good idea to get one with some kind of eye protection. The roads can be very dusty, it sometimes rains, the air can be full of bugs, and at night it simply isn’t smart to wear sunglasses as eye protection.

Getting a decent road map would be a good idea. I didn’t really plan my tour so I never got one and while I was fine, there were times it would have been handy. You also need to consider that when rains in Vietnam it pours! So get yourself something that will keep you dry.

Motorcycle helmets in Vietnam


People carry all kinds of stuff on their motorbikes in Vietnam. I saw pigs, ducks, dogs, tires, and even an giant shelf unit being transported by motorbike while I travelled. You’ll be amazed by what people carry on their motorbikes.

Your luggage won’t be a problem! I was a little nervous about carrying my bag on the bike because it wasn’t a backpack, but a case with wheels. I purchased a gigantic plastic bag, some elastic clip ties with hooks at each end, then simply balanced my 23kg bag on the back of the bike and wrapped the elastic ties around it firmly. The bike felt heavier with the bag, but it made little difference in reality.

I carried valuable items such as my camera, laptop, and passport in a smaller backpack that I hooked over the handlebars so I could easily take it off and carry it if I left the bike anywhere – and yes, I left the bike with my luggage unattended on numerous occasions.

How to carry your bags on your moped/motorbike in Vietnam


I have seen a few websites that claim you cannot legally ride a motorbike without a Vietnamese licence. This is not correct. You can ride one on your regular licence from home, but you must have that on you. I am told your travel insurance is unlikely to cover you in the event of an accident unless you have an international drivers licence (and even then it still might not!).

It’s widely believed to be illegal for a foreigner to own a motorbike in Vietnam, however that’s not correct. With time and some effort you can register a bike or car in your own name with the authorities and if you’re planning on being in Vietnam for a long period of time then you should probably look into that. However, as long as your bike is registered in a Vietnamese name you’re good to go.

Getting a motorbike in VietnamThe police in Vietnam do conduct regular road-blocks where they check vehicles and motorbikes. However, not many cops speak English and perhaps because of this I was waved passed every single road-block, even the ones where they were stopping every single bike. This experience was shared by every foreigner I met who rode a motorbike in Vietnam.

The question of insurance is a tricky one. I believe you do need it, however you can’t get it without a Vietnamese license, and in any case, if you are not a resident it would be pretty useless anyway. I was on a bike in 2012 with a local who was uninsured. We were stopped at a roadblock and he just negotiated the ‘fine’ with the cops for not having insurance. He paid about the price of 2 cups of coffee, and there were 2 cops, you can probably do the math.

How to ride a motorbike around Vietnam - Simon Jones motorbikes through Vietnam.


Go slow! That is the best and probably the most important advice you can get when it comes to biking around Vietnam, or indeed anywhere. Remember you are on the motorbike to see the country, so go slow and enjoy the scenery. If you fall off the motorbike every kilometre on the speedometer magnifies your injuries and you could be a very long way from medical help.

Getting a motorbike in VietnamIf you’re time limited then don’t rely on Google to give you estimates for travel time. You’ll be stopping to look at things and those estimates are all but useless. Accept the fact that you might not have time to see everything and instead just relax and enjoy your trip knowing that the other stuff will always be there when you have more time.


Whenever you park your motorbike anywhere in Vietnam, you’ll probably be approached by someone who will want you to pay them about 2,000 Dong ($0.10). This isn’t a scam, it’s how they do things there and everyone pays. The person will write a number on your bike using chalk and give you a card with that number on. They might move it in busy places, but don’t panic if you get back and it’s not immediately obvious where it is. Just give them the ticket and they’ll take you to the bike.

How to ride a motorbike around Vietnam - Simon Jones motorbikes through Vietnam.


If you get some old motorbike that has been driven around Vietnam several times by backpackers, then you’re probably going to have to repair it here and there. This shouldn’t be a drama. Because everyone in Vietnam rides a motorbike, you won’t have to look far for someone who can fix yours. Repairs are cheap, but as ever, be alert for people looking to take advantage of you as a ‘walking ATM.’


You can sell it to a dealer, but they will give you very little for it. My advice would be to give it a clean, take a good picture of it and put it on Craigslist.

Getting a motorbike in VietnamYou can also try putting a sign on it. I had my hotel write and print a for sale sign in both English and Vietnamese that included my phone number. I stuck that on the mirror wherever I parked it and it actually got a lot of interest this way. (You will need a local phone number, so get a local sim-card if you haven’t already.)

Another idea might be printing an ad (that includes a picture) and posting that in the local hostels wherever you are. If you’re a member of you could also post an ad on the local group as its likely to be read by people looking for bikes.

Tips about selling a motorbike in Vietnam

After my tour I sold my bike in Hanoi for the same price I paid for it in Hue. I sold it in less than 48 hours, and I was holding out for a price I wanted! I sold it to a local couple who saw my ad on the Hanoi couchsurfing group. However, I had 2 other offers from people who saw the ad I stuck on the mirror!


A road trip of this kind is a real adventure, and you’re sure to be telling the stories of it for a long time to come. Don’t over-think or over-plan the it, just give yourself enough time to slowly let the road reveal this beautiful country and its fascinating culture to you.

As I mentioned previously, I’m no expert, but should you have any other questions or tips about riding a motorbike in Vietnam then leave them a comment.

Read about my Vietnam road trip
Slow Road to Hanoi – Day 1
A view from onboard the bike in traffic


TravelSunday, April 28th, 2013, (11:59 pm)

Having escaped the tourist trap of Ha Long Bay and found overnight refuge in the mountains to the north, I began my final day on the motorbike. Along roads that climbed into the grasp of clouds and wound a gentle path through rice paddies carved into the hillsides, this would be the grand finale of a road-trip to remember.

Slow Road to Hanoi - Simon Jones motorbikes through Vietnam.

I made an early start on my final day riding through Vietnam on my £100 ($151) motorbike. The street outside my open hotel window came to life at dawn. The sounds of horns and motors filled the air and demanded that I not spend another moment lazing on the bed. I got to my feet and looked out of the window to the busy street below. It’s funny, for a place that almost doesn’t get a mention on Google maps, the small town of Chu was a hive of activity.

Before I left the hotel owner insisted, through her English-speaking son, that I join her family for some tea. She kindly poured the strong green tea and was pleased when I thanked her and sipped from the small porcelain cup.

In truth it was not to my liking, tasting instead like the runoff from a muddy field rather than something that I would ever choose to start my day with. However, wanting to be polite I finished the cup, covering my grimacing face with smiles and nods of gratitude. However, each time I finished the cup she would refill it with obvious delight at my apparent appreciation.

Eventually, after drinking more green tea than a vegan on a detox diet, I made my excuses and hit the road. The hotel owners son told me that Hanoi was less than three hours away, but I was in no hurry to get to the end of my trip, so I took a back-road that threaded a slow path further into the mountains that lie between my final destination and the border with China.

Slow Road to Hanoi - Simon Jones motorbikes through Vietnam.

On little more than a dirt track, I rode toward the mountain tops that faded into the white sky above. Kicking up a cloud of dust behind me I was smiling broadly as I rode through small villages and rice paddies toward places that maps appeared to make no mention of. Within no time I was seemingly far from anywhere, in the company of misty clouds and a single track road that might as well have been made from yellow bricks.

I saw few people as I made my way along the road. Those I did see always shot me a second look as if checking that I was indeed real. I suspect few, if any, tourists would venture to these parts of the country where the maps seem to have nothing to say.

Small villages go all but unnamed and unmarked as the line of the road curves its way across an expanse of blank road map that gives not the slightest inkling of the beauty of this far-flung road. On paper, I’m wasting my time, lost in a void of nothing but the occasional road number, but the truth of this landscape is anything but blank.

Slow Road to Hanoi - Simon Jones motorbikes through Vietnam.

How to ride a motorbike around Vietnam - Simon Jones motorbikes through Vietnam.

Slow Road to Hanoi - Simon Jones motorbikes through Vietnam.

Slow Road to Hanoi - Simon Jones motorbikes through Vietnam.

I took my time, stopping frequently to snap pictures and look out over spectacular views I knew my camera couldn’t catch. Eventually, I found my way back to the Highway bound for Hanoi. By my calculations, I was now three hours north of the city.

My detour into the mountains meant that I would reach the capital of Vietnam shortly before sundown, and slap bang in the middle of rush hour for what would surely be a rude introduction to the perils of riding in the cities infamous rush-hour traffic.

Still, in a largely unpopulated area, I noticed the motorbike felt a little unstable so I came to a stop at the side of the road and noticed that I had a puncture. My rear tire was completely flat but I wasn’t really worried. With so many motorbikes in this country, you don’t have to look far to find someone who repairs them.

Simon Jones on the roadI wasn’t in a town or village, but as luck would have it, I had come to a stop right next to a shop that repairs motorbikes.

A man sitting in a plastic chair waved me in and got a young man to fix the problem right away. He then offered me a seat and more of that terrible green tea I had earlier sworn never to drink again. This time I sipped very slowly knowing that the refills would keep coming.

In less than ten minutes, and for only 20,000 Vietnamese Dong (less than $1), the puncture was fixed and I was on my way again. The mountains soon faded into foothills that flattened out and changed the landscape from agriculture to industry.

Slow Road to Hanoi - Simon Jones motorbikes through Vietnam.

It didn’t take long before I arrived in Hanoi. I looked for a sign that might announce the city and mark a victorious finish line for me, but there was no such sign. Instead, Hanoi just emerged and I found myself swallowed into a melee of some 6.5 million people who live within its blurred borders.

As I blended into the city traffic my slow road to Hanoi had come to an end. After ten days and 1,554 Kilometres (957 miles), I had made it to my destination. To celebrate, that night I met up with fellow ‘couchsurfers,’ some of whom were on their own adventures. We ate Pho Bo, exchanged stories and travel tips, and enjoyed drinks late into the night. It was a great welcome to the city and a fitting end to this fantastic road-trip.

Slow Road to Hanoi - Simon Jones motorbikes through Vietnam.

Read my tips about touring Vietnam on a motorbike

Show your appreciation by buying me a coffee

TravelSaturday, April 27th, 2013, (11:16 pm)

I was really looking forward to Ha Long Bay. I had seen many beautiful pictures of the vast rock islands majestically towering out of the water and thought that seeing this in person would be a real highlight of this road trip. Instead, it was a complete disappointment.

Ha Long Bay. An anticlimax.

The glossy travel magazines that entice you to visit Vietnam call Ha Long Bay unmissable. The promise of this UNESCO World Heritage Site, with its nearly 2,000 limestone karsts and isles of various shapes and sizes, is a massive draw for tourists. Indeed, on a perfect day, on a private boat, with time to kill, this might in fact be a truly wonderful place to visit, but for the casual traveler, Ha Long Bay has been transformed into something of a trashy tourist trap.

A few days ago I met a couple of English ‘lads’ riding two old bikes around Vietnam. We stopped and chatted for a while and when I told them I was heading for Ha Long Bay they both gave an expression that didn’t inspire confidence. One of them described the experience as “a massive anticlimax.” The other said that while he understands it is a ‘must-see’ he wouldn’t be in any hurry to return there. After my experience, I can only echo those sentiments.

At every turn there is someone who will try to over-charge you and rip you off. It seems everyone on the street has a tour or cruise to sell you, a “better hotel” than the one you’re in, or as the day becomes night you might be offered a “nice woman.”

I did book a cruise, a six-hour boat trip that would, I thought, give me a decent sense of the wonder of this bay. However, after just two hours we were back at the port and the so-called tour was over.

To be honest, though, I wasn’t that disappointed. The weather was a total let down and the bay was rammed with overloaded cruise boats full of people all taking the same pictures.

Nevertheless, I don’t like being ripped off, so with a hefty dose of theatre, I returned to the agent I booked the tour from and introduced her to angry psycho Simon. At first, she refused to refund any of the money, insisting that she too had been ripped off. She then called some man to the office who also refused to refund me.

I didn’t know the man so I asked him who he was. “I am your friend,” he told me, to which I crisply illustrated that I did not know who the heck he was or why he was involved. After getting very close to him he decided to leave and allow me to iron out this situation with the agent.

Simon Jones on the roadIroning out the situation involved me picking up all the room keys to her hotel and telling her she could have them back once I had a refund. She attempted to grab the keys back from me but failed. Standing back at a distance for a few seconds she weighed up her options then decided that a refund was indeed in order. I thanked her politely and left the building.

The whole experience left me feeling pretty disappointed in Ha Long Bay, a place that on its own might indeed be a wonderful location were it not for the greedy people and scammers.

I returned to my hotel, checked out, loaded up the motorbike, and hit the road out of town as quickly as I could.

Slow Road to Hanoi – Day 10
Read my tips about touring Vietnam on a motorbike

Show your appreciation by buying me a coffee

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