Hello Adventure Rider forums, l've just joined and wanted to share a ride I undertook in Vietnam, as a repost of an old blog entry.
Altogether it was a month long motorbike tour of Vietnam, four days warm up across the Northwest with a guide, the rest solo from Hanoi to Saigon. I've skipped the bit with a guide here, compared to many posters on this forum my trip is already 'cute' enough. I had no Lonely Planet Guide, no GPS, just a map (one of those paper things you fold up) and a route in my head.
I hope that this is the first of many motorbike adventures I can undertake. I also hope that people considering similar adventures find useful information here and to that end I have been as honest as possible without being rude. My only distraction from riding was recording sound effects to a portable digital recorder, from which I managed to get lots of great material. I didn’t ride across Vietnam so I could write a blog about it, or find myself, or take nice photos, or learn about a foreign culture, or relax from work or broaden my horizons,* I just went for an adventure.
There are a hundred stories I don't have room for, but hopefully theres enough here for interest :)
Hanoi to Ninh Binh - breaking in
At 8am I picked up my bike, a 250cc Yamaha Raid trailie with knobbly tires, from Voyage Vietnam in central Hanoi, and jostled my way through dense scooter traffic in first gear on the clutch. Owing to a strange combination of a semi- ring road and selectively motorcycle prohibitive routes, within an hour I was completely lost, a fantastic start. On two separate occasions people sent me in the exact opposite direction to my intended destination. In fact, despite meaning well, roughly half the people I asked for directions in Vietnam got it wrong, a good lesson to learn early then.
I used the location of the sun, instinct and luck to find the road to Ninh Binh, which was chock full of heavy vehicles spilling construction materials over the road, belching black fumes into my face and generally driving like assholes. I saw a man lying on the floor with his leg bent the wrong way, blood staining his trousers, a group of people arguing and pullling around his broken scooter. Lunch was wet noodles with beef at a roadside shack.
Being full of good old English bravery and spunk I had ridden into the overcast, muggy weather in a t-shirt with no sun cream. Error. My arms were radioactive for a week after. From then on I rode in my hoodie with sun cream on hands and neck.
I stayed in the Kie Anh hotel on the main road, which is near some decent places to eat local food and is not a bad place for 10 dollars.
Ninh Binh to Cua Lo - to the sea!
The roads were shocking today, for four hours I had to battle for road position with endless lorries, huge bullying coaches, suicidal scooter riders, constantly changing road surfaces, ever fluctuating road widths, pot holes and a spot of rain.
I stopped for a wee at one point, and when I came back to my bike a group of rascals were all over it, nice lads though.
Mid morning I had a small minor crash with a guy riding a scooter heavily laden with cages and bags full of bananas. As many Vietnamese do (even with their wife and two kids hanging on the back) he pulled straight out into the road without glancing at the traffic that could kill him, narrowly avoiding death by coach. He then proceded to drift left across two lanes of fast traffic, then looked over his shoulder, saw me, was apparently transfixed by my radiance and was unable to stop turning. I tried to swerve left but decided I should straighten up and just ride through the bugger. After a loud bang and a girly scream he ended up sprawled across the road covered in bananas with his scooter on top of his legs. I stopped, turned around, and rode over to see if he was ok. He limped up, recovered some bananas and headed off looking pretty broken. I had ripped open my hoodie, bruised the right of my stomach and gained two thin gashes in my knee and forearm.
Once on the smooth open coastal road to Cua Lo I opened the throttle and had some fun. Cua Lo is a popular destination for Vietnamese holiday makers, although it was definitely low season when I visited. I saw no foriegners there at all, which made me a prime target for people to have their photo taken with me. A group of 6 screaming teenage girls caught me and took it in turns to have their photo taken with me, grabbing onto my top so I couldn’t escape. As soon as I got my camera out they ran, a common phenomenon I found in Vietnam – fear of a foriegners camera…
Once at the Viet Anh hotel I went for a seafood feast by the beach which was heaven - a hard days ride then an early munch on top grub with the ocean wind clearing my head. I then met these mental chaps who got me as drunk as them. Lovely guys, great evening. (Compared favorably to my evenings in the Western tourist town of Mui Ne later in my trip).
I walked the beach in late evening until it was dark. The next day I walked the coastline for miles, often a holiday making girl would come over so her boyfriend could take a photo of us. I got to put my arm around some very beautiful girls. For lunch I ate some salty poppadoms with peanuts and syrup on. In the early evening a strange dense fog came in.