Distance 5233km/3252 miles
Roadkill 1 chicken, one chick
Shortly after graduating from college my 24 year old son took off on walkabout all over the world, traveling extensively in Europe, Egypt, Turkey, south-east Asia and India. He climbed mountains, went trekking, and generally set about having a blast. Early in his trip he emailed me and asked if I would like to join him about six months later in Vietnam, a country I had long wanted to visit for a motorcycle trip.
And so it began: at the end of April 2013 I met Zach in Hanoi and so began our epic adventure. I have ridden bikes since I was a youngster. I raced MX in my early twenties and have ridden a Triumph Tiger since 2006 on which I have accumulated a lot of mileage. Zach is new to motorcycling having bought his first ride, a Honda Saber 750, shortly before he left on his travels.
Vietnam is awash with motorcycles and they are easily available for rent or purchase. Problem is they are mostly small bikes under 135cc with a few 175cc bikes available. Not being one content to dawdle along on an underpowered bike I really wanted to find something larger. This proved quite a struggle but through a fortuitous meeting in a coffee shop in Kathmandu we learned of a guy in Hanoi that had Honda XL 250's for rent. We ended up securing these bikes equipped with oversize Baja fuel tanks and heavy duty luggage racks.
I spent months on the route preparation using ADV ride reports and the Rough Guide as my primary sources. Ultimately we ended up deviating from our planned route to an extent based upon experience we gained as we traveled. This is the route we followed:
This ride report will basically follow our day-to-day progress and there will be LOTS of pics. Hope you enjoy this. Suggestions as to how I can improve the ride report as I progress are welcome
We were packed and ready to leave by 8:00am. Hanoi is a hectic city and difficult to navigate if you don't know your way around. Not wanting to get lost trying to leave town I hired a local to lead us out of town on his bike. Here we are moments before our departure:
Our gear looks so nice and clean - things would not stay that way for very long
Leaving town was, as expected, hectic. The early morning traffic was pretty crazy. We managed to stay with our "guide" despite a few stalls on bikes we did not yet know. Eventually we reached the outer areas of town and took off on our own. The first hour or two were pretty boring as we escaped the urban area but as we got further into the countryside it started getting prettier and prettier with very little traffic. We turned off the main road and started hitting some nice twisty country roads. Eventually we stopped for our first break and got a preview of the awesome scenery that would soon become commonplace:
We continued riding until we reached our destination for the day, Nghia Lo. We found a nice hotel on the edge of town with a clean, spacious room for $16 and settled in. We took off to explore the town and this was the view from the back of the hotel:
Quite a start to our adventure!!
Just around the corner we had an experience that was to become commonplace during our trip - meeting locals who rarely see Westerners and were totally intrigued by us. We walked by a few guys drinking fresh sugar cane juice pressed by the vendor standing alongside them and were promptly treated to a round of juice by a friendly local.
We continued walking into town and soon ran upon another scene that was to become a favorite staple of our trip - the local market. This was our first time seeing a local market and we were quite taken with the riot of color, the variety of fruits, the raw meats of all descriptions, and most of all the people. We had already reached the area where the minority tribes are located and many of the ladies were dressed in similar fashion to this smiling face:
We tried some interesting street food, found some dinner with beer for about $4, and eventually made our way back to the hotel after a really cool first day.
Total mileage for the day - 180 km (112 miles).