Once I stumbled upon this YouTube video of a guy crossing Vietnam by motorbike. Boom! After the 03:32 I was pumped! I have to do it.
A great journey starts with an accurate plan 😉 I did my homework: bounced ideas with my mates, researched motorbike models, the possible routes and time in each place, and what to see in the country.
Introducing Ramona, this sexy communist babe that rode with me. A Honda Nouvo 110cc with a huge detachable storage. From my research, this beast is the best of the worlds for this journey.
Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City
Have you ever fell in love with a building? Yeah, that happened with me. This one is at Durong Nguyen Huê Street and it feels like Alice in the Wonderland. There’re soooo many cafes, tea houses, funky stores that you can keep opening doors and discovering places for ages. Shouts to @My Hoang.
Well, let’s talk about the war. I visited the War Remnants Museum to check the Vietnamese side of the story. The numbers are impressive: 3M deaths, 1M being civilians. About 12 million gallons of Agent Orange on chemical attacks supported by the ones like Dow Chemical and Monsanto… Neither France or the US has apologized so far.
Mui Ne is a chill fishing Village. They have tons of these coracles, a small round boat made of wickerwork.
I’ve met these crazy riders, Funda and Daniela (ops, Leonie). He had a great time in the city, from playing capoeira on the sand dunes to interacting with the local police (twice!).
I was stoked to ride across the coffee farms. Vietnam is the #2 biggest coffee producer worldwide, just after Brazil. They produce Robusta beans, a bitter coffee used primarily in instant coffee. Usually prepared in drip and sweetened with condensed milk. Crazy how the temperature drops up here – I went from sunny 30c-ish in Mui Ne, to 10-15c here. When there, stay at Tre’s House. Do a coffee tour at La Viet Coffee.
Southern Beaches: Ninh Van Bay, Vung Ro Bay
It’s said that the South of the country has the best beaches. My pick is Vung Ro Bay, with a stunning lighthouse and pristine beach. No tourists whatsoever.
Super charming historic district and the Old Town is a UN World Heritage Site. Colorful lanterns everywhere and romantic rides by the river with candles.
Vai Han Pass
A long mountain pass with misty and stunning views. A must for riders.
Vietnam’s former national capital from 1802–1945. Has a beautiful Imperial City, with a Citadel, surrounded by a moat and thick stone walls. Rich in architectural details.
Vinh Moc Tunnels
This was, apparently, a random stop that fascinated me and showed how resilient and badass Vietnamese are. Vinh Moc is a tunnel complex built to shelter the villagers from the intense bombing (9,000 tons, if you wanna know) of US forces. Figures: Period: 1966-1972; Extension 2000m long, with 13 entrances; 60 families lives in the tunnels (Wikipedia data, locals mention up to 600 people); 17 children born there.
Beautiful mountains, tropical forests and underground rivers at this national park. Has a vast chain of caves. Visit Paradise Cave to check out huge stalagmites.
I couldn’t find much information on-site here. I found out later: Built in the 14th century according to feng shui principles, used to be the capital of both Dai Viet nation during the final years of Tran Dynasty and Dai Ngu nation. Also a UN World Heritage Site.
It was funny to ride up the citadel’s walls and getting lost trying to cross the kingdom.
A fascinating, chaotic-yet-charming city in Vietnam. Fantastic food, terrific cafes and places to work from.
Bai Tu Long Bay
Need a break from Ramona 😉 I indulged in a luxury 3D2N tour in Bai Tu Long Bay.
The highlands has one of the most stunning scenery from all country. Lots of rice paddies and breathtaking views. Home of Mt. Fansipan (or Phan Xi Pang) the highest mountain in Indochina, at 3,143 meters. I was particularly fascinated by the locals from minority groups and their costume with distinctive and colorful designs. There are 9 different ethnic groups around this area (54 in the whole country).
Loop North: Sa Pa-Sin Ho.
I had a few extra days and extended for more 330km West around Tonkinese Alps: valleys, mountains & rivers on the roof of Indochina.
The End – Dec 20, 2016
After 6 weeks, +3200km and tons of “helloooo” from smiling kids, my road trip across Vietnam comes to an end. I was so stoked! This country has one of the kindest and most generous people I’ve ever met. What a huge lesson on how to adapt, strive and still smile.
Riding for long distances is truly a form of meditation. The side roads’ landscapes and quietness creates a unique environment to dive deep down inside oneself.
PS: Ah, sweet Ramona is gone. She will be happier riding with her new owner 😉
Planning your ride?
I’ve put together some tips and resources that helped me a lot:
Vietnam Coracle: That’s the bible for riders in Vietnam. Period.
Google Translate. Ultra handy app as away from big cities English is rarely spoken. Download an offline version.
- Pho Bo: yes, Vietnamese eat dogs. The “Bo”, will make sure you’re talking about beef, not a puppy.
- Nhà nghỉ: Means homestay, accommodation. Look out for signs with that when you need a rest after a long ride.
- Cảm ơn (sounds like “come oooon”). Means thanks 😉
Get a storage box for your stuff, that is *way* better than attaching a backpack to your bike; Use a full face helmet – you will be safer is something happens.