My daily journals didn’t really sum up my experience on the bike riding through Vietnam. In the moment it’s a lot easier to write and elaborate on the bad experiences than the good. Having finished the ride these are my thoughts on the whole.
On November 4 I bought a motorbike in Hanoi. The following day I began a trip with a few other travellers I met that would take me from Hanoi in the north to Ho Chi Minh City in the south. Each day at the end of the ride I wrote a short journal for the day. This is a compilation of all the journals. This isn’t a summary of the trip on the whole, just how I felt at the end of each days ride with some pictures.
Day 1: Hanoi to Mai Chau
Day 1 of riding is complete. Leaving Hanoi was a nightmare. We had to park our bikes a 10 minute walk away from our hostel, and couldn’t get them out until 6:00am. We got to the garage just after 6:00am, got our bikes and headed back to the hostel to strap our bags on. We intended to leave right away, but decided to eat breakfast before we left. By the time we got going traffic had really picked up. Getting out of Hanoi was a nightmare. There are almost no rules and motorbikes everywhere. On top of that we needed to find fuel ASAP because we were all low. It was a stressful first hour of our trip but we did find a gas station and made our way out of Hanoi.
Day 2 is in the books. It was an up and down day. At breakfast the weather was threatening a little drizzle. I decided I’d start out wearing a hoodie because I got cool at speed yesterday and today was cooler.
We got out sometime after 8:30 and it was dry at that point. About 10k into the ride we were faced with taking the 15a or c. The c twists up and down through the national park. The a is an easier ride going around it. We thought we were on the A but it turns out we took the C. Early on we rode through a construction site where the road was replaced by mud. The road continued up from there, and the hairpin turns began snaking their way through the hills. About 90mins in the rain began. It wasn’t a downpour, but enough to make us wet. We realized we were on the wrong road about this point but decided not to turn around, we’d just continue to push forward. When we finally made it down the other side we were all dirty, wet and hungry. There were some great views on our route, but it did add some riding time to our day.
We had a nice lunch in a small town; beef, rice, greens and some kind of broth. Not long after continuing lunch we got separated into 2 groups. James and Storey hadn’t been far behind but then they disappeared. Paul thought they may have gotten gas, but when we circled back to check they weren’t there. We waited about 40 minutes for them before deciding to push on. They were together and we weren’t sure they were behind us. We had about an hours drive to Yen Cat, our destination for the night, and about 2.5 hours of sun. We were able to get moving at a good clip but before long the rain came down hard. There was nowhere for us to stop so we pushed on. The rain let up after a few minutes, but before long it returned, and stayed with us all the way to Yen Cat. It was a wet ride but we made it.
Our first priority when we arrived was to get somewhere for the night, so we could then sort out where James and Storey were. A quick loop of the town and we found a hotel/guesthouse place. We dropped our stuff off and sent them a message. They don’t have working cell phones so they’d need to be somewhere with wifi to get it. We were then leaving for food when we saw them driving into town. As it turned out James had an electrical issue that he had to get fixed. End of the day it’s great we’re all in one place and able to get at it again tomorrow.
Day 3 was a good one. We left Yen Cat just after 8am with our sights set on Vinh. Vinh is a bigger city and we were looking forward to some new food after a disappointing couple of meals last night and this morning. The weather looking threatening when we left but it turned out to be a beautiful day. The roads were great and it was easy riding. We stopped about every hour to regroup and let the bikes cool. For most of the day the 3 waves stuck together and the 3 wins were up ahead. I strapped my bag on sideways to allow myself more freedom I move around on the seat and it worked out great. Along the way we stopped in a couple of place for pictures, there was some really great scenery.
Day 4 had it all, the highest of highs, the lowest of lows, breakdowns, a happy dance, and more.
Day 5 was an easy day on the bike. After breakfast we got some small issues with the bikes sorted. My rear light wasn’t working and needed to be rewired. This cost me 30,000 to get fixed ($1.60).
Day 6 was a great day on the bike. We had about 190k to travel from Dong Hoi to Hue. Hue would be the biggest city we’ve been to since our trek began in Hanoi.
Day 11 didn’t start out well for me. It was raining when we were leaving. I managed to get my bike to start but it quickly cut out. I had to take it to a mechanic, luckily there was one across the street. He either took out the spark plug, or the spark plug had come out. He cleaned both it, and it’s housing, and reinstalled it. That got me up and running again. The repairs cost me 10,000 (about $0.55).
Day 12 was the kind of day I imagined every day of this trip would be like. Sunny skies, great scenery, and the sea on the left.
Day 13 we woke up with some of the worst conditions we’ve seen. The wind was rattling the windows and the rain was going sideways. Fortunately by the time we had the bikes ready to go the wind had slowed down and the rain had briefly stopped.
Day 15 was another day off travel in Nha Trang, but today I did get on my bike. I road along the coast to take in the scenery and get some pictures for about an hour. My bike seems to rattle more than when I began the trip than as I ride it. Later today I may go to the mechanic to get that looked at. I should likely get some air put into my rear tire.
Day 16 was a tough day. We were headed to Dalat, about 145k away. It would be a harder drive because we were headed back inland, and through mountains.
Day 17 was a non-travel day in Dalat. We spent the day on a tour that took up canyoning down some waterfalls and cliff diving. When we got back I decided I’d take my bike to the mechanic. My bike seemed to be really struggling going up and down the mountains, especially when I would first get on the throttle. Also, I’ve had an issue with my bike cutting out during city driving.
Day 18 was the best ride to date. We set off from Dalat just after 8:00am to beat the rain that was supposed to come in later on in the morning. We had about 165k ahead of us to Mui Ne, and the first part was going to be through mountains.
Day 19 was a day off day from travel. I did make the 10k trip to the red sand dunes to check them out. The road was smooth and you could see the sea on the right almost the whole way. My bike seems to work great, besides a squeaky rear brake.
Day 20 the bikes and weather put up a final stand to break our spirits.