This is the story of our motorcycle trip across Vietnam. If you’re reading this, we’re currently in the process of completing the journey.
INCOMPLETE - Last Updated Feb 5th, 2020
Buying a Motorcycle
We decided to rent a Honda Air Blade 110cc from Tigit Motorbikes in Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon. Here’s what the bike looks like with our gear loaded:
Rent vs. Buy
Renting isn’t very expensive and it allows me to skip the whole buy and sell process. I’m getting soft… I know. I’m paying for this luxury…
$350 USD pays the rent for a Honda Air Blade 110cc was for two months. I’m paying to not have $1,000 tied up in a motorcycle in Vietnam, I’m paying to not worry about selling my motorcycle in Hanoi and I’m paying to ride a nicer bike.
After contemplating the above points, I’ve decided renting is better for me.
Initially, I wanted to buy a cheap bike and drive it from Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi. I wanted to paint it and make a bunch of tweaks. I even has grand plans of welding together a pirate flag.
After the last few days, I feel happy I didn’t do all this bizarre stuff. It’s great to have a dependable bike which doesn’t stand out.
My Rough Buyers Guide
It appears that these are the best bikes to buy if you want to have lots of break down adventures on your ride across Vietnam:
Fake Honda Win Warning (India/China knockoffs of Honda Win)
I wouldn’t ever go with one of these. They are broken down everywhere. I rarely see a Vietnamese person on a Win knockoff. While preparing for this journey, I watched a handful of videos produced by people who did the adventure on these kinds of motorcycles. They almost all feature multiple repair stations on their journey. They often sell them halfway through and get a scooter of some sort.
I don’t even think they save much money. The cost of repairs starts to build up.
If I were to buy a cheap bike and travel on my own, I’d get a Yamaha Hayate
Hayates are inexpensive. I found multiple for sale for around $300 USD. They drive OK and are allegedly easy to repair if something breaks.
I drove one around Ho Chi Minh city. If I were going on my own, it would be fine. I’m responsible for a passenger so I wanted to get a bike which was built better.
Our Motorcycle Trip Across Vietnam
Day 1 – Ho Chi Minh City to Vung Tau
We start day one in the Tresor residence. Our first move was to go to Tigit so we could leave our bags with them. Tigit offers to ship your bags to Hanoi. They charge $15 USD a bag.
Algorithmic mapping companies will have you going the wrong way on this leg. Motorcycles are not allowed on the highways in Vietnam. It’s possible to go around the city in a long arc if you want to avoid the ferry… but the ferry is awesome. We had a great time taking the Cat Lai Ferry. It cost something insignificant and was super fast.
Here’s the video which tells the whole story:
Day 2 – Vung Tau to Dalat
Today we got a relatively late start. I think we left around noon. It would have been much better if we left early. In the late afternoon we got stuck on the QL20. The QL20 has a section which I’ve highlighted below:
I would advise you to skip this part of the QL20. I call it hell road. It’s chatoic and dangerous. Driving this section requires constant vigilance.
If we had left earlier we could have bypassed a large chunk of this madness. There is a loop called Tà Lài which is supposed to be beautiful.
Day 3 – A Day in Bao Loc
Today I spent most of the day catching up on video edits.
V went to a waterfall type attraction with David, Denisa, Santiago and Vicky. I picked her up at the end of the day and we went to this far away spot I found on a topographic map. Here’s where it is:
The waterfall attraction everyone went to was called the Dambri Waterfall.
Sometimes I wonder if I spend too much time editing these videos….
Day 4 – Bao Loc to Dalat
As we drove out of town, we had the opportunity to see some of the poorer neighborhoods of Vietnam. David attempted speaking Vietnamese with some people on the roadside. He learned that they don’t speak Vietnamese. We don’t really know the name of their people, but they seemed to be living in a much poorer world than the people over the hill in Bao Loc.
We then crossed the valley between QL28 and QL27. On the uphill side of the valley, the coffee shrubs surround the road. They have white flowers which look like snow from a distance. As we cruised up and down the uninhabited hills we were inundated in the smell of flowers. It was like driving through a tremendous flower shop .
We had lunch at a place serving Hanoi food. David had a difficult time speaking with the woman. She was more than 80 years old and from Hanoi. Apparently, Vietnamese is almost a completely different language in the North. David speaks the southern flavor of Vietnamese so we should expect his effectiveness as a translator to deteriorate as we travel further north.
None-the-less, lunch was fantastic. We split up to do the last leg to Dalat. David and Denisa went the southern route. V, Santi, Vicky and I went the northern route:
It turns out that both ways are nice. We hadn’t booked anything in Dalat so we immediately started looking for a place. We found a cool hotel for about 500,000 VND ($21.54 USD) on the fly. There were many options, but the one we found was great so we booked it and stayed there.
We spent two days in Dalat. The high points are shared in the next video in this series.
Day 5 – Dalat to Nha Trang
We learned a lesson from previous rides. Today we awake around 6:30 a.m. to get on the road far earlier.
It was fairly cold when we left (~50F/10C). Driving out of Dalat is like driving down from the clouds and back to the Vietnam you would expect. The road winds beautifully and you get warmer and warmer with each turn.
The great coffee culture gets thinner and thinner as you get further and further from Dalat. We stop early to warm up and get fired up on baked bean juice.
Back in the lowlands, we stopped for a rest and to change back into reasonable clothing for the dry tropical hot weather.
We crossed a great agricultural area and found the coast. As we move up the coast we found a pretty awesome seafood joint in Thái An.
I wanted to do a bit of surfing at the north end of Cam Ranh beach, but the waves are small there. The wind is onshore and the rental shop doesn’t have a magnificent selection to choose from.
We had a booking via a popular vacation rental site in Nha Trang. It was rest time after that nine hour journey from the cold hills of Dalat to the sunny coast of Nha Trang.
Day 6 – Nha Trang to Qui Nhon
Today was a traditional drive up the coast. We stayed near the coast. Parts of the drive were closed in anticipation of the 2020 Covid19 situation.
We stopped for coffee and body surfing, but I can’t recall exactly where we were.
Day 7 – Qui Nhon to Kon Tum
This was one of those stunning drives across Vietnam. We had a few tense moments because we didn’t know where the next fuel stop would be, but overall it was a hoot. We left the high temperatures of the coast for a higher elevation mountain area.
We took the long way on this ride as well as I wanted to snake through the national park areas. I believe this was a good call, though we did miss Pleiku.
Day 8 – Kon Tum to Hoi An
This had to be one of the top most beautiful drives of the trip. We had a pretty interesting experience attempting to see the tri-boder area where Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos meet. For whatever reason, the military in the area suggested that we don’t drive up the last hill to see the area.
We snaked through beautiful Vietnamese mountainsides and finally descended down into the beautiful town of Hoi An.
Day 9 – Hoi An to …
Motorcycle Trip Across Vietnam Expense Report
This will be compiled upon completion.
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