In 2012 I went for a bike trip in Vietnam, after being inspired by a Top Gear episode where the presenters all rode from Saigon to Hanoi on a Vespa (Clarkson), Minsk (Hammond) and Honda C90(May). I had an initial plan of buying a bike (favoured by many backpackers) and riding with a friend, starting in Saigon and seeing how far up the country we could make it in 2 weeks.
I went for three weeks meeting a friend after a week, I had a vague initial plan of hiring a bike in Saigon and riding to Dalat and Mui Ne. I took my own helmet and gloves and arranged over email to hire a Honda Win from a bloke called Danh at Saigon Minsk.
The Bike Shop
Wandering down the road to pick the bike up I was expecting to find a shop, this was a very loose example, it seemed that bikes where being stripped down in the gutter outside a doorway! I found Danh, the bloke I’d been in contact with over email, he pulled out this old dog of a bike, he said he needed to give it a quick service and I could pick it up later, this made me a little nervous as it looked like it needed a rebuild, not just a once over!
Short trip to the Mekong Delta
I planned to ride to the Mekong Delta for a night, this was just to get used to the bike before my friend arrived and so I could build up a bit of confidence in the mad traffic. I made friends with a local bike taxi dude called Sohn, he agreed to show me out of the crazy traffic of Saigon, he also knew a guide in the Mekong Delta who’d show me around once I was there.
The next day I picked up the bike, it felt pretty small and the controls were awful, this thing had obviously been to the moon and back in miles. I bungeed my bag on the back and it was pretty obvious that this thing would never take two people and two bags! oh well change of plan needed then.
I met up with Sonn the bike taxi dude and we headed to the petrol station down the road, it was like being in a video game, bikes weaving in and out of busses chucking out clouds of diesel, you had to be committed in your direction with no hesitation or you couldn’t survive!
After filling up we headed out of town, this thing felt pretty loose, the speedo didn’t work, the sidestand kept dropping down but I started to get a feel for it, after an hour or so I suddenly felt something was wrong, the back of the bike was all over the place and I was doing about 50mph so rolled off the throttle and stuck my legs out, nearly losing it in the gravel at the side of the road, heart pumping and lorries thundering past, my guide was a good way off in the distance by now. Getting off the bike it was obvious the rear tyre was totally shot, I saw some stalls at the side of the road so I struggled to push the bike towards them, I asked this old lady with a bit of sign language where I could get it fixed, she pointed next door at a massive Honda sign, not sure how I missed that! The place was deserted so I shouted out and a small bloke in an oily vest appeared from a hammock, he didn’t look too pleased I’d just woke him up, I pointed to the tyre and within 5 minutes he had the shredded rubber off, Sohn had now shown up and chatted away to the bloke, it only cost £2 and we were off again.
We eventually made it across a large bridge that crossed into the Mekong Delta, we met up with Sohn’s friend who found me a hotel in the rice paddy fields. I wasn’t too comfortable exploring on my own on the knackered Honda and knew I’d get lost as the road signs were absolutely rubbish!
The next day I had a wander around the local town for breakfast and decided it was probably best just to head back to Saigon as I didn’t really want to spend out on all the tours offered and now my travel plans had changed I needed to save a bit of cash.
Here’s a video of me following a local back to the main bridge (sorry for the rubbish sound)
The bloke in the video left me at the bridge to make my own way back to Saigon, It took forever! I took a good few wrong turns the nearer I got to Saigon but eventually I saw in the distance one of the newest shiny towers in the city and just headed for that. I made it back in one piece and gave the bike back 2 days early, I got most of my money back as the thing was a death trap!
The Chu Chi Tunnels
My friend from India turned up in Saigon and we hired Sohn the taxi dude to take us to the chu chi tunnels north of the city, I went on the back of his bike and my friend went on the back his friends bike, it was a much better way to see the tunnels than getting on a sweaty tourist bus with the hordes of other tourists. We avoided the crowds and also saw some of the countryside, stopping for drinks and lunch.
Leaving Saigon for Beaches and Mountains
After the chaos of Saigon we decided to escape by train to Mui ne a tourist town on the coast which was a nice change of pace from the city. We arrived at night and there were only 2 taxis outside the station, think we got a bit ripped off as it was only a little journey. Our hotel was right at the end of the main beach, it was the cheapest place available but was comfortable enough.
After a few days chilling on the beach eating fresh seafood we caught a small bus to Dalat, a really peaceful town up in the hills inland.
Leaving Dalat on a 3 day bike trip
While we were wandering around Dalat we came across a couple of places offering bike tours, after a bit of haggling we arranged for a 3 day trip down from the mountains into Nha Trang, it worked out to £50 each including bike for me and guesthouses. My friend went on the back of the guides bike and I got a Yamaha stepthrough moped.
I would absolutely recommend this to anyone heading to Vietnam, we saw so many sights (Coffee plantation, waterfalls and temples) ate some amazing food (Pho is delicious) and met some really friendly people (gatecrashing a wedding and wandering a proper market)
Here’s a video of the best bits, I’m afraid the camera wasn’t the greatest, it conked out after getting caught in a mega downfall.