Motorbiking across Vietnam!
The good, the bad and the weather.
If you have decided you want to motorbike Vietnam, woo go you! This is an amazing experience but WOW was it hard physically and mentally. Motorbikes are a part of life in this country with over 30 million taking up the roads. This was my first time ever riding a motorbike and believe me, if you can ride a bike here, you can ride one anywhere in the world!
While cruising the highway we saw some very interesting sights; from families of five on one bike, to a massive cage of ducks coming off every part of a bike! How they balance all the different things on these small bikes amazes me.
Riding in Vietnam is not for the faint hearted, there seems to be little to no rules on these roads. Green light means go, amber still go and the count down from 5 on the red light still means go. There is no right of way on a roundabout with people honking left, right and centre for you to move! However honking is a normal thing here, it usually means “I’m about to overtake you” or “I’m next to you so don’t turn”. It scared the hell out of me when a massive truck honked something sounding like a fog horn next to me, while overtaking a bus going into incoming traffic. I have many memories of almost being squashed so being alert and remember to move out the way is the best advice. They are a lot bigger and don’t seem to care about you on your small bike.
Rent or buy a motorbike
I believe this is a personal preference whether to buy or rent your mighty steed. We opted for renting as the company we went for were great! It was so easy to rent it in Hanoi and drop it off in Ho Chi Minh. The guy was great throughout our trip and let us know the best places to do bike services down the country. It was also very nice not to have to worry about selling the bike at the end, we were on quite a tight schedule so being able to just leave the bike and get our deposit back, was one less thing to stress about. The only slight set back is you do have a set date to give the bike back by so make sure you give yourself enough time to make it all the way down and not have to rush. The fee varies from company to company so just read the small print and make sure you get the bike back in time and all will be good.
Saying all of this, in the backpacker areas, bikes are easy to find and cheap to buy. So if you want one you can decorate and call your own, then this is a great thing to do. Make sure you have your paper registration (blue card) when buying a bike. You will need this to sell the bike and it’s your proof of ownership if you get stopped at road blocks. Just remember to test drive a few first and make sure everything works. Repairs are cheap along the way, but it won’t be fun to break down in the middle of a highway.
Whether you buy or rent your bike always remember to name it! Makes it more fun:) In the picture above you will see our mighty steeds- Ronald and Wilson.
We never had trouble finding places to crash for a night or two. We used hostels, Airbnb and couchsurfing. We loved couchsurfing, it was a great way to stay with locals and learn more about the culture. We always booked a day ahead as it was nicer to know we had somewhere to rest after a long day of driving. Mixing up your budgets is good too, so if we did couchsurfing for a few nights, we would splurge a bit on our next place. When I say splurge, it never broke the bank as all accommodation is pretty cheap.
Food and coffee
This had to be one of my favourite dishes! After a long ride in the ice cold rain, this hot noodle soup was perfect and tasted delicious. It’s eaten at any time of day but mainly for breakfast. It’s a very light but filling meal consisting of light beef broth flavoured with ginger and coriander, flat rice noodles, spring onions and slivers of raw beef that cook in the broth. It’s so yummy!
What a magical sandwich! The best place we had one was in Hoi An. This baguette sandwich is filled with crunchy salad, pork pate, slow roasted pork and sriracha sauce. There are different meat fillings but the pork was my favourite. Super filling and full of amazing flavour.
One of Vietnams most favourite dishes. Translucent spring rolls packed with greens, coriander and various combinations of minced pork, shrimp or crab. You can also dip them in fish sauce which really adds to the flavour of these delicious rolls!
The motorcycle trip
Starting in the busy centre of Hanoi we took 4 weeks to ride down the coast to Ho Chi Minh. Through winding roads, freezing rain, busy highways and bright sunshine. Unfortunately for us, it rained 3 weeks out of the 4 which wasn’t fun on a motorbike. We went through alot of ponchos, a rain coat and pants, bin bag under layers for warmth and plastic bags for our feet, as you can imagine, they were some very attractive outfits.
I’m not going to write every place we visited as some were only for one night to rest our tired heads. We started in Hanoi so the places will be in order from top to bottom. So I’ll just be writing the places with the best memories:)
The capital city of Vietnam, the starting or finishing point for many Vietnam motorbike itineraries. I would suggest staying in the Old quarter ( Hoan Kiem) as it’s always busy with tourists and locals. It’s ideal for backpackers who want to be close to it all, eat great authentic food and enjoy the nightlife. However we were not very clued up when it came to staying here and unfortunately booked an Airbnb way out of the happening area. It was very interesting trying to order food at a Vietnamese restaurant where there was no English on the menu and no one spoke English. It made for a fun guessing game trying to not order chickens feet!
Ha Long Bay
There are so many boat cruises in this place to take you around the hundreds of freestanding islands. We went on a 2 day boat tour which included food, alcohol and a bed for the night. On this tour we got to walk around in a massive cave, checkout a floating pearl farm and climb to the top of one of the islands to see an amazing view. This is definitely worth doing however there are thousands of tourists which kind of takes the magic away and unfortunately we had rain the whole time. There wasn’t much else to do in Ha Long bay for us, so we left after a couple days and carried on our adventure south.
Journey from there to Hue was pretty boring for us. All the rain, evil bed bugs and very long cold rides. Nothing worth chatting about but it finally looked up from Hue.
FINALLY SEEN SUNSHINE!! I was starting to forget what blue sky looks like and the feeling of sun on my skin. We only spend one night here and found it pretty cool. The food and coffee was really good and the bars were fun. Only thing that annoyed us was a crazy amount of people on bikes trying to sell you cannabis, obviously say no because most of them work with the police to catch people.
Loved Da Nang! Full of history, good food and beautiful views. The Hai Van Pass, which was made famous by an episode of Top Gear, is a definite must! Beautiful winding roads and incredible ocean views make it any motorbikers dream.
Once you’ve finished with this amazing drive, The Golden Bridge was awesome to see! The best time to go is as soon as it opens at 8am so you miss the massive rush of tourists and tour groups which is about 10 a.m onwards. There are so many people on the bridge it takes away the splendor of it. Also when you go early, you will most likely see loads of brides and grooms taking beautiful wedding pictures which was nice to see.
The cable car ride up to the bridge is one of the longest in the world and it’s so much fun! Breathtaking views the whole way up and if you do go early, you usually get the cart to yourself.
Another must do is The Marble Mountains. These amazing mountains are full of tunnels, caves and Buddhist shrines just waiting to be explored! If you have plenty of energy and love a good mission, you can climb to the summit of one of the mountains and feast your eyes on spectacular views over the entire area.
Last but not least, is the Son Tra Peninsula. At the size of over 4000 hectares, this beautiful rainforest is massive! It juts out into the sea from the city of Da Nang with hikes to go on, incredible views and untouched beaches.
This was the first place that had a real backpacker feel to it. Plenty of hostels to choose from, great food all around and nightclubs next to the beach. We stayed in a hostel called “Tribee Ede hostel” which had a relaxing pool and buzzing bar area. Drinking games were played most evenings and even an amazing free food tour once a week. As I said earlier, Hoi An definitely has the best Banh Mi in Vietnam, along with other very tasty foods to try.
If your looking to get a suit or dress tailored, this is the place, with over 50 tailor shops to choose from and very fast service. I got a dress tailored within 24 hours!
We weren’t here for long but it was quite a cool place. Our hostel had free beer for a couple of hours at their rooftop bar which was awesome. Plus a yummy meal shared with other travelers, which was a great way to meet other backpackers and swap stories of Vietnam.
Our hostel was not the best here, it had a curfu to be back by or they would lock the doors! So obviously we pushed boundaries ;) Most unusual thing I’ve come across with a hostel. So unfortunately we couldn’t stay out past midnight but we still managed to have some fun. The best thing we found in Dalat was the Maze Bar! Never seen anything like it! It was literally a maze inside a building with bars on different floors, full of secret spots and a beautiful rooftop maze with a view of the city.
Ho Chi Minh
The last place on our Vietnam roadtrip! There is lots to do in this busy city. We were only here a few days so didn’t do a huge amount. However going to a rooftop bar is a must here. We couldn’t actually afford a drink at the one we went to, but did get to see the amazing view of the city!
We were lucky enough to be here for New Years Eve and got to meet up with a bunch of awesome travellers we met in Hoi An. New Years was such a crazy experience! With the most iconic strip of bars and clubs we have ever seen, packed with thousands of people enjoying the festivities.
After New Years madness we had to say goodbye to our mighty steeds! It was one of the best but hardest 4 weeks, full of amazing food, beautiful coffee, a lot of rain and great friends! Biking Vietnam… Not for the faint hearted.