I've a eight week trip coming up covering Cambodia and Vietnam and have been reading the motorbiking Q&A with interest.
My main dilemma is should I do a few short tours or just buy a bike and go for it?
It seems both Cambodia and Vietnam have a lot of operators, with probably Offroad Vietnam and Dancing Roads being the most interesting, but I was wondering what kind of extra value you get out of a tour? Is having a guide especially important? I guess in Cambodia a lot is dirt biking and again I wonder do I really need a guide?
Also, if I properly buy a bike in Vietnam, can I take it to Cambodia or would I have to sell it and buy another?
I'm a competent (and licensed) motorcyclist.
#1 asiabiker has been a member since 10/8/2009. Posts: 10
As you say, you've been reading the motorbike Q&A's with interest.
I'm sure you'll note there are some pretty strong views on motorbiking in SE Asia.
For me, there are several points missing:
1/. You don't say when you are planning to undertake your trip. This is helpful to know whether you'll encounter the wet or dry season.
2/. how much time are you allocating to this trip? If you are scheduling 3 weeks, then the suggestion will be different to (say) 3 months.
3/. where you intend to travel is also important. Again, the response will be different between an itinerary largely matching the Banana Pancake Trail versus a rural sojourn.
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My understanding is that if you buy a bike in VN, with the appropriate papers, you can travel with it to neighbouring countries.
The choice of bike is subjective, only you can judge what is best for you. But remember as a common rule, in some remoter areas, basic 'common' bikes may be easier to repair than some specialty bike.
I'm an independant person, and as long as I've got a map, and an idea of where I want to go/see, I self navigate. I know I'll miss a lot of the local detail. I console myself with the fact that in each 'new' area, everything is so awesome that I find more than enough enjoyment as I am. I could go on and provide examples, but I wont here.
So, to my way of thinking, the guide thing depends on your level of confidence to self navigate.
Hope this helps.
Trip is over xmas. As I said above, the trip is for eight weeks in total. At the moment we're looking at three weeks in Cabodia and the remainder in Vietnam.
We're primarily there to tour around to see the countryside, not really bothered where as long as it is good riding (low traffic in other vehicles and scenery).
From what I understand most of the tour companies concentrate on off raod stuff in Cambodia while in Vietnam the focus is on sealed road touring. I'm fine with both. So far i'm leaning towards doing an organised trip in Cambodia as I figure a guide helps when you're on dirt roads in the middle of nowhere, but with Vietnam, as long as we've got good maps, I see less of a need.
#3 asiabiker has been a member since 10/8/2009. Posts: 10
You'll see elsewhere that there's a roadmap of Vietnam, that is recommended (go here).
From my experience, most of the roads in Vietnam named 'highway' have at least a modicum of bitumen. and, if you've only 5 weeks, its unlikely you'll be nosing up some of the more remote roads anyway.
Though... reminds me of a trip in/near Danang. I was headed along the foreshore road from Hoi An, and sought to follow the road around Nui Son Tra (Monkey Mtn). It was a really good 2 laner table top... then, it just stopped with bush in front. An official was there, and he sort of advised the dirt road to the left was the 'connector'. I've seen lots of these in SE Asia - the road gets built, the funding runs out, the remainder is a potholed 'connector'. But, this one... It went to concrete (Ah! I thought), then to narrower, and narrower, etc. all the while going up quite steeply. It became overgrown. With the other half, I didn't want to risk a downhill with vine over concrete, so kept going with heart in mouth. Eventually, we got to the top, and the track opened to a medium road... Oh, how releived...
As far as Cambodia is concerned, what/where did youwant to go.
I'm thinking that for 3 weeks, its a big country. If you are mainly staying on roads between towns, and exploring park areas, etc., you may be OK on your own.
From what I noted, there really isn't a lot of road infrastructure in Cambodia (and, as you point out, mush is graded dirt).
Others may be able to help with access to maps.
5 weeks is plenty of time to see Vietnam - you'll even have time to get right up into the mountains. I would suggest a trip up to Ha Giang province. There's some beautiful scenery and really great riding. High concentration of minority groups up that way as well. Riding in Vietnam independently is easy.
Cambodia is a bit different though. You'll need a stronger bike as the infrastructure isn't as developed (you can go nearly everywhere in VN on a Honda Dream/Wave).... might be a good idea to take a tour.
#5 tingers has been a member since 9/4/2009. Posts: 36
Hi Tingers, thanks for the info. For Ha Giang, which, looking at my map is not far from Sapa and Bac Ha would it be reasonable to try and combine the two? I've read elsewhere about riding to Sapa on the Dien Bien Phu road and then taking the bike back to Sapa on the train, but could I do that and then go to where you are saying? Or maybe start to run out of time?
Thanks for any suggestions.
#6 asiabiker has been a member since 10/8/2009. Posts: 10
You can totally put your bike on the train at Lao Cai (train station near Sapa ) and transport it down to Hanoi . It's likely that the bike will be on a different train to yours, but the train with you bike (cargo train) will arrive shortly after. Best to get to the station EARLY as it can be a bit of a mission organizing this and it gets a bit stressful as the departure time approaches...
I've not put a bike on the Hanoi - Lao Cai train so can't help you with that one I'm sorry. Sure it can be done though.
It is very do-able to ride from Sapa to Bac Ha, but you'll have to a bit of back tracking to get across to Ha Giang. No problem though, the riding is great and you'll see some interesting things. The riding up around Ha Giang is excellent, incredible scenery. Massive mountains, big gorges with rivers at the bottom. Minority people everywhere. You'll love it.
If you're going to ride up to Sapa and then across to Ha Giang you may as well keep going and do a loop across to Cao Bang and Ba Be Lakes. Get yourself a map and have a look at what I'm talking about. You'll probably be on the road for 7 or 8 days but it'll be a great trip.
Check out these guys if you're looking at going with a guide:
#7 tingers has been a member since 9/4/2009. Posts: 36