I'm a British tourist currently in Nha Trang , Vietnam. I want to travel by motorbike up through the Central Highlands as far north as Hue , or possibly even all the way to Hanoi . This post is to find out if anybody is planning a similar journey or would be interested in joining me for part of the way.
My preference would be to buy a bike and then sell it later because the Easy Rider tours are so expensive (yes, I know they're awesome). But, although I have ridden automatic and semi-automatic bikes in Asia, I would not call myself an experienced biker. So, if I cannot find a traveling companion, then I think the sensible option is to go with a tour, even though I normally prefer to do my own thing. It means less hassle - police, repairs, getting lost, etc.
I'm traveling alone so can be pretty flexible. My basic goal is to see parts of the country that you would miss on a bus and have a laugh along the way, whilst staying as safe as you can realistically be on a Vietnamese road. I would rather not drive in or around Hanoi and would avoid the highways whenever possible (one of the reasons I didn't buy a bike in Saigon), and I'd prefer not to drive for more than half of any day. I've looked at a few typical Easy Rider routes for inspiration, and my 'Plan A' goes something along the lines of: Dalat - Lak Lake - Buon Ma Thuot - Pleiku - Kontum - Hoi An (stay a couple of days and do some diving) - Hue (via the Hai Van Pass). But I have enough time to allow for longer if needed.
I've (eventually!) managed to reach an agreement with a tour operator in Nha Trang to drive his bike solo to Dalat tomorrow (Monday 27/09/10), and then hand it over to his family member who lives there to drive it back the following day. I've heard that the new road between the two is spectacular so thought it would be a shame to get the bus. Plus, it's basically one road all the way so it'll be a nice warm-up for me! This means I should be in Dalat on 27/09/10 and could stay until 29/09/10, and then I expect to move on to a new place each day.
I would also like to explore the far north of the country by motorbike. I will probably only have enough time to do the typical northern loop as far as Sapa, and then return back to Dien Bien to cross the border into Laos. I anticipate starting this around 10/10/10 (easy to remember!).
If you're interested, please feel free to reply to this post and I'll try to check it when possible, or my Vietnamese phone number is 01227842149.
#1 birdman19 has been a member since 26/9/2010. Posts: 3
That highway is now very busy and pretty bad to drive on I would think. There are lots of police there too.
The great thing about the easy rider tour is that they go to a whole lot of places you'd never find by yourself. You really only need to go as far as Hoi An, or even Kontum, since Hue is easy to get to and see on your own. You can also get a bus from Kontum to Danang, though few people speak English in Kontum so you might find it difficult. If you want to do a day or two of tours around Hue a local tour would be much cheaper.
#2 violets has been a member since 6/7/2009. Posts: 151
Update! I bought a second-hand semi-automatic Chinese Honda Wave in Dalat, joined up with a group doing a similar route and am now in Hoi An after one of the most rewarding and adventurous weeks of my life.
We're leaving today for Danang today and will cross the Hai Van Pass to Hue tomorrow. I'm planning to drive up to / down from Sapa , but am considering putting the bike on a train to either Hanoi or Ninh Binh for two reasons: to save time (my visa expires 17/10/10), and to avoid the central provinces that have suffered heavy flooding and deaths this week due to the rain. Is there anyone who has recently driven through north-central Vietnam (between Hanoi and Hue) and can offer advice about road conditions?
My 'Plan A' is to get the train to Ninh Binh, take a week to drive clockwise northwest up to Sapa to do some trekking, then put the bike on the overnight train to Hanoi so I can spend a couple of days there, sell the bike, do a 2 day Halong Bay cruise, and either fly or get a tour bus into Laos. My other option is to get the train to Hanoi, do Halong Bay, put the bike on the train to Sapa and drive as far as Dien Bien Phu so I can sell it there and cross the border into Laos (this would also let me see some of the Hanoi millennium anniversary celebrations which finish on 10/10/10). So many options!
Is a Honda Wave suitable for getting to Sapa? It's handled everything so far, although the seat could do with a bit more padding! I expect it would be easier to drive DOWN the mountains from Sapa to Dien Bien Phu than vice versa.
My next destination is Laos, so I might as well consider the option of taking the bike across the border at Dien Bien Phu - is this possible? I've read reports about having to pay an astronomical fine if you don't leave Laos with the bike etc. And can anybody tell me about the penalties for overstaying a Vietnamese visa? I know the 'rules', but have heard different stories about what happens in practice.
So, if anybody wants to buy the bike, that's my rough itinerary! Sorry I can't be more specific, my route changes every day (but that's the beauty of having your own bike!). But if you might be in Hanoi or near Dien Bien Phu around the same time, please get in touch. I'm looking to sell it for the price I paid for it seeing as I've bought a few new parts along the way. I'll include a good helmet worth $20 for free. My Vietnamese number is 01227842149, and I'll check this forum.
#3 birdman19 has been a member since 26/9/2010. Posts: 3
Thanks for the advice Violets, the road was quite busy in places, particularly between Buon Ma Thuot and Pleiku. But we had no major problems and the route is awesome, especially between Kontum and Phuoc Son. Had zero problems with police. And for the record, the Easy Riders in Dalat and along the way were thoroughly nasty and unhelpful towards me. I should have realised sooner that it's not in their interests for people to buy their own bikes and do their own thing, so if one of them tells you that the road is too dangerous / closed, or that you won't be able to find a waterfall or ethnic village, or that a semi-automatic bike isn't good enough, or it's too difficult for a foreigner to buy a bike... then take it with a MASSIVE pinch of salt! And remember that they post on these forums, too.
Although, to be fair, it was really difficult to buy a bike in Dalat! I'd do it in Saigon next time, or buy from another tourist, because the Vietnamese will always try and screw you. It's important to take it for a good test drive and go to a mechanic before you buy. And take it from me, don't ask an Easy Rider for advice about buying a bike!
#4 birdman19 has been a member since 26/9/2010. Posts: 3
Backroads Vietnam Bike Tours is a leading mountain bike tour company. Tailor-make unique cycling routes which you could not find on official maps and google maps. Join us as we travel to the world's great destinations: take in spectacular scenery, learn about fascinating ancient and modern history, and meet extraordinarily friendly people. Our bicycle tours are individually tailore-made for small groups. With our group cycle tours, you and your friends and family can witness some of the most stunning regions of Vietnam cycle tours.The truly magical thing about cycling vacation is that you will be transported from bustling cities into traditional rural areas, where you will be welcomed literally into the homes of the wonderful local people. Ride on our modern, Trek & Giant MTB which can be adapted to all on and off-road conditions, depending on the conditions of your tour. Our bikes have lightweight aluminium frames with strong shock absorbers to provide maximum comfort.
#5 vnambiketour has been a member since 28/6/2012. Posts: 1