My Motorbike Tour of Vietnam – An adventure like no other

Written By: ThePlanetD Team

My motorbike tour of Vietnam was a trip that turned out to be all I didn’t want but everything I needed. I was travelling through South East Asia – my last big roundtrip before turning 30 – and I wanted to make the most of it. So, following in the footsteps of TopGear, driving a motorbike from Saigon to Hanoi seemed fitting.

Vietnam Motorbike Tour

However, when I landed in Saigon my experience with two-wheeled motorized vehicles was limited to a day tour in a deserted Cambodian National park, a month earlier.

motorbike tour vietnam small village
This is a small part of what I would later experience – a small village 100 km away from any larger city in the middle of the highlands

Before that I had never even sat on one.It would have been obvious to do something else and continue living a comfortable life, but I knew I had to do this. I knew life had more to offer than what I could find in my comfort zone, and I made a decision to make a change.

Buying a Motorbike in Vietnam

motorbike tour vietnam my bike
Look at that beast of a machine

“I want THAT one!” I exclaimed with joy and pointed to a rough motorbike, that looked like Indiana Jones himself could have driven it there.

“Sure.” The owner replied with ease, barely looking up. “It’s a manual and the keys are in the ignition. Just take it for a test drive”

“I’ve never driven a manual. I’ve actually only driven a bike once before.” The situation dawned on me as I realized the vast difference between driving an automatic scooter on open roads and a manual motorbike in the infamous Saigon traffic.

The owner looked at me “OK, You can have this one.” He pointed to a semi-automatic bike that looked like a scooter.

Ending up with a Scooter

In all fairness: it’s not possible to buy bikes that are more than 125 CC in Vietnam anyway (which isn’t that much), so there was little difference between the engine power of the two. But of course, I wanted to look cool. It’s difficult to be a renegade outlaw when you drive a shining white scooter. But it’s also difficult when you don’t know how to shift gears, so I set aside my vanity and chose the constructive option.

Gearing up for my Motorcycle Trip

motorcycle tour vietnam
The day I bought the bike 2: All the gear on 3: My improvised rain attire – it did not work well

After I bought my bike I read up on what you need in order to drive it safely and realized I was hopelessly unprepared. Besides the helmet I had gotten with the bike, I had no protective gear.

According to the internet I even needed special boots for driving… apparently upgrading flip flops to sneakers wasn’t enough. So, I improvised what I could and bought motocross gloves as well as elbow and knee pads in a skate shop.

I doubt they would have made much difference, but at least I looked the part.

First Day of My Great Adventure: Started with a Fizzle

vietnam motorbike tour
Taking a break outside of Dalat with the pine forest in the background. Wearing a windbreaker because it’s cold on the top of the mountain.

The next day I proudly drove out of Saigon, my phone duct-taped to the dashboard for an improvised navigation device, leading me through the chaos of traffic.

It took me 2 hours to drive 20 km, but I had finally made it out onto the open road and I was ready to gear up!

I put on my elbow and knee pads. I put on my gloves. I put on my 5 USD “genuine” Ray-Ban aviators, found my headphones, pressed play to hear the song I downloaded the night before and kept my hand on the throttle, waiting for the lyrics to start…

  • “Get your motor runnin’. Head out on the highway” – I did just that.
  • “Lookin’ for adventure. And whatever comes our way” – I was ready for whatever came my way. I was on the open road and my adventure had finally begun!
  • “Born to be wild”

Breaking Down Before Getting Started

motorcycle tour vietnam mechanic
A local mechanic looking through the engine to see what’s wrong

The motor spattered, heaved for breath and choked. I had driven 2 km and hadn’t even made it through the chorus of born to be wild. As it turned out, I was not ready for whatever came my way. My adventure seemed over before it had even begun. But I had made a decision to make a change in my life, and I wasn’t going to let this stop me.

I walked the bike to a mechanic and after a while they got it working again.The great thing about doing your motorcycle adventure in Vietnam instead of anywhere else is there’s always a mechanic close by because everyone has a bike or a scooter. Which came in handy as my bike broke down again. And again. And again.

It broke down so often I became anxious of driving since I never knew if I would break down in the middle of nowhere. This wasn’t the adventure I was hoping for, and I wasn’t enjoying the trip at all.

Soon I Settled In

tour vietnam by motorcycle
There’s nothing more spectacular than watching how the mountains play with the shadows as the sun clocks out

But after a handful of days, I reached the beautiful mountain city of Dalat. High in the mountains, the weather goes from hot and humid summer to tempered autumn, and the rainforest turns into pine forest. Everything changes in one hour of driving, and it feels like you’re in a different country.

I found a mechanic who fixed my bike for good and I rode off with elevated spirit, ready to finally start the adventure as I had imagined it. I drove down the winding mountain roads enjoying the spectacular view of lush valleys, blue skies, steep rockfaces and splashing waterfalls surrounding me.

I loved it… For one hour.

My Motorcycle Crash

vietnam motorcycle tour after accident
Three weeks later I still couldn’t stretch my right arm

Until I crashed, fell of my bike and injured my arm. Kind locals came to my aid and helped me but I was shocked, scared and just tired of things not going my way.

But again: I had made a decision to make a change in my life, and I wasn’t going to let this stop me, so I continued and drove four painful hours to a hospital in Nha Trang.

Luckily it was only soft tissue damage and not broken bones but I couldn’t move my arm for a week, which meant an involuntary break, and putting my bike on a bus to Hoi An to save time.

Hoi An Vietnam

motorcycle through beautiful vietnam
After nightfall the lanterns paint the city in all the colors of the rainbow

Hoi an is beautiful and mentioned by some as one of the most romantic cities in the world. Situated on a quiet river, with its colorful lanterns lighting up the old historical streets, I see why.

It was a great place to recover but I had a tight deadline and even with the bus I needed to hurry so I pushed my pain aside and once more drove off.

But this time everything was different. I was in pain yes, but the bike was working, and once I hit the highlands of the old Ho Chi Minh highway I witnessed the splendor of Vietnam and why riding a motorbike is such a valuable experience.

Riding a Motorcycle Through Vietnam Changed my Perspective

motorcycle through vietnam
The open road in the highlands where you can drive for hours without seeing another person

I’ve spent amazing weeks on beaches, drinking coconuts and cold beer while the ocean rolled in and I felt the warm sand between my toes. I don’t remember those days anymore. They’ve escaped my memory and wandered into oblivion.

But I will never forget being on my own, on a 3-liter motorcycle roaming through the lush rainforest-covered mountains of Vietnam, while the sun was setting and it felt like I was the only person left in the world.

tour vietnam by motorbike
Ninh Binh, where the mountains grow straight out of the ground

At first the journey sucked, and I hated every second off it, but I endured it and in the end, it paid off. If I hadn’t endured the pain I would have never seen the wonder of the mountains of Ninh Binh that rise from the rice fields, or stopped in the highlands to watch monkeys jump through the canopy.

I had never driven a bike before but I made a decision to make a change in my life, and got a an amazing adventure out of it, and so can you. So can you.

Your greatness awaits you just around the corner if you will make a decision to make a change.

motorcycle tour of vietnam
My solo motorcycle tour through Vietnam

This post was written by Rasmus Bjergegaard, an avid believer that everyone – without exception – has it in them to change their life and find more fulfillment. They just need a place to start from. And on that belief, he founded EZ Philosophy (no longer active) for people who want to make a change in their lives but don’t know where to begin. He’s travelled or lived in Europe, Asia, Australasia, Africa and the Middle East, and always strive to learn from his experiences and to share them as actionable advice

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About ThePlanetD Team

Guest writers for The Planet D offer insider tips and information on destinations that they are experts in. We can't be everywhere at once, and it is important to have the highest level of travel information from local writers and experienced travelers.

Leave a Comment

17 thoughts on “My Motorbike Tour of Vietnam – An adventure like no other”

  1. Thank you for visiting Dalat and thank you for bringing useful, good information about my country to international friends.
    If you come back to Vietnam again please let me know, I will offer you a special dinner or part of your trip.
    Love !

  2. Apart from visiting the most famous attractions, taking a trip off the beaten path destinations in Vietnam can be done with ease these days. Vietnam is a huge country with many different cultures and landscapes.

  3. Hi Mike. Sorry for the late reply. I’m no expert on kayaking but I could imagine it would be amazing to do for a few days around the islands of Ha Long Bay. Best of luck, buddy 🙂

  4. Hi Mark! I went to a trustworthy mechanic who had been recommended to me, and paid 320 USD. I spent app. 100 USD on repairs along the way but also sold it in good condition for 375 USD when I was done. You can get them cheaper but when it comes to bikes you really get what you pay for, so don’t be stingy!

    I would say it’s not worth the hassle to cross borders on a bike. The rules are fuzzy, and there’s a good chance that without putting yourself in a situation where you have to bribe someone you won’t be able to. I heard of some people who had luck with leaving their bike on one side of the border and paying a taxi driver 20 USD to drive it across for them, since the border guards don’t care about locals crossing. They then paid them another 20 on the other side to “motivate” the driver to drive it across.

  5. Ok, i never thought about similar thing. But it seems great! I’ll do it as soon as I get enough time. Great inspiration, thanks!

  6. Hi. So how much was the Wave? I will buy a bike in SE Asia soon and it was highly recommended. Any comments on crossing borders on a bike?

  7. Vietnam has been on my list for a long time. I had really good reviews from a friend who visited a year back. It seems like a beautiful place but are there any places to kayak? I love to kayak in different parts of the world and it might help if you know of any.