My Motorbike Tour of Vietnam – An adventure like no other

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.

motorcycle tour of vietnam

My solo motorcycle tour through Vietnam

Motorbike Tour of Vietnam – An adventure like no other

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. 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.

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

Buying a Motorbike in Vietnam

“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 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.

motorbike tour vietnam my bike

Look at that beast of a machine

Gearing up for my Motorcycle Trip

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

motorcycle tour vietnam

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

First Day of My Great Adventure: Started with a Fizzle

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 wi…”

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.

motorcycle tour vietnam mechanic

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

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

But after a handful of days I reached the beautiful mountain city of Dalat. So high into 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.

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.

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. 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.

vietnam motorcycle tour after accident

Three weeks later I still couldn’t stretch my right arm

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.

motorcycle through beautiful vietnam

After nightfall the lanterns paint the city in all the colors of the rainbow

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.

motorcycle through vietnam

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

Riding a Motorcycle Through Vietnam Changed my Perspective

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 motorcycle

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

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.

tour vietnam by motorbike

Ninh Binh, where the mountains grow straight out of the ground

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.

All the best, you’re the best. Rasmus from EZ Philosophy.

Author Bio:

motorcycle tour headshot

Rasmus Bjergegaard is 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, a blog 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.

Follow EZ Philosophy on Facebook  and Youtube.

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