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Northern Vietnam - October 2009

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    Northern Vietnam - October 2009

    I rented a Honda 250 Dual Sport in Hanoi and did a clock wise circle of the mountains near the Laos and Chinese border. I had the bike for 20 days. That bike had the hardest seat I have ever sat on.

    Hanoi is a crazy, loud place with around 6 million people and over 5 million motor bikes that never stop honking their horns. The use of horns in Vietnam is not seen, or heard if you will, the same way as it is in the USA. No one takes offense and in fact expects you to let them know where you are. Although it seems like complete chaos most people are not traveling that fast and no one is malicious. Of course very few are obeying any of the signs or signals. These are in place only to assign blame if and when an accident takes place.

    Hanoi will be 1,000 years old in 2010, should be a good party.

    I met a French man who just moved to Hanoi to teach for the next three years so when I left I gave him my full face helmet and armored pants.

    This is a video of a ride I took on the back of his moto one night after we had been out partying.

    I headed out from Hanoi on a south west direction to Hoa Binh then on to Yen Chau where I got a hotel for the night. Next day I’m up early and on to Song Ma. I had hoped to cross over to Dien Bien Phu by way of a mountain track but the locals said it was not possible by motorbike, only walking. So I retrace my route and end up in Son La for the night. It’s was fine with me. The Song Ma valley was about 90 degrees F and the mountains in the 70’s. Following day was a fantastic ride over a couple passes with great views. I spent the night in Muong Lay where the main crop is opium and timber. A massive dam is under construction and the entire town and valley will soon be under water. It will be the largest hydroelectric dam in the country.

    Last edited by Pete_Tallahassee; 12-18-2020, 07:15 PM.
    2018 BMW S1000R
    2000 BMW K1200 RS
    2017 Honda CRF250 L ABS

    "Where you stand depends on where you sit"
    Rufus E Miles JR.

    I have transferred my ride report from another site. The youtube links are there and the photos are at the bottom in a LINK.
    I know it's an old report but I wanted to move it here.
    There are several photos.
    Last edited by Pete_Tallahassee; 09-22-2018, 04:20 PM.
    2018 BMW S1000R
    2000 BMW K1200 RS
    2017 Honda CRF250 L ABS

    "Where you stand depends on where you sit"
    Rufus E Miles JR.


      You are not limited if you link them to an online service such as photobucket or smugmug. I will see if I can up the limit from the gallery.


        From Muong Lay it was on to Sin Ho and then the tourist Mecca of Sa Pa. Sa Pa is a zoo. This is the number one tourist destination in northern Vietnam along with Ha Long Bay. Being what it is makes it a good place to get a good room and find really good food. I stayed three nights. The Black H’mong and Red Dzao hill tribe people are every where in town and selling their wares to the tourist. Many can speak a good amount of English, French and some German.
        Did I say the seat was the HARDEST seat I have ever sat on? I bought a pillow back in Song Ma and it helped a bunch!

        From SaPa I went to Bac Ha and Can Cau to the markets. Here is a youtube link. Might be a little long.

        From Bac Ha it was on to the frontier where you have to get a permit from the police and hire a guide. The guide is just a baby sitter that is supposed to keep you away from the border. I told him I was only staying one day and then circled back after he left. No problems.
        Ha Giang is a very spectacular place to ride a motorcycle. The people are very friendly and since they do not see as many tourists as the Sa Pa area they are not out to get something from you. They will stop for a photo and not demand money.

        This is the road between Dong Van and Meo Vac. It goes along the edge of a canyon with a river far below and China on the other side in the distance.

        From Ha Giang it was on to Cao Bang. The scenery here is also nice to look at and for some reason I was allowed to ride right up to the Chinese border with out a permit. Later I was told I should have had one but so it goes. No problems.
        Ban Gioc Falls are the most well known in Vietnam and are exactly on the border with China. I rode up expecting to pay for a ticket but no one was there. I then realized I could drive past the parking lot and get closer to the falls. Again, no problems.

        OK, From Cao Bang I headed to Lake Ba Be for my last days with the motorcycle. Lake Ba Be is a National Park and charges admission, 20,000 Dong. You get 18,000 Dong for a USA dollar. NO wise cracks please

        At the lake I met a French man who has moved to Hanoi and the two of us rented a boat and the captain for a seven hour ride on the lake. I stayed in a cool rest house on the lake for 80,000 Dong. You do the math.

        Hog on the highway - live.

        After Lake Ba Be I did a sprint back to Hanoi to turn the bike back in. Traffic into Hanoi from a good 65 - 70 miles out was very thick and almost all city with little country side in view. Air thick with dust and diesel.
        I still had nearly a week left on my visa so I took a three day two night cruise on Ha Long Bay. The bay is a tourist magnet. A least the boat I was on only carried seventeen passengers and had some very good sea food.

        Answers and some details :

        I never felt unsafe or threatened the entire trip.

        Language was a problem once out of Hanoi. Most people can read and write numbers and pointing at what you want is easy. I don't know if English is taught in the public schools but many people take lessons at private schools.
        Food was very good in Hanoi and the larger cities. A fresh baguette could be found easily and the seafood was really good and plentiful. When I was out in the country side I usually ate off the street, in markets or small mom and pop places. While I liked everything I ate I did not always know what it was.
        Draft beer (Bia Hoi) is everywhere and cheap, 10 to 20 cents a glass. Bottled beer was 60 cents and red Vietnamese wine was $2.50 a bottle.

        Gasoline/Petrol was around 85 cents a liter for low grade and about $1.00 for high test. That was if you bought at a gas station. If you bought from a container by the road side the price was negotiable.

        The bike was rented from OFFROAD VIETNAM

        The owner is Anh Wu and he is a pleasure to deal with. He is very good at answering his email and is fluent in English. If you do not want to organize your own trip he offers many options and could make it very easy to see this part of the world.

        I traveled alone but you will meet fellow travelers often. I paid $30.00 per day for the bike and sent all of the money via Western Union two months prior to my arrival in Hanoi.
        The bike performed flawlessly, not even a flat tire. I was given a small package with spare tubes and assorted parts but never even opened it. I did stop often to have the chain cleaned and lubed. Twice I had the chain adjusted. Each time I had this done at a small shop they refused any payment. Really nice people.
        I carried a Garmin GPSmap 60CSx and it was the bomb. I purchased a map of Indochina from Rotweiler
        I have to give tremendous thanks to Mat Ward from New Zealand. Mat sent me his tracks and waypoints from a trip he and his father did in June/July of 2009 and for half of my adventure I used them extensively.


        This entire trip cost me $2,700.00 USA. 30 days total : Air Fare, Hotels, Food, Bike, Gas, Beer, Three days/two nights on a boat in Ha Long Bay, everything!
        I bought the ticket three months in advance from AIRFARE.COM. They have many bad write ups on the net but they worked for me. Round trip Tallahassee, Florida to Hanoi, Vietnam costs $684.00. The carrier was American Airlines, JAL and one leg on Vietnam Air.
        Flight path was Tallahassee - Dallas/FT.Worth - Tokyo - Hanoi

        To conclude: My favorite place has to be the road from Dong Van to Meo Vac. I rode it five times on two diffrent days.
        My most unique encounter was in Sa Pa out in front of my hotel where I was able to get a Skype connection to my 93 year old Mother. She spoke to 20 to 25 H'mong ladies in their full native dress for at least thirty minutes. Both my Mother and the H'mong were amazed.

        Thanks to all of you who took the time and hassle to read and look at my pictures.
        I have more videos on youtube if you wish to see them.

        I'm repeterpan on youtube.

        Last edited by Pete_Tallahassee; 11-05-2018, 06:27 PM.
        2018 BMW S1000R
        2000 BMW K1200 RS
        2017 Honda CRF250 L ABS

        "Where you stand depends on where you sit"
        Rufus E Miles JR.


          Just awesome. To be able to travel freely where so recently everyone was ducking to save their lives. Great video.
          Cut with a curse sharp as a knife. Doomed is your soul, damned is your life!


            I’ll reread this whole fantastic ride tale again soon, Pete. Just read your answers to some questions. Without airfare, you paid around 2K for 30 days of travel and your bike rental. That’s remarkable for that level of experience!