MEN’S JOURNAL MAGAZINE
Special Edition of Men’s Journal Magazine
Extreme Adventures for Regular Guys
10 Trip You Can Train for and Take in Six Weeks or Less
#9 Motorcycle the Ho Chi Minh Trail
THE NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY’s official history of the Vietnam Way designates the Ho Chi Minh Trail “as one of the 20th century’s great achievements of military engineering.”
The 18-foot-wide supply line – built to circumnavigate a U.S. Navy presence in the Gulf of Tonkin – was started in 1959 and ultimately starched 1,800 miles through triple canopy jungle to fronts in South Vietnam. By the late ‘60s the network was moving supplies for hundreds of thousands of North Vietnamese troops, essentially turning the tide of the war.
Today segments of the infamous route can still be pieced together in what amounts to one of the greatest motorcycle tours in the world. Winding paved roads, river crossings, tight mountain passes, and hardly any traffic creates a kind of grand prix of motorcycle touring through the Truong Son Mountains, the Red River Delta, and the Ashau Valley of western and central Vietnam.
A Belorussian 125cc Minsk – with its bomber suspension and steering for bad roads – is the classic ride on the old communist thoroughfare, and after landing in Hanoi you can pick up a used one for less than $400 (though a rented Honda is probably more reliable).
Swarms of mopeds vanish in the rear-view as you flog it along two-lane Route 32 into the tea plantations and the old growth forests of the Truong Son Mountains. Ease back on the throttle over the switch backs near Bau Pass, then drop down into Phu Yen for fried rau muong (spinach). Pass through Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park – a UNESCO Heritage Site, in which the Vietcong hid from U.S. bombers in 40 miles of spectacular caves and under ground rivers – and then into primitive rain forests once stripped by Agent Orange, and Khe Sanh, and the labyrinthine Vinh Moc tunnels.
Reconstruct your former self after the final 90-mile leg in the seaside hamlet of Hoi An, where world-class tailors on ran Hung Dao Road will stitch you a suit for $50.
Start today. Ride your bicycle.
Motorcycle touring takes strength and flexibility. Ride a real or stationary bike to build muscle and work your core. BRUSH UP ON YOUR RIDING SKILLS Check out the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s Rider Course or DirtBike School (msf-usa.org)
Info & Outfitters
Offroad Vietnam offers nine days trip ($1,260; offroadvietnam.com). It doesn’t pay commissions to hotels or restaurants, saving you money and needless detours to tourist traps – PORTER FOX.