(Michael & Dave Climie reviews of 6 days Dirt biking + Halong Bay, ~1,000 km)
Tempo of the tour and the stop-over
The tempo of the tour was just right. Despite taking a condensed tour, we had plenty of time in the afternoons and evenings to relax or walk around and enjoy the surroundings. The stopover and boat ride in BaBe Lake was amazing. We frequently stopped our bikes on the side of the road to take pictures (and what pictures!).
The Russian Minsk bikes were great. They offered a surprisingly comfortable ride. They were powerful enough to negotiate the steep hills but not too fast as to miss the amazing scenery. The road tires had a little trouble in the mud (off-road section) but this made it all the more fun. We each took a turn on the Honda and having never seriously biked before I was impressed with the speed but less impressed with the suspension.
The homestays were great. There is no better way to experience the various cultures in Vietnam than to stay with them in their homes and eat the food they prepare! The hosts were always friendly and welcoming. The hotels in Hanoi were less memorable but provided a decent place to spend the night.
The food was excellent (especially at the homestays). Eating the local food was a great way to experience the culture and it tasted great. Having traveled and gotten sick before I was concerned about the food handling procedures. In the end, my stomach confirmed it was not an issue on this trip. We drank bottled water, tea, coffee, and soft drinks.
The organization – Guide services
Our guide (Thanh) was a lot of fun. He wasn’t a guide in the typical sense of telling you everything you ever wanted to know about Vietnam, but he offered enough insights into the Vietnamese way of life while allowing for plenty of personal discovery. Most of the “learning” came from questions my brother and I would ask. I appreciated this approach to guiding as it made me feel like less of a tourist (some people might prefer a guide in the typical sense). His riding skills and knowledge of the bikes were more than adequate. He was responsible, mature, and had a great sense of humor.
The organization of the trip was flawless. There was ample time to make it to our destinations and there was never any riding late or speeding as a result of bad planning. The guide took care of all our needs (travelers that don’t speak Vietnamese or the appropriate minority language will be challenged without a guide in this region). Food and accommodation came without effort on our part.
I won’t comment on the price (my brother’s domain) but it would be hard to put a monetary value on such an experience (it was well worth the money).
Any other comments?
As an adventurous Canadian with a passion for outdoor activities and great scenery, this motorbike trip ranks among my top expeditions. Initially, I questioned the sanity of the trip. I mean who would give a guy (who has never driven a motorbike) a bike to start a long tour from the heart of Hanoi!? Indeed, getting out of Hanoi was stressful for me. By the end of the first day, however, the scenery was beautiful and calm and the chaos from earlier in the day had already transformed into a great memory and story to tell my friends (amateur Westerner lives to tell the tale of learning to drive a motorbike in Hanoi).
The trip was unreal and blew away my expectations. We thought the scenery couldn’t improve after the first day but it kept getting better, and better, etc. Traveling by motorbike provided up-close interaction with the people of Vietnam that I don’t think can be matched by any other means of transportation. The windy-mountain roads (the stuff in biker’s dreams) were in much better condition than I had anticipated (not including the off-road track!).
The Ha Long day trip was also great. I doubted it could be done in a day but by the end of the day, I felt it was the perfect amount of time. Of course, our guide (Ngoc) was great and super-informative. Having a boat to ourselves seemed excessive once we realized the size of the boat (but who wants to interact with lowly tourists?! -Haha).
There it is. it’s all positive. I am not sure if you were looking for constructive criticism but I don’t have any! My brother and I (and most other young travelers) have an appetite for adventure and will love these trips. We are also low-maintenance travelers. That said, some higher maintenance travelers might perceive things differently and their reviews might sound different. The optional starting point out of Hanoi might appeal to some (it would have appealed to me that day but I am glad I went through with it).
Thanks again for the services. I had a really great time.
Full name: Michael and Dave Climie.
Address: Calgary, Alberta. CANADA.
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