Minsk Motorcycle Tour North Trip Report by David Zimmermann
Exclusive for Offroad Vietnam®
Vietnam is a part of our 10 month world tour. The plan was to buy a Minsk in Hanoi and travel down to Ho Chi Minh City with the bike, and sell it there. And that’s exactly what we did, and even much more. This month in Vietnam was the best time we had on our travel since January. It was an amazing adventure and for sure the best way to travel and meet local people in Vietnam.
As soon as we arrived in Hanoi, we went to Cuong’s Motorbike Adventure to buy a Minsk. 450 $ with the tools and some spare parts. It’s not cheap, but we hadn’t the time to search for a cheaper one, and Cuong has a good reputation. As we had some contacts on the golden triangle forum with the guys from Offroad Vietnam®, we went to their office to get some information about the roads in the north of Vietnam. Despite the bad weather, we decided to try going to the north, as according to every person we spoke with, it is Vietnam’s best part for motorcycling. We bought 2 complete motorcycling clothes at Offroad Vietnam®. For 80$US each, we had the best motorcycling gear I ever had. For sure I will send them home when the trip is over.
First day, we leave Hanoi in the beginning of the afternoon; the weather is not so good, we are happy to have our motorcycling clothes. As soon as we get outside of the very crowded roads of Hanoi, the driving goes easier. Sarah is not very well on the back seat, because the luggages are poorly attached on the motorbike. We stop the first night at guest-house number 9 in Mai Chau, where we had an unforgettable meal.
No particular troubles with the bike except that the horn was dead after the first day! I fixed it but it was not very loud anymore after that.
On the next day we drive to Son La, and the day after to Dien Bien. The roads are very dusty and there are many mountains. 2 persons and 25 kg of luggage seem to be a bit too much for our Minsk, and at some parts I had to get down and walk. In Dien Bien we had to change the first spark plug. We also changed the clutch chain, because the motor made a strange noise, and according to the Minsk reparation manual, I thought it was that. But it wasn’t! After 2 days in Dien Bien, we went directly to Sapa. We arrived at night in Sapa, and there was a lot of fog as well, a crazy journey! We drove for more than 8 hours, but driving on those roads was marvelous, maybe the most beautiful place in Vietnam for me. After visiting the market during the morning, we drove to Yen Bai. We met a friendly Vietnamese guy that was happy to speak English, and invited us at his home to speak a bit. Next day, under the rain we drove straight to Halong Bay. It was raining during a good part of the trip and we were so dirty, we doubted that any hotel would allow us to stay!! But we did, and the staff was very friendly indeed. We spent 2 days in Halong, did the boat trip in Halong Bay and then drove to Cuc Phuong to visit the National Park. Next stop was Vinh. On the road we met a bunch of friendly young Vietnamese guys and girls. We went to dinner with them, drank a lot of beer and finished in a Karaoke! A crazy night!
The next stop was in Hue, were the piston gripped in the cylinder, for a reason that we ignore (we have about 7% oil in the petrol, and we were driving slowly, without luggage). As there were no spare parts for Minsk in Hue, Cuong send us a piston and a cylinder from Hanoi and a mechanic did the work there. We had to stay 4 days, and it costs us a fortune (700’000 dong for the work and 420.000 dong for the parts!), but we were back on the road, and that was the good news. The bad news was that the mechanic did a poor job and the air box d was totally broken, and because of that, air was coming in the carburetor from the side of the box hole etc. The clutch was totally lost, and I fixed it myself. In Hoi An, I went to a mechanic who replaced the air-box with a rubber suspension tube. That worked perfectly and we continue the journey to My Son. After My Son, we went down to Nha Trang and stayed 2 days relaxing at the beach. The clutch broke a second time and we went to a mechanic again. He replaced a piece in the clutch mechanism (the small ball bearing) with a screw, and the problem was solved! The clutch was now working perfectly again. As it was becoming more and more difficult to drive with all the motorcycling gear with a temperature that was about 35 degrees, we decided to go in the mountain, to have a cooler weather. The way to Dalat was a disaster, because it rained for almost an hour and a half. We just spend the night there and the next day we drove directly to Saigon. The circulation in the city is crazy, but we managed to drive safely to our hostel in the backpacker area. Three days after, we sold the Minsk to a French guy we met in Hoi An. Next part of our trip is Cambodia.
You can go on our web page to see the pictures and if you speak French read the daily report we wrote, there much more in it at http://sarahetdavid.top-depart.com
David and Sarah was interviewed and featured in 2008 Lonely Planet’s South East Asia on a Shoestring:
There are many more articles about motorcycling in Vietnam and you can read more by following this link