(Hagiang Scenic Ride by Elizabeth & Randall Haines with Offroad Vietnam.)
Original location: http://www.enfieldmotorcycles.com/forum/index.php/topic,4068.0.html
For our 30th Anniversary, my wife & I saved for a motorcycle ride in Vietnam.
On arriving in Hanoi we picked up our 160 Honda road bikes (that thought they were trail bikes) and started to load up for our 17-day trip. These bikes are large over there, a common bike is a Russian 125 Minsk, and of course a large number of scooters. The Minsk is said to be easy to repair but they really are a heap of crap.
Most visitors travel between Saigon, Hanoi, and surrounds. We decided to ride in North Vietnam only to visit the Minority Hill Tribe areas. This took us up through the middle, to the far North, then Northeast along the Chinese border before heading back south to Halong Bay and Hanoi. Never saw any other Europeans until going back south. These areas need permits and a compulsory guide. We never went on a tour, just Liz and I and our guide which we picked up for the permit areas. In many places, only a motorbike could make it to due to the road conditions and bamboo bridges on river crossings which cars can’t fit on.
I was very proud of the way my wife handled the riding. Leaving Hanoi was pretty wild with all the crazy drivers but once away from the city the roads had much less traffic. You still had many things to avoid, water buffalo, people, chickens, trucks, etc. Liz is not that keen on heights either but it wasn’t long before she was handling the high passes (not much separating you from the edge) with ease. Some near-miss incidents, which we would normally consider serious over here, soon became commonplace.
The accommodation was a range of hotels when we came to some mountain towns and staying with families in the villages of the different Hill Tribes. Staying with a family in their stilt house was great. You had a wonderful meal with them, which included a lot of rice wine, and everyone slept in the same large top room of the house. The people in the villages were very kind and welcoming.
The roads varied from good concrete to one-foot thick mud, potholes you drove both in and out of, rocks, and many were hard-pressed to even call a road. Heaps of fun and our little bikes amazed us with the abuse they took. When I get my videos together I will post them for those that may wish to see the road conditions.
By the time we got back to Hanoi (rush hour this time), we were able to handle the traffic much better. I have figured out the trick to riding in Vietnam. It’s a Zen thing; you sort of become one with the traffic. For the other 99.9% of the time, you just drive like a raving lunatic.
I am pretty sure they are the only ones with Hondas. We met a couple of French guys early in our trip and they had hired 2 Minsks from another place. They had so much trouble that they ended up trading them for a couple of scooters. Pretty well ruined their trip for them.
I will keep posting some videos as I finish them. I realize some have no interest in this sort of thing but will keep adding them to this thread for those that may wish to have a look.
Next vid: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ek-4_jyt4q8. This one just carries on up to the foothills and start of the mountains. The provinces are quite different from each other, the northern province would be the poorest and most isolated of them all. Roads are being improved but things move pretty slow as mostly manual labour is used. A bike is still the only way to get around all of it.
Even the ethnic Hill Tribe people have trouble getting around much to see people. There could be a few families living on a hill or mountain that hardly ever see families living a few hills over.
But to make sure they do get some sort of social contact with others they have an annual Love Market. More of a festival I guess. Everyone dresses up and makes their way to this town where the market is held. The boys and girls hope to meet someone new or meet someone they liked from a previous festival. If a couple likes each other then the girl goes back to his house (parents’ house) and stays for a few days to see if she likes it or not. She may then decide to marry him.
There are also “kidnappings”. If a boy likes a girl but she isn’t that keen on him then sometimes he will get a few friends together and just kidnapper her for a few days. Although it is against her wishes she is taken home in the hope she will change her mind. Of course, no harm comes to her and she is still treated as an honoured guest by the family and after a few days taken home again. It is still her choice to marry him or not.
There are more articles about motorcycling in Vietnam and you can read more by following this link