A passionate traveller, Cynthia has been holding her blog (Zetravelerz) for several years now. Today she has agreed to make an exclusive account for Planet Ride about her last trip to Vietnam. An adventure that fascinates us…
“Well, am I going to Vietnam or not?”
That is the question I asked myself when my Cambodian visa expired. In a few minutes I ended up deciding to go there. Three days before I had to leave Cambodia, I applied for a visa online urgently for Vietnam, I booked my flight and I was waiting to see what to do on the spot.
So, on June 30, 2015, I left Phnom Penh in Saigon. I had in mind the idea of making a trip on my motorbike (I was always attracted by both wheels but when I travel, I rent scooters, not motorcycles since I do not have the permit). In short, I looked at the advertisements of motorcycles for sale on a specialized site and I began to get an idea of the budget to be expected (between $250 and $350). Over the announcements, I was thinking “damn it looks huge but how I’m going to drive this!?”. Besides, I didn’t even know what to check on a bike before buying it… So, I asked my buddy Max (who traveled to motorcycle in India and Nepal) for advice. He advised me very well and mainly told me to trust my instincts. He was right!
The day I bought my motorcycle in Vietnam
I contacted two vendors (backpackers) and made an appointment with them on the same day. The first bike did not inspire me at all because it was necessary to repair a lot of things. I knew I wasn’t going to buy this one, but I figured I’d have to try it out and see what it does. After a first lap in passing, I threw myself, in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City, in a monster brothel and without driving a manual motorcycle before! My heart was pounding because I had to concentrate both to understand the operation of the old bike while being careful not to cause an accident… In plain, this first essay was chaotic… I stalled, I couldn’t restart, I flunked right in the middle of the road! I let you imagine but I had to learn!
In short, I am frank with the chick and tell him that I have another appointment to see another bike that I prefer to try before making a decision. I promise I’ll keep her informed within the next two hours. So I find Sergio, a Colombian with his wife and brother. From the moment my eyes landed on her bike, I knew that she would become mine.
I tried to keep myself from exploding with joy to try to negotiate the price but impossible to hide my enthusiasm (I still saved $10)! I was smiling like a kid and besides Sergio was adorable (we are still in contact from elsewhere)! He explained to me everything he changed/arranged (although the 3/4 were gibberish to me knowing nothing in mechanics) and he took the time to take me behind him so I could concentrate on the noise of the engine and learn to drive by following his Instructions. This time, when my turn came, obviously, I was still scared to get into the Vietnamese road jungle but on the back of a bike in good condition, it makes all the difference! The noise seduces me, the gears run smoothly, that’s it, I “Know” driving a manual motorcycle! Sachin!!!
After 1h30-2h, I warn the other girl that I will not buy her bike and I conclude my deal with Sergio. $270 later, I became the owner of a motorcycle with which I was about to experience one of the most incredible experiences of my life! I forgot to mention it but it is a Honda Win 100 (most are replicas but this is only a detail because they work well and are well known to the Vietnamese mechanics).
Well, I’m not hiding that I was stressing every red light! The idea of missing the point, of stalling, of succeeding to start smoothly made me panic but finally, by dint of cheating, I learned to know my bike and to master it. Finally, it’s super easy!
The day I travelled by motorcycle in Vietnam
Here it is, it was necessary that the day of departure arrives (the day after the purchase of my bike). Once my backpack was in place on the back rack, I had to get out of my little impasse that seemed like a real challenge for me. I stalled twice on not even 300 m and once out of there, I still had to face the hyperactive city center of Saigon. I toiled to find the exit but once done, I cried out of joy under my helmet so I was happy to embark on this absolutely unknown and new adventure for me! It was enjoyable!
I did not know it yet but I embarked on a journey of at least 3 385 km, by motorbike, alone, and free! From Saigon to Sapa, finishing in Hanoi. On the way, I had to face the rain (among other risky conditions). Initially I did not want to drive in torrential downpours but lack of luck for me, it did not rain well on my month of travel so I said “too bad, I go, I will be cautious”. I freaked out at times and I was often well soaked despite my super poncho but nothing happened to me so I’m glad I took that risk. I also experienced less pleasant moments in finding (almost) every day of road accidents… Whether it rains or not, the Vietnamese roads are really dangerous and even being cautious, I had a lot of fright but finally, I was even happier to see that I was doing well (BE careful!!!).
As for the roads, I really drove everywhere and in every conceivable circumstance! I talk more in detail in this article on my blog if you want to know more. Besides, I really drove alone for 4 days since on the way I met two other backpacker including a German who stayed with me on all the rest of my adventure. In this regard, even though I was very comfortable on my own, I was very happy to continue with him. What for? Because it’s an absolutely magical adventure and I’m glad I shared it with him. Believe me, it happened to me very very often to smile under my helmet and to shout of joy so this adventure made me happy so being able to share this happiness with someone is really a big plus! After, when I had a few galleys, he was there to help me but also know that the Vietnamese are adorable (despite all the negative comments I have difficulty to understand about them) and being a girl, I admit that I never had a big Problem since there was always someone to come to my rescue even without speaking the same language.
Finally, this freedom to travel by motorbike has completely made me addicted and I intend to start again in Vietnam and elsewhere! Being able to flee mass tourism was exactly what I wanted even though I obviously discovered some well-known stages of the country!
The day I left Vietnam
Hard… Too hard… Too many separations to manage at once… Leave my bike (you’ll see, we get attached!!), Vietnam (people, food, landscapes, everything), my German… This month has been very intense and very rewarding. Even if I left by pouring a pack of tears, I already know that I return to Vietnam at the end of 2016 and that I will do this trip from north to south taking the opportunity to discover places that I did not travel last July. I have a concrete project to develop there so feel free to stay in touch to learn more!
As a “word of the end”, if you like the bike and freedom, embark on this extraordinary adventure! Forget the bus and choose the bike if you are an adventure enthusiast! I would like to inspire and encourage those who doubt or are afraid to crash. Remember that I had never driven a manual motorcycle before embarking on this trip and yet I did! Anything is possible! Good travels to all and thank you for reading my story!
Want to go to Vietnam? Here are the travels available on Planet Ride for this destination:
A la rencontre des ethnies peuplant le Nord du Vietnam
Une expérience hors du commun
Ambiance festive et variété des itinéraires et du terrain