When we first started talking about doing this trip in early 2015, little did we realise the impact such a holiday was going to have in so many ways. The months seemed to drag on once we had decided to go ahead and make the various arrangements, decisions and payments such a trip requires, but once Christmas was upon us it was only a matter of days before we were getting the final preparations and packing completed before the reconnaissance group got together at Perth airport on the 28th for the off.
The majority of us had elected to get an early start to the trip and enjoy a week or so in Hanoi before setting off on the riding part of the trip, a decision well made. Once we had arrived at Hanoi’s airport and managed to get into the correct queues to collect and process our visas, it was out into the main foyer to collect our taxis for the hotel. That in itself turned into a bit of a saga, a couple of us found we didn’t have a ride there to collect us and once we did actually get going we had a sudden stop in the middle of a freeway where we had to make a quick taxi and luggage change as apparently we were in the wrong cabs.
The fact that we were all going to the same place seemed irrelevant to the drivers, but once sorted we made our way into Hanoi and the wonders of Vietnams traffic system. Because of the fact we were “Vietnam traffic novices” it seemed an amazing feat that we actually made it to the hotel in one piece and unscathed, but as we became accustomed to the system and the way it worked we began to take it all in and get to grips with it fairly soon.
We spent the first couple of days making ever-greater loops
away from the hotel so that within a few days most of us were
able to find our way about without getting too lost – I say most
of us, as there were a couple of individuals who never actually
got the hang of directions in Vietnam, or the currency. Most of
us seemed to acquire at least a couple of The North Face gear,
as it is made in Vietnam and a lot cheaper than in just about
anywhere else in the world, why wouldn’t you? We were already
finding that we could just about guarantee to drink out a
restaurant's supply of cold Hanoi beer.
Those of us who were there for New Year’s Eve had to agree it
was one of the wildest events they had attended for some time. I
think the venue we chose was also the favourite for another
million or so Hanoi occupants. If ever there was a recipe for
disaster this was it, but as seems to be the way in Vietnam,
everything seemed to go ahead without any dramas.
It was a bit like being in the grip of a tidal wave as the
closer we got to the event, the less effective our feet seemed
to become. I don’t think my feet actually touched the ground for
about 45 minutes as I arrived at the scene of the Stage and
entertainment area. Midnight arrived accompanied by a fair-sized
fireworks display and well-wishing handshakes etc and before I
knew it I was being swept back into the sidestreet I had arrived
We had meant to go in as a group, but that plan lasted a good
five seconds and it was not until breakfast the next day that we
all managed to regroup, and relive the previous night’s events.
Mind-blowing I think was the consensus. Fitting the population
of the Perth metro area into the space of a city roundabout is
not really the normal experience of a West Australian or most
Westerners to be honest.
A day to clear our heads then it was time to go out and meet
the bikes. At first glance the thought of spending the next two
weeks on a 125 wasn’t the sort of thing to motivate the
adventure gland – although by this time we were all raring to
get the bike riding part of the adventure started – but within
the first couple of kms of narrow, slippery, twisty roads and
tracks it seemed that the bikes might just be about right.
after day we were amazed by the scenery, roads and people we
encountered thinking that this would take some beating, and sure
enough the next day would be even more amazing. The roads
especially gave us so much enjoyment, ranging from good open
flowing curves and bends and Alpine-style switchbacks, to the
muddy and rocky goat tracks which we shared with everything from
big semis to water buffalo, scooters, chickens and wildlife of
various sizes, not to mention the vehicle drivers determined to
get to their destinations in record time.
At first our overtaking was a bit cautious and beep free, but
we soon got into the swing of the horn tooting, blind corner,
approaching traffic overtakes and by the time we had been riding
a couple of days quite a few of us had managed to scrape an
elbow or two along a vehicle we were passing as we realised our
potential to get through smaller and more narrow gaps in the
The rest day after day five seemed like a good idea at the
time, but by that lunchtime most of us seemed keen to get back
on the road again. The riding experience made everything else
seem rather boring and mundane. From the lowland areas and
endless paddyfields to the rocky mountain plateaus and terraced
hillsides, steep gorged switchback roads and randomly surfaced
stretches of road and track, there was never a sense of this
stuff getting boring now as each turn and mountain crest seemed
to offer a new type of vista and riding challenge.
We were blessed with decent weather, albeit a bit cool at times
and foggy stretches leading us into the unknown, but the rain
and showers never really made things uncomfortable until the
last day when we got a decent soaking. Boots full of water for a
couple of riders being the only real problem.
By the time we arrived at Ha Long Bay on our last day of riding
we had already started to think of the next trip we could do in
the months to come. As a group I think we had one of the best
mixes of age, personality and experience you could ever wish
for. No handbags at 10 paces, plenty of respect for every other
person in the group. No trying to out-ride the next bike rider,
just good plain fun.
Homestays, although not everyone’s favourite overnight stop,
always turned out to be entertaining with the hosts always
having a good supply of their “talking water” – rice wine - and
of course, it would have been discourteous of us not to give it
a good try.
Although our trip was arranged in conjunction with the Platypus
Charity - www.platypus-charity.org
– and the riding by -
- it is possible to organise any sort of ride using one of a
number of bike tour companies in Vietnam. Asian Lotus Travel
would be our 1st choice again without hesitation, the guys are
so switched on and responsive to the needs of riders being
If you have ever wanted to do
something a bit adventurous like this on a motorcycle, do it
now, you just never know when you may get another chance.- Davek