Taking a motorbike road trip in Southeast Asia either solo or with a trusted partner can be an exhilarating experience, especially on the roads of Vietnam.
Jumping on the open road with just a decent touring bike or a modest two stroke is certainly on the great joys to be had. But get on that bike too soon might cause some headaches down the road.
Here are some helpful tips on keeping your motorbike trip in Vietnam as memorable and pain free as possible.
Trips Are Longer Than You Realize
Although the actual distance each day you will travel on the roads in Vietnam, environment, weather and general disregard for others on the road will wear on you unlike a bus ride or driving a car might. Plan on travelling much slower in terms of time and you’ll have a considerably more comfortable ride.
Sit Right on Your Motorbike
Most people, even experienced riders, don’t put much thought into the way they sit on their motorbike. This is something to consider for long haul rides on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Before setting off on that epic journey, have a ride around town and consult your motorbike dealer. Adjust the handlebar to the appropriate setting (if not possible, you can always try a seat riser or cushion). You’ll thank me later. This is the most overlooked aspect of long distance motorbike travel in Vietnam.
Weather Proof Your Ride and Your Body
On your travels you will be exposed to weather much more extreme than the weather report alludes to. This is because of several factors. The wind drag from the bike speed, the fact that you are going through different elevations and not to mention the traffic pollution and lack thereof. You need to prepare for this with multiple garments depending on your body temperature. Although it is very warm in Vietnam if you are standing still, it can get pretty wet and cold even though the sun is shining on you and giving you a sunburn.
Technology Keeps the Ride Focused
Most people taking the ride across Vietnam by motorbike, whether they are a novice rider or a more experienced and adventure seeker who rides a naked motorbike at top speed would benefit from a few tech tools on their ride. Bluetooth connected headphones, a smart phone with a backup battery pack and a few map apps will lessen the burden on your mind as you cruise through the gorgeous Central Highlands countryside of Vietnam.
Rest Often and Without Reservation
Don’t try to be a hero on the road. Especially in a place like Vietnam. There are rest stops along the road the entire length of the country. Some are modest hammocks set up between two rubber trees, while others are massive palaces designed to wile away sipping the addicting sludge known locally as ‘cafe sua da.’ Hydrate on these and the copious amounts of green tea which are practically free in most cafes and restaurants. You will need the rest and the hydration more than you would in your own country.
Take In The Sights Not On Your Map
Finally, even though you have planned everything out and your schedule and budget are perfect, don’t be afraid to stop for a while if something catches your eye. With the people incredibly curious about you and much as you are about them, it would be a tragedy if you didn’t slow down once in awhile on your Honda XR 150 and smelled the roses, or fish sauce for that matter while in the countryside in Hanoi or Dalat or whatever small town you find yourself in. Be careful about pickpockets but not about genuine smiles. You are old enough to know the difference.
Have fun and be safe!