We bought a bike! And boy is she a beauty.
This is the only true way to see Vietnam in all of her glory. Why else would Easy Rider tours be all the rage?
Scooters are as common as shoes in Vietnam, vast swathes of them fill the roads of cities, weaving and dodging past cars and pedestrians. However it is most definitely not a scooter you want if your goal is to traverse the hills and valleys with a backpack and two wheels. The most common bike to buy is a Honda Win 100, or 110 if there are two of you and the popularity of these bikes has made them a doddle to pick up in Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi.
Due to their popularity you are also able to negotiate a bit. Expect to pay between $250- $350, but do not expect this to relate to the size or the condition of the bike. There are many travelers that chose to bike Vietnam and most, including us, don’t have much of a clue regarding the actual service history. You get what you’re given, you aren’t going to get all the way to Dalat, discover a engine problem and make your way all the way back to Ho Chi Minh City to complain about it. That being said, it is also possible that the bike can come with helmets, ponchos and bag racks, so look around and barter a bit! Our bike is a 110cc to accommodate for the two of us, which comes with slightly stiffer suspension. This has meant that the going over bumps is a mildly more pleasant experience for the person on the back. The slightly larger engine also abates the struggle up some of those hills. You are also less likely to suffer mechanical failure with a larger engine as less pressure is enforced.
Be aware! Your bum is not going to be the same for the next few weeks. The searing pain that shoots up it after a couple of hours is incomparable, and no amount of extra seat padding is going to curb it. Yet, to miss out on this epic adventure for the sake of a minor discomfort would be a mistake.
If the bike breaks down it is definitely not the end of the world, especially if you’re in the south where civilisation doesn’t end. Mechanics number in their thousands, situated along the main roads and along every street in towns. The price of their work is staggeringly cheap, unbelievably affordable, with a full service coming in at $10 including an oil change, the cost to change a single part varies from $1 for a lightbulb, $2 for a spark plug and $20 for a new carburetor, all these include fitting.
There really is nothing like zooming down a twisty, turny mountain road, the possibility of rain accelerating the bike, to suddenly be granted a view of the whole valley for yours alone to enjoy. To be the dictator of your own travels and not relying on bus times, delays, taxis, trains, you can go anywhere whenever you want. Freedom.<