Motorcycling Through Vietnam

What happens when you hit Ho Chi Minh Highway on a two-cylinder Honda?

By Elisabeth Robinson
Photograph: Photo courtesy of iStock

Nowhere did I feel that more than in the seaside town of Hoi An, originally a trading port in the fifteenth century. Its cobblestoned streets are crowded with cafés, galleries and antiques shops; several luxury resorts have opened on Cua Dai Beach. On a bike rented from the Victoria Hoi An Beach Resort & Spa, I rode through a fishing village and stopped for a beer at the End of the World. Tran Van Khoa, one of the restaurant’s owners, took me on an eco-tour of the nearby islands and mangroves that his family has fished for generations. In a wicker saucer, we paddled across the bay, then dined on shrimp and crab prepared by his mother. Progress has allowed Khoa to preserve his heritage at the same time that modernization threatens its survival: Eight years ago, a fishing village just like his was flattened to make room for the Victoria Hoi An Resort.

As we headed west out of Hoi An on Highway 14, a sign indicated a blind curve ahead. I reminded myself that 40 percent of motorcycle fatalities occur on a turn. I steered slowly around it and was rewarded with another spectacular vista, of mountains and clouds. I coasted for miles and found my mind drifting to home, work and my fear of going broke—my fear of failure.

Was it Robert Frost who said that the best way out is always through? Suddenly I was in another bend, where a herd of water buffalo were blocking the road and a motorized tower of hay was
racing toward me. I swerved through the buffalo, and the pavement ahead was smooth and flat and all mine. I gunned the throttle and rode.

ELISABETH ROBINSON IS THE AUTHOR OF THE TRUE AND OUTSTANDING ADVENTURES OF THE HUNT SISTERS.


RIDING THE HO CHI MINH HIGHWAY

Getting Around

Myths and Mountains’ 16-day trip starts at $6,595 per person, including a guide, a Honda 150cc bike, and all meals and hotels; mythsandmountains.com.

You can also rent a motorbike in most towns for around $10 a day.

Where to stay

Hanoi
The hip Cathedral district has several new boutique hotels, such as Church’s, built near the 500-year-old Ba Da pagoda. Rates start at $57.50 per night;churchhotel.com.vn.

Hoi An
The Victoria Hoi An Beach Resort & Spa is a seaside oasis of tiledroof bungalows, koi ponds and a palm-lined infinity pool. Rooms start at $70 per night; http://www.victoriahotels-asia.com/eng/hotels-in-vietnam/hoi-an-beach-resort-spa.

Ho Chi Minh City
In the center of this modern metropolis is the new Rex Hotel, with 24- hour rooftop dining and views (between skyscrapers) of the Saigon River. Rates start at $110; rexhotelvietnam.com.

Before you go
Vaccinations are not required for Vietnam, but the following are recommended: hepatitis A and B, Japanese encephalitis, rabies and typhoid. Check with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (cdc.gov) for updates.

You will need a valid motorcycle license to drive a bike in Vietnam. I completed a 15-hour certification course and signed up for an extra day of private dirt-bike lessons before my trip. Contact the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (msf-usa.org) for information on training sites in your area. —E.R.

(Originally published in the December 2006/January 2007 issue of MORE. Pick up our June issue to read about Jan Goodwin’s experience kayaking through Vietnam’s waters.)

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Comments

Anh Wu09.29.2013

Ho Chi Minh Trail in Vietnam was replaced by the newly built Ho Chi Minh road. The part in Laos is more original but covered in jungle. Vietnamese traffic looks scary but has its own rule: it's like a river and you flow in it.

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