The Weekly #016 – Vietnam By Motorbike

They say if you’re ever going to get better at something, it’s by jumping in the deep end and just getting it done.

Not sure that applies to relearning how to ride a manual motorbike after 10 years off. But not just on a quiet street, nope. By following a Vietnamese man on another bike through the back streets of Hanoi.


The decision was made and that was to do the full length of Vietnam on the back of a trusty stead. That stead being a 20-year-old 125cc manual bike with a rusty luggage rack and a tank big enough to take me 300km deep into the Vietnamese highlands.

After toying with the idea of buying a bike, and driving it one way to Ho Chi Minh, approximately 1000 miles from Hanoi. I stumbled across a bike rental company that allows one-way rentals and will help ship luggage to the end destination.

Much less hassle, a little bit cheaper, and way more convenient.

That was it.

One hundred and fifty of the king’s finest pounds were handed out.

Stead acquired.

Heading for the North

It’s been famed as the ‘Death Loop’ and is responsible for a number of tourist deaths in recent years. That loop is the Ha Giang loop.

A 350km loop that goes through some of the best scenery Northern Vietnam has to offer. Hairpin bends, tight corners, steep inclines, oncoming lorries hurtling towards you on YOUR side of the road, all whilst perilously perched atop a 1000ft cliff.

Where do I sign up?

First, the agenda was to get the trusty stead from Hanoi all the way to Ha Giang.

Normally you’d get the sleeper bus to Ha Giang, and then rent a bike in Ha Giang. But I’m weird and thought it would be a good idea to drive the 6 hours to Ha Giang before taking on the 350km loop.

It turned out to be a good idea as it gave me a good chance to get used to the roads, relearn what it was like to be riding a manual bike, and just gain some extra confidence I’d need before attempting the Ha Giang.

A fairly uneventful drive-through. Nothing spectacular in regards to the scenery but it was so nice to be on the road and away from the hustle and bustle of Hanoi.

The Ha Giang Loop

After a sick day in Ha Giang and then a bad weather day. Two days of waiting around until it was time to tackle the loop.

Not going to lie, I was a little apprehensive about taking on the loop. For two reasons.

1/ I’d acquired a passenger on the back of the trusty stead.

2/ I don’t have an International Drivers Permit and I’d heard of Police bribes of up to 1,700,000VIN which is about £60.

However, a successful first morning and we were on the road and tackling the famous loop.

Apprehensive soon faded and was replaced with excitement as every turn offers something new and something different. Time flies when you’re riding through Northern Vietnam, the scenery at every turn is breathtaking, and out of this world.

It’s almost like you’ve been transported inside Avatar.

The first day of the loop wasn’t too difficult. A few sketchy parts, but nothing too dangerous, or scary.

Trouble brewing…

On day one we’d made it successfully to Dong Van. Approximately halfway around the loop, which was good going, and we definitely made the most of the better weather!

On the list for the morning was a drive through to the most northern viewpoint in all of Vietnam, and a drive close to the Chinese border.

On the return, we hit something on the road on the way out and the luggage holder snapped. Which is not ideal when you’ve got a 10kg bag perched on the back!

Improvised and managed to make it the 40-minute journey back to Dong Van where we’d get it fixed.

One thing I’ve noticed outside of Vietnam is how willing the Vietnamese people are to help and to smile. The owner of the homestay said he knew a mechanic and directed us. A little confused, he used google translate and told me he’d take me.

Picture me, a 6FT 90kg wannabe Viking, with a 5ft 6 and small Vietnamese man on the trusty stead, flying down Dong Van high street…

After some back and forth and the boys were out of the garage and welding the bike rack back together. Super quick and charged me £1. Ridiculous.

But a long story short. After reloading the bags, making it 15 minutes out of town, it snapped again and we were back with our Vietnamese man he persuaded them to give it another welding, but this time double strength…

Moving on to Cao Bang

The Ha Giang loop is exactly that, a loop. Taking in the best sights in Northern Vietnam, and then heading back to Ha Giang. However, about 3/4 of the way through the loop I’d turn off and head east towards Cao Bang.

A province in Northern Vietnam famed for an incredible waterfall, more insane scenery, and generally a little more off the beaten track from regular tourism. Although, most of Vietnam’s tourism is Vietnamese people.

After another misty morning, and dangerously low fog in the mountains, the drive weaved and winded its way up mountain passes, through rice terraces, around buffalos, dogs, chickens, the occasional pig and some bewildered Vietnamese children who seemed confused there were white people in their province.

Close to 1000 km done in 6 days on the bike.

Some incredible roads.

Jaw-dropping mountainscapes.

£3.50 to fill the tank.

£1 for custom welding jobs.

£4 for an oil change and chain tightening.

Another 2 and a bit weeks to go, and a lot of Vietnam to cover.

Monk Mode Week 3

Monk Mode is now in the third week and there’s been a few days where it has been difficult, but I have still kept the streak with all three Monk Mode tasks.

– Create a video every day
– Write an article everyday
– Run 1 mile every day

Creation not Consumption

Riding the bike and being on the road do have its challenges. Mainly the first one being everywhere is so hilly that finding somewhere to run a mile is harder than I thought. Ha!

But other than that it’s been good to have some routine and consistency to tick things off.

I do still need to work on a better routine of getting things boxed off in the morning, especially the run. It makes the rest of the day so much easier knowing I’ve not got to go for a run at 9PM.

Writing daily

This week I’ve written:

Cenunat Mawr Waterfall – Llanberis’ Hidden WaterfallAngelsey Barracks – SnowdoniaGrey Mare’s Tail Waterfall, SnowdoniaSnowdonia’s Secret WaterfallThe BEST hike in SnowdoniaAber Falls Waterfall – Hike Guide

Blog Views: 388

One Mile a Day

Been more difficult to find a flat mile to run on and not wanting to do too many hills just yet whilst my knee is recovering.

But still been a solid week and when I’ve got out for the mile, they’ve always felt good.

Running Totals: 13KM

The next adventure…

Origianlly the plan was to drive from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh.

But with doing the Ha Giang loop and spending more time in the North, it’s probably not possible for me to get to Ho Chi Minh and actually have an arse at the end of it…

Thankfully the bike rental company I used have shops in both Hoi An and Hue, which are about the half way point.

I’ll cruise down there, and be near an international aiport in the next two weeks for the next adventure.

But first, more of rural Vietnam.

One hell of a country, yanno.

Explore strong,

Share now...

Leave a Reply