In Motorbiking Part 8 I talked about our overnight train ride from Dong Hoi to Ninh Binh, and how it wasn’t exactly our favorite city in Vietnam. There were a few factors that played into this. First, Breada was sick most of the time we were there. For 2 out of the 4 days we were there she didn’t leave the room at all and I only left to get us food and drinks. Another reason was we just didn’t give it a proper chance. Since Phong Nha was so amazing I think Ninh Binh just felt like a more dull version of that. We did go to some sites and they were nice, but they just didn’t live up to the beauty of Phong Nha. Anyway, our time in Ninh Binh came and went and it was time to move on to the last part of our road trip: Hanoi.
It’s been a common theme across many of these posts, but I’ll say it again : I HATE HIGHWAY 1! It’s miserable. Some parts are quite nice, but for the most part it is the armpit of Vietnam. Unfortunately for us, it was the only direct way between the two cities. Initially when I was pulling up the directions, It had us going on a different highway that ran almost parallel to highway 1. We made for this road, and when we pulled on it I immediately knew something was wrong. I didn’t see a single motorbike on the road, the speed limit was 100kmh, and felt more like a traditional highway in the US. Within 2 minutes I knew we were on a road that didn’t allow motorbikes, one of the handful across Vietnam. We immediately darted across the road to the other side of the highway and headed for the off ramp which took us back to where we entered. The problem with navigation apps like Maps.Me and Google Maps is they don’t have an option for motorbikes, just cars, so every now and again something like this happens. It happened once while heading to Da Lat as well. Considering SEA is nearly all motorbike, it would be wise for navigation app makers to have a motorbike option, but I’ll leave that to the experts.
So we were once again stuck taking Highway 1. It was either that or take backroads and double the time it would take us to get there, so we decided to just suck it up. We’d made it this far, a little more of the highway won’t hurt. The first hour or so wasn’t too bad, just normal Highway 1 like traffic, chock full of trucks pumping out thick black smoke and a sea of motorbikes. It was two lanes in each direction though so I didn’t mind. Usually the motorbikes stay to the right and the trucks and cars stay to the left, with the occasional jerk running the motorbikes off the road After that first hour though, things really started to get messy.
At one point the number of lanes were cut in half almost immediately, and in a country already known for it’s traffic this didn’t help matters. The last 40km of the trip were spent riding around 20kmh, aka a snail’s pace. By the time we actually got to Hanoi itself, we were in rush hour traffic. I remember seeing pictures of Hanoi traffic when Anthony Bourdain came here recently, but until you see it first hand it’s hard to grasp. Hundreds of motorbikes at each intersection, packed in like sardines. It’s out of control, but exhilarating at the same time. I fully enjoyed the ride from Saigon to Hanoi, and some of the most hectic parts, albeit a pain sometimes, were the most fun. I’m not talking about Highway 1, that sucked, but the madness that is Saigon and Hanoi truly is a blast to ride in, as long as you know what you’re doing. It’s not somewhere I would want to learn for the first time.
We only had two more destinations before we finally settled into our teaching job: Sapa and Ha Long Bay. We decided we would just bus it to both since Sapa is over 300km away and the ride to Ha Long Bay is known to be a miserable road to ride on. Unfortunately, we never made it to Ha Long Bay because every time we had a free few days from teaching the weather was terrible. One weekend they evacuated all of the islands because of storms and right now as I’m writing this we’re in the middle of another storm. Oh well, we’ll be back in Vietnam in a few more months and Ha Long Bay isn’t going anywhere. Anyway, I digress. The point is we decided to sell our bikes immediately rather than keep them while we teach.
Almost as soon as we got to Hanoi we began posting ads on Facebook and in hostels for both Donna and Adalind Schade. Within a day we got a prospective buyer and we arranged to meet at Hoan Kiem lake, a popular area near the Old Quarter ( the backpackers district ) in Hanoi. We met Tommy and his friend, whose name I don’t recall, and let them test ride both bikes. Tommy took a liking to Donna and within the first 2 days of selling the bikes we already had 1 sold for 5,000,000 VND (~$225). We gave Tommy lots of information on routes, riding tips, etc, and are happy to say he had a great experience riding her through Vietnam and Laos and has already sold her to yet another backpacker. Adalind on the other hand has been quite a hard sell.
We’ve had her posted online for a couple of weeks now with no bites. What makes it worse, is as soon as we got to Hanoi she started giving me problems. Within one week there was a hole in both tires which needed to be replaced, and the electric start stopped working. The electric start isn’t a big deal since the kickstart works fine, but it doesn’t look good in terms of selling her. We replaced the battery, which we thought was the culprit, but the starter still isn’t working. We’re done putting money into her though, and have come to terms that we’ll be taking a sizable hit on the selling price. I know a few people who have sold to mechanics for $120, but that’s a little too low for me. However, if it’s the day before we fly out and we still haven’t sold that’s always an option. I’ve also flirted with the idea of trying to raffle her off at one of the more busy hostels in the Old Quarter. I figure it may be easier to sell 10 tickets at 500,000 VND (~$20) each than to sell it to 1 person for $200. If I were a prospective buyer and saw an opportunity like that I may take it, but it may be too late to set something like that up.
So the Motorbiking segment of our trip, and for this blog, is done. I’m hoping we can sell Adalind within the next few days while we’re off from teaching, because it will be that much harder once we have to get back to work on Sunday. If we don’t, it may have to go to a mechanic, but I’d rather sell it dirt cheap to a backpacker than dirt cheap to a mechanic who is just going to tune her up and tack on another $70 to the price. We’ll see, but for now we’re staying hopeful.