For anyone who knows me back home, you’ll know I loved my Buddy 125 scooter. I never thought I would enjoy being on two wheels, but as soon as I got her I fell in love and within a couple weeks took the course to receive my motorcycle license. Unfortunately, I had to sell her after 3 good years to raise cash for the trip. As sad as I was, I knew we would have plenty of opportunities to ride in Southeast Asia, the mecca of motorbikes. One of my big goals for this trip was buying a motorbike, strapping my backpack on, and riding the entire length of Vietnam. To many it just seems insane, especially after watching some Youtube videos of Vietnamese traffic, but so far I have to say it’s been one of the best decisions i’ve ever made.
The first thing Breada and I did when we got to Saigon was peruse the dozens of for sale signs posted at hostels and on the Facebook backpacking groups. Most backpackers doing the motorbike route choose a fully manual Honda Win, which is really just a Chinese knockoff of the original Win. After doing a lot of research and reading many stories about their Wins breaking down, we decided to each buy a semi automatic bike because they were known for being a little more reliable and cheaper to repair. They also blend in better since locals drive them (very few locals ride the Win) and will help us avoid being pulled over for the sole reason of us being foreigners and having to pay some corrupt cop a bribe. After checking out a few bikes we bought two Honda Waves from a nice couple from Switzerland, who had done the north to south route the month before. We settled on $220 for each bike and with them came a helmet, a rear rack, bungees cords for our bags, and the blue cards, which is a proof of ownership card. Also, Breadas bike has a holder for her phone which is perfect for navigation.
After a few more days in the city, we were ready to start our epic journey of 3,000+ kilometers and hit the open road. Unfortunately though, we couldn’t even leave the parking lot. The night before there were some torrential downpours and some water had messed with the insides of the bikes. After about 20 minutes of trying to start them, my bike finally started up but the other one still wouldn’t turn over. Luckily, we had already been to a mechanic in the city to fix the brake lights on the bikes so I went back to him, he followed me to the parking lot, and he replaced a bad spark plug. It took him about 10 minutes and only cost us 9 USD. Not bad for a house call!
As aggravating as problems with the bikes can be, I think it’s all part of the experience. Luckily, mechanics are literally everywhere in the country and are so cheap. Even if you can’t find a mechanic, which is unlikely, most of the locals have basic mechanical knowledge of the bikes since they all have one. As long as your engine doesn’t seize, you should be able to get away with repairs between $5-20 USD. You may get stuck in a city for one more day, but is that really such a bad thing?
Stay tuned for my upcoming post about our first weeks of rides up the coast and through the mountains! Hopefully by then I will have some GoPro footage edited and ready to share!