I fancied another challenge like the Dakar challenge I did back in 2013. A few guys from work had been watching Fern and my adventures and wanted to join me on a trip. Initially I thought about entering another team in the Dakar challenge. But as friends dropped out it became expensive and I had to find an alternative. I loved the first Grand Idea in Thailand and longed to return to the warm cheap smiles of South East Asia.
So, 3 friends and I decided to set out on a New Year’s Eve adventure to Saigon for 15 days in total. 10 days riding 125cc semi auto mopeds 1000 miles round south and central Vietnam and a few days on a desert island. For this trip we booked flights about 5 months in advance and managed to bag a deal for £340 return to Saigon. A couple of months before arriving I booked the mopeds for $10 per day over the internet from Dragon bike in district 1.
After a quick plane change at Zürich we were on a 13 hour flight to Saigon. We arrived at 7am in the morning and caught a local bus to district 1 from the airport (20 dong). We decided to have an acclimatisation day in the city before heading off the next morning. We visit the bike renter to make sure everything is in order and then check into the hotel and enjoy a beer on the town.
The next morning we meet at the bike shop and spend the next couple of hours signing paperwork, loading paniers and paying for the bikes on pay pal. Once out in to the midday traffic I realise what an issue I’m going to have with navigation. I haven’t got a phone holder on my handlebars, so I don’t know where I’m going. We drive 500m and Marcus misses the turning into the petrol station. I’m straight on what’s app and drop a pin location marker in our group so he can find where we are. Five or ten minutes goes by and he texts to say he is on his way. After an hour of driving past the same junction I stop to look at the map on my phone, I start to get frustrated. I just can’t work out how to cross the river. The spaghetti mess of roads on top of one another play tricks on the map and I can’t see how to get out the city. We just drive along the river until we come to an easier less congested junction. We have been told a back way out of the city via a ferry. On the ferry a friendly guy asks us if we are heading to Vung tau, he offers to lead us to the main road, result as we are still finding our feet it the melee of bikes.
We hit a fast main road and it started to rain. We were at least prepared with thick Honda rain ponchos. By the time we reached the coast a few hours later it had stopped. We didn’t bother stopping for a late lunch and pushed on along the coast to the Binh Chau region. It was about 4pm when we stopped for coffee and to search for accommodation. We had a rule riding should be 9am – 4pm then you had an hour before dark to find lodgings. We hired a whole house for £30 between 4 of us, a bedroom each. We go out to find beer and food. The chef takes a dislike to Liam’s vegetarianism and refuses to get him anything. We find another place facing the sea that has beer and noodles for Liam, with extra sea food he didn’t want. A soldier and policeman join us with some local spirits to drink. A quick toast and discussion about football and they are off.
The second day doesn’t start well as I have a flat tyre. The Air B&B owner gets me a pump and I put some air in, but it’s flat again by the time we finish coffee in town. Luckily there are tyre menders every mile or so and I was not far from one. A small lady fixes my tube without removing the rear wheel and within half an hour we are away. It’s very windy and Johnny is struggling to keep pace. We hit our only real bit of off road
We find a place to fix Liam’s phone and head into the port of Phan Thiet for coffee and to find accommodation. There was a lovely port café area and European coffee and menu.
We barter the price and settle for a cheaper place across the road (600 Dong). We spend the evening singing songs while Liam plays the guitar and a local boy practises his English. On the walk back we find the first of the Top Gear mascots, 2 life size sheep from a nativity scene made from straw and cotton wool, that have just be discarded in the bin.
The next morning we strap them on, put so air in the tyres and we are off in to the hills of Dalat. Its duel carriageway at first then it turns to rough smaller roads. Marcus hits a bump at high speed and gets a blow-out. Luckily we ride back the way we came 2km and there is a tyre shop. We set off again after Marcus produces a small polystyrene sheep’s head and straps it on his bike, god knows where we found that last night.
We ascend the mountains racing flat out at 80kmph. It’s warm but getting colder as we climb. We hit a duel carriageway again but motorbikes are not allowed, we use it all the same.
Liam starts to get cold but someone made him leave all his warm clothes behind in Saigon. We arrive in Dalat, but its not what we were expecting. We find a grand hotel and go out for dinner. Ferdie has a fit because he missed the chip shop and it’s now closed.
Liam searches for a clothes shop while Johnny and Ferdie play him up by googling kid’s clothes shops and leading him there.
We settle down at a restaurant where you have a BBQ rite at your tablet cooking your food as you want it. We get drunk and chat to locals.
One takes a dislike to Ferdie and bites him on the chest. He is wrestled back in to his chair with a warning and we decided to leave.
The most amazing ride takes place the next morning from Dalat to Nha Trang. We ride up through the clouds on a small mountain road.
Never ending waterfalls, vistas and views to die for. We get split up and are travelling alone, Liam drops his bike in a pot hole, but it seems undamaged.
Marcus manages to find a Top Gear mascot for Ferdie and it gets presented once we arrive at the hotel in Nha Trang.
Once in Nha Trang we take a well deserved day off to explore the beach and sights.
Johnny receives his Top Gear gift this morning in the form of a blow up giraffe called Julie. We continue up the beach road passing Tuy Hoa and visit some rocks out in a bay area.
Just like the giants causeway with identical 50p shaped formations. Marcus feels his small sheep’s head is not prominent enough so we pull up at a dump and look for a suitable gift.
5mins later and we have a found suitcase full of fire ants and filled it will glass injectable ampules, he wished he never complained now.
We head back into Tuy Hoa and struggle to find the hotel by nightfall. We walk miles into town only to find another closed diner, Ferdie has another hissy fit. Johnny and Liam visit a big noisy open air market while Marcus and Ferdie sink beers.
We head inland towards the coffee growing region of Buon Ma Thuot. Marcus doesn’t want the bag of drugs anymore so we dump it and buy him a kid’s pink space hopper instead, but he still has to carry the barbie doll!
We ride a long day of rolling mountain roads, only stopping at roadside cafes for cola and noodles. We find a big run down fancy hotel on the edge of the city that advertised a steam room, sauna and indoor pool, however these are long out of action.
Liam stocks up on snacks, never straying far without a carrier bag of grub. We let the valet park the bikes and have dinner at the most amazing carved oriental houses.
We have a really long day riding through Cat Tien national park.
We ride through dirt and water on gravel roads, see a snake and a massive dam in the heart of the jungle.
Ferdie weaves in and out of Lorries chasing a fuel tanker as it hammers through villages. Again we can’t find the hotel and have to ask a local girl. She takes a liking to Johnny so Ferdie tried to marry him off to her.
We have a long day through the jungle to reach the Ho Chi Minh tunnels, so crack on early. We get spilt up on route and end up going in two’s to the tunnels. Only to find their are 2 sperate attractions, us both ending up at different ones.
Once we all meet up we peruse the tanks and planes as well as fire AK47’s and other guns. Johnny tries to climb the big Hercules C130 but fails.
However he buys a horn so can play a tunes as we leave the park.
We ride back toward Ho Chi Minh City to bed down for the night.
We do what we were told not to, and ride into town in the darkness to find burgers.
The final day and we head a short distance in to the city. Traffic is mad and we all nearly get knocked off our bikes. The closer we get to Saigon the worse it becomes.
Ferdie is stressed keep missing turnings. Then we remember we have to get rid of the mascots and decide to pull over on the motorway and set fire to them.
Our first burning spot is scuppered by the café owner so we move down into some trees, someone brings us a lighter. Whoosh they go up so fast!
We soon arrive back at Dragon bike in district 1 all safe and sound. Mission complete, we have made it!!
With that we fly off to Phu Quoc island for a few days rest, snorkeling and rent mopeds to explore the island
We fancy a crazy Tuk Tuk trip round Sri Lanka next…
Total km covered in 9 days riding with 1 day off. 1500km
5% off road / tracks 45% poor tarmac 50% main roads.
📆 15 Days
✈️ £340 flights return London to Ho chi minh city
🛵 $100 per bike Honda Future (10 days) ($500 deposit)
🛒 £30 per day per person expenses
📄 £30 travel insurance
💸 Total £900