You can go your own way

On arrival in Hoi An we had looked into booking a motorbike tour for a few days, but having seen the pricing, were put off. So we took the plunge and got our own bike and planned our own mini tour. Our hotel had a recommended company and called them round. We had logged up some hours on a couple of scooters, and our ‘proper’ bike in Dalat, so we knew what we wanted. Big, manual and space to strap bags on the back. We ended up with a big Chinese made cruiser in excellent condition. The rental wasn’t cheap but in comparison to the prices for tours we had been quoted it saved hundreds of dollars. We got the bike from and Mr Vuong.

We packed 1 medium rucksack, strapped it on the back with rubber bands and took off. Our itinerary was pretty much thrown together with 2 key rules avoid the main roads and always follow the simple guide, we are in no hurry. You cannot go fast anyway, 70kph is fast on a bike here and faster would be suicidal. Most of the time you are riding at 40-60kph, or 25-40 mph. This is probably the reason why bikes have small engines, you can’t ride fast and nobody wants or can spend lots of money on fuel. Our monster had a 150cc engine, but with a full manual gearbox and what seemed to be a souped up exhaust it actually pulled along ok, which it needed to as we were going to do a lot of hills.

Our destination for the first day was Hue, around 130k north if you follow the direct route. The road you can take on a bike is via the Hai Van pass, which i think Top Gear rode in an episode. It’s the highest road pass in Vietnam and is stunning. The south side usually has the better weather, which was true. It was also pretty empty as all the busy traffic goes via the new tunnel, but motorbikes are not allowed through it. Along the side of the pass the train line meanders its way around which looks great. The top was partly cloudy, and the north side descent was cooler but the cloud cleared up as we went down. At the top there are the usual collection of vendors and less than good value cafes. We met a couple of easy riders at the top carrying a couple of inappropriately dressed english girls, and they tried to share their wisdom about where to go, which largely consisted of adding hundreds of k’s to our journey. They clearly have greater padded seats than we have experienced or have.

After the descent we continued up the coast, stopped at a roadside shop for some food, and then instead of going directly on we cut across to the local roads and made our way through some villages, large areas of private graves and Mausoleums , paddy fields and grazing water buffalo. Our bike is great on the sweeping roads but less so when the road gets bumpy. By the time we drew into Hue we were pretty sore, tired out and dirty.

We finished the day with a great shower and a fair amount of cold beer and margaritas . We drank at the Hue backpackers hostel which was pretty reasonable and lively, and decided to follow the number 1 choice on Trip Advisor for food, Nina’s cafe. Whilst ok, not sure it deserves its top billing as there are definitely better options.

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