2011 was a year I wish to forget, so as a reward for getting through the year I decided upon a holiday.
Mitch (my son) and I looked at various types of breaks, a cruise: not happening, an organised group tour: not happening and then there were adventure tours by motorbike: now we were interested! After much research in magazines and on the web we settled on a trip to North Vietnam travelling through the Northern Provenances.
The trip was for 18 days, through the Provence of Ha Giang, starting in Hanoi and riding northwest then returning to Hanoi via overnight train. Next was a few days cruise to Ha Long Bay.
So we packed our bags and set off. After a 17 hour flight we arrived in Hanoi, and were met by our guide San and support driver Han. We also met Barry and Jean, two members of our group. So into Hanoi for an overnight stay, what a culture shock, 7 million people and 6 million motorbikes. To say it was chaos was an understatement! No road rules as we know them, the only rule was to look straight ahead and go not stopping and moving at a steady rate. Whether you are walking, riding or driving keep going, don’t hesitate traffic will go around.
After a day’s sightseeing in Hanoi it was time to start riding. We collected our bikes a Honda 115 step through, 4 speed box and auto clutch. A little work horse which kept going regardless of the conditions and treatment. Our first day was from Hanoi to Ha Giang approximately 300 km.
An over night stay in an interesting town and we were on our way into the back blocks, always going up. The scenery was incredible, the roads tight and twisty but all good tarmac. Mitch loved it, convincing himself he was Valentine Rossi’s intern, flogging his machine to within an inch of its life, showing San (our guide) how to do wheelies and donuts!
Second day we were still going up reaching a place called Heaven’s Gate. Then downhill, for a stopover in Dong Van and a few beers. An early start then travelling through more mountainous roads seeing local points of interest then, to try something different we travelled a back road trying to cross the border into China. Unfortunately a guard with a really big gun said NO – The Chinese Army were playing just up the road, so we turned around and headed back.
Over the next few days more unbelievable roads and interesting places until we reached Sapa an interesting town near the Chinese border high up in the mountains. A rest day followed, it was great to stretch our legs, rest our bums and do some market shopping. Next was a trip back down the mountain to catch an overnight train back to Hanoi and return the bikes. Following days included tourist trips to Ha Long Bay and around Hanoi then after 16 days we headed home.
Highlights of the trip: riding through scenery I believe is incredible, very hospitable and friendly people and the roads. One memory is watching my crazy son put his bike off the road down a steep bank, then screaming the bike to life, back up onto the road and disappear in a cloud of dust over the hill like the Lone Ranger!
We thoroughly recommend Vietnam, a wonderful country, interesting food with polite and friendly people. Our trip was organised by Meghann Fallon at Go Explore World (goexploreworld.com). It was a holiday to remember. Laurie
OMB (Oh My Buddha) Vietnamese for OMG - 13 maybe unlucky for some but not for us Ulyssians. What a great group from all over Australia. Some mates, some couples and some friends but all together a great bunch.
Starting in Hanoi with a get together and get to know each other which took 5 minutes and we were off full of bravado and good Aussie humour.
The bikes were a bit different to our usual cruisers back home. Honda 110 step through, but boy they could take us anywhere.
I occasionally thought here goes I will have to push up this hill. Never they just kept going. Ha Giang was our first stop and it was a beautiful town in the hills somewhere.
Food was amazing. Same same but different – but you will have to do the trip to understand that one. All the villages that we stayed were amazing and the countryside was beautiful.
The French Resort at Hoang Su Phi is still a mystery but we will never forget it and the Hot Tubs. The bridge into the resort was an experience as well but once again our little bikes got us there.
The village markets were an eye opener with animals being slaughtered on the spot and others being bought and sold to go who knows where.
The fuel stops were a bit of an experience as we had 15 bikes to fill so we developed quite a system that worked for us but made the locals laugh.
Our last night on the bikes was Sapa which is very close to the Chinese Border and on the side of a hill. The views from our hotel were magnificent until the mist came in.
Our Guide, Mechanic and Van Driver all made the trip that much better by helping with the bartering in the markets and what to eat.
We had some fun with extra’s on the bikes by copying Top Gear but it was all a bit of laugh. I will never complain about a western toilet again nor will I whinge about Australian roads and our road rules. Gloria Jean’s coffee is the best after drinking Vietnamese coffee. I have stopped using my horn. My first ride on my bike back home I did forget to use the clutch.
We had rain, we had mud, we had hot, we had cold, we had bruises, we had adventure but most of all we had lots of fun.
We will never forget our bike trip around North Vietnam.
The trip was fantastic, everything worked out well, many thanks. We were met on time
every time, both for our airport/accommodation transfers, and for all our sightseeing tours. The guides were excellent, easy to get along with, and had knowledge of the areas we were visiting, so we got a great experience every time, not just a sightseeing tour. They were also able to give us tips in terms of other things to see and places to visit. The itinerary had the right mix of organised “stuff” and “free time” and we really appreciated not being with large groups for the tours, just the 2 of us with a driver and guide. The accommodation was generally of a very high standard, clean, in good locations, with friendly and helpful staff. The motor bike tour was absolutely brilliant. The guides did a fantastic job looking after us all, and the riding was challenging enough, without being too exhausting. We had a good bunch of fellow people to tour with, and I would have been
more than happy to spend another week or two on the bikes with the group and the guides. The scenery was great and it was amazing to visit remote villages, and meet some of the people. We ate good food that was often cooked in the most primitive of kitchens over open fires in small cafes along the way. The accommodation was clean, the rooms spacious, and there was always a cold beer ready for us when we arrived after a long hard days riding. The biggest highlights for me included meeting a group of local kids working the rice fields when we had an unscheduled stop for a flat tire, and visiting the local market in Hoang Su Phi, where the people were happy just to interact with us, without attempting to get us to buy anything from them. They particulalry enjoyed having their photos taken.
David and Mandy
We wish we were still in Vietnam too, we are really missing everyone! We had such a good time, Vietnam is amazing but the company made it so much more than just sightseeing.We would love to go back, maybe one day.Keep us updated if there is to be a reunion tour. Thanks for everything, great job.
Paul and Michelle
There is no chance I will ever be able to forget it!! It will be with me for the rest of my life : ))
It was a holiday of courage I tell ya!! Borneo was great.. Dannum valley was amazing.. The view, the place, the serenity was breath taking! Went for a night rainforest walk.. Left Borneo fearing nothing and like I can take on the world!! Saw an orang-utan in the wild.. Beautiful! Off to Thailand – Full moon party – another thing the didn’t cease to amaze.. Koh Samui and Phuket were great.. just the whole time we were there it rained, so didn’t get to go to the beach as much as I would have liked.. but was still hot..
We arranged for the Phi Phi island tour.. but didn’t get to go because of the weather, so we went bungy jumping instead and now have something to go back for : )
Kuala Lumpur was also very nice.. smoked some sheesha hehe
There was always someone waiting wherever we had to stop or transfer to..Which was excellent! Because we had done so much.. it felt like we were away for ages..
Thank you very very much for what you organised!!! We definitely wouldn’t have been able to think of it all on our own!! Much appreciated Megs : ))))
Lence and Joe