They say money can’t buy you happiness and to a large degree that is true. However, people who say this fail to realize that motorbikes aren’t free unfortunately. I would seriously consider voting for a political party that promises free bikes in their manifesto, take note aspiring politicians. Riding and camping around Vietnam is where it’s at.
Thinking about buying a bike? Read this:Practical Tips for Buying a Second Hand Motorbike in Vietnam
Jeremy Clarkson Has a Lot to Answer For
From the first time I rode on the back of a motorbike and got off with legs made of jelly I was hooked. Getting a bike became a life long dream, and when you’re a kid, boy do those years feel long. I now have a little family of Hondas in the garage and each of them do something different for me but I love them all the same. That is something that I am very grateful to Vietnam for, the bikey culture is something I love with a passion. I think the Top Gear Vietnam Special planted a little seed in my brain when I was still a teenager also, because well here I am, not something I had planned but I AM happy life worked out that way.
BBQ, Beers, and Bikes
While I have not done the whole South-to-North route via bike (yet) I have travelled extensively around via this supreme (if somewhat dangerous in this country) method of transportation, sticking to back roads as much as possible to enjoy the scenery even if it takes longer and also avoid the murderous driving standards that are sadly way too prevalent here. Not only that, I discovered a passion for camping that I never had in cold, wet, dreary England.
Falling asleep after a BBQ and some beers and then jumping straight into a lake or river to wake up and feel fresh in the morning has to be one of the best feelings this world can give to us. City life is great, but it is stressful, polluted and when we relax often we end up doing quite the opposite as a result.
This realisation, and having a brother also leading nature based activities back in Spain, inspired me to start a lowly little Instagram page called ride_andcamp. Why? Because I want to share this passion with other like minded people. Getting out of the city and into nature is something I feel is actually good for my soul and body, something a weekend boozing away simply doesn’t provide (not that I’m opposed to that per se, but it isn’t a sustainable lifestyle, especially when over 30 and your body reminds you of your ever decreasing tolerance to abusing it).
So, There Was This One Time
Let me tell you about some of the more interesting experiences I have had.
The Case of the Missing Wallet
One was somewhere in Dong Nai. We got lost after finding out the campsite we wanted to go to had been closed for a while. This was just as Covid was ramping up and paranoia of foreigners was becoming very real. We were getting bad looks, shops would make us stay way away (but still sold us stuff) and we even had a group of town hall militia turn up and test some of us, it felt decidedly hostile.
We decided that since we were already there and the lake we were at was so big, we’d just find and out of the place way as we normally would. Well, we accidentally were on a farmer’s private land. He popped up to turn on some crazy loud water pumps to irrigate his trees and vanished off without asking us to leave. About half an hour later, we heard the sound of a fair number of bikes approaching and we knew something was definitely up.
A bunch of cops appeared, with 2 very friendly translators. They told us technically it was illegal to camp and asked us for our ID’s. Not everyone had one, and even though we had had a few beers by that point already, told us we had to leave, and that if we had ID’s we were welcome to stay at a guesthouse in the town. In the confusion my wallet dropped out of my stuff. Luckily we got the Zalo of the lady translator (pictured above) who had told us we were welcome to come back and stay at her parent’s farm when things calmed down, and she went back to the spot, found it and gave to it her friend who worked in Bitexco. Pretty funny.
Chicken and Moonshine
Another interesting experience was in a place with a 9 level waterfall, it’s been a while so I need to find out the name to go revisit. I went with an American buddy and 2 Vietnamese pals, one was working as security for a while at the serviced apartment I lived in back then and the other guy was a friend of his that would often come and stay there because he preferred it to his dorm.
We had read online that some food was available there so we didn’t take our own. We asked the family who live in a beautiful wooden hut at the bottom of the property for some instant noodles and chicken. Well, they brought us a chicken alive! None of us had killed a chicken before so we were a little daunted but prepared to do what was necessary quickly and as respectfully as we could.
I went to pee, and when I came back a bunch of people who were fishing for frogs and whatever small fish they could find using illegal electric rods were passing by. They were a bit surprised to see us so sat down and had a chat with us, giving us dodgy home brewed moonshine that they kind of jokingly said not too have too much of or it would make you go blind by pointing at their eyes and waving their hand as people here characteristically do.
They dispatched and defeathered the chicken for us and even shared some frog with us. Definitely a memory I’ll never forget!
If a weekend a short ride away from the big smoke in nature sounds like something you’d enjoy, get yourself down to Decathlon or FanFan (I’m not sponsored btw) give my page a follow to see what kind of things you find when you go exploring and give it a follow. It would be great to introduce you to something a bit different.
Also, a quick shout out to Vietnam Coracle whose page I frequently check out when I start yearning for a quick escape for routes and places to visit.
Editor’s Note: If you don’t have a VN driver’s license, your insurance will almost definitely not cover you for driving related injuries. Either get a good international insurance policy, or try to process a VN license before going on a trip. Play it safe, and enjoy the ride!