A week by motorcycle around South Vietnam: Overview

another street in Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh
At one with the locals

I’m very late in typing this up and getting it posted but I’ve been really busy since getting back from Vietnam. This post is a brief overview of the trip I took with Thao. I’ll be adding more detailed posts for each day shortly and they’ll be linked from here.

The idea of this one is to let someone interested in following out route know road details, distances, times and the like. Note that we did this trip in August 2009 with good (hot) weather. The roads are changing a lot in Vietnam so don’t rely completely on Lonely Planet for your directions. Ask locals and get a new map.

A lot more hints and recommendations relating to motorcycle travel in Vietnam can be found in this accompanying post.

Sun 16th Aug

Set off from Ho Chi Minh City at around 11:30am. We had one stop for a flat tyre just outside the city limits and passed through Phan Thiet where we stopped for an hour or so. Just outside Mui Ne we went to take photos of the orange sand dune and got to accommodation around 5:30pm.

Mon 17th Aug

Left Mui Ne around 9:00am. Got to Phan Rang at 1:00pm then left again at 2:30pm after viewing the Cham structures. Arrived in Nha Trang at roughly 6:00pm including one internet stop of about an hour on the way.

Tue 18th Aug

Full day in Nha Trang

Wed 19th Aug

Left Nha Trang at 8:00am. 20km south of the city is a “new” road which is signposted for Da Lat. We followed this in a straight line for maybe 10-15km to a very small roundabout in a small-ish town where we turned left. This is the first sign for Da Lat after the one on the main road.

The first proper petrol station we passed, many kilometres later, wasn’t open yet though looked near completion. The next one we hit was around 70km from Nha Trang. We filled up there and had lunch just along the road before passing another station a kilometre or so further along.

The next fuel station is a long way off and the journey to it includes a lot of uphill driving. There are some little home-brew petrol pumps on the way as well, but I believe these are pretty pricey. On a small bike you must fill up at one of the main ones or you’ll realy run the risk of being stranded.

We arrived in Da Lat around 2:00pm

Thu 20th Aug

Full day in Da Lat

Fri 21st Aug

We left Da Lat at 7:45am and took the “20” direct to Ho Chi Minh City as it was the fastest route. It’s mainly downhill and gets very busy. There are plenty of waterfalls to see off the route, but the signposting for them varies from “can’t miss it” to “virtually non-existant”.

Including one lunch and one internet stop, we made it to HCM City around 6:00pm.

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Moto Vietnam: Day 1 – HCM to Mui Ne

Puncture number 1

Puncture number 1

We set off at around 11:30 after going to Thao’s to repack our things into small bags. Thao had had a friend check out her motorbike and he deemed it satisfactory for our journey – no need to rent others so a huge money-saver!

Aiming for the 1A main road, we zoomed east for about an hour until the bike started to wobble. Badly. The back tyre had punctured. A great start! Fortunately, we were a stones-throw from a repair shop, and even closer to a guy who was sat under a tree with some spare parts. He sorted everything out for us, including getting is a new inner tube and charged us around 65,000d (about £2) for the privilege. At least breaking down isn’t expensive here.

Two on a bike

Two on a bike

After a lot of driving and swapping roles (front seat is far nicer on your bum than the back), we got to Phan Thiet at 3pm where we visited s small temple that houses a complete whale skeleton – apparently the largest on display in Vietnam. They also have the largest publicly viewable collection of whale bones in the country, a fact attested to by a trophy and certificate from the Vietnam Book of Records!

Despite the bonkers signposting (or lack of it), we reached the outskirts of Mui Ne about an hour later. We ignored the junction to head along the lovely new (and very empty) bypass and check out the orange sand dunes for which the area is famous. The skies were just starting to darken which allowed a wonderful contrast between the deep orange sand and the deepening blue sky.

Whale-y big!

Whale-y big!

We doubled back and checked out some guest houses before settling on a nice one run by a lovely little old lady who was fascinated by my passport. I think she generally only hosts Vietnamese holidaymakers and had never seen a Vietnamese tourist visa before!

Dinner was at the Wax Bar further along the road where a young girl stood taking sneaky photos of me. I talked to her very briefly and found out she was from Belgium, but she didn’t speak French or very much English. Instead she showed me all the photos she’d taken. Cute kid.

Mui Ne orange dunes

Mui Ne orange dunes

Her (I think) cousin appeared and we sat talking to her and her boyfriend for a while. We had a great chat and a lousy game of pool. Seriously I don’t think I’ve ever played to bad in my life!

The guest house had a TV in the room so I got to watch a fair bit of the Liverpool v Spurs game before I slept. Very soundly. Sitting on a bike all day is a lot more strenuous than you may think.

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