Motorcycle Fever in Vietnam


Motorcycle Fever in Vietnam

I felt the first hint of fever after spending only three weeks in Thailand. I’d rented a beat-up scooter on Ko Chang and spent the day circumnavigating the island, rattling up steep hills and through tight curves, while dodging rainstorms and stopping for troops of monkeys.

The scenery was amazing and the roads were fun and just crazy enough to provide the occasional spike of adrenaline. Thus fed, the condition eased into remission and I returned to suffering through long, uncomfortable bus trips for the next month.

While lounging about in lazy Kampot, Cambodia, I stumbled upon an expat-owned restaurant that had a couple of beautiful 250cc dirt bikes sitting out front. Like some kind of post-hypnotic suggestion, the mere sight of the bikes triggered something deep inside. I’d just stopped for a quick lunch, but left with a overwhelming need to climb into the saddle again. The fever had returned.

I’d stopped just for a quick lunch, but left with a overwhelming need to climb into the saddle again. The fever had returned.

The bikes rented for $15 a day –which was over half of my daily budget– but I didn’t care. I spent two days roaring up and down the dusty backroads, going nowhere in particular, getting lost, and then finding my way home at the end of the day.

After spending so many weeks trapped in a bus or tuk tuk, it was a revelation to be able to stop when I wanted or turn down a side road to see what lie hidden over the next hill. Everywhere I went, I was greeted with big smiles and when I stopped for fuel or water, I was mobbed by kids.

The bike had plenty of power and the suspension readily soaked up the bumps and pot holes. I was the fastest thing on the road and reveled in it, passing buses, taxis, carts, scooters, and the occasional water buffalo. Not that it’s hard to outrace a water buffalo, but you get the point. It was the most fun I’ve had in years.

After two full days of hard riding, my butt was aching and that seemed to drive my illness into hiding again. Perhaps this observation will someday lead to a cure — I certainly hope not.

So, now I’m in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) and I’ve discovered Saigon Scooter Centre, where I can rent a 125cc KTM trial bike. Not only can I rent the bike, but I can rent it one way. I’ll ride it north to Hanoi, where I’ll put it on a train to be shipped back to Saigon. After they collect the bike, they will refund my $650 deposit. As I write this, I’m feeling flushed and my eye lid has started twitching.

There are numerous reasons why this is a less-than-optimal idea.

There are numerous reasons why this is a less-than-optimal idea. The bike is smaller than I’d like, but 125cc’s is the largest bike that can be legally rented to a foreigner here. The monsoon season begins in a few weeks, so there’s a good chance that I’ll spend much of the coming month drenched or splattered with mud. The fever doesn’t care.

The cost for a month’s rental is $300, plus another $50 to return the bike — this will blow my budget all to hell. And if I wreck the bike, I lose the deposit. The rental is for a full month, but I’ve only got about three weeks left on my visa — I’ll either have to return it early, or spend more money on a visa extension. The fever doesn’t listen to reason.

How often do you get a chance to ride a bike across Vietnam? it whispers.

It really is an insidious disease.

I’m so glad I caught it.

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Andy June 14, 2010 at 11:47 pm

Oh man, I cannot wait to do this! Thanks for the link to the place your getting the bike from, sounds ideal! $300 sounds pretty cheap as well, espesh as they are KTMs, is it orange too? :) Looking forward to your shots!


Globetrooper Todd June 15, 2010 at 12:17 am

Just like laws are made to be broken, so are budgets :) Sounds like a great adventure though. This is the reason Lauren and I both obtained a motorcycle license before leaving Sydney. We’re looking forward to an adventure like yours.
.-= Globetrooper Todd´s last blog ..Travel Partners Wanted: Weekly Update (14 Jun ‘10) =-.


Nomadic Chick June 15, 2010 at 10:33 am

It’s apparent there’s no cure for this fever. I say go with it. :)
.-= Nomadic Chick´s last blog ..People, Not Places =-.


wes June 15, 2010 at 2:09 pm

Why fight it, right? ;)


Stuart June 16, 2010 at 7:25 am

Methinks you’ll be extending that visa :)


wes June 16, 2010 at 8:10 am

Heh, I suspect that you’re right, Stuart! ;)


Justin June 16, 2010 at 8:19 am

Due to time constraints, I’m heading north from HCMC to Hanoi this morning via an airplane — can’t wait to read what you post about all the stuff that we’ll be missing in between! ;)


wes June 16, 2010 at 9:04 am

Oh man, sorry to hear you’re having to skip so much :( I’ll try to find something interesting to post.


Jodi June 19, 2010 at 9:10 pm

We caught the fever too! I was dead set against motorbikes until I got on one. However, after five days on the bike, I lost the fever. Glad you’re enjoying your adventure. Vietnam is a great country to ride across. Hope you hit the central highlands. Just be safe! We saw more motorbike accidents in Vietnam than anywhere else.


wes June 20, 2010 at 5:11 pm

They’re so much fun, aren’t they? I just have to slow down every now and then to give my butt a rest….


dwight z@Your Vietnam Tour Guide, Self-guided tour Vietnam June 22, 2010 at 10:29 pm

Hope you enjoy your ride. You’ll have a hard time deciding whether or not to take the central highland route via Dalat and Pleiku (Highway 14) – Awesome scenery. Or the coast route via Nha Trang. Don’t miss Hoian!

Keep us posted on the return of your USD$650 bike deposit.

Cheers, DZ


wes June 23, 2010 at 6:50 am

Thanks for the tips. I just arrived in Dalat and the mountains here are AMAZING. some tough choices ahead, for sure :)


Motorcycle Fairing January 3, 2011 at 1:37 am

Sounds like a Lovely adventure – Cannot wait to do it myself.


Jaime March 3, 2011 at 5:56 am

Really enjoying the blog — we just returned from three weeks exploring Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. Like you, we rented bikes from the Saigon Scooter Centre and rode north. We only made it as far north as Hue on the bikes due to time constraints, but it was great fun.


wes March 5, 2011 at 10:10 am

Awesome! I really loved riding around Vietnam. Beautiful place.


Mo Draj May 13, 2013 at 1:47 pm

Oh, I cant wait to do this!! Wow… Great story…

Out of curiosity, did u get your deposite back? I am kinda sure it is a Yes, Wes. other wise we would have read another blog about you complaining about it :P
Just wondering how did you get it back??


Anh Wu October 4, 2013 at 12:57 am

One-way bike rental requires a cash deposit. Vietnam is a long country (over 2,000km from top to bottom). I think there’s an office at both ends and you could easily return or collect bikes and give or get cash back.

Saigon Scooter Centre is a great place. I know Pat and Ash and they do offer some very good services.


wes October 4, 2013 at 4:29 pm

Pat was great. I had a lot of fun.


Kien Nguyen October 4, 2013 at 10:08 pm

I met Pat and liked his vintage Vespas, to be honest his work on these scooters.