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A guide to buying and riding a motorbike around Vietnam

Ten tips you need to know for your Vietnam motorcycle adventure.

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Exploring Vietnam on a motorbike is a great way to see the country.

1. What licence do I need?

To legally ride in Vietnam and to be covered by your travel insurance you will need a valid Vietnam driver’s licence. International driver’s licences are not accepted in Vietnam. With your licence from your home country, you can apply to get a local licence.

2. When is the best time to travel in Vietnam on a motorbike?

The best time to ride is during the dry season, which is between the months of November and May. Any other time and it will likely be raining a lot.

3. Where is the best place to start?

Ho Chi Minh City, I think, is the best starting point because once you arrive in Hanoi you have the option to continue exploring Sapa and Ha Long Bay. There are also more travellers heading in this direction to keep you company.

4. What bike should you buy?

I’d recommend riding a motorbike instead of a scooter. I think they are more comfortable, better suited for longer journeys. The Honda Win which is the most popular motorbike for backpackers to do this trip on. You can find mechanics selling them for around $300 to $350 and through backpackers from $250 to $350. Make sure you also get the blue registration card for your bike.

A Honda Win.

A Honda Win.

5. What should I look for when buying a bike?

Firstly, check it starts easily and the engine runs smoothly. Also check all the electrics. Go for a test drive for about 10 minutes to see how the bike handles. It is always going to be a bit of a gamble, but that is part of the adventure.

It is hard to find a perfect bike, as most of them will have some problems that need fixing, the most important part of the bike is the engine as this will be the most expensive part to replace so make sure that itruns smoothly and use my tips as a guide to help you find the best bike available.

6. What other equipment wil I need?

It is the law to wear a helmet in Vietnam for both riders and passengers. Most bikes will come with a helmet, however I recommend spending some money and get yourself a new helmet that is of good quality. Make sure you wear shoes, as wearing flip-flops is not a good idea. It is also good idea to wear gloves, pants and a jacket as this will help protect you if you have an accident.

You will also need a lock which I advised you use whenever you park up your bike, some bungee cords to strap your backpack down to your bike, a poncho to cover yourself and either a tarp or garbage bag to cover your backpack incase it rains. These all can be picked up at any hardware store.

7. Will my bike breakdown?

Bike shops are literally everywhere in Vietnam. Look for a sign that says “Xe Máy” or for a Honda logo as this will probably be a garage you can get repairs done at. Throughout your trip you’ll also need to do some service stops, it is recommended to get your chain oiled every 300km and to get the oil changed every 500 to700kms to keep the engine running smoothly. It will cost you between $2 to $5 to get your oil changed.

8. Navigating

The best way to navigate your way around the country is with your smart phone GPS. Download an app called maps.me and download the map for Vietnam, as this works offline so you don’t even need to use data.

9. How long will Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi take?

If all you did was drive it would take about nine days from Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi, but doing that would be ridiculous. I think you need about five to six weeks to comfortably explore Vietnam on a bike.

10. Selling the bike

I posted my bike on craigslist but had the most success by riding around and talking to backpackers and letting people know I had a bike for sale. I bought my bike for $300 in Ho Chi Minh City and sold it onto another backpacker for $220. I spent about $30 on repairs, so all up it cost me about $110 for having a motorbike for three months while I was in Vietnam.

One Last thing…

Riding a motorbike across Vietnam has easily been the best travel experience I’ve had yet. I made life-long friends that I shared amazing memories with. The freedom that you get with a motorbike is amazing, being able to go off and explore anything you want whenever you want is just the best.

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Doing burnouts on the beach in Hoi An.

Source: Jason van Miert

Travel News

Saigon café takes you to a stress-free, yesteryear Hanoi

“Lane 160” invites customers to leave their worries behind and step back into Hanoi in the last century.

In an alleyway off Bui Dinh Tuy Street in Saigon’s Binh Thanh District, a coffee shop transports customers back to the 1980s in Hanoi with remarkable authenticity

“Eighty percent of the café‘s interiors reflect the architectural characteristics of my family in Hanoi in the 1980s. We collected some more antique items to bring the nostalgia and calmness of Hanoi to parkling Sai Gon,” said Huong Ly, one of the founders of Lane 160

The café is designed to resemble an alley with several houses and yards, and it does it with a great degree of success.

“When we opened the café, we decided to do it for passion, just to create a place for everyone to rest and recharge their energies for the day,” Ly said.

The handwritten signboard hung in front of the gate says: “Please leave your worries outside the threshold, we only have peace inside.”

The café has a green space, and the owners say they are growing typical northern plants there.

The traditional Hanoi house façade with yellow-painted walls, wooden door, and fish scales roof tiles have been reproduced authentically.

Owners say designing and constructing the café to look like Hanoi in the eighties, complete with narrow staircases, loudspeakers and other features took six months.

Old photos of Hanoi, harking back to the time of tramcars are hung on the walls and the loudspeaker plays famous songs about Hanoi.

Egg coffee, a Hanoi specialty, is listed on the menu at VND30,000 ($1.28). Green tea and sunflower seeds are also served.

The jars of dracontomelons and apricots soaked in sugar are placed on a shelf in the café. The fruit has been brought from northern provinces; the apricot, in particular, has been soaked for 7-8 years.

In a small corner, old printed newspapers and food stamps under the subsidy period in Hanoi in the 1980s are displayed.

“This is my third visit to this café. I have not been to Hanoi yet, but I feel that the city is very pretty and peaceful, judging by the ambience presented in this cafe,” said Nguyen Duc Tin (R), a university student in HCMC

A room in the café is decorated with artificial peach blossoms, a flower that denotes the arrival of spring and the advent of Tet, the Lunar New Year, in the capital city. The tablecloth patterns also go back to in time.

Source: By Nguyen Than (VNEXPRESS)

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Central Highlands

November, the best time to visit these awesome Vietnamese destinations

As chilly November arrives it is the best time to pay a visit to these places.Ha Giang – buckwheat flower festival

Ha Giang – buckwheat flower festival

Photo by VnExpress/Tung Duong

Photo by VnExpress/Tung Duong

Ha Giang Province nestles in the mountains of northern Vietnam. It is home to ethnic minorities like the H’Mong, Thai and others. Visitors to the province can witness exotic local lifestyles.

The wildness of its nature is the captivating feature of Ha Giang. The province attracts many motorbike riders and trekkers every year. Mother Nature has gifted Ha Giang with diverse scenery with mighty rocky mountains, golden rice terraces and, in November, magnificent white and magenta fields of buckwheat flowers.

Buckwheat is among the staple grains of the locals, and is usually cultivated after the summer-fall rice crop every year. Now buckwheat flowers have bloomed all over mountain slopes in Dong Van District.

This year the annual buckwheat flower festival starts on November 10 with cultural activities, traditional games and a buckwheat flower competition.

1,000-year-old capital, Hanoi

Photo by VnExpress/Trung Vo

Photo by VnExpress/Trung Vo

November may mark the start of winter in many places, but in Hanoi autumn lingers. This is arguably the best time of the year to visit the city, when it wears a whole new façade with the renowned hoa sua (milk flower) and streets gilded with fallen golden leaves and cuisine specialties.

Photo by VnExpress

Photo by VnExpress

In November do not miss a walk through Hanoi’s most romantic streets, Phan Dinh Phung, Hoang Dieu and Tran Phu. The hoa sua (milk flower) have bloomed all over these streets, giving off a glorious aroma.

Visitors can also explore the maze of alleys in the old quarter to find autumn specialties like green rice, green rice cake and ragworm, or sit by an open-air café in the cool wind and enjoy a cup of Vietnamese egg coffee.

The ancient citadel of Hue

Photo by Quoc Viet

November heralds autumn in Hue in central Vietnam. Hue typically expects pleasant weather and less rain this month, perfect for tourists to take a trip around the royal citadel and mighty tombs of old kings.

The Hue citadel complex holds in itself the historical legacy of the Nguyen Dynasty, the last imperial rulers of Vietnam. The tombs of the Nguyen kings are situated around Hue’s suburbs, which can be reached by car or motorbike.

The Hue cuisine is not to be missed. Mussels with rice/noodles, Hue beef noodles, steamed rice cake and tapioca dumplings are among the must-try dishes in the city. In the cool weather of autumn, the spicy mussels with rice can warm your stomach, and a bowl of beef noodles can give you a nutritious fix for a whole day of exploration.

Tree marigold in Gia Lai

Gia Lai museum. Photo by VnExpress

Gia Lai museum. Photo by VnExpress

Gia Lai Province is in the Central Highlands and has a tropical highland climate. Tourists should visit the province in the dry season in November or December. This is when the rice terraces on the hill slopes are ripe and marigolds have painted the paths yellow.

Tourists can stay in Pleiku City, the center of Gia Lai. One place to visit is the Gia Lai Museum where cultural and historical relics of the local ethnic groups are preserved.

Photo by VnEpxress/Thanh Nguyen

Photo by VnEpxress/Thanh Nguyen

The Chu Dang Ya volcano is a must-visit place for flower lovers since it has the best scenes of blooming tree marigold. The volcano is situated in Chu Dang Ya Commune, Chu Pah District, 30 kilometers to the northeast of Pleiku. Locals can give you directions, so if you are lost do not worry.

Da Lat, the city of dreams

Da Lat City is among the favorite destinations for tourists visiting Vietnam. The rainy season has ended in early November, so it is a good time to visit this city.

Photo by VnExpress/Trung Vo

Photo by VnExpress/Trung Vo

In Da Lat, you can visit the Valley of Love, Da Lat train station, Golden Valley, and Langbiang Mountain.

Da Lat is also in the Central Highlands, so tourists can expect to see tree marigold here.

The best floral scenes can be found at Da Lat University, Pham Hong Thai Street and the Minh Hoa seminary.

Source: By Minh Quan (VNEXPRESS)

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An Giang

The palm that sweetens life in Mekong Delta province

An Giang residents love the palmyra palm for the sustained supply of toddy, juice and raw sugar that it provides.

Known locally as the thot not, Borassus flabellifer, commonly known as doub palm, palmyra palm, tala palm, toddy palm and even wine palm, this species can be found everywhere in An Giang. The local name is derived from th’not in the Khmer language.

They provide a thirst-quenching drink, toddy, made by collecting the sap of its flowers. The palm sugar made from this also carries a special sweetness. The tall palms also beautifully break the monotony of rice fields in the Mekong Delta province.

A thirst-quencher

The thot not juice is often misunderstood as juice from its fruit. But this is actually sap tapped from its flowers. The juice has a light sweet taste and is often served with some slices of succulent thot not fruit. The drink is said to contain many minerals and vitamins that are good for health. It tastes best served with ice.

The tastiest sap is the one harvested early in the morning. If harvested in the evening the sap will get sour and have a fermented taste, which is turned into toddy, an alcoholic drink. Thot not juice is sold in many sidewalk stalls and markets in An Giang.

Sweetmeats

Thot not plays an important role in An Giang’s dessert scene. It is used as the sweetener in most dishes. The thot not pie, rich and sweet, is a steal at VND15,000 ($0.6) a pack.

To make the pies, the pulp of ripened thot not fruit is ground and the juice extracted. The flesh is then mixed with rice flour and thot not sugar and steamed.

Other snacks made here include sweet soups and jelly.

A sweet gift

Thot not sugar is one of the most famous delicacies of An Giang. It’s extracted from the thot not sap then cooked and hardened into round brown clots. The brown sugar is recommended because it retains the natural and original taste. The whiter version is refined. The sugar is not just used in daily cooking, it is also a popular gift item. Some sugar makers even let you make the sugar yourself.

A photo cover

Photographs taken in An Giang never fail to feature the palms against the rising and setting suns. If you show a Vietnamese person a photograph with these palms, she or he will know that you have been to An Giang.

Source: By Linh Sea, Tuan Hoang (VNEXPRESS)

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