Before i Forget : Simon Jones's blog
TravelThursday, May 2nd, 2013, (7:01 pm)

I’ve had a few people ask me for advice about doing motorbike tours in Vietnam. I’m no expert, but I decided to write a post to share my tips and experience about how to get the best from a motorbike tour of Vietnam. If you have any questions or tips you want to share, leave a comment below.

How to ride a motorbike around Vietnam - Simon Jones motorbikes through Vietnam.

Riding a motorcycle in Vietnam isn’t an act of bravery, nor is it an act of madness. The roads in the cities are completely crazy, but if you can cross the road in Vietnam, you can ride a motorbike there. Traffic tends to swarm into every available gap in the road, but you’ll be just fine if you just take it easy.

HOW AND WHERE TO BUY A MOTORBIKE IN VIETNAM

Because seemingly everyone rides a motorbike in Vietnam, there are no shortage of dealers selling used motorbikes. There is no real advantage to be gained in buying from a dealer. There won’t be any kind of worthwhile warranty and you should certainly not pay more for one.

At a second-hand dealership the motorbikes are unlikely to have a price on them, so you’ll have to be ready to bargain hard for the right price. It’s no different to buying a used car anywhere in the world, so don’t be afraid of being a little theatrical in your negotiations if need be.

A lot of locals and travellers sell their motorbikes on Craigslist. It’s also worthwhile visiting backpacker hostels where you’ll often find people selling off their motorbikes. That requires some leg-work, but you might be able to get yourself a good deal as the seller may be short on time and therefore open to considering lower offers.

WHAT KIND OF BIKE SHOULD YOU GET?

A lot of people will buy old motorbikes like Hondas and Russian Minsks. These are okay, but you don’t have to go this route.

Getting a motorbike in VietnamMopeds (motor-scooters) are also fine. I rode around Vietnam on a 125cc 2004 Yamaha Nouvo (pictured above) that I paid $151 (£100) for. That’s a good deal cheaper than the average of $3-400 that most people want for those old Honda Wins and Minsks.

With more than 50,000 kilometres on the clock, my Yamaha cruised on the highways without any issue at 60-80kph, crossed many a rough surface including mud and sand, and climbed the mountains north of Hanoi without grumbling once. I got one puncture that was quickly fixed by a roadside garage for less than $1.

WHAT DO YOU NEED WITH THE BIKE?

As mentioned above, when you buy your motorbike make sure you get the paperwork! That is important because while it’s unlikely that you’ll have any run-ins with the local law, if you do they are going to want to see the bikes paperwork. Without the paperwork you’ll find the bike much harder to sell at the end of your tour.

You will also need to get yourself a helmet and wear it too! I suggest getting something that looks like it might actually offer you some protection in the event of a crash, however, it seems that any kind of flimsy helmet is acceptable. It’s a good idea to get one with some kind of eye protection. The roads can be very dusty, it sometimes rains, the air can be full of bugs, and at night it simply isn’t smart to wear sunglasses as eye protection.

Getting a decent road map would be a good idea. I didn’t really plan my tour so I never got one and while I was fine, there were times it would have been handy. You also need to consider that when rains in Vietnam it pours! So get yourself something that will keep you dry.

Motorcycle helmets in Vietnam

COPS AND THE LAW

I have seen a few websites that claim you cannot legally ride a motorbike without a Vietnamese licence. This is not correct. You can ride one on your regular licence from home, but you must have that on you. I am told your travel insurance is unlikely to cover you in the event of an accident unless you have an international drivers licence (and even then it still might not!).

It’s widely believed to be illegal for a foreigner to own a motorbike in Vietnam, however that’s not correct. With time and some effort you can register a bike or car in your own name with the authorities and if you’re planning on being in Vietnam for a long period of time then you should probably look into that. However, as long as your bike is registered in a Vietnamese name you’re good to go.

Getting a motorbike in VietnamThe police in Vietnam do conduct regular road-blocks where they check vehicles and motorbikes. However, not many cops speak English and perhaps because of this I was waved passed every single road-block, even the ones where they were stopping every single bike. This experience was shared by every foreigner I met who rode a motorbike in Vietnam.

The question of insurance is a tricky one. I believe you do need it, however you can’t get it without a Vietnamese license, and in any case, if you are not a resident it would be pretty useless anyway. I was on a bike in 2012 with a local who was uninsured. We were stopped at a roadblock and he just negotiated the ‘fine’ with the cops for not having insurance. He paid about the price of 2 cups of coffee, and there were 2 cops, you can probably do the math.

How to ride a motorbike around Vietnam - Simon Jones motorbikes through Vietnam.

TAKE IT EASY!

Go slow! That is the best and probably the most important advice you can get when it comes to biking around Vietnam, or indeed anywhere. Remember you are on the motorbike to see the country, so go slow and enjoy the scenery. If you fall off the motorbike every kilometre on the speedometer magnifies your injuries and you could be a long way from medical help.

Getting a motorbike in VietnamIf you’re time limited then don’t rely on Google to give you estimates for travel time. You’ll be stopping to look at things and those estimates are all but useless. Accept the fact that you might not have time to see everything and instead just relax and enjoy your trip knowing that the other stuff will always be there when you have more time.

PARKING YOUR MOTORBIKE

Whenever you park your motorbike anywhere in Vietnam, you’ll probably be approached by someone who will want you to pay them about 2,000 Dong ($0.10). This isn’t a scam, it’s how they do things there and everyone pays. The person will write a number on your bike using chalk and give you a card with that number on. They might move it in busy places, but don’t panic if you get back and it’s not immediately obvious where it is. Just give them the ticket and they’ll take you to the bike.

How to ride a motorbike around Vietnam - Simon Jones motorbikes through Vietnam.

REPAIRS AND MOTORBIKE MAINTENANCE

If you get some old motorbike that has been driven around Vietnam several times by backpackers, then you’re probably going to have to repair it here and there. This shouldn’t be a drama. Because everyone in Vietnam rides a motorbike, you won’t have to look far for someone who can fix your motorbike. Repairs are cheap, but as ever, be alert for people looking to take advantage of you as a ‘walking ATM.’

How to ride a motorbike around Vietnam - Simon Jones motorbikes through Vietnam.

SELLING YOUR MOTORBIKE

You can sell it to a dealer, but they will give you very little for it. My advice would be to give it a clean, take a good picture of it and put it on Craigslist.

Getting a motorbike in VietnamYou can also try putting a sign on it. I had my hotel write and print a for sale sign in both English and Vietnamese that included my phone number. I stuck that on the mirror wherever I parked it and it actually got a lot of interest this way. (You will need a local phone number, so get a local sim-card if you haven’t already.)

Another idea might be printing an ad (that includes a picture) and posting that in the local hostels wherever you are. If you’re a member of couchsurfing.com you could also post an ad on the local group as its likely to be read by people looking for bikes.

Tips about selling a motorbike in Vietnam

After my tour I sold my bike in Hanoi for the same price I paid for it in Hue. I sold it in less than 48 hours, and I was holding out for a price I wanted! I sold it to a local couple who saw my ad on the Hanoi couchsurfing group. However, I had 2 other offers from people who saw the ad I stuck on the mirror!

ANY MORE QUESTIONS?

As I mentioned previously, I’m no expert, but should you have any other questions about riding a motorbike in Vietnam then leave them in the comments. Also, if you have a tip to share, please share those in the comments too.

Read about my Vietnam road trip
Slow Road to Hanoi – Day 1

TravelSunday, April 28th, 2013, (11:59 pm)

Having escaped the tourist trap of Ha Long Bay and found overnight refuge in the mountains to the north, I began my final day on the motorbike. Along roads that climbed into the grasp of clouds and wound a gentle path through rice paddies carved into the hillsides, this would be the grand finale of a road-trip to remember.

Slow Road to Hanoi - Simon Jones motorbikes through Vietnam.

I made an early start on my final day riding through Vietnam on my £100 ($151) motorbike. The street outside my open hotel window came to life at dawn. The sounds of horns and motors filled the air and demanded that I not spend another moment lazing on the bed. I got to my feet and looked out of the window to the busy street below. It’s funny, for a place that almost doesn’t get a mention on Google maps, the small town of Chu was a hive of activity.

Before I left the hotel owner insisted, through her English-speaking son, that I join her family for some tea. She kindly poured the strong green tea and was pleased when I thanked her and sipped from the small porcelain cup.

In truth it was not to my liking, tasting instead like the run off from a muddy field rather than something that I would ever choose to start my day with. However, wanting to be polite I finished the cup, covering my grimacing face with smiles and nods of gratitude. However, each time I finished the cup she would refill it with obvious delight at my apparent appreciation.

Eventually, after drinking more green tea than a vegan on a detox diet, I made my excuses and hit the road. The hotel owners son told me that Hanoi was less than three hours away, but I was in no hurry to get to the end of my trip, so I took a back-road that threaded a slow path further into the mountains that lie between my final destination and the border with China.

Slow Road to Hanoi - Simon Jones motorbikes through Vietnam.

On little more than a dirt track I rode toward the mountain tops that faded into the white sky above. Kicking up a cloud of dust behind me I was smiling broadly as I rode through small villages and rice paddies toward places that maps appeared to make no mention of. Within no time I was seemingly far from anywhere, in the company of misty clouds and a single track road that might as well have been made from yellow bricks.

I saw few people as I made my way along the road. Those I did see always shot me a second look as if checking that I was indeed real. I suspect few, if any, tourists would venture to these parts of the country where the maps seem to have nothing to say.

Small villages go all but unnamed and unmarked as the line of the road curves its way across an expanse of blank road map that gives not the slightest inkling of the beauty of this far-flung road. On paper I’m wasting my time, lost in a void of nothing but the occasional road number, but the truth of this landscape is anything but blank.

Slow Road to Hanoi - Simon Jones motorbikes through Vietnam.

Slow Road to Hanoi - Simon Jones motorbikes through Vietnam.

Slow Road to Hanoi - Simon Jones motorbikes through Vietnam.

Slow Road to Hanoi - Simon Jones motorbikes through Vietnam.

I took my time, stopping frequently to snap pictures and look out over spectacular views I knew my camera couldn’t catch. Eventually I found my way back to the Highway bound for Hanoi. By my calculations I was now three hours north of the city.

My detour into the mountains meant that I would reach the capital of Vietnam shortly before sundown, and slap bang in the middle of rush hour for what would surely be a rude introduction to the perils of riding in the cities infamous rush-hour traffic.

Simon Jones on the roadStill in a largely unpopulated area I noticed the motorbike felt a little unstable so I came to a stop at the side of the road and noticed that I had a puncture. My rear tire was completely flat but I wasn’t really worried. With so many motorbikes in this country you don’t have to look far to find someone who repairs them.

I wasn’t in a town or village, but as luck would have it, I had come to a stop right next to a shop that repairs motorbikes. A man sitting in a plastic chair waved me in and got a young man to fix the problem right away. He then offered me a seat and more of that terrible green tea I had earlier sworn never to drink again. This time I sipped very slowly knowing that the refills would keep coming.

In less than ten minutes, and for only 20,000 Vietnamese Dong (less than $1), the puncture was fixed and I was on my way again. The mountains soon faded into foothills that flattened out and changed the landscape from agriculture to industry.

Slow Road to Hanoi - Simon Jones motorbikes through Vietnam.

It didn’t take long before I arrived in Hanoi. I looked for a sign that might announce the city and mark a victorious finish line for me, but there was no such sign. Instead, Hanoi just emerged and I found myself swallowed into a melee of some 6.5 million people who live within its blurred borders.

As I blended into the city traffic my slow road to Hanoi had come to an end. After ten days and 1,554 Kilometres (957 miles) I had made it to my destination. To celebrate, that night I met up with fellow ‘couchsurfers,’ some of whom were on their own adventures. We ate Pho Bo, exchanged stories and travel tips, and enjoyed drinks late into the night. It was a great welcome to the city, and a fitting end to this fantastic road-trip.

Slow Road to Hanoi - Simon Jones motorbikes through Vietnam.

TravelSaturday, April 27th, 2013, (11:16 pm)

I was really looking forward to Ha Long Bay. I had seen many beautiful pictures of the vast rock islands majestically towering out of the water and thought that seeing this in person would be a real highlight of this road trip. Instead it was a complete disappointment.

Ha Long Bay. An anticlimax.

The glossy travel magazines that entice you to visit Vietnam call Ha Long Bay unmissable. The promise of this UNESCO World Heritage Site, with its nearly 2,000 limestone karsts and isles of various shapes and sizes, is a massive draw for tourists. Indeed, on a perfect day, on a private boat, with time to kill, this might in fact be a truly wonderful place to visit, but for the casual traveller Ha Long Bay has been transformed into something of a trashy tourist trap.

A few days ago I met a couple of English ‘lads’ riding two old bikes around Vietnam. We stopped and chatted for a while and when I told them I was heading for Ha Long Bay they both gave an expression that didn’t inspire confidence. One of them described the experience as “a massive anticlimax.” The other said that while he understands it is a ‘must see’ he wouldn’t be in any hurry to return there. After my experience I can only echo those sentiments.

At every turn there is someone who will try to over-charge you and rip you off. It seems everyone on the street has a tour or cruise to sell you, a “better hotel” than the one you’re in, or as the day becomes night you might be offered a “nice woman.”

I did book a cruise, a six-hour boat trip that would, I thought, give me a decent sense of the wonder of this bay. However, after just two hours we were back at the port and the so-called tour was over.

To be honest though, I wasn’t that disappointed. The weather was a total let down and the bay was rammed with overloaded cruise boats full of people all taking the same pictures.

Nevertheless, I don’t like being ripped off, so with a hefty dose of theatre I returned to agent I booked the tour from, and introduced the her to angry psycho Simon. At first she refused to refund any of the money, insisting that she too had been ripped off. She then called some man to the office who also refused to refund me.

I didn’t know the man so I asked him who he was. “I am your friend,” he told me, to which I crisply illustrated that I did not know who the heck he was or why he was involved. After getting very close to him he decided to leave and allow me to iron out this situation with the agent.

Simon Jones on the roadIroning out the situation involved me picking up all the room keys to her hotel and telling her she could have them back once I had a refund. She attempted to grab the keys back from me but failed. Standing back at a distance for a few seconds she weighed up her options then decided that a refund was indeed in order. I thanked her politely and left the building.

The whole experience left me feeling pretty disappointed in Ha Long Bay, a place that on its own might indeed be a wonderful location were it not for the greedy people and scammers.

I returned to my hotel, checked out, loaded up the motorbike and hit the road out of town as quickly as I could.

Slow Road to Hanoi – Day 10

TravelFriday, April 26th, 2013, (11:10 pm)

I took a day off from riding today because the weather was well and truly against me. Dark clouds huddled in the sky as if plotting to ruin the carefully planned days of the camera wielding tourists who flock to Ha Long Bay. With little wind they menacingly lurked never far from the mischief they were causing.

Table shower massage?To avoid the anti-social behavior of the moody clouds I decided to go out in search of a decent massage. That in itself was something of a tricky task given the myriad of ‘indecent’ massages that seemed to be on offer. Top tip: Avoid places with flashing neon signs and angry Chinese ladies.

I tried the spas in a few of the more upmarket hotels, but in the end found a place that it turned out had just opened that day. I was their very first ever customer, and while the experience was well within my budget and moderately relaxing, it might have been somewhat more calming had workmen not been busy installing the final fixtures and fittings around me.

After this I headed back to my hotel to tend to the rather boring task of laundry, a task that I have come to understand is little more than an entire waste of time here in Asia.

Vietnam on a motorbike by Simon Jones

No matter who, how, where, or when I clean my clothes in Asia, they never seem to get clean. In fact, more often than not they actually become more dirty! I can be pretty grimy riding along the dusty roads and dirt paths I’ve taken to get here, but I don’t understand how my clothes look worse after a clean?

The shorts I bought for this trip will not be leaving Vietnam with me. Instead they’ll be discarded after just a few days that have apparently ruined them. Three T shirts will also be left behind. After little more than a week, having never been worn before, the T-shirts look like they’ve been on worn by someone who has seen several months of hard labor.

I don’t know why this happens in Asia, maybe there is some chemical reason? Either that or perhaps life is just more dirty on a motorbike? I guess I’m just having the grime of my life!

Slow Road to Hanoi – Day 9

TravelThursday, April 25th, 2013, (11:12 pm)

Today I got bitten by a dog, smacked in the eye by some kind of large flying insect, and almost knocked out by an angry hotel owner.

Vietnam on a motorbike by Simon Jones

I rode a lot today, eating up the road ahead under a cloudy and rather uninspiring sky. It was perhaps a good thing that the weather was so gloomy because at the speed I have been going, I wouldn’t reach Hanoi until next month. That wouldn’t be a problem if I didn’t have to make a flight leaving Vietnam on April 30th. So today I simply gone on the bike and rode until I arrived in the Ha Long Bay area as the daylight began to fade.

Vietnam on a motorbike by Simon Jones

I stopped a few times here and there, mostly on bridges to watch the ships rolling over the waters below me. In populated areas the rivers here are only fractionally less busy than the roads. Floating markets and boats selling cooked-to-order meals drift up and down the rivers. Larger boats travel up and down the river carrying all kinds of thing, and often weighed down to the point that water is coming over the bow! As I watched one busy river teeming with overloaded boat, I wonder how many sunken vessels might lay at the bottom of the murky brown river.

Vietnam on a motorbike by Simon Jones

In the afternoon I stopped by a small temple just to stretch my legs and take a look around. My arrival woke a sleeping dog who was evidently quite grumpy about being so rudely awoken. He barked and snarled at me as I wandered around the temple, then as I was leaving he decided to take a bit at my ankle before he skulked off back to his bed. I stopped to look at the bit (very superficial) and as I did he gave one final and rather lazy bark as if to tell me that I wouldn’t be welcome there again.

Later on, while probably at the fastest speed I have ridden (80kph/50mph) a large insect smashed right into my eye. How does that happen? These insects spend their lives flying and surely they could realise the danger or a road? Was it just playing dare or something? I imagine a few of its insect pals sat on the side of the road laughing their insect asses off as their dumb friend misjudges the trajectory of my motorbike he’s supposed to be bravely avoiding.

Eventually I reached Ha Long Bay as the street lights flickered on and the road was now a sea of red and white lights. I stopped for a bowl of Pho Ba (beef noodle soup) before looking for a suitable hotel for the night.

Vietnam on a motorbike by Simon Jones

The hotel I chose was a simple but comfortable place away from the main tourist hotels. The owner didn’t speak much English, but enough to get by, or so I thought until I asked if there was internet access.

“You have wifi?” I asked. The manager smiled and said “Yes.” We then went upstairs to check the room. All seemed well until I realised that the wifi didn’t seem to reach the room he was showing me.

“The wifi is here?” I asked, motioning to the room around me with my hand. Again he nodded, as he led me out of the room. “Nice room,” he said. “Yes it is a nice room, but I do need wifi,” I explained as we walked down the hall to the stairs. He didn’t seem to understand me so I tried to make things clearer.

As we reached the front desk I pointed upstairs and said “I need your wifi in the room.” He looked puzzled and smiled in that way you know is a question. I decided to speak and use sign language to help so I pointed at him then make a typing gesture with my hand “Your wifi,” I said, then pointed upstairs, “I need inside room.”

His face turned from a friendly and somewhat confused smile into that of a man insulted. He stood up straight and almost puffed out his chest as he began to angrily raise his voice at me in Vietnamese.

I was confused and didn’t know what the problem was. I tried to speak but he just got more angry the picked up my bag and gave it to me. Clearly I had upset the friendly hotel owner somehow, but I didn’t know how. “It’s a nice hotel,” I said with my hands up in a non confrontational manner, but this didn’t help.

As he shouted a rather stocky woman emerged from a back room. She looked concerned and obviously asked what was going on. He was motioning at me, and the stairs, and waving the room key around. She looked at me quizzically so I began trying to explain to her that I needed internet in the room and the wifi didn’t seem to reach there.

She looked back at him as he continued to vent then back at me. “Wifi?” She asked? “Yes, wifi. Internet,” I said, then I opened my bag and quickly took out my laptop and pointed at it saying “wifi… internet… wifi.”

They both stopped, then she began to laugh and talk to her husband who looked at me, then at my laptop. “Internet?” He said. I nodded, and he laughed. “Internet,” he said as he came to me and took my back and patted me on my shoulder. “Sorry,” he said, smiling and gesturing to the computer, his wife now laughing and speaking to him in Vietnamese.

Later on their daughter told me that her fathers English is very poor and what he thought I had done is ask him if he had a wife (something locals often ask me). The confusion happened when he thought I was asking for his wife to come to my room and massage me! Apparently my keyboard sign language was not as clear as I thought!

So with those little mishaps behind me, I’m now all checked in and ready to explore Ha Long Bay tomorrow when I hope the sun will be shining and the insects and dogs will be behaving themselves.

Slow Road to Hanoi – Day 8

Follow me on Twitter @callmesimon.

TravelWednesday, April 24th, 2013, (11:43 pm)

I love the road, not the asphalt or the hypnotic rhythm of the white lines sliding underneath you, but the path ahead with its possibilities, mysteries, and stories yet to be told.

Vietnam on a motorbike by Simon Jones

I had breakfast in bed this morning. It wasn’t a lavish spread of gastronomic delights, but a couple of simple fried eggs and some break. That’s as close to a European breakfast as my hotel could get. As I sat there watching the morning mist burn away I studied Google maps for todays route.

I’m no longer on highway AH1 that leads right into the throbbing heart of Hanoi. Instead I’m going to thread my way on various roads to Hay Long Bay before turning back to in the direction of Hanoi and the end of this road trip.

Vietnam on a motorbike by Simon Jones

The possibility of navigating my way along some 300 kilometres (186 miles) of back-roads in Vietnam is somewhat daunting, but as I load up my bike and leave the hotel I’m excited. Yes I don’t have a map, and yes road signs are a rarity here, but I’m not worried. If I get lost, I’ll find my way eventually.

Throughout the day I pull over and stop to squint and the tiny screen of my iPod touch, and Google maps. It’s not ideal, but it works most of the time. The problem here is that the back-roads appear to have been numbered by someone with dyslexia. For example the QL357 also appears to be shown as the QL375, and the road signs often switched the roads numbers too. I found this a few times and could see no logical reason for the disparity.

Another factor that can add to map reading confusion is the strange way that a road number can apparently relate to more than one road. This makes following signs alone rather tricky, so you have to study the map and look for landmarks to confirm your desired route.

Regardless, and perhaps even boosted by this geographical uncertainty, I ventured far from the busy highways and down a series of roads and pathways, through villages, hill passes, rice fields, and small towns. Along the way people would often smile and wave at me and shout “Hello!” Each time I stopped the bike for a rest or to take pictures local people would gather around and look at me curiously. If I looked directly back at them they would smile and sometimes say things.

Vietnam on a motorbike by Simon Jones

“Manchester United,” said one young man among a gaggle of teenagers who found his English speaking very amusing. “Liverpool,” I replied to another round of laughter from the gathered crowd. “West Ham,” he said with a big smile on his face, obviously proud to be having such a fluent conversation in front of his friends. I nodded then said “Chelsea.” He fired back the name of another football club right away and one girl actually clapped.

As I passed through one remote village I noticed some kind of fair happening on the side of a hill. I turned the bike around and headed up the hill to what turned out to be a Buddhist monastery that was having some kind of event. The place was heaving with people and various stalls selling foods and books.

Vietnam on a motorbike by Simon Jones

A group of women were performing some kind of offering ceremony which was watched by several hundred people. They chanted and sang and lifted up objects on red cushions, I would tell you what they were doing if I could, but truthfully I had no idea whatsoever.

My attendance at this event seemed to be causing a stir and pretty soon it seemed like everyone wanted to come up to me and shake my hand. I moved away from the religious ceremony because I didn’t want to disrupt that, but it made little difference, people would come up to me in growing numbers and shake my hand while smiling and speaking enthusiastically in Vietnamese. In the end the crowd became a little overpowering so I made my way back to my bike, making sure to shake every outstretched hand along the way. (And no, they weren’t begging!)

Vietnam on a motorbike by Simon Jones

I might never reach Hanoi if I continue to average the kind of speed I’ve been doing. On the roads I barely go over 40 Kmh (25 mph), but the frequent stops must bring that average speed down to something resembling a brisk walk. But then again, I’m in no rush.

Toward the end of the day I was following a road that was shrinking with each passing kilometre. On the map it came to a dead-end at the edge of a river, but a small icon indicated that there was a ferry. I hoped that was right because it would be a long way back if not.

Thankfully when I reached the end of the road there was indeed a ferry in the form of a small barge boat. I rode the motorbike onto it and then waited for more passengers before we made the gentle cross for a mere 2,000 Dong (15p / 22c).

Vietnam on a motorbike by Simon Jones

The light was beginning to fade as I picked up the road to the city of Ninh Binh where I planned to find a hotel. Thankfully the road was a beautiful flat fresh strip of unspoiled asphalt. For much of the day I had been negotiating my way around giant water filled potholes and rocky roads.

The road to Nam Dinh was lined with beautiful churches that look like were stolen, brick by brick, from small European towns. At one point I could see 10 of these magnificent churches serving a community that looked like it would struggle to fill just one of them.

Vietnam on a motorbike by Simon Jones

Vietnam on a motorbike by Simon Jones

So after another long day I had done just 100 kilometres. By my rough calculations there are another 200 kilometers to Ha Long Bay, then another 200 back to Hanoi! This could take a while.

Vietnam on a motorbike by Simon Jones

Slow Road to Hanoi – Day 7

Follow me on Twitter @callmesimon.

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