I’m not famous for making early starts and the first day of my big ride was not going to herald any change to that. I’m in no rush to get to Hay Long Bay so I went out for breakfast then hit the road leading Hue just before midday. I forgot to look at the weather forecast, didn’t have a map, and wasn’t really sure how to get to the highway, but I had a full tank of gas and the sun was shining and as far as I was concerned that was a great start.

Simon Jones and his Vietnam Motorbike

The motorbike felt a lot different with my 20Kg bag on the back and my backpack between my knees. It didn’t feel like a cheap motorbike anymore, but had, in my imagination at least, transformed into an adventurers motorbike.

As I got on it I felt like Charley Boorman or Ewen McGregor from the TV series ‘Long Way Round.’ Of course, they went around the world on expensive BMW motorbikes, and I’m just going up to Hay Long Bay then Hanoi, but nevertheless, it felt good to get on the road.

I don’t really know how long it will take to get to Hay Long Bay, then Hanoi, but I’m in no rush. I have the luxury of time to turn off the main highway AH1 and explore some of this beautiful country less explored back roads that twist and turn their way around a landscape that feel far from familiar to me.

Beautiful Vietnam

Vietnam by Motorbike

It’s very rare to find anyone who speaks English here so I use the Google Translate app to help me when needed, though in fairness sign language is easy and often a lot more fun than fiddling around with a digital device.

Once out on the open road, I was soon into my stride. I wasn’t exactly eating up the kilometers as I sauntered along doing a steady 40Kph, but it seemed like the right speed. The traffic here is often hectic, but it’s rarely fast. My plan is to make frequent stops and take as many back roads as I can (without a map!).

Vietnam war memorials

Fish drying by the roadside in Vietnam

My first back road took me off the highway and along a beach road and through a few small fishing villages. Along the sides of the roads, small fish were drying in the sun which covered the villages in a pungent odor that I suppose the locals are well used to.

The beaches were free of tourists and everyone who saw me (and there weren’t many people) seemed shocked to see some random white guy. The near-deserted beaches were only inhabited by the occasional fishing boat, offloading their catch to waiting traders who loaded baskets full of fish onto their motorbikes by the shore.

Another deserted Vietnam beach

I could have spent more time there, but at the speed, I was going I realized that I would run out of daylight before I could make it to a hotel so I had to carry on. It was at that point when I realised that there seemed to be a serious lack of road signs. I had a vague idea of where I was, but I wasn’t entirely sure.

Eventually I figured out that there are small stone signs by the sides of the roads that tell you where you are, and where you’re going. Even though the road I was on didn’t appear to be on Google maps, it did appear to be heading back to the highway.

Pig on a motorbike

Sunset in Vietnam

Surrounding me were peaceful rice fields and small farms. I passed a herd of cattle being walked along the road by two young boys who waved and shouted “Hello!” I stopped and watched the sunset over a river as women sat around mending nets and chatting together, and as I set off once more, the roads around me were turning red under the evening sky. I wasn’t lost, but if I was, this wouldn’t have been a bad place to be lost.

Sunset road in Vietnam

And so at the end of day one, after just 123 Kilometers (76 miles) I found myself in the rather nondescript highway town of Ho Xa. It had just gotten dark as I arrived in the town and so I stopped at the first hotel I found. Of course, the staff didn’t speak English and so there followed a rather comical routine of asking for a room. It was basic and decorated with furniture that looked like it was rejected from the 1970s, but it did at least have a hot shower and a fan, all I needed, and not bad for less than £5 ($7).

Tomorrow I will try to do a few more miles, but I guess I’m just going to follow the road and see what happens.

Slow Road to Hanoi – Day 2
Read my tips about touring Vietnam on a motorbike

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