Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi…by a $135 50cc Honda Cub


November 21, 2012 by farbolino

So yesterday I purchased a a 1979 Honda Cub 50cc Motorcycle in Ho Chi Minh City with the hopes of riding it about 2000 km all the way up to Hanoi.  If it makes it, (doubtful) then maybe I’ll consider taking it in the mountains with me north of Hanoi.

I found the bike on Vietnam’s Craigslist.  Click the link to look at some photos and the hilarious description of the bike as “like your mother-in-law, very old and strong”

I heard from quite a few people that the 50cc bikes in Vietnam go for more money because you don’t need a license to drive them.  Often times they go for $300-$400, so when I saw this one listed for $140, I sprang up and ran out the door to go check it out!  Actually, I continued watching Monday Night Football since it’s a 12 hour time difference here and the games play on Tuesday mornings.  Then I slowly walked the 5km in the sweltering heat to check out the bike since I’m such a cheap bastard and don’t want to pay the $3 for a taxi.  I will defend myself here and say that walking is a better way to see the things around you then to take a taxi anyways.  It’s also a good way NOT to pee/shit your pants out of fear from riding a moto-taxi for $1.50.

The add on craigslist was in English, but when I got to the shop, no one even knew what I was asking for…they spoke NO English.  I just said “Honda Cub” about 100 times and looked around until I saw the ugly puke green spray painted monster sitting in the corner of the dingy shop.  They pulled it out, put some gas in it and I took it for a test drive.  The bike rode strong, and had good power, but wholly shit…the brakes did NOT work!  I pulled the front brake as hard as I could, but it casually would roll to a stop, kinda like it would anyway since I wasn’t giving it any gas.  The rear brake was a little better, but not much.  I also forgot to put a helmet on, and a cop pulled me over about 200m before I made it back to the shop.  From his hand motions I could tell he was saying “You have to wear a helmet, or I’ll take you to jail!”  He even put his wrists together to show the international symbol for handcuffs.  In the end he didn’t even give me a ticket, likely because I pretended I didn’t know what he was talking about.

So back at the shop I tried to explain that the brakes do NOT work, and he gave them a quick adjustment which made them work a little.  I thought that was good enough and I said “I’ll take it!”  Not that he knew what I was saying…so it kind of ruined my enthusiasm.  In the end I paid 2.8 million Dong which is $134 and it included a helmet.

I rode it back to district 4, where I was staying, and along the way was thinking about my chances of making it to Hanoi on such a bike.  I mean it does have many problems like the horn and blinkers not working.  It stalls at traffic lights.  The gear sometimes jams between 2nd and 3rd.  The brakes pretty much don’t work.  The gas cap is so loose that when you fill the bike up and then hit a bump it starts to leak gas everywhere.  The rear rack isn’t bolted on entirely and makes a death rattle noise when you hit a pothole.  The tire are worn out. The headlight SOMETIMES turns on. The brake lever is loose. The exhaust is loose. The kick start is floppy and is missing the rubber sleeve that goes over it. The shocks don’t work anymore, so they just added an extra one on the back.  Now there is two on one side and one on the other.  It also doesn’t have a fairing, but now I’m just going into the way the bike LOOKS, and I don’t give a shit about that.  I should have named her skeletor, but instead I opted for Gertrude.

So, all that’s left to do now is hit the road and see where Gertrude will take me…

3 thoughts on “Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi…by a $135 50cc Honda Cub

  1. hello Francesco Arbolino!!!
    I’m a CSer living in Danang, I’ve just read your profile and found this site. This entry is so so interesting and funny!!!! Your trip will be extremely amazing!!!
    and your stories are quite exciting also. update some more! I believe that your bike is OK to go forward to HaNoi. (having experience about it from the trip across VN last summer). Best wishes for you!

  2. khen says:

    Hi all,

    Can you post the VIETNAM CRAIGSLIST here? I can not find it.


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