Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) to Hanoi by 50cc motorbike: Day 1


December 6, 2012 by farbolino

I woke up early (before 7am) to pack all my stuff and get ready to make it to the beach today.  The closest one that’s on the way to Hanoi is roughly 215km from HCMC and called Mui Ne.  I wanted to get an early start to avoid riding the bike after dark in an unknown area.  I had also heard that there are far more large trucks on the road after dark.

I head downstairs to bungee my backpack to the bike only to find a huge puddle of oil under the bike.  Shit…this isn’t exactly what you hope for the day you plan to start a 2000km journey.  I bungeed the backpack on, determined to leave today no matter what.  First, I head to the local key copier and had a extra copy for the bike made: $.75, then headed to District 1 to have the same guys who did the work the night before have a look at the oil leak.

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I drop by, and they recognize me from the night before, and we all smiled.  So he does something underneath the bike that only took a few moments and I bought a liter of oil too…just in case.  I roll the bike a few stores over and sit and eat a meal, and when I come out there are more drops of oil on the ground.  Now I’m starting to worry…

I take it back over, and they have to partially disassemble the engine, put a new gasket somewhere, re-lube a few parts, and then the problem should be solved.  In the mean time I start “chatting”  (he didn’t speak English) with one of the guys who isn’t working on my bike.  I said I was taking it to Hanoi, and the look of shock on his face was priceless.  Then he pointed to the front tire and said I should replace it, and it was cheap; so I did.  When everything was said and done it cost $16 for the tire, a new inner tube, taking the engine half apart, a new gear shifter since the old one was partially stripped, a clean rag, and for the liter of oil ($4 on it’s own).  The only problem was now it was past 10:30 already.  I hopped on and headed for highway one.  I didn’t bother to buy a map figuring it would add to the adventure if I had to figure it out.  (careful what you wish for.)

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The highway out of the city was choked with trucks and bikes, but it wasn’t so bad because the speeds were low.  I needed to buy sunblock but figured I would stop along the way and buy it rather then driving circles around the city and wasting time.  This turned out to be a bad idea.  I didn’t see my first pharmacy until over an hour and a half into the ride and by that  time the sun was pounding down on me.  The pharmacist looked like I asked for her to sell me her kidney.  She had no idea what I was trying to buy.  I had to draw a picture and finally she said they didn’t have any.  No other pharmacy would either, hence I know look like a lobster.



Gertrude was running great, and just to double check I would stop and pull over to check and make sure everything was ok.  A few times I waited under the shade in a hammock somewhere and relaxed with an ice tea for a while until some clouds would come out.  One of those big clouds turned out to be a rain storm.  I stopped and pulled out my poncho, but I was pretty wet already.  After about 15 minutes the weather cleared and I dried off in no time since it was so hot out.

At some point, a bike with two guys pulled up next to me and were trying to ask me questions.  Although they seemed very friendly I found this to be a distraction from the task at hand, which was avoiding potholes, getting run over by a truck, and trying to not hit the assholes who drive on a wrong side of the road just because they think 1km is too short to bother to follow traffic rules.  So eventually I had to ditch them before I crashed.

I had to stop at a gas station, and not because I needed gas.  You know when you get home after a day out in the sun and then your skin starts to hurt?  Mine was hurting and it was only 2:15 pm.  I still had another 4 hours in the sun to go.  So I waited until 3pm hoping some clouds would come, but they never did. While I waited a group of tourists in a van pulled up. I walked over and asked if they could do me a favor and lend me some sunblock. I explained the situation, but they weren’t sympathetic and said they had none. Right…I’m sure you just came from the beach, but never bothered to put on any sun block the entire time you were there.

There were a few hours that were pretty uneventful, until about 5:30pm when an old man went to brake and make a left off the highway and a young guy who was speeding past slammed right into the back of him creating the nastiest crash I’ve seen first hand, and it happened not more then 35 meters in front of me, forcing me to slam on Gertrude’s brakes to avoid running them over.  I pulled to the side and lifted the bike off the old man who was clearly in pain.  I offered my hand to help him up, but he gave me a sour look like I was the one who crashed into him.  Perhaps I’d be in a sour mood too if my bike was wrecked and I was in pain.  The two kept yelling back and forth at each other, and in the mean time I went out in the road to pick up the license plate and a few broken pieces off the mans bike.  I left shortly afterwards since neither needed me there.

Shortly after that it got dark.  Luckily I was within 50km of Mui Ne because boy does it become a shit show out there after dark.  The trucks start driving faster and more aggressively, the douche bags who drive on the wrong side of the road don’t even bother to put a headlight on half of the time, bugs started flying into my eyes, and there are bicycles in mass without any reflectors whatsoever.   This coupled with the fact that the road was getting narrower made me feel like I was playing a video game, only you don’t get a second chance.



This was the map that was drawn for me after I past the turn for Phan Thiet.


Do to the fact that I wasn’t carrying a map, and the roads aren’t really labeled anyways, I missed the turn for Mui Ne and had to backtrack 20km.  I had to ask 4-5 different people to be sure of where I was going.  In Phan Thiet I stopped for some food knowing I was only 10km or so from my destination.  The woman working at the resturant tried to get me to marry her daughter, but that’s a whole other story. After I ate, I noticed my bike was making funny noises, but I could tell it wasn’t the engine.  I put the kick stand up, and spun the rear wheel.  It seemed as though it was rubbing on something, but nothing was making contact, which made me think the rear brake was too tight, but that wasn’t it either.  Since it was after dark and no mechanics were open to fix it, I had to continue riding it while the noise just kept getting worse, so I rode slower and slower.  When I looked down I could see the chain getting tighter and looser, so I know it has something to do with the rear sprocket, but I’ll find out for sure tomorrow.  I can only hope it’s as cheap as everything else I’ve had done.


I arrived at Mui Ne to find a touristy beach resort type place with a lot of signs in Russian.  It seems to be a little classy, and by the prices for a room, they seem to think so too.  I stopped by two places that wanted $20 a night (and they quoted me in dollars…I HATE that.) that wouldn’t budge.  I was EXHAUSTED from spending all day on the bike and wasn’t in the mood to spend my whole night looking to save $5, but I figured I’d check one more place.  I went about 1km down the road and saw a place that said “Rooms, very cheap”  That struck a fancy with me, so I stopped to ask.  They price was $12, and when I said I was looking for something cheaper, unlike the other places, she said she had a room for $5 but it didn’t have a private bathroom.  Private bathroom?  That’s a luxury!  I’ll take it!

3 thoughts on “Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) to Hanoi by 50cc motorbike: Day 1

  1. What a day. I hope you slept well.

  2. dakota85 says:

    Don’t you love the speed and cost of bike repairs in Asia? We once had a part actually crack and fall off in the road, and a guy welded it back together in 10 minutes, $1.50….all I could think of was the three-day, paperwork-filled process it would have taken back home….Safe riding!!

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