Saturday, September 11, 2010

Travelling the open road in Vietnam

I have successfully negotiated my first few days on the road, travelling around 500km from HCMC around the coast, up to Phan Rang. Tomorrow we head inland towards Dalat. The trip has been fun and the freedom of deciding your own journey is priceless. The trip to date has been amongst the most enjoyable holidays I have had anywhere in the world.

Now we have worked out the best system for carting the two of us and our luggage around the country and we seem to be getting into a decent ryhthm. The bike has held our weight so far so fingers crossed our little Honda can last the distance. We bought the bike off a friend in Hanoi who sent it down to us on the train. We picked it up when we got back to HCMC from Phu Quoc Island. $20 to send a bike 2,000km is a pretty good deal I think. It cost a dollar a day to store it at the train station.

So far we have avoided any real danger on the road as Highway 1 (leaving HCMC) and highway 51 (road to Long Hai) were quite wide so there was adequate room for trucks and cars to zoom past us. Only a few times did an approaching bus seem to close for comfort so I quickly veered off onto the side of the road. From Long Hai (highway 55 they highway 1 again) up until Phan Rang the roads have been great, with decent roads and little traffic most of the way.

The trip a few days before from Rach Gia (after arriving from Phu Quoc island), to Can Tho city was vastly different. We were in a bus then and it was often a little scary the way they drive. The roads were thin and quite run down. Our bus driver and others would fly along the road weaving and darting on both sides of the road trying to get to their destination as quick as possible. Frequently we would be on the wrong side of the road with an approaching bus flying towards us. Horns would beep, lights would flash and it seems that size wins so the smaller would retreat; only at the last second swerving back, missing each other by the smallest of margins. 30 seconds later the process would be repeated. It was best to close your eyes and forget about the kamikaze drivers. The motorbike riders couldn't do this though. They had to contend with the constant onslaught of powerful, fast chunks of metal, it seemed determined to mow them down. Only a quick detour off the main road, into the gravel, did riders avoid a deadly fate. It was like a gazelle fleeing from an approaching tiger, using its agility at the last moment to change direction and breathe another day.

As with Hanoi, I am sure there in some order to the chaos and at the end of the day we arrived safely without killing anyone or seeing anyone else even have an accident. However, now being a rider on the open roads, the smallest on the food chain, I have to adapt and always be alert. So far, to be honest, has been pretty easy and without any real probems.


  1. You should have taken the coast from Long Hai to Phant Tiet via Lagi. It is quite new and provide stunning views.

  2. So glad you guys are having fun, keep up the safety! I think it is so great that you guys are still updating the blog so often, it's like you're still upstairs ;)

  3. Colin: Yeah definately agree; stunning views

    Lan: See you soon