Next Stop Is Vietnam
If you’re ready for a truly epic adventure, visiting an ancient land steeped in history, beauty, and bloodshed, it would be hard to beat a motorbike tour through Vietnam. Traveling by motorbike can take you to places cars and buses can’t visit, and gives visitors to this magical land a taste of local life that few Westerners will ever experience. From the frenzied blur of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) to the serene beauty of remote mountain temples, the journey of a lifetime awaits those willing to trade the comfort of a resort spa for a mud-splattered motorcycle helmet.
Most tours of Vietnam begin in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh, and concentrate on the northern reaches of the country, where the more mountainous terrain yields spectacular vistas and unexpected treasures in villages once considered inaccessible. Depending on your itinerary and your spirit of adventure, you could also consider a trip across the border into Laos and/or Cambodia; some motorbike tours offer this as an option, and most will custom-design a tour depending on the group’s interests.
What, you might ask, is there to see in this formerly war-torn region? Pristine tropical beaches, lush pine forests, towering limestone mountains, and thundering waterfalls are all part of the natural scenery. Crowded markets where vendors hawk exotic jewelry, embroidery, and local delicacies like grilled snake kabob are a regular sight. Picturesque stilt houses, rice paddies, and lumbering water buffalo dot the countryside.
Of course, you can expect to get a little dirty on any real motorcycle trip, and with roads that range from spanking-new expressways to mud paths, Vietnam has plenty of dirt to throw in your face. Add to that the grime you’ll get on your hands from trying to fix the 1950s-era engine on your Russian-made Minsk rental motorbike, and you’ll have tales that will last much longer than the grit in your teeth.
Vietnam Motorbike Tours ( 84/58-282092; www.vietnammotorbiketours.websyte.com.au). Offroad Vietnam ( 844/3904-5049; www.offroadvietnam.com).
When to Go: Sept–Dec.
Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, depending on which tour you choose.
$$$ Grand Hotel, 8–24 Dong Khoi St., Ho Chi Minh City ( 08/823-0163; www.grandhotel.com.vn). $$ Army Hotel, 33C Pham Ngu Lao St., Hanoi ( 04/825-2896; firstname.lastname@example.org).