We've recently put out a guide with some tips on how to motorbike across Vietnam as a couple. Here's a follow-up post explaining a few things you should not to do while motorcycling in Vietnam.
Don't Trust the Road Quality.
The scariest moment was when I tried going up a steep driveway that had a big bump in the middle of it. Being cautiously slow as I transitioned from the road to the steep incline, I didn't end up having enough power in second gear to get us up the hill.
I shifted down to first and then hit the gas a tiny bit too hard—this acceleration on a steep angle with a big bump in the road caused the front tire to kick up off the ground and up into the air, throwing us off the bike. Janice somehow managed to slide off the back and land on her feet without a problem. It tried to hold and stabilize the bike as it went into the air, and mostly stopped the front from slamming to the ground sideways. I ended up putting the front of the bike down semi-gently and going down with it. where I got slightly burned by the exhaust.
This was a super scary moment that could have gone way worse. At the time, we were just looking for a place to park so we could get some food, and didn't have our heavy backpack on the luggage rack on the back. Had we both gone down sideways and ended up under the bike, it could have been a lot worse. Amazingly, both of us and the motorcycle escaped mostly unscathed.
This was also a pretty embarrassing moment, since we fell over right next to the road where there was a bit of traffic and lots of pedestrians on the other side of the street probably watching. Once we realized we were fine and the motorcycle wasn't damaged, we quickly popped back on and zipped out of there like nothing happened. From then on we heavily reinforced the lean forward approach to going up steep hills, and didn't have any other accidents.
Pro tip: If you're not super experienced riding motorcycles in countries like Vietnam, it's a good idea to be wary of the roads—especially unseen bumps and potholes. Also, don't try something if you don't feel fully confident in your ability to pull it off—in this case, I thought the driveway looked sketchy but went for it anyways. As I learned the hard way, that's not the wisest approach.
Don't Assume Drivers are Paying Attention.
Nothing gets me more upset on the road than almost getting into an accident because another driver wasn't paying attention. But from the driver's perspective, it was probably my fault for not understanding the insane maneuver he was pulling off.
Driving along on the four-lane highway at about 70 km/hr, there was a bus cruising along ahead of us at a similar speed. We were both in the right lane, and I was perfectly content to stay behind the bus for the foreseeable future—there were hardly any other cars around at this point, and I was maintaining a comfortable distance.
After a few minutes, the bus flipped on its hazard lights and started pulling over to the right side of the road. Naturally, I'm thinking "alright, this bus is slowing down and pulling over, and those hazards are probably indicating that he's coming to a stop." I then maneuvered into the left lane so that we could go around the bus, giving a lot of room as the bus driver began pulling off to the shoulder.
As the bus slowed down and I approached on the left to pass, the bus suddenly started turning left to cross the highway, cutting into my lane. I started hitting the brakes pretty hard as the bus pulled to the left, quickly blocking off the entire road just up in front of us.
At this point, I was unsure if I had enough braking power to fully avoid the bus that was now fully blocking the highway in front of us. I didn't want to slam the brakes too hard for risk of destabilizing the bike (we had two humans and a heavy bag hanging off the luggage rack of a 110cc motorcycle), so I chose to maneuver to the right of the bus and avoid it by driving onto the shoulder.
The driver continued on crossing the highway, so I was able to pass to the right of the bus by driving onto the shoulder. Had I tried going left, we probably would have ended up slamming into the side of the bus, because he sure wasn't stopping.
As we passed the bus, we both looked back at the driver and started yelling at him. It turns out he was pulling a U-turn in the middle of the highway, and didn't even care to consider yielding to a motorcycle that was coming up on his left side. This maneuver was all the more confusing because he started slowing down and moving over to the right side of the road prior to turning left to make the u-turn.
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On the road from Da Lat to Nah Trang. I miss the heck out of Vietnam. The best way to see a place is on the back of a motorbike, taking in the sights, sounds, and scents of everything and everybody around you. Sure, it can be a little bit dangerous, at times overwhelming, and ultimately exhausting, but with that also comes the greatest reward. How often on foot can you get off of the beaten path and outside of the tourist-packed streets? How often on a bus can you choose to stop anywhere you want just because it looks interesting? How often in a car do you really interact with the people and the world around you? When I look back on our time in Vietnam, I miss the raw experience the most. Vietnam is an amazing place with a ton to offer, and I can’t wait to go back! #MotorcycleVietnam #TravelVietnam #MotorcycleRoadTrip #ExploreVietnam #Vagabonding #SoutheastAsia #Travel
Pro tip: While driving a motorcycle through Vietnam, you have to be super-aware of large vehicles crossing the highway at the worst possible times. The hierarchy of vehicles is in full force—if you're the one on the motorbike, you need to be the one prepared to stop at all times. Drivers in bigger vehicles really don't care if they cut you off and force you to come to a complete stop in the middle of the highway, so be aware of that.
Don't Park Your Motorcycle Next to a Massage Parlor.
We had a big day of motorbiking ahead of us one day, and we decided to start off early to get ahead of the traffic and the heat. After checking out of our accommodation, we headed to a breakfast place for a quick meal—this was in Nha Trang, and we had quite a long drive ahead of us before we'd be able to stop.
While eating breakfast on the street not far from where our bike was parked, people kept stumbling past us in a strange way, as if they were drunk. We finally noticed that all of these people were blind—one of them finally came by with a long cane, feeling his way along the sidewalk as he went by us. For some reason, not all blind people in Vietnam use a cane to navigate—they feel their way around and navigate the streets through memorization and feeling the sidewalk with their feet (some sidewalk tiles have raise bumps for navigation).
At one point, two men were stumbling down the sidewalk towards us together—one in front, leading the other by the hand. Neither had a cane. They walked by us and we didn't think much of it—then we heard a loud crash behind us. We turned around and saw that the two blind men had walked right into our motorcycle, knocked it over, and fallen on top of it. I ran over to help and the two men quickly got up, helped get the motorcycle upright, and continued on their way.
They were probably super confused because I was speaking English to them asking if they were okay, and they likely didn't know any English. The person at the breakfast place then explained that our motorcycle was parked right next to a massage parlor, and that in Vietnam lots of blind people work as masseuses. At the time we were dumbfounded that blind people in Vietnam just feel their way around the city without a cane, but it ended up being one of the most ridiculous and funny things that happened during our time in Vietnam.
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Don't look back, you're not going that way 🙌 ⠀ ⠀ Have you checked out our post "A Couples Guide to Motorcycling Across Vietnam? It's up on the blog now 🏍️ Let us know what you think below! ⠀ •⠀ •⠀ •⠀ #vietnamtravel #travelvietnam #inallfarness #vietnamtraveltips #dalatvietnam #motorbikevietnam #getlostinnature #themountainsarecalling #roamtocreate #adventuretravellers #travelbloggers #veganswhotravel #vegantravelcouple #travelbloggers
Pro tip: Try to make sure your motorcycle isn't obstructing any walkways in any way. Our bike was parked in the correct area next to a bunch of other ones but, because of the luggage rack hanging off of the back, ours was sticking out into the walkway while others were not. This caused the blind folks to stumble into our bike, because it wasn't fully in-line with all of the other bikes.
Don't Be So Ungrateful!
On one hot and dusty day on the road, we pulled over on the side of the highway to take a bit of a break. We rested our bottoms, drank some water, and ate a few snacks—all while minding our own business.
While doing this, a man on a motorcycle stopped and began talking to us in Vietnamese. He kept pointing to a farm next to the highway, but we couldn't understand anything he was saying and he eventually drove off down a driveway that led to the farm. A few minutes later, he came back with a huge bag of dragon fruit and tried handing it to us.
We didn't know if he was trying to sell us the dragon fruit or what was going on, so we did ungratefully decline his offer. But he persisted in trying to hand it to us. We persisted in declining, pointing to our overloaded motorcycle and explaining that we didn't have anywhere to put them.
After some back-and-forth, he eventually started laughing and put the bag of dragon fruit on the ground next to our motorcycle. Then he swiftly drove off down the highway, never to be seen again.
Probably because of the long day on the motorcycle, I wasn't super impressed at that moment, as this video can attest to:
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#TBT When Vietnam gives you free dragonfruit, try not to be such an ungrateful jackass about it? When a guy pulled up on the side of the road and gave us a bag of six beautiful dragonfruits, we didn't have anywhere to put them on our already crowded motorcycle. I guess I was annoyed at the time (prob too busy pigging out on junk), but the dragonfruit ended up being delicious and keeping me well nourished for the next several days. Maybe next time I'll be able to express #gratitude a little better. #Vietnam #Dragonfruit #MotorcycleVietnam #HoiAn #DaNang #SEAsia #TravelVietnam #InAllFarness
Later on, I ended up being super happy because the dragon fruit was delicious and it is one of my favorite fruits of all time.
Pro tip: Weird and unexpected things are going to happen in Vietnam, both good and bad. Take things as they come, and don't forget to be grateful if someone unexpectedly gives you a bag of fruit for free!