A Day in the Hills



Limestone Karsts! (Photo by Sanne)

On our first couple of days motorbiking, Sanne and I were wondering if it was worth it.

We biked from Hanoi to Haiphong over two days on one of the Highways.

The roads were big and busy, the scenery flat, industrial and, ultimately, boring. My bike kept breaking down. Motorbiking around Vietnam is a popular pastime for South East Asia travellers but we couldn’t help but wonder why…

All that changed when we set off again from Catba.

Reluctant to repeat our boat ride to Catba, we opted for the slow ferry to Ha Long Bay instead. What a good choice that turned out to be!

We set off from Catba Town on small, winding country roads with stunning views all around us.

These were the roads we had been dreaming about, and they have not disappointed us.

Since then we have been riding for three days. It hasn’t always been good.

We have had a few thunderstorms and a couple of torrential downpours of rain. Yesterday we got soaked to the skin after just a few minutes in the rain. However, the changing weather really transform the mountains around us and the atmosphere the low clouds bring is worth getting wet for!

If you’re lucky (or unlucky perhaps) your bike will break down just as it starts ti rain and you can sit in a “Xe May” (Bike Mechanic) for an hour or two while they fix it. This has been the most frustrating part for me, being helpless if my bike stops working properly. Having said that, I am learning fast and so far I have learnt how to change the oil, replace the spark plug, adjust the clutch, adjust the fuel and how to kickstart the thing when all else fails! 🙂 It’s been a steep but good learning curve!

The roads themselves can be a challenge of their own…especially after it has rained! Although at least the huge potholes are easy to spot when they are full of water! The roads seem to be constantly under some form of construction, which seems to mean that the top layer of tarmac is removed and the road is reduced to rubble for an indefinite amount of time. At these points it can slow progress down to less than 20kmph…but it is SO much fun to ride…think mountain biking but with all the power!!!


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