On Monday morning we tied our backpacks to the motorbike, said goodbye to our volunteering place and started our journey across Vietnam. Our first destination was the fishing village Mui Ne that is located at the seaside about 200 kilometers from Saigon. The distance was quite big for us as it was our first trip with a motorbike. We decided to go for it anyway and try to get all the way there. We could always spend a night somewhere on the way if we get too tired.
The first challenge was to get out from busy Saigon to calmer surroundings. We wanted to avoid the big highways as we had read that driving next to the trucks can be quite risky and Highway 1 is the worst road. We decided to choose an alternative route that followed smaller roads and the coast. We found good instructions from Saigon to Mui Ne on Vietnamcoracle. This awesome website offers lots of information about motorcycling in Vietnam and gives several route options.
Before we got out from Saigon, we had to cross a river with Cat Lai ferry. Apparently nobody has managed to build a bridge there. Anyhow, the ferry ride took less than 5 minutes and cost as ridiculously little as 4000 dong (15 cents) so it was alright! There were some trucks on Highway 51 but as soon as we got to the smaller roads, the landscape started to change more rural and the traffic got calmer.
We try to start moving as early as we can because during the rainy season the daily rainfalls normally start in the afternoons. We didn’t make it very far though as it started to pour rain already before 11 AM (how come because in Saigon it never rained this early??). Luckily we have proper raincoats and full-face helmets that make driving in the rain much more comfortable compared to the cap helmets that the locals wear. The rain stopped occasionally and started again but most of the time it was bearable.
We stopped a couple of times for coffee and rest in the roadside cafes. You can find these chilled hammock places quite frequently at the roadside so it’s easy to stop when driving gets tiring. The coffee cost 12-15 000 dong (50-65 cents) except that the seller tried to get a little extra from us in the first cafe.
We stopped in one village to have lunch in a local eatery that was full of men playing cards and drinking coffee. Big portions of rice with pork and egg cost only 20 000 dong (90 cents). Everyone was very curious about us and one man came to shake our hands so many times that eventually, the waitress threw him out beating him at the same time… This harmless fellow didn’t bother us but what could we have said to that.
Vietnamese countryside is very beautiful and after staying in a big city, it was lovely to cruise the empty small roads surrounded by green. We saw rice fields, dragon fruit trees, duck farms and cows and goats wandering at the roadsides.
Driving (and reading the map) was quite tiring but Jarkko was managing the motorbike well and the trip was going smoothly. At some point we noticed tough that starting the bike got more and more difficult. We could start it by pushing the bike but the situation worried us a bit.
We were wondering if our motorbiking will be like this if the vehicle breaks down already on the first day.
We had already passed Phu Thuy city and only had about 10 kilometers to our destination. But the motorbike really started to cough and shut down in the hill. We managed to start the bike once more but the engine started to spread smoke so badly that we shut it down and rolled downhill to the nearest repair shop that we luckily had spotted. We were wondering if our motorbiking will be like this if the vehicle breaks down already on the first day.
The bike had run out of oil almost completely and there was smoke coming out even though the oil had been changed just a while ago. The repair guy opened the engine and threw the burnt head gasket away. He left by a scooter to get spare parts and came back after a while. We were sitting in the repair shop for about an hour and waiting for the sentence. Eventually we could start the bike without problems again. The guy changed the head gasket and oil to the bike and the price for the repair was half a million dong which is about $20. Not a crazy amount, supposing of course that the bike will work from now on as long as possible.
When we got to our destination, we found a nice accommodation in Phan Thiet resort area. We fell into bed and slept over 12 hours. The first day on the motorbike was very eventful, long and a little bit stressful but at the same time very nice! More motorcycling stories are coming soon when we head to the mountains and Dalat so stay tuned.