Motorcycle Backpacking in Vietnam: HCMC to Da Lat

By , December 12, 2011 5:42 pm

IMG_3117 Previously I wrote about the process of buying a motorcycle  in Saigon (here), but in the next few posts I’ll lay out our route: from Saigon to Hanoi.  Our route took us through the mountains, the jungle, and along the beach.  We rode a total of 2,415 km (about 1,500 miles), broken into 14 rides.  Maintenance on the bike during the ride totaled about $16, and we had to bribe one cop about $10.  Overall it was one of the best experiences of my life, and I think everyone should do it.

Part 1:  HCMC to Da Lat

Ride 1:  HCMC to Vung Tau 

For our first ride we did a short warm-up:  120 km from HCMC to the beach town of Vung Tau.  We left HCMC riding with another guy.  It was his first time riding a motorcycle…. ever.  We had a late start since he had to learn how to shift gears.  He had never driven a manual trans car, he actually didn’t even have a driver’s license back home in the UK.  Seriously.  I’ve got to hand it to him though, this kid had huge balls.  We rode together for about a half an hour until we got split up going around a car crash site.  We were ahead, and after about 45 minutes I pulled over to get a drink.  We waited for a while but never saw our friend, and assumed he had passed us just after we pulled off the highway.  We later met up with him and found out he had crashed, but was ok.  He eventually made it all the way to Saigon, proving that even the worst plans some time work.  The ride to Vung Tau took about 3 hours with wrong turns and stops.  When we got there we found out it’s the most boring place ever, so we left the next morning.

Ride 2: Vung Tau to Mui Ne 

This 190km ride took us about 4.5 hours, mostly because we got lost…. a lot.  There are few signs on the highway, so you just have to stop and ask directions constantly.  The only problem is that my Vietnamese is not good.  Apparently I can’t even pronounce the name of a major city.  Be prepared to have a map to point to (also, the maps suck).

Mui Ne is a pretty cool spot.  It’s a nice beach town, and a super popular spot for Kiteboarding and being Russian(?).  There are some really good eats along the main strip.  Stay at either Hon Di or Mellow for about $18 for a nice private room.  Mellow also has cheap beer and really good breakfast. 

Ride 3: Mui Ne to Da Lat

The next 280 km ride took us about 5 hours (including the times we went the wrong way… again).  This was an awesome ride since you go inland from the beach, across farmland, and then into the mountains and into a Pine tree forest!  Crazy right?  Pine forest?  Da Lat was built by the French as a vacation town, and an escape from the heat found below.  It’s one of the more beautiful cities in Vietnam, but pretty touristy.  We styed at the Dreams Hotel for $25 for a nice room, in a pretty good spot.  Check out the Lake in the center of the city, go to the famous flower gardens, and take a hike up Lang Bian mountain.  The hike through the forest takes about 4 hours round trip to the top of this 2,100 meter tall hill.  The cheapest place to eat and drink is the Peace Cafe ($0.50 beers), and there are some really good restaurants all around.  They also have a nice market and a grocery store that stocks Goldfish crackers!  What?  Goldfish are my favorite!  I bought three bags.

Stay tuned for Part 2…… 


9 Responses to “Motorcycle Backpacking in Vietnam: HCMC to Da Lat”

  1. Ray G says:

    Some very good advice, thanks for the info and for sharing Ray G aka (

  2. Joe says:

    Sounds like a great motorcycle trip for a tight budget. Would a GPS work there?
    Joe´s last blog post ..A Ride Through the Ozarks – Arkansas Highway 7

  3. Travel Drunk says:

    I have no idea. I guess if you had the right maps loaded on it would work, and probably save a lot of time since you wouldn’t make all those wrong turns, or have to stop at ever split and ask for directions.

  4. Tristan says:

    Thanks for the awesome blog mate! Looking forward to the next part. A good friend and I are doing HCMC to Hanoi on bikes in March – cannot wait!

  5. Sounds like a cool adventure! Can’t wait for part 2!
    Brock – Backpack With Brock´s last blog post ..One Moment In Time – A Tribute to Whitney Houston From a Backpacker

  6. Freerider says:

    Hi guy, vietnam at the momment, motorbike tour or scooter tour will be the best for low budget. Rock and Roll to discover Vietnam on 2 wheels. With many options. such as: booking a motorbike tour from saigon services, or hire a motorbike, or buy a motorbike and hit the road Jack to get off the city and off beaten track to discover the real Vietnam.

  7. Anh Wu says:

    These coastal and mountain roads are very scenic and there is a very challenging pass between Da Lat and Nha Trang that is recommended for experienced riders.
    Anh Wu´s last blog post ..Vietnam Upcoming Motorbike Tours

  8. YourMourad says:

    Ahhhhh! She is adorable. I have been reanidg everything you write, Lan. I love hearing your news. Chris I love this picture. She looks so comfortable in your arms. Hopefully she’s adjusting to her new family. I know it will take time. Don’t expect too much too soon. She will be such a loved child that it will be no time before she’s completely happy spoiled. Saw Jaydon yesterday. He is quite happy and has your mom dad hoppin’. You’re in my prayers. Enjoy your visit. love, lynn

  9. Cindy Bryan says:

    I really do hope that other folks read this and also take a few seconds to check out I myself have used it and I found it really helpful,

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