We did it! 4000km+ on two Honda Blades over five weeks. All the ups and downs you’d expect with a couple of unexpected ones too…
Put simply, it was the classic Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi. In reality there was some loop-dee-looping and back tracking going on. A picture would help…
How we planned it.
The Vietnam Coracle was basically our bible when it came to our route planning. There is an amazing amount of information on the site and if you are thinking about doing any driving at all in Vietnam you should definitely check it out! There were a number of areas and routes Coracle has written about we’d have loved to have visited but sadly we didn’t have the time or buttock resilience to squeeze in any more than what we managed.
We had planned out our basic route in advance, but it changed quite a bit along the way! The beauty of having your own transport is flexibility afterall. We bought two recommended road maps in Ho Chi Minh City but basically didn’t use them at all. They simply couldn’t compete with the detail and convenience of Google Maps. Sorry romantics.
We would highly recommend getting a 4G sim card – you can easily pick up a pre-paid card which lasts a month and won’t set you back much at all. We found that roads and towns are often not signposted so GPS is a good way to confirm that you are on the right road or at least stop you going too far down the wrong one! We also got a sim card which had calls which I think is an essential for emergencies!
Hoi An has got to be up there. We loved it every bit as much as we’d hoped we would and we’d recommend it to anyone. Yes it’s touristy but we didn’t mind that, the development is tasteful and in keeping with the old town. And after staying in tiny villages and eating rice noodles with soy sauce, the comforts were very welcome! (more from Hoi An here and here)
Dalat was a pleasant surprise, we weren’t expecting much but there was a great market and the town centre felt very european with it’s winding streets filled with restaurants and coffee shops. It was somewhere I could see myself living.
Dalat was also where we went canyoning. Half a day of abseiling down waterfalls, floating along the river and jumping into pools followed by and incredible picnic. Definitely one of the best days of the holiday! (Watch our abseiling skills in action here)
Phong Nha town is nothing special but the scenery is spectacular as are the caves. We went on a day trip climbing and swimming through caves with fellow travelers – an incredible experience and definitely up there with canyoning! (read more and watch our vide from Phrong Nha here)
What we would skip
We stayed a few nights in Nha Trang as it was a convenient location and the weather was too bad to move on but I would advise skipping the city altogether. It is just a built up seaside town with lots of traffic and crowded streets – convenient but just not our cup of tea.
We weren’t very impressed with the trek we did in Sapa. It wasn’t as far or as rural as we had hoped and the scenery not as beautiful. We did however love staying with a local family, which made the trip worth it. We loved the train. A private carriage one way was worth it for the novelty experience but we bunked with a couple of strangers on the way back to not be too extravagant.