Sunday, 19 February 2017

Vietnam on the road on a vintage sidecar motorcycle

vietnamese people, watercolor illustration 

since we've moved in together, we have a coin jar with "Vietnam & Laos" written on it. 

as wedding present, our lovely witnesses gave us plane tickets to a destination of our choice, so after our lambretta honeymoon in Provence, we started thinking about the next adventure in South East Asia
when we read on the Lonely Planet guide that riding a motorcycle in northern Vietnam is a lifetime experience, that was it. we remembered an old classic, the BBC Top Gear Vietnam special, watched it for the 100th time and booked a flight to Hanoi

me and Marco on a Ural sidecar we rented from Cuong's | Leica d-lux (typ 109)

ural is the new lambretta!

we came across Cuong's website while browsing the internet for renting a motorcycle in Vietnam, and couldn't find a better service. those guys are the best {actually, when the Top Gear staff decided  to film in Vietnam they went to Cuong for all the bikes and guide for the famous Vietnam Special}. we immediately fell in love with the fact that they also offer tours on vintage soviet Urals, in addition to more "regular" motorcycles, as Hondas etc. as we take pride in riding a vintage lambretta in our everyday adventures, we couldn't resist the idea of exploring Vietnam with such a stylish ride, especially when we saw the Ural sidecar! 

inside Cuong's garage in Hanoi | Leica d-lux (typ 109)

Cuong offers a wide range of guided tours throughout all the country. you can choose the itinerary you like the most, ask for a tailor made experience or join a group that fits your schedule. in any case, I am sure it will be an amazing, authentic experience, thanks to the flawless, skillful  service of Cuong's staff. 

we chose the 7 days 7 nights Ho Chi Minh trail itinerary, from Hanoi to Hoi An, with the Ural sidecar. I'd like to spend a few word about that. sidecar is not a piece of cake. we thought it would be difficult to drive, but it was worse. to be fair, Cuong had advised us not to chose the sidecar if we have no experience with a similar motorcycle, but we wanted to try and insisted on it, thinking Marco could learn on the road. it turned out -not surprisingly- that Cuong was right. learning on the road is possible of course, but it takes time. so, in the end, after a couple of bad scary moments, Marco rode with me on the sidecar only on the easiest roads, exchanging motorcycle with our group's mechanic, Điệp. 
Phú drawing the route in the map | Leica d-lux top 109   

our group consisted of 6 members: the tour guide PhúCuong's nephew, excellent driver and roads connoisseur, he is an easygoing guy, fun to be around, who speaks good english and is very passionate about his job; the already mentioned mechanic Điệp, sidecar master with gold hands, he doesn't speak english but managed to keep everyone safe and happy, always making sure we all had the right amount of vietnamese coffee {cà phê sữa dá} in the body :) ; the other two were travelers like us, Erik, American guy living in Hong Kong, and Mark, motorbike enthusiast from Australia.

1200 on the road following the Ho Chi Minh trail, illustrated map of our Vietnamese road trip


day one | from Hanoi to Mai Chau
after escaping Hanoi's craziness, we met villages, small roads and hills. we arrived in Mai Chau before sunset, and got acquainted with the local people living in that area, the White Thai tribe. slept in a stilt house

nothing is too crazy for Hanoi streets | Leica d-lux (typ 109)

day two | from Mai Chau to Vinh
long road! visited a chopstick factory. seen mountain villages, terraced rice paddies, sunflower fields. drank way too much coffee. 

day three | from Vinh to Phong Nha
visited former war sites. amazed by big limestone rock formations. arrived into Phong Nha national park and took a boat ride deep into the wonderful Phong Nha cave.

Silvia | iPhone
day four | from Phong Nha to Lao Bao
drove right next to the Lao border, deep into the jungle of the Ke Bang national park. we fell in love with the jungle, and hope to get the chance to see it again. 

day five | from Lao Bao to Huế
visited the former US marine base of Khe Sang, crossed the former DMZ and visited the Vinh Moc war tunnels. arrived in Huế.

Marco | Leica d-lux (typ 109)

day six | Huế
a day of rest from the road. spent the whole morning at the incredible imperial citadel. 

day seven | from Huế to Hội An
rode by the sea and took the great Hai Van Pass. arrived in the super charming Hội An and sadly said goodbye to the motorcycles. 

the Hai Van Pass | iPhone 

the main reason why Marco and I are so happy about our decision to join a guided tour with Cuong's guys is that we feel we had a truly amazing experience, we could never had by our own. yes, usually we prefer to travel just the two of us, and we will again, in different environments. even if we had rented a motorcycle by our own, it could not have been the same. we would never have taken the back roads, the remote alleys, seen the smallest villages, stopped in the local places only the "insiders" know, eaten like a local, had a picnic in a small wood looking at the ocean, seen all the hidden places. it has been more than a travel destination. 

looking at Viet Nam from a sidecar / 01 | Leica d-lux (typ 109)

looking at Viet Nam from a sidecar / 02 | Leica d-lux (typ 109)

looking at Viet Nam from a sidecar / 03 | Leica d-lux (typ 109)

looking at Viet Nam from a sidecar / 04 | Leica d-lux (typ 109)

looking at Viet Nam from a sidecar / 05 | Leica d-lux (typ 109) 
looking at Viet Nam from a sidecar / 06 | Leica d-lux (typ 109)

I'd like to say more about our experience in Vietnam and what we loved the most in the next post, cause I wanted this one to be focused on the road trip part. 
if you have any question or curiosity about our itinerary, our experience with Cuong's or with the Ural sidecar, please do not hesitate to write me on the comment section or in private. 

more about our road trip in Vietnam:


  1. Bellissimo ❤️
    Vi ho seguiti durante il viaggio e siete stati dei grandi!

    1. grazie! noi ce la siamo goduta proprio :) è stato veramente figo, super consigliato a chi ama questo genere di viaggi

  2. Northern Vietnam is great place for Riding motorcycle and it gives best experience. Thanks for sharing this best post. I also want to visit there. I am waiting for your next post.

  3. Your content is nothing short of brilliant in many ways. I think this is engaging and eye-opening material. Thank you so much for caring about your content and your readers. motorcycle tour


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