Motorbike Motorbike in Northern Vietnam Day 9 – Mộc Châu to Hà Nội

Weather: Cloudy then Overcast
Departure: 11h00
Arrival: 18h30
Date: 19/04/14

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Not sure if I wanted to go straight to Ha Noi or make another stop along the way, I still woke up pretty early to have breakfast and wish good bye to my buddies of yesterday night. Then, I went back to my room to pack my things, but tiredness got the best of me and I slept for another two hours. As soon as I got up though, I was on the road in no time and flying at a good pace through hilly terrain but on very uneven pavement.

The view not long after Moc Chau
The view not long after Moc Chau
Fixing my motorcycle
Fixing my motorcycle

On a break to buy a can of Coca-Cola, I realized the bumps had disjointed my breather tube from my carburetor again and on passing a ridge and noticing that the weather on the other side was a thick humid fog,  I decided to stop for lunch and fix my air box on the same occasion. That sparked the interest of a bus load of Vietnamese tourists taking a break nearby and next thing I knew, I was surrounded by them. Quickly they were gone but soon replaced by another bus of high school teenagers on a field trip. There, some of them took the opportunity to practice English but myself not really being in the mood for that, I packed up quickly and went on my way.

Rapidly, the scenery turned from nice to boring as I was passing through village after village with frequent large patches of construction. Things had started to sound and vibrate pretty weird for my motorcycle for a while now and at the intersection to Ninh Bin, I opted to play it safe and go to Ha Noi instead. I had been pretty lucky so far with breakdowns and did not really want to push my chance much further. Once I hit highway one, I was making good progress again but on seeing karst peaks starting to become more numerous around me, I tried taking a detour to search for a road through them but without success. On the way back my chain – which I knew was very loose already – disengaged. It was an easy fix but fearful of potentially worst things were coming my way, I needed not to waste any more time.

From that point on, I was going as fast as I could to Ha Noi. As urban density increased, so did traffic and into the capital, I was greeted by thick rush hour circulation. Driving amid a sea of scooters and cars while it’s raining and at night is quite a sport and will put even the most season motorcyclist’s skill to the test. It’s like being an outcast in a school of fish or a flock of bird. Everyone moves in concert, in one self-organizing group, there really are no rules to bind you, but as a westerner accustomed to a very strict road code, it requires intense concentration and some extremely good defensive driving skills.

Highway to Ha Noi
Highway to Ha Noi

My rental bike returned, I came across my friends from the other night, who it so happens had also just arrived. Why so? That same Norwegian guy who had had his bike fixed yesterday had ran out of fuel and though the panic had lost his only key somewhere on the road and try as he might, he could not find it. Result: he had to get to a mechanic to wire start his bike. I checked in what is possibly the worst hostel I’ve been in so far on this trip and we all went for a burger.

That’s it. I came out alive. Traffic in Ha Noi is so insane I might still die in a motorcycle related accident, but I will not be the one driving…

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