When travelling through South East Asia, the motorbike is very common transport. Instead of sitting in the car for ages, you can merge your way around most traffic jams. Bikes are agile, especially in cities where the traffic never stops. Most locals ride them too, with sometimes 5 people per motorbike. Unfortunately, many people (and their children) ride without helmets.
I have met quite a few people who have bought bikes to ride all through Vietnam. I had the same idea, but first I wanted to see what the Vietnam traffic was like. I quickly figured I wouldn’t buy a bike. Here are my reasons:
1. The traffic is mental
There’s no other word for it. People ride very fast. Depending on the space, they drive left or right, and often ignore zebra’s and traffic lights. You need two spare sets of eyes, and need to pay attention at all times. This is both physically and mentally exhausting, hence why you can only drive a few hours at a time.
2. Buses go very fast..
.. and overtake left or right.
They often drive dangerously close to motorbikes and push them out of their way. Also, they have extremely loud horns that hurt your ears. I did not want to experience that every single day, for hours in a row. It made me feel unsafe to be on a motorbike, as you are so vulnerable.
3. The weather
It can be quite extreme. I wouldn’t want to face this by bike. When we started our trip, the wet season was on its way. We were lucky, as we didn’t have too much rain. However, when it rains, it pours. In the green centre of Vietnam, the rain hardly stopped.
One bus ride we saw so much fog out the window that I didn’t understand how the bus driver was able to see anything. Good chance he actually wasn’t. In Hanoi there were a few thunderstorms and the streets flooded.
4. I don’t know shit about motorbikes
If I was to break down in the middle of nowhere, I would have no idea how to fix it. And considered there is no phone service in some large areas, I would most probably get stuck.
Having said all this, I do really enjoy riding a motorbike. Therefor we did rent one a few times, for a little trip. I realise this sounds hypocritical and we could’ve still been in an accident. However, I liked to have the option to ride for fun. Not having to load your backpack on it, and being obligated to ride if you want to go from A to B.
A part of me wished I would feel careless, as I can imagine it is a once in a lifetime experience to ride from south to north Vietnam. Either way, we had a good time and are still life and kicking!