Part 2: Saigon Scooter Centre – North Vietnam Ride 2019 | FEATURE
Last week be brought you part one of Saigon Scooter Centre’s annual scooter tour, a gruelling 2,200 km ride through Vietnam on classic scooters. Here’s the second half and details on how you can get on it in 2020…
Monday 11th November – Day #9 Meo Vac to Cao Bang 235 km
With this being our longest day’s riding on the trip we make an early 7.00 am breakfast and we’re back on the road by 7.30. Another phenomenal day with riding conditions varying from no road, to off-road, to roads under construction and a minimum of 500 hairpin bends! A snapped throttle tube disabled the 1965 VBB and meant Michael jumped on the Honda for the day, with a quick fix when we arrive in Cao Bang. Without doubt one of our longest days of hardcore scootering in non-stop demanding terrains, with only a minor throttle repair was quite amazing considering the driving conditions for twelve 50+-year-old classic Italian scooters.
After our back up truck was impounded by the local plod and one of our western hostages was taken by the police with a quick cash “fine” paid we are at the hotel just before sunset in Cao Bang. With a party night for Ozzie John’s 60th and a day Birthday party, we head to the BBQ and Beer restaurant with Kim Chi instigating the SoJu. After a good feed and a 5-mile hike in search of the elusive bus station karaoke bar we called it quits.
One of the longest and certainly hardest days of the ride with 8 hours of riding and a total of 10 hours on the road. That was a long, long unforgettable day!
Total repairs this year…
- Vespa ETS fatal ignition failure
- 3 punctures
- 2 clutch cables
- 1 throttle cable
- 1 throttle tube (repaired)
- PX ignition pick up
- PX clutch plate set
Tuesday 12th November – Day #10
After the mammoth day yesterday, the guys get a much needed free day off to recover in Cao Bang.
Day #11 – Day trip to Ban Gioc waterfalls
With the first rain of the ride we head north to Non Nuoc Cao Bang, a UNESCO GeoPark on the Quay Son River, which is also the Vietnam/Chinese border. Amazing place, even with the downpour and after a boat trip we finished off the day at the impressive Nguom Ngao Caves.
Day #12 – Cao Bang to Ba Be Lake 150kms
No rain today, which was good luck after yesterday’s downpour. Heading off we made good time south on the QL3 until a wrong turn led us onto the 258 resulting in a 2-hour scenic detour!
With a late lunch as we enter Ba Be Lakes National Park, we make it to Thu Ha Homestay for some rustic charm followed by Linh’s special BBQ for dinner, local rice wine and a few cases of beer. Another great day of trouble-free scootering, some fantastic scenery and great weather.
Day #13 – No scooter riding today
Today we took a Ba Be Lake day trippin’ Cruise and we head for the boat at 10.30. With a stunning cruise and a leisurely pace across the lake for a couple of hours, we stop at the amazing Puong Caves followed by lunch on the lakeside with a quick visit to the nearby smaller caves and waterfall. Back at 4 pm and a change of venue, so a quick relocation and check-in at the very nice nearby newly opened Ba Be Lakeside Bungalows. Not the easiest place to find but great views, excellent rooms and good food. Tomorrow it’s the last leg of the return ride towards Hanoi.
Day #14 – North “Don’t worry guys it’s a short day today”
Ba Be Lake to Thai Nguyen 165kms. So much for an easy day to wind down towards the end of the ride. With a short easy day planned to Thai Nguyen. The planned QL279-DT258-QL3 went rapidly wrong as we opted for a recommended short cut to save us an hour – which cost us about four hours of again full-on, off-road mud riding and adding to the difficulty – rain! After covering about 20 miles in three hours we decided to stay on the dreaded #258 in the hope it could only improve. Not to be however and with three crashes in the final stages – luckily with no injuries we arrived at the Dong A Plaza hotel tired, bruised but in one piece. Without doubt one of the most demanding but enjoyable days of scootering I’ve ever done. Drinks, food and an early night needed!
Day #15 – The end of the road, Thai Nguyen to Hanoi 85 kms
A short day today to finish off the ride and a quick ride on good roads gets us into Hanoi at lunchtime. With a KFC fix for lunch, we head to the train station and say farewells to the trusty scoots as they make their way back to Saigon.
For the presentation dinner, as last year we head to The Moose and Roo Smokehouse. With a great feast and plenty of drinks, all riders receive their well-earned certificate of achievement for completing the ride.
This year’s trophies included…
Best Hangover: Christian Gehrke – Soju!
Best crash: Jeff Hill takes down the TS1
Biggest drinker: Bob Person, too much rice wine on more than one occasion
Most time lost: Dan Rickard (who blames Google Maps)
Most punctures: John McClelland
Most adventurous eater: Bob Person for eating eyeballs
Furthest travelled: Michael Sarni New York
Best dressed: Tino Sacchi for his continual use of the hotel slippers to go partying with
So this year’s 2019 North Vietnam ride comes to a close. Another epic two weeks of scootering.
- Total distance covered almost 2500km’s
- With riders from six countries and covering four continents
Without doubt one of the most challenging scooter rides we have organized, with a minimum of problems. Considering the driving conditions, weather and distances covered on a collection of classic 1950s and 1960s Italian vintage Lambretta and Vespa scooters that’s pretty amazing going! Without a doubt, the success of the ride once again is down to this year’s participants – Tino Sacchi, Robert McClelland, John Beveridge, Michael Sarni, Helena Smits, Christian Gehrke, Dan Rickard, Bob Person, Steve Red Barron and Jeff Hill. It was an absolute pleasure.
A big thank you to Chua our mechanic, who had a cushy two weeks compared to last year and also Mr Ly our back up truck driver, who against all the odds always managed to get our bags and beers delivered to us. Finally a big thank you to Linh, who without her invaluable help and organization of the trip it would not have been possible.
General info as we supplied to riders in advance
Starting point: Hanoi
Finishing point: Hanoi
6 x Lambretta
6 x Vespa
Backup 1 x PX and Honda SH
*Limited places for 12 riders
Brief summary of the route: Hanoi, Ha Giang, North East Chinese border, Meo Vac, Lao Cai, Sapa, Nghia Lo, Viet Tri, and finish back in Hanoi.
The first two days ride are the longest and then I’ve kept the distances down to a maximum of 5-6 hours driving. Although fewer rest days, three days are short distances and we get to be at the destination points well before lunch. The short days mean afternoons can be spent exploring some of the short spectacular mountain drives or chilling and having a few cold beers.
Accommodation will vary on this ride, as once we are off the tourist trail options will be limited. Touristy areas we will aim for the same style resort/mid (high) range hotels as last year.
To avoid the extensive damage incurred last year returning the scooters by train, all the scooters will be trucked both from Saigon to Hanoi and the same for the return – hence the slight increase in price.
Total distance: approx 2200km’s
Level of riding skill: Demanding
Price: Fully inclusive price is $2450.00 USD
Deposit payment: $500.00
Includes: Scooter rental, petrol, accommodation in mid-range hotels, based on two people sharing (when available), breakfast, lunch, soft drinks and snacks, back up van with 24/7 mechanic, travel permits for border regions, entrance fees to any excursions, final dinner with drinks, presentations and trophies, limited edition t-shirts and goody packs, delivery and return charges by truck for scooter returns to SSC Saigon.
Not included: International flights, evening meals, alcoholic beverages, accident damage, fines and/or driving-related police charges.
Notes: A visa is needed for most visitors over a 14-day stay. It is possible to arrange this for pick up on arrival but it’s recommended to arrange in advance.
You cannot do the daily distance on Vietnamese roads that you can do overseas.
A 200km day is 6-7+ hour ride.
Weather can change dramatically.
The mountain regions can get cold at this time of year.
Recommendations to bring are:
International driving licence and IDP
Small day bag to carry on the scooter
Main luggage will be in the backup truck
Currency: $USD is now not a necessary form of payment. Local currency VND is accepted everywhere and there are now many ATMs, although a cash back up due to the holidays is advised.
Kit: Quality helmet, light and heavy-duty riding jacket, riding gloves, waterproofs, sun screening
Plans for next year’s 2020 ride are already in motion. Places will be limited to 12 riders, again with a number of places already booked, so if anybody is interested in another crazy Vietnam scooter adventure shoot me an email at Saigon Scooter Centre ASAP.
Words and photos: Pat Joynt
Two trips for 2020
- Trip #1 Mekong Delta tour: Sunday 4th April – Sunday 18th April 2020
- Starting/finish point: Saigon-South Vietnam
- Distance: Approx 1500km’s
- Scooters: 6 x Lambretta, 6 x Vespa
- Limited places for 12 riders
- Level of driving skill: Experienced ***
There are no guarantees of doing a road trip here and the agenda will be easier, or more difficult than in previous years. The driving conditions here, at best are challenging. Also, daily distances achievable are not to be underestimated. A long 8-9 hour day here is only 200km’s and that’s hard work. The above tour is less demanding for sure and we head south through the Mekong Delta area and follow the east coast down to Phu Quoc Island. As usual, we will be off the beaten track and with this ride also focussing more on some beach R&R as well as some scenic scootering and taking in national parks, floating markets, ancient temples, mangrove forests, great food, boat trips and stunning beaches.
Trip #2 Hanoi to Hoi An: Sunday 10th October to Sunday 24th October 2020
Starting point: Hanoi-North Vietnam
Finishing point: Hoi An-Central Vietnam
Distance: Approx 1750 km’s
Scooters: 6 x Lambretta, 6 x Vespa
Limited places for 12 riders
Level of driving skill: Demanding *****
For this ride, we start again in Hanoi, riding south to Hoi An, following the Laos border and Ho Chi Minh Trail and taking in some stunning North Vietnamese scenery. Including the amazing Dinosaur Spine (see video above!) at Ta Xua Mountain not for the faint-hearted! Hoa Binh Lakes, Phong Nha Caves and Ke Bang National Park (King Kong was filmed here), Trang Minh Long Waterfalls, stunning beaches, the ancient city of My Son, the old capital – Hue City, the amazing Hai Van Pass, Marble Mountain, Golden Hand Bridge, and finishing in the picturesque town of Hoi An.
Get in touch: Contact Pat at Saigon Scooter Centre or join their Facebook, Instagram or Twitter to receive updates on offers, events and what’s new.
Gallery – Mud, sweat and gears in Vietnam
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