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    Happy Rider 2

    Happy Rider 2

    Viraj Patel, Atlanta, Georgia, USA

    There are adventures, epic experiences, once in a lifetimes and then there is this. This may get kind of lengthy but I believe our (my brother and I) experience/skill level will appeal to many so please read if you are considering. We did the 11 day tour of northern Vietnam and we booked 2 days before we decided to go. I don’t recommend that as most book months in advance. We did our trip on the fly and Alan was incredible throughout the entire booking process. First off, my brother and I have never rode a motorcycle prior to this trip, correction the day we booked this trip we went on a day tour of Vietnam with another Vietnam motorbike tour company on semi-automatic scooters/”motorcycles”, basically the majority of what you see around Vietnam. So that was the extent of our riding experience. We told Alan that we are truly beginners and he responded “no problem, we will practice before you go”. Li (our tour guide for the trip) picked us up from our hotel and we met Alan at the shop. By the way, Li is absolute incredible from a tour guide perspective and more so as a person, more to come later. Luckily Alan had motorbike pants and some boots (life savers) that fit both of us. We practiced around a stadium for about an hour, stalling, shifting, downshifting, braking, all that you would guess. And then…we were off! Sounds crazy right? One hour of practice and then we were off on this 1,100 mile journey over 11 days. Well, I have to say it was the most incredible “thing” I’ve ever done and experienced in my entire life and will say it will be almost impossible to beat. Each day we probably rode 100 to 150 miles or 150 – 240 km, averaging around 100 miles most days. We were not experienced enough to go off-roading, which was completely fine. We drove through heat, rain, construction sites, rivers, over-flooded roads, rocks, dirt, mud, everything under the great blue sky. I’m going to guess 70% or so of the driving was up and down mountains. We stopped along the way to take in the incredible sights. We took breaks every 30 miles or so to stretch our legs and give the rear end a break. We stopped in small villages that otherwise tour buses,etc. would not. My brother and I are Americans but Indians (from India) by origin. Many of the people have never seen Indians before and were so curious and just amazingly welcoming. We stayed at 6 hotels and 4 homestays, one of which was with Li’s family in Sapa. Li’s family is just incredible as Li. We played with the little kids, ate great home cooked meals, took a herbal bath (absolute must in Sapa). Li also picked great spots for lunch and dinner.

    sapa-motorcycle-toursOk, so the obvious questions that we had that I’m sure if you’re reading you have. Is it dangerous? Relatively but also not. I can’t explain it but after a few days you definitely feel more comfortable but trust me when I say this, you will be reminded of your inexperience very quickly. You will constantly over take semi’s, cars, bikes, buffaloes, cows, etc. I had to dodge a massive jack fruit that came rolling down the mountain. Sometimes you’ll ponder “why did that rooster just run right across my bike!?!” Well, to get the other side of course. Simply put, there are inherent dangers but Li does a great job understanding your skill level and what you are comfortable with. Be smart and be confident. I tipped over on a sharp uphill hairpin turn (day 5) because I did not downshift as I came to almost a complete stop making that turn. My bike stalled and I simply tipped over. My first “fall”. It messes with your head a little bit but you have to get back on and shrug it off. Of course, medical help is far and few between. I’m not trying to scare anyone but that is the reality. So just be smart with your riding decisions. This trip is worth cancelling anything else you have planned and booking with Alan and co.

    What to bring? Since Alan had riding pants for us we wore those every day. We brought a few long sleeve dry fit type shirts. 5 pairs of underwear, 3 pairs of socks (bring more pairs of socks if you can). Pair of shorts to sleep in and couple t-shirts. Alan also gave us rain jackets, thank god! Oh! Bring a pair of comfortable light pants. When you are relaxing after a long day at the hotel/homestay it would be nice to have your legs covered. I left my pants back at Alan’s office and just got bit up by mosquitoes. Bring repellent, goes without saying. Boots were key and once again we got from Alan. You can probably purchase some gum boots or something but for these long trips it is highly recommended that you have something better than sneakers. At least that’s my suggestion because we drove through mud, rain, a river. Eventually it will all get wet but just feels more stable. A scarf! or something that wraps around your mouth/nose. We did not have a scarf and it would definitely have been helpful to over the nose and mouth. The helmets cover both but the dust and smoke from cars/bikes, etc.

    Overall, this was just something I can’t explain until you do it. It is worth every penny and I mean it when I say to cancel whatever else you have and book this trip. I believe the 6 day is the most popular out of the longer day trips but if you can stretch it out to 11 days…this is it. The scenery after Sapa and the ride is just incredible. If you can get Li…get Li. Book in advance so you can secure his services. You ride about 6 hours a day. Leave around 8 or 9am and get to the next “city” around 3pm. A lot of time to talk and get to know Li (it was just the 3 of us on this tour). He’s an incredible person and answered all of our questions about Vietnam, his life, struggles, etc. This is were the experience takes its true value. The people, the culture, the food, what you get to see because you did all this on a bike.

    You’ll never regret it. Work two jobs when you get back home if you have to but if you are even remotely thinking about taking this trip…just do it!

    Hope this helps! Oh, and pack some toilet paper in your backpack and hand sanitizer.

    Visited July 2015
    “11 day tour of North Vietnam!! Spectacular!”
    5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 25, 2015
    Source: TRIPADVISOR

     

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