The best and worst thing about any adventure is that it never quite works out as planned. So I guess I shouldn’t have been too surprised when we arrived in Vietnam on the same day as a typhoon.
While my girlfriend Maria and I were arriving in rain-lashed Hanoi, Typhoon Ketsana was raging across Vietnam, blocking our way south to Hoi An. Months of planning were all blown away by the storm.
The British Embassy in Hanoi warned us it would be insane to head south, especially on our choice of transport – 125cc Minsk two-stroke. So instead we struck east while waiting for the weather to relent. We loaded panniers with clothes and Castrol, and headed for the sandy beaches and salty breezes of Halong Bay.
Nothing can prepare you for driving a motorcycle in Hanoi, where the locals seem fearless and reckless beyond belief. Cuong, a sharp and friendly local who speaks better English than me, warns that ’40 people die on the roads here every day,’ Its not hard to see why – red lights are considered optional, traffic streams cross and merge impossibly without even a flash of brake light and riders consistently change lanes or emerge from junctions without even glancing. Its terrifying to watch, yet exhilarating to ride through. A 30-minute dice across Hanoi gave me more of a buzz than my last track day.
We eventually made it to Halong Bay and a short yet beautiful ferry ride took us through the network of islands to the port at Cat Ba Island. We liked it so much we stayed for a week. We rode the trails running the length of the island, connecting beaches, caves, and small towns. We never did make it south. Maybe next time…