The Indochina Chronicles

Travels in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam

by Phil Karber

In the epilogue of his book, The Indochina Chronicles, Phil Karber recounts the tour he took with Explore Indochina up into the Vietnamese mountains.

Travels in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam

One of Hanoi’s little-known distinctions is its Minsk Club, a loose association of thrill-seekers who have bought into the cult of the two-stroke, Russian dirt bikes. Unless there is a counterpart club in Afghanistan, the only other country outside the former Soviet Union where the bikes survive in significant numbers, Hanoi’s club is unique.
Head of the club is Digby Greenhalgh, an Aussie law school dropout who runs Minsk tours around Vietnam’s mountainous reaches and goat paths. His other distinction is being author of the Minsk Repair Manual, a 50-page self-help book for fellow English-speaking gear heads who want to motor Vietnam on their own. Digby claims that he bike’s numerous mechanical shortcomings are of little real concern, “It’s the survival of the fittest. They molt the weaker, cheaper parts, and the stronger one that count always full through.”
Digby’s repair manual describes them [Minsks] best, “The bikes are made of steel not chrome, and prefer to be greased not polished.” Before week’s end, we would all come to appreciate the durability and practicality of the steel horses, however, and to some degree share in Digby’s passion.