Riding Motorcycles In Vietnam

Where’d all the girls go?!

For a country that, in my parents’ lifetime, was host to one of the bloodiest and inhumane wars the world has seen in recent history, Vietnam is now one of the friendliest and easiest countries to travel in.

I showed up in Hanoi on a muggy day a few months ago, not entirely sure what to expect and also not entirely sure what to do. I knew that I wanted to putter around Southeast Asia and experience what a lot of nature and history-lovers regard as the most beautiful places in the world, but I didn’t know how I was going to get around yet.

Flights are expensive, buses are tedious, trains are unreliable…so I moseyed over to Hanoi Motorcycle and bought myself a used red 110cc Honda Win…which, for those of you who are uninitiated in the lingo, is a motorcycle (you aren’t alone, don’t worry…I had no idea what “cc” meant until the day I bought the bike).

It didn’t really matter that I didn’t know how to drive a manual anything. I hopped on that red motorcycle and immediately stalled out. Over and over again.

But hell if I was going to ride an automatic scooter down the coast of Vietnam. Nope, I was going to learn how to change gears on a proper motorcycle if it killed me.

Happy to say, it didn’t.

I rode that motorcycle from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City and beyond. It was incredible. I met some solid human beings (some douchebags, but aren’t they everywhere?) as well as saw some incredible sights (see below for proof).

                                                   Ugly Betty (my precious but horribly unreliable red motorcycle) and I are enjoying some views on the Hai Van Pass.

 Riding alone as a woman

Maybe the elections and all the political vitriol a certain orange-faced Muppet is spewing have heightened my feminist sensibilities, but the amount of close-mindedness that you’ll experience as a woman traveling alone by motorcycle…is astounding.

Back home in New York, I hang out with (mostly) like-minded people. Nobody I know will vote for Trump (and if they are, they keep it to themselves).

I had always assumed travelers would be among the most open-minded in the world, but the one thing that surprised me most since I started motorcycling and backpacking is the way others perceive my womanhood and impose their expectations, stereotypes and fetishes on me. Like it happens a lot. Too much, actually.

It took me about 5 minutes of speaking to fellow backpackers and motorcycle travelers to realize that being a female on a geared bike is “strange”. I have no idea who made it strange.

Time and time again I’ve had the same conversation.

“Oh cool, you’re riding? A semiautomatic?”


“A scooter?”

“Nah I bought a Honda Win”

“You mean it has gears and everything?”

“Yes. Are you purposefully trying to insult me?”

“OMG, calm down are you a feminist?!”

“Do I believe that men and women should be regarded as equals? Yes. Is that a confusing concept?”

“Wow, you’re so sassy!”

The number of times I’ve had this conversation in the last three months is literally mind-boggling.

Prepare yourself. There’s a certain stereotype that a girl on a motorcycle plays into. Spending all day on a bike with a powerful engine between your legs probably plays right into a sex-starved backpacker dudes’ fantasies.

Gay and lesbian travel in Vietnam

As a single woman from NYC, I’m pretty much accustomed to going where I want, dressing how I want, and doing (within reason) what I want.

Vietnam is one of the more progressive places in Asia to travel as a lesbian couple – there aren’t any laws prohibiting same-sex relationships and a noticeable lack of harassment on the streets. Compared to NYC, where I am regularly catcalled, I’ve been harassed once in Vietnam…by a tourist, go figure.

Don’t miss out on the amazingness

Let me be clear, riding that motorcycle down the coast of Vietnam was INCREDIBLE. The local folks are among the kindest you’ll meet anywhere in the world, and the food is delicious, fresh, and affordable.

These are the views you get to ride through day after day in Vietnam. Pure amazingness!

I firmly believe that the absolute best way to see Vietnam is by motorcycle. The roads are well marked and well paved. The gas stations and moto-repair shops are plentiful. The weather is (generally) great. The scenery is spectacular.

But the one thing you shouldn’t skimp on is motorcycle safety gear. Buy yourself a solid pair of motorcycle boots, a motorcycle jacket and a proper, ISO certified helmet before you hit the road!

A few last words for the intrepid female motorcyclist

The going gets rough. Really. You’ll be sore in places you didn’t know existed. So take your time, take breaks, stay in places you enjoy for more than a few days, and don’t be afraid to travel with new friends (or leave old ones).

Each location has something different to offer. Try out some woman-powered two-wheelers and experience some healthy cycling benefits on a mountain-bike in CaTien National Park.

Go on a cruise of Ha Long Bay and take in sunrise and sunset on a boat in the middle of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Try out some canyoning (not for the faint of heart) in Da Lat.

Whatever you do, enjoy the ride of a lifetime!

About the Author:

Over the past 10 years, Laura Knight has been a motorcycle rider. She has built up an incredible passion for traveling by motorbike and always wishes to contribute to motorcyclist and traveler community. This is the reason why she created MotorManner.com where her passion is turned into useful and interesting information to the motorcyclists and travel lovers. Visit her blog to read more articles about motorcycle traveling gear reviews and helpful tips!