And Then We Bought Motorbikes

It’s kind of a thing in Vietnam to buy a motorbike, ride it North to South (or vice versa, depending on your route), and sell it at your last stop in the country. Initially, Karlee and I decided against purchasing bikes and bought a hop on/hop off bus ticket from Hanoi to Hoi An. This was great ‘n all, particularly because we went for the Westernized wifi and over-sized leather seat combo Boomerang Bus (aw yeah), but we tended to rent motorbikes in each city we stopped anyway, so we decided to make the big purchase once we got to Hoi An.

Our first stop on the Boomerang Bus was Phong Nha where we moto’d through the national park, stopping at Dark Cave to trek/stumble/flail through the mud for an hour. It was fun. It’s difficult to describe said fun so I will deem it as simply a muddy good time (legit: if you go to Phong Nha, stop at this cave. It’s good).

Our next stop on the bus was Hue where we (again) moto’d around town, did some “cultural” stuff, went to the beach, and spent a lot of time at Brown Eyes, the local bar.

Last was Hoi An where we ventured no further than the local clubs. We had good intentions for Hoi An but 15 cent restaurant beers and all-you-can-drink bar cocktails for $3 = unproductivity.


Our second-to-last day in Hoi An we knew we had to get shit done. We pulled ourselves together and began our search for the perfect motorbikes (by perfect I mean a motorbike that like…works…or whatever. We know absolutely nothing about motorbikes).

We began our search by asking our hostel’s front desk if they “knew a guy.” They did, in fact, “know a guy.” Within 2 minutes (literally) we were on the back of a motorbike with some Vietnamese man, on route to a yard full of archaic Yamaha’s. Problem was, the man spoke zero English and we had no idea what we were looking for. After staring blankly at the yard of bikes for 10 minutes we asked to be returned to our hostel. We were back at square one.

Back in Hue we had met a Vietnamese guy from Hoi An at some Italian restaurant who had given us his business card, hoping to sell us tailor-made suits (let’s call him…Helpful & Hopeful. H&H for short). H&H had a thing for Karlee so had also mentioned that he could help us with “whatever else” we were looking for in Hoi An (wink wink, nudge nudge). Desperate times call for desperate measures, so we decided to make the trek to H&H’s suit shop to see if he’d help us buy motorbikes.

H&H wasn’t around when we arrived but the little suit shop ladies gave him a call and he promised to meet us in an hour to take us motorbike shopping. He arrived right on time and was more than pleased to see us, coming prepared with photos of a scooter his mechanic was selling. We agreed to take a look at it, making our way across town to the mechanic’s. Like I said, we know absolutely nothing about motorbikes, but the scooter didn’t look like it would make it up a slight incline let alone a mountain road so we passed.

But alas, H&H was keen to help (trying to woo Karlee, I assume) so he took us to another friend of his that was selling a bike. He brought his mechanic along to take a look at it. This one seemed better (though wtf do we know…) so we asked some questions to try and figure out exactly what we were buying. Now, Karlee and I asked an equal amount of questions but for each degree of love H&H had towards Karlee he had an equal degree of hatred towards me. I asked what the bike was called (a Yamaha Nouvo, FYI, though we just call her Bumble Bee) and the man flipped shit. He went off, gesturing wildly, expressing his dislike for me, and being all around over dramatic. Karlee played good cop, apologizing for my questions (heaven forbid we want to know what we’re buying) and asking him to take us back to our hostel. The whole thing was a bit unnerving.

We returned to our hostel, once again, back at square one.

After much deliberation and a realization that no matter who we bought a bike from it was going to be shit and it was going to break down, we decided we would give Bumble Bee further consideration. We returned to the mechanic’s the next day to express our interest. The mechanic didn’t speak English but he gave H&H a call, who arrived 10 minutes later. H&H was in a much better mood and, surprisingly, really came through for us. We had some demands for Bumble Bee (new lights, mirrors, a helmet, etc.) and H&H ensured it was all completed. He also found us a second motorbike (I named him Hamish), which he also ensured was fixed up and ready for the road.

In the end, H&H gave up on selling us suits, gave up on getting with Karlee, and settled for just being a somewhat friendly (if we can forget about his previous outburst), helpful individual, even buying us coffee while we waited for repairs.

While they aren’t the best bikes in the world, they were within our price range ($250), they are on par with other backpacker bikes on the road, and most importantly: they like…run…or whatever.

I love my Hamish to pieces. Check him out below. He’s badass, non?

Yamaha Nouvo

(and yes, that is a chicken atop my backpack. I’ll get to that later…)


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