From the Back of the Bike: Saigon to Mui Ne
The more we heard about fellow travelers gearing up to make the 1,118.5 mile (1,800 km) motorcycle trek up the coast of Vietnam, the more we felt it was something that we HAD to do. "There's no other way to see Vietnam," they all said. There was a twinkle in Casey's eyes anytime someone would mention doing the trip and when he started going to the bike shop with Mike "just to see how his bike was coming along," I knew that we would soon be loading up a bike of our very own.
That's not to say that it took a whole lot of convincing on his part. The freedom to go at our own speed, embarking on the road less traveled. Wind in our hair, sun our faces, nothing but the open road in front of us. It all sounded so On the Road to me, except with an even more exciting Oriental twist. My badass-ness stretched only far enough to be a passenger ~ there was no way I could make the journey on an automatic bike of my own ~ so we had our black Honda Win tuned up with stronger shocks and extra storage racks, took it for a few practice spins throughout the city and got ourselves some protective gear. And just like that we were off without a hindrance in sight.
Except for the few odd cows out for leisurely strolls down the road.
Typically it takes 3-4 weeks to reach the capitol city of Hanoi from the South, so we strategically planned a few stops along the way. Ensuring a beautiful coastal drive, our first destination was the heavily Russian-influenced resort town of Mui Ne. According to Google Maps, the 155 mile (250 km) route from Saigon to Mui Ne would take us a little over four hours, giving us more than enough time to relax on the beach if we left by 10am on our first travel day. Traveling with Mike for companionship and guidance, everything was off to a great start.
We easily made it out of the city and cruised freely down the QL51 and QL55, taking a bit of a longer route to avoid the treacherous Highway 1 that we had been warned to steer clear of at all costs. There were no complaints on my part as the QL55 took us right along the coast, revealing the gorgeous scenery of the Great Ocean Road of Vietnam. The breezy air off the South China Sea was a welcome fresh breath from the polluted city and kept us cool in the midday heat. We only tore ourselves away from the stretch of road and sea for water breaks and photo ops at scenic temples and churches along the way.
After one stop in particular, we must've made a wrong turn and found ourselves on the horrible Highway 1. With dusty roads, construction and stop-and-go traffic blowing exhaust in our faces, it really was as bad as everyone made it out to be. The road was so rough that I had to get off the bike a few times so Casey could navigate over it and Mike's rack snapped in half from all of the up-and-down bouncing over uneven land.
What was supposed to be a 4 hour trip turned into over 8 hours of travel. Gone were the carefree daylight hours in which I flew my hands above my head as if I was soaring above the sea. As day shifted to night, we finally arrived to Phan Thiết far too exhausted to go the extra 14 miles (23 km) to Mui Ne. We waited until morning to set off along the ocean road to see what the little beach town had to offer.