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Backpacking Vietnam, Part 8: Made it to Ho Chi Minh City!


Day 20: The final day of riding: To Ho Chi Minh City

My last day of riding :cry:. Source:

I did not have a good sleep this night. The bed the hostel forcibly moved me to was so itchy that I couldn’t fall asleep for two hours. At least they put me in a dark and quiet corner of the room, so I didn’t get disturbed by the late night party goers.

I woke up ready to get out of this hostel that I really didn’t like. In fact, I woke up real early, not only because I had a lot of driving to do today (I planned 300 kilometers (200 miles)), but because I was dissatisfied with their service.

One thing that people were talking about a lot during the trip was how bad the traffic in and out of Ho Chi Minh City was. In particular, there were really wide roads that were filled with motorbikes, and that it was impossible to go anywhere. Let’s see if that was true.

The first part of the journey was a crowded four lane highway covered by trucks, like the coastal roads on the previous days. It was quite boring, so I stopped about halfway through the ride and wondered if there was a better way to get to Ho Chi Minh City that wasn’t on this crowded road, since it was my last day of riding, after all.

At the very end, I was doing what everyone else was doing: wearing full body covering. I did this mainly because I was cold at the beginning, but I actually kept this on when it got hot too.

It turns out there was! It would add about 100 kilometers (60 miles) on my trip. You already know how much I wanted to take a break from the motorbike. But, it was also my last day, and I could rest as much as I wanted to afterwards. Kinda missing the empty, open mountain roads, I decided to take this detour.

I also had lunch during this stop. I ordered chicken.

It was refreshing being back on a traffic free road. I liked having the crazy traffic experience with buses and trucks in Vietnam, but I feel like I had enough already. Plus, they were newly paved and dry, meaning that I could ride a bit more freely one last time.

This was about an hour of solid, good fun driving. I’m talking about the dry part of the Ho Chi Minh road fun. A beautiful, empty road where it’s just you, your bike, and the road. I was having so much fun that I hardly realized that I was already coming back to the crowded, main road! I was quite sad actually; being back on a good road after not having it for a while makes you really appreciate it more.

I missed these kinds of roads.

I drove on for a while longer before I slowly noticed the skyscrapers of Ho Chi Minh City coming in closer and closer. And where was the bad traffic again? This must have been one of the best rides that I’ve ever had going into a city! There was a whole lane separated for motorbikes, and we were going along at a steady 50km/h (30mph) into the city on the highway, which beats rush hour traffic in any city by a long shot. While there were a lot of bikes, it didn’t really feel like there was any congestion, because the bikes were able to go around each other easily.

It was nice having a separated barrier so you didn't have to worry about riding next to big trucks.

If there was one thing that would be awesome to see more of in Switzerland, it would be to have highways in cities have one lane dedicated to bikes to help combat traffic like Ho Chi Minh City has. You could even make it only for electric bikes, so that noxious fumes aren’t emitted (you wouldn’t need a mask!). But why stop at highways? Why not do this for every road that’s more than two lanes wide in a city? Less people in cars means the traffic would actually get better!

Wait, where were we? Sorry, I got sidetracked and started advocating for more bike lanes in cities… Let’s get back to the actual story :joy:.

I made it to the hostel, where I got a private room for myself as a congratulation for finishing the whole journey. This was an amazing treat. I could stay in my room the whole day and laze around, relaxing after finally finishing.

Wow, I made it all the way! 2400 kilometers (1500 miles) later, I rode a motorbike all the way from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City. This was such an amazing journey. Looking back, I can’t believe that I:

  • Saw all different types of ecosystems, from jungle to beach.
  • Completed the fun part of the Ho Chi Minh Road in its entirety.
  • Didn’t get hurt too much when I fell off the bike.
  • The list goes on…

I would drop off the bike tomorrow, and then that would be the end of my bike trip! It was a bittersweet feeling. Riding the bike through the whole country was really something special. I saw so many beautiful sights, met so many great people, and had a lot of amazing experiences. But on the other hand, it was really tiring! I think that this distance was a perfect amount to drive, if not a little bit too much. For the next motorcycle trip of mine, I learned that I:

  • want to drive with somebody. While it was nice driving alone, I feel like driving with somebody makes the experience so much better. Ha Giang was great for this.
  • should drive less every day! I was doing some 400 kilometer (250 mile) days sometimes. This is really a lot, and I learned the hard way.

As for Ho Chi Minh City, it really didn’t impress me too much. It just felt like a standard big city that didn’t really make it stand out. I went out to Bui Vien Street (think something like Khao San Road in Bangkok), but the music was too loud for me, so I didn’t stay too long. Funny enough, I saw somebody here that I saw in Hoi An, making me actually believe that all of us backpackers read the same travel guide before we came here.

Day 21: 2400 kilometers (1500 miles) later

In the morning, I went to finally drop off my bike. The whole bike renting operation that this company had going on here was quite interesting; I’m pretty sure that this was a bunch of independent companies that somehow all had an agreement together to pick up and drop off each others’ bikes. I wasn’t quite sure what was going on, but in the end, I ended up getting my whole deposit back, which I consider a success.

The bottom marker reader started at 0 at the beginning of the trip, and it overflowed twice. 2412 kilometers (1499 miles) total.

One thing that I will warn about is that if you do rent from random people and not somewhere where the pricing structure is clear, make sure you’re ready to negotiate. And also, watch out for them asking for tips! I actually got asked twice: once when I got my bike (because the guy “filled up the gas tank”), and another time when I dropped it off for no reason at all! I’m not sure what would have happened if I didn’t pay (they didn’t ask for much, only like $10 max each time), but if you’re in the same situation, you could try if you fundamentally disagree with it.

After dropping off my bike, I decided I wanted to go and do something in the city, so I visited the War Remnants Museum. This was interesting because a lot of what I heard about the war was from U.S. History class. Here, they offered a different perspective, particularly highlighting the crimes the American soldiers did against the Vietnamese people.

You wouldn't find a perfectly restored U.S. fighter jet in a lot of other museums outside the U.S., probably.

But I actually don’t like visiting these wartime remnant areas for too long, as they don’t show you how the country really looks like. I’m glad I went to go see it as it’s a good history lesson on what the country has been through, but I think that the two hours I spent there was enough to learn what I needed to learn.

After the museum, I really didn’t have much to do. I spent a bit of time walking around the city, and I also bought my bus tickets to Cambodia for tomorrow. But the vast majority of it otherwise was spent in my room, relaxing and waiting until tomorrow morning until the bus picked me up. I wanted to end Vietnam on a more exciting note, but I was so tired from the whole ride that I wanted an entire day of resting and doing nothing.

While Ho Chi Minh City didn’t draw me in too much, it was nice being here, finally finished with my long ride! I was happy that I managed to finish the ride in one piece. With this out of the way, I was excited to see what Cambodia was like.

Anyways, that’s about it for my trip through Vietnam! I hope you found it interesting. However, I’m not quite done yet with my adventure; in fact, I still had two more weeks left! What adventures will I go through next? Spoiler alert, I promise they’ll be interesting!

Continue reading to hear about what I did in Cambodia, Thailand, and finally, Singapore!