Hanoi is a frantic city. The noises and smells here are defined by the traffic, which is omnipresent, noisy and suffocating. From dawn onwards, the streets fill up like a rising tide with cars, vans, motorcycles and bicycles of all kinds.
Along the banks of this flowing river of motorized vehicles, stores and stores follow one another endlessly. Vietnam is a consumer society where everything is bought on the street. And between the traffic and the storefronts, uneven sidewalks serve as parking for motorcycles, as a table to eat a pho soup, as a terrace to have a coffee, as a counter to prepare food, as a dumping ground for garbage. Everything cohabits there without discrimination.
Yesterday morning, I woke up in the middle of the night. It was 4 o'clock and I couldn't sleep. I went out to see the sunrise around Hoan Kiem Lake which is located in the heart of the city. For a few moments, everything was quiet. Only the shadows of a few people doing their morning exercises could be seen here and there.
I spent the rest of the day wandering the streets of the old city. After walking for several hours, I squatted on a small plastic bench along the sidewalk to enjoy my first Vietnamese meal: pho soup and banh cuon.
Late in the evening, I returned to my hotel on Bamboo Street (Hang Tre). Already, the desire to hit the road to get out of the city and explore rural Vietnam was taking over my stomach. In the middle of the night, I started looking for motorcycles for sale.
My first search was unsuccessful. Most of the motorcycles for sale were too small, too underpowered or too old. On Craiglist, I scrolled through dozens of ads for old Russian Minsk and Honda Win scooters. Nothing that was very useful to me.
I was rather looking for a motorcycle cruiser, something solid and comfortable to ride the 2000 km to Saigon without too many problems. Even though the law restricts foreigners to small engines (125 cc and less), I wanted a reliable and performing motorcycle.
That's when I came across the Offroad Vietnam website, a company based in Hanoi that organizes guided motorcycle tours in northern Vietnam. Although they don't specialize in selling motorcycles, they renew their fleet regularly and offer used models for sale.
I came across this ad:
Made in 2009 in China by Honda. Single cylinder, 5 rotary speeds, 135kg. Front large disc brake, back large drum brake. Tubeless large tires. Odo: ~7,000 km. Only one bike left with original ownership paper. Available now, in Hanoi only.
This is an almost new bike. The best quality of this type you can find in Hanoi. This is a very good investment if you ride long distance because it's a real cruiser and fuel efficient.
Bingo. I had promised my father that I would buy a Honda. At the hospital, he always asked me the same question: "What kind of motorcycle are you going to buy in Vietnam? I would answer him to the best of my ability, knowing nothing about motorcycles. He was not satisfied with my answer and asked me the same question the next day.
Then one day, I printed out a picture of a Honda cruiser model that I had found on a Vietnamese website. I pinned it on the wall next to his bed so he could look at it.
From that day on, he would tell me:
- This is a beautiful Honda. With this, my daughter, you're going to have a great trip.
I set my alarm at 7:00 am. I wanted to go see it as soon as possible.