Traversing Vietnam By Motorbike: Day 14-15 – Obstacles and Selling Bikes
Distance: 490km / 305 miles
Bike Condition: fo’ sale!
Driver Condition: dodging highway traffic
While we had originally planned on taking a three-day more-scenic inland route from Phong Nha National Park to Hanoi, having spent an extra day in Phong Nha and still needing time to sell our bikes in Hanoi and make a side trip out to the famed Halong Bay, we needed to boogie to Hanoi. This meant taking the quicker two-day route up the dreaded Highway 1 (AH-1).
While we have professed the beauty of Vietnam time and time again throughout our journey, if ever you wanted to find some “ugly” parts of the country, surely it would be along AH-1, a congested highway of honking tour buses, speeding 18-wheelers, cars, motorbikes, old ladies dodging across the road on bicycles, and the occasional water buffalo cart. Some of it is exciting, though most is just gritty: dust in your eyes, exhaust in your face, and horns blaring in your ears. While the highway did cross through some scenic farmland and there were mountain views in the distance from time to time, most of the roadway from Phong Nha to Hanoi was not comprised of the landscapes that inspire motorbike travels through Vietnam. We highly recommend that if you have the time, you take the longer more scenic route to Hanoi, avoiding AH-1.
We put in a long day (400km/249mi) from Phong Nha to Ninh Binh, during which I’m ashamed to admit that we made the obligatory interstate-road-trip-esque fast food lunch stop – at a KFC (ha!), followed by a shorter day of the remaining distance (90km/56mi) to Hanoi. Coming into Hanoi on the nation’s independence day (April 30, 1975) was even more hairy than a typical day driving into chaos of the city, but we eventually weaved our way to our hostel in Hanoi’s Old Quarter. A bittersweet moment! We were both sad to end our awesome motorbike journey, but also really happy with the adventure and ready to relax a bit and move on to some more mellow travels (i.e., let someone else do the driving).
We spent the first two days in Hanoi working pretty hard to sell our bikes. Let me tell you, at first things looked pretty grim. We posted the bikes on every Vietnam backpacker and motorbike-sale Facebook and forum page we could find, pinned up flyers in all of the major backpacker hostels, and jumped into conversations whenever we so much as heard the word “motorbike”… “Hi, did someone say they need a motorbike?”
The first day and a half of his went without so much as a nibble and with prospects looking pretty slim, we started taking the bikes around to local shops to see what the bike shop sale rate would be, which was pretty pitiful – only about $85 USD per bike. Yikes. The going rate for selling them back to travelers is $250 each. Obviously, this was preferable.
Finally, someone replied to our forum post on expat.com… probably the last place we posted the sale that we actually thought would be useful. A very nice couple from Florida, they met us our second night in Hanoi to take an initial look and then again the next morning to test drive and purchase. We are so happy everything worked out!! Having the bikes sold is a huge weight off our shoulders. They really were great bikes, all issues minor and repaired immediately, but more people are often looking for the HONDA Wins, and the Waves can be a little harder to sell, so we really lucked out.
For those attempting to sell bikes in Hanoi, a few words of wisdom and encouragement. It seems that more people bike from south to north, so A LOT of people are trying to sell their bikes in Hanoi and supply is far more than demand. This doesn’t mean you can’t sell them, but you definitely have to put some work into it. Post your bike on every Vietnam backpacker and motorbike-sale group you can possibly find on Facebook, as well as other sale forums you find online (expat.com is what worked for us!), and hashtag the $h*T out of that –ish on Instagram. Also make flyers and post around at the backpacker hostels and keep your ears to the ground for people talking about motorbikes.
Definitely give yourselves at least a few days in Hanoi to make the sale happen! Your last ditch option is selling your bike to a shop for significantly cheaper than what you will get from a traveler, but hey – it’s better than nothing, and when your flight is looming in the very near future, you have to do something. Good luck!
We will have one more upcoming post in this Vietnam motorbiking series – detailing a few “events” of the trip that we didn’t mention as we went… stay tuned!