Vietnam is a country in love with the motorcycle. It is said that there is one motorcycle for every five people in the country; they certainly outnumber cars by far, which makes Vietnam an ideal country to explore by motorcycle.
From the highlands of the north, down the Ho Chi Minh trail to the south central areas, along the coastal roads and on to the deep south and the Mekong Delta, there is nowhere cannot be reached. And the only traffic you are likely to encounter in most places will be the odd water buffalo cart.
In the northwest lie mystical mountains, home to the hill tribes who were virtually unknown to the average Vietnamese until the French occupation forcibly opened the area, revealing the lives of the Thai, Muong, Dao, Lu, Khang, H'mong and Giay ethnic minorities for the first time. The mountainous landscape makes access to this area difficult in any other way than by motorcycle, so it is an ideal destination, where the rider can experience quiet roads leading up the mountains to meet the local people and even share a meal and overnight in their homes.
For those with time, the classic motorcycle journey is to follow the Ho Chi Minh Trail all the way from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon). This trip would take up to three weeks and take in most of Vietnam's most important sights.
Start with a tour of the streets of Hanoi with its old streets and colonial architecture. Leaving Hanoi, head towards Mai Chau, home of the White Thai minority, then turn south to join the Ho Chi Minh Trail. During the Vietnam War, this collection of rough paths and jungle footways allowed the Vietcong to penetrate deep into South Vietnam. Today it is a highway, but by motorcycle you can easily make detours to visit places of interest nearby such as Phong Nha National Park on the border with Laos.
Crossing the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone), established in April 1954 as a result of the Geneva Conference ending the war between the Viet Minh and the French, effectively cutting Vietnam into two, it is worth heading towards the sea to the east, passing famous battle sites, and visiting Hue, the ancient capital of pre-colonial Vietnam.
From there take a day or two to head towards Da Nang, site of China Beach, where US marines first landed in Indochina. After enjoying the beautiful white sand beaches, head off to the old town of Hoi An. This is a wonderfully preserved middle ages town, showing the best of Vietnamese architecture.
From there, pass through Da Lat, the city of "eternal spring", taking time to visit its famous pagodas and the residence of Bao Dai, Vietnam's last emperor.
A couple of days of leisurely riding will bring you to the bustle and chaos which is Ho Chi Minh City.
If that has whetted you appetite for more, continue on south-west to the tip of Vietnam in the Mekong Delta. In Ben Tre, you can visit some of Vietnam's best floating markets, while An Giang has some of the most famous temples in Vietnam. The area whole is full of interest.
These are only some suggestions. Motorcycling in Vietnam is certainly the easiest way to see the most and gives every rider great freedom of movement. Want to get more information, please visit Indochina Odyssey Tours.