Top Gear Motorbike Vietnam Special

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Top Gear Motorbike Vietnam Special

The Top Gear Motorbike Vietnam special was released on 28th December 2008.

This 75-minute BBC special episode is responsible for the boom in the concept of buying motorbikes to travel across Vietnam.

This article is useful to you if you want to know:

  • Where the Top Gear Uk guys went in Vietnam
  • How they traveled by motorbike
  • How you can travel the same route as the Top Gear Motorbike crew

The first thing to notice is that the Top gear boys did the journey on piles of scrap. These kinds of beaters are easy to spot on the streets of Vietnam.  Even though they went on less than ideal bikes, the Top Gear guys had a caravan of helpers behind them. If you want to try your luck at an authentic Vietnam experience, a fully guided motorbike tour is probably a good idea, or rent a motorbike on a one way journey across Vietnam.

The shows special premise

Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson, and James May are given boxes of money to purchase a vehicle to travel the length of Vietnam. The boxes are filled with Vietnamese dong and the boys head out to purchase themselves some cars. They quickly realized the price of the kind of muscle cars they usually buy for their adventures were over their budget. This is due to import taxes which left the trio with no choice but to look for some cheap motorbikes to buy.

What motorbikes did the Top Gear guys settle on?

The 3 bikes that were going to run from Saigon to Ha Long Bay

The 3 bikes that were going to run from Saigon to Ha Long Bay

They begin their adventure with the threat of a broken vehicle being replaced with an inappropriately themed American flagged “back up” motorbike.

Heading off to Dalat and over to Nha Trang before going up the coast to Hoi An. In Hoi An the scene of the trio creating custom tailor-made suits became an icon of the town.

The Hai Van Pass was then discovered with the famous scene of the mountain pass being a metaphor of Vietnam. Travelling the Hai Van Pass on a motorbike is now a must-do activity for any traveler in Vietnam.
The Hai Van pass connects the authentic beautiful town of Hoi An, into the modern city of Danang. Over the pass and into a the traditional Hue city full of history. The Hai Van pass in itself is a short mountain climb over looking a stunning coast. The short duration of the pass and the remote feel is what has lead to this becoming such a famous attraction for passing tourists.

Realizing time was running short, they decide to cheat and take a train to Hanoi. Upon arriving the trio realize they have a made a mistake and arrived in the wrong city. A new challenge is released to find a remote bar in the Halong Bay area after creating amphibious vehicles out of their motorbikes.

Show highlights

  • Jeremy Clarkson (who hates motorbikes), realizing he does not have the money for a car. He is forced to buy a motorbike
  • Jeremy Clarkson being told he is going to die by a passing tourist. Failing to start his motorbike
  • Richard Hammond struggling with Vietnamese food
  • The boys leaving the city in the chaos of Ho Chi Minh
  • Night time driving on the way to Dalat
  • Nha Trang beach driving and peaceful coastal resorts, whilst Jeremy Clarkson relaxes with fish massage
  • Hoi An and creating Vietnamese clothes
  • Buying James May a marble statue in the marble mountain region of Danang
  • Buying Richard Hammond a boat
  • Buying Jeremy Clarkson a painting
  • The Hai Van Pass
  • The train in which the Top Gear boys attempt to fix their broken gifts.
  • Ha Long Bay and the creation of amphibious vehicles

The Actual Itinerary of the Vietnam Special

Driving with suits and pimped out bikes

Driving with suits and pimped out bikes then

Behind the scenes, the Top Gear boys only travel around 4 days on their motorbikes.

  • Day 1: HCM to Dalat
  • Day 2: Dalat to Nha Trang
  • Day 3: Nha Trang to Hoi An (although this day seems to be mostly skipped)
  • Day 4: Hoi An to Hue.

In comparison, a normal travelers holiday on a motorbike in Vietnam will be approximately 25 days.

In true top gear fashion, a comical scene of breakdowns and banter help the show along in style!
This has helped push the idea of traveling on useless motorbikes combined with a holiday-themed of hilarious breakdowns.
An adventure for some, and a great holiday to have… but not for everyone.

Off the popularity of the Vietnam special, backpackers started coming through with no motorbike experience at all. Buying $300 Honda Win motorbikes and believing they are roadworthy machines. Resulting in ruined holidays of over budget breakdowns and anger towards the original seller “ripping them off”. This passes onto the next poor soul where backpackers seem quite happy to openly lie to each other in generic adverts of “reliable with no breakdowns” that can be seen all across Craigslist and Facebook. The reality is a minefield of dangerous motorbikes being bought by inexperienced riders!

Honda Win

Driving on crappy Honda Wins without clothes now

The secret to Motorbikes in Vietnam

Vietnamese road speeds are incredibly slow, especially when keeping to the beautiful back roads that Vietnam has to offer. Locals are friendly and the cultural experience can be enjoyed by travelers finding their own way through Vietnam on purchased motorbikes. A true sense of freedom can be had twisting and turning through the mountains. To arrive at a party hostel to brag about the day’s event, or spend the night in a homestay to experience the authentic culture behind a Vietnamese household.

Vietnam has it all, and the Top Gear Motorbike Vietnam special is to thank for bringing this amazing experience to the masses! Read our article 16 reasons why Vietnam is popular for touring by motorbike.

Do you want to travel Vietnam by Motorbike?

Just like the top gear guys, through Tigit Motorbikes, a traveler can rent an authentic and safe motorbike to travel the length of Vietnam (1,650 kilometers). Set packages of 35 days, 60 days and 90 days are available to allow for long holidays with plenty of time to experience the beautiful mountain roads that Vietnam has to offer.

For a simple motorbike that easily goes from A - B then the Honda Blade is the perfect choice.

For a simple motorbike that easily goes from A – B then the Honda Blade is the perfect choice

Rent a Honda Blade

For the big and comfortable enduro dirt motorbike, suitable for all conditions then take the Honda XR for a spin!

Rent a Honda XR150

For a motorbike with speed and power that is popular among locals then give the Honda Winner a try.

Rent a Honda Winner

For a motorbike with speed and power that is popular among locals then give the Yamaha Exciter a try.

Rent a Yamaha Exciter

If you want to re-create the same exact journey as the Top Gear show, let us know when you book a bike for your travel in Vietnam, we can give you some pointers to capture the same magical moments with your own personal stamp on it. Of course, your bike will probably not break down as much as the top gear boys!

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