Riding the HCM Trail – Mai Chau to Vinh

After the excitement of heading out from Hanoi with Charlie Boorman, and the overnight stay in the stilt houses of Mai Chau, it was time to get in the saddle of the Russian Urals and do some real riding over the mountains to the city of Vinh, near to the birthplace of Ho Chi Minh.

The Ma River

The Ma River

The journey from Mai Chau to Vinh took us south along a winding road that follows the banks of the Ma River before heading in to some remote back country, not far from the Laotian border. The scenery was quite something, but by far the highlight for me was the periodic stops for fortifying Vietnamese coffee in country villages.

Coffee stop in a small village on the Ma River

Coffee stop in a small village on the Ma River

Local villagers on the road to Vinh

Local villagers on the road to Vinh

We were very much the center of attention everywhere we did that and it was quite obvious that  groups of foreigners on large, rather strange, motorcycles did not pass through on a regular basis.

Nevertheless we were warmly welcomed at each stop with an equal mixture of hospitality and bemusement…

The ride, at just over 300km, was the longest of whole trip.

I have to say that by about 200km my new-found enthusiasm for the Russian Ural was starting to fade a little as the realization dawned on me that I was on-board a truly digital motorcycle!

As a solo machine it is a 1 or a 0, in that you are on or off…

There is very little sensitivity of the road transmitted to the rider, so where on a modern bike you get some early warning that you are pushing the envelope, with the Ural such luxuries are not included.

The Ural motorcycle attracted a lot of attention

The Ural motorcycle attracted a lot of attention

Pretty obvious really when you consider that you are riding something that was designed in the 1940’s, but it was a lesson I think we all learned that day and heeded well as nobody actually came off during the whole trip!

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