Motorbike Shopping in Hanoi

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Buying a Motorbike: and how we lucked the f@%k out.

So if you’re anything like me (and have no general knowledge of motorcycles or the Vietnamese language as a whole), buying a motorbike in Vietnam is quite a daunting task. You know you want to do it, but putting it off for more and more “research” seems like the “smarter” (/easier) thing to do.

This is the loop we were stuck in during our first week in Hanoi:

  • You know anyone is going to tell you exactly what you want to hear to make the sale.

  • You don’t want to get hosed and break the bank, but you don’t want to go too cheap and die.

  • You want something that will get your fat ass up the muddy hill, but you don’t want to go too powerful and die.

  • Add in a language barrier, so it’s tough to negotiate, or just know if you’re getting what you wanted regardless of the price-tag.

  • Now add the lack of motorcycle knowledge, so it’s impossible to tell if the bike is safe or if you’ll… (yeah you guess it) die.

  • This formula leads us to one obvious conclusion: more research.

You can only do so much research before you’re ready to just pull the trigger. As our finger is itching on the trigger, we had the dumb luck to make friends with a nice old couple from New Zealand. We’ll call them Colin and Sharon (that’s because their names are Colin and Sharon). They’ve been spending two months of the year in Hanoi for the past seven years. We explained our current predicament, so they explained that they’re taking the owner of a motorbike shop out to dinner that night. We’ll call him Hung (that’s because his name is Hung). Hung owns “Flamingo Motorbikes” in Hanoi, and they couldn’t stop talking about what a great guy he is. He’s got shops all over Vietnam and speaks excellent English, so it was easy to talk to him about our needs and concerns.

We decided on a couple of Honda XR 150’s. Yeah, they’re a little more pricey than the Chinese copy of a Honda Win, but you can’t put a price on reliability (right?). We’d rather pay more upfront from a reputable dealer than haggle with a mechanic in the countryside anyway. Hung got them cleaned and fixed up for us to buy. Beyond that, he personally showed us the most common problem areas to check to prevent future issues, and gave us his personal cell phone number to call anytime we need. Hell, he even told us to call him if any of the other shops didn’t treat us right.

Now if Hung doesn’t follow through on these promises, or Chase dies due to mechanical failure, you better believe there will be a follow-up Microblog. But for now: Hung is the balls.

TL;DR - Make trustworthy friends who can help you buy a motorcycle, so you don’t die.

- Embry