To rent your own motorbike and drive the length of the country, contact tour agencies in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. If you go this route, Vietnam is your oyster -- you can go where the road takes you. Below is a trip that includes two good overland tours in the Central Highlands and the Northern Highlands -- both doable by rented jeep as well. So start your engines and prepare for some memorable adventures.
Day 1: Arrive in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
Get acclimated and explore the downtown area of Ho Chi Minh City, along Dong Khoi. If time permits, go to the Reunification Palace or War Remnants Museum.
Day 2: Saigon to Dalat
Fly or drive from Saigon to the mountain town of Dalat, and then head straight for Peace Cafe, to arrange your trip with an Easy Rider (expect to pay about $35 per day to ride on the back with a guide, budget accommodations included). In the evening, check out the Dalat Market.
Day 3: Dalat to Buon Ma Thuot
Start early, catching the sights outside of Dalat that interest you (check out the Crazy House or the temples and monasteries outside of town). Then follow rolling hills of coffee plants and stunning pine-dotted vistas as you ride to Buon Ma Thuot. Pass through Lak Lake in the late afternoon and visit M'nong Communities. Rugged travelers spend an overnight at Lak Lake or at the nearby Hotel Biet Dien. For something less rustic, press on to Buon Ma Thuot and the Damsan Hotel.
Day 4: Buon Ma Thuot to Kontum
Stop at a number of battle sites during the all-day drive, and pass through the city of Pleiku. Overnight at Family Hotel in Kontum.
Day 5: Kontum to Hoi An
Visit Dak To and Charlie Hill, two important battle sites, before hopping on Hwy. 14 for a ride all the way to Hoi An. For an overnight stay, try one of the resorts along Cua Dai Beach, and settle in for a day of well-earned relaxation.
Day 6: Hoi An
Take a tour of the ancient town or head to little Cua Dai Beach.
Day 7: Hoi An to Hanoi
Fly to the capital via Danang. Get oriented with a cyclo or walking tour of the Old Quarter.
Day 8: Hanoi
Take a tour of Hanoi starting at the Hanoi Citadel, including the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, House, and Museum, and the One-Pillar Pagoda. See Van Mieu, the Temple of Literature, in the afternoon. In the evening, take in the Thang Long Water Puppet show. Collapse.
Day 9: Hanoi to Son La
Hit the highway on your rented Minsk motorcycle, with or without a guide (check with rental agencies in Hanoi). Breeze through little Mai Chau, take a walk to the ethnic villages outside of town, and then spend the night in Son La at the Trade Union Hotel. If you have time, visit the Son La Prison.
Day 10: Son La to Lai Chau
Follow Route 6 in its most dynamic climb up from Tuan Giao and along a high mountain area to the town of Lai Chau. Stay at the little Lan Anh Hotel and take a late-afternoon (or tomorrow-morning) trek to the many White Thai villages.
Day 11: Lai Chau to Sapa
The all-day ride from Lai Chau to Sapa follows the Dong Da River along a very picturesque stretch. Just before Sapa, you'll climb up stunning Tram Ton Pass, which offers some of the most picturesque landscape in Vietnam. Put your feet up in Sapa (I recommend Topas Ecolodge) and swap tales of your adventure.
Day 12: Sapa
Enjoy a full day of trekking -- best arranged through an outfitter in Hanoi or with Handspan or Topas in Sapa. The Lao Cai-to-Ta Van Walk is popular, but there are many options to visit Hmong and Dao villages. Explore the Sapa market in the afternoon and take in a dance performance of local hilltribe people in the evening.
Day 13: Sapa to Hanoi
If it is a Sunday, check out the market in the town of Bac Ha. Otherwise, explore the hills around Sapa before the short few hours to Lao Cai. From here, you can put your motorcycle on the train for Hanoi and ride in comfort on the overnight, best in a luxury sleeper car.
Intrepid riders who didn't get enough of the open road can forgo the train back to Hanoi from Lao Cai and head east, reaching Ha Giang -- a small town that connects the two routes of Dien Bien Phu Loop and Cao Bang -- or even continuing farther to Cao Bang in a day.
The waterfall outside of Cao Bang is spectacular and the road to Lang Son is a great ride (lots of hilltribe markets). From Lang Son to Hanoi is a wide highway (for trade with China). Budget 3 extra days of hard riding if you want to include Cao Bang and Lang Son on your way back to Hanoi.
Day 14: Hanoi
Arrive in Hanoi station at 6am. After a day's stay at a hotel to get cleaned up and do some last-minute shopping, depart for your next destination.