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The Top Gear: Vietnam Special, broadcast at the end of series 12, featured presenters Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May buying used motorbikes and driving them from the south of Vietnam to the north.


Map of Top Gear Vietnam special

More than a car show, the producers wanted to acknowledge the Vietnam War while showing the country as more than "just that place where a war happened."

The major destinations that Top Gear stopped at are:


Ostensibly, the trio purchased motorbikes on their own from wherever they could find around Saigon. In reality, the bikes were supplied by a motorcycle tour operator (although they did purchase the vehicles and later imported two of them to Britain as keepsakes).

The vehicles used in the episode were:

  • Hammond: 125cc Minsk
  • May: Honda Super Cub
  • Clarkson: green 1967 Piaggio Vespa

You'd be wise to get a better vehicle, as all three of theirs were somewhat underpowered, often struggling with Vietnam's many mountains, and frequently breaking down and needing improvised repairs.

Some additional vehicles were used, although not always seen:

  • The back-up vehicle was a 1973 Honda Chaly painted in Stars and Stripes livery, and fitted with an iPod that only played "Born in the U.S.A.".
  • For filming, the crew used three Urals without sidecars, driven by motorcycle tour staff; the cameramen and sound engineers rode as pillion passengers facing backwards.

However you obtain your wheels, for extra authenticity, be sure to first get the money for it in lots of small bills, and carry it in an old shoebox.


To ride a motorcycle in Vietnam, you need an International Driving Permit with a valid motorcycle licence, or you need to get a temporary Vietnamese motorcycle licence. Check whether you have coverage to ride in Vietnam from either your traveller's insurance (many don't) or motorcycle insurance.

Get in[edit]

The starting point is a town square somewhere in Saigon. Before that, you can stop at the 1 War Remnants Museum. War Remnants Museum (Q703871) on Wikidata War Remnants Museum on Wikipedia


Leg 1: Saigon to Da Lat[edit]

When you arrive late at night, find a local bar where you can sample some rắn (snake), including rượu rắn (snake wine) and other snake-infused concoctions.

Leg 2: Da Lat to Nha Trang[edit]

The preview for the series showed a brief clip of "the Stig's Communist cousin". This segment didn't make the final edit, but was later included on DVD. It was filmed at a former U.S. air base near Da Lat.

Leg 3: Nha Trang to Hoi An[edit]

Pass through Tuy Hoa, Qui Nhon, Quang Ngai, and Tam Ky.

Clothes shopping[edit]

Once you've made it this far, you deserve a break! Take a day off to get some bespoke clothes made. Relax in a luxury hotel, or spend some time at the beach, and see if maybe you meet a friendly local.

Leg 4: Hoi An to Hue[edit]

Take the Hai Van Pass along the mountains, and enjoy the majestic views. By now, even the grumpiest person in your group might start enjoying themselves.

Leg 5: Hue to Hanoi or Ha Long[edit]

In the morning, you could stop in Dong Ha to try to take a Vietnamese driving test (although since you didn't arrange in advance to stage and film it, they'll probably be annoyed with you wasting their time rather than amused). Visit the Citadel of Hue and ponder this major battlefield of the 1968 Tet Offensive.

From here, the presenters took a train to Hanoi (supposedly by mistake). For authenticity, you could do the same, but if you have the time then there's no reason not to simply drive to Hanoi, or if you wish, skip Hanoi and drive directly to Hạ Long instead.

Leg 6: Hanoi to Ha Long[edit]

Ha Long to Ba Hàng Bar[edit]

Unless you have a team of engineers working for you (as Top Gear did), you'd best forget trying to recreate this exactly, and simply hire boat transportation to the bar.

Stay safe[edit]

Although played for laughs, motorcycling in Vietnam is not for the inexperienced. (Clarkson's inability to ride was completely faked for the sake of the story; not only does he own a motorcycle, in a 1995 programme he very competently rode a motorcycle in Vietnam!) Traffic in the cities is chaotic, and in the countryside is full of speeding tour buses who leave little room for bikers.

Helmets are required by law, and it should be a proper helmet and not a ridiculous bent piece of sheet metal.

Go next[edit]

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