Once you've decided which country is best to buy a motorbike in, the next step is to fly there to buy one. All over Asia you find you have 3 different options to choose between: a fully automatic scooter, a semi automatic scooter or a fully manual motorbike. On an automatic you don't need to worry about anything other than start and stop, there are no gears or clutch. A semi auto has 4 gears, but no clutch allowing you the control of gears whilst freeing up your left hand by not having a clutch. Finally a motorbike will come with gears and a clutch and requires a certain degree of coordination. Here is a list of some of the Pros & Cons for each of them:
Semi Automatic Scooter
As you can see, the logical choice would be the semi auto option, which is why pretty much all the locals use them. This is mainly down to the freedom of not having a clutch which frees up a hand whilst driving. Ive seen that free hand being used for drinking, making phone calls, taking selfies or even wrestling a dead dog just bought at the butchers to try and get it to balance on the step through of the scooter. With a motorbike however, you can almost guarantee that when you need Google Maps the most, you'll need to change gear. As impractical as the motorbikes are though, there is that added 'man thing' about having one, that and they are actually really good fun to ride.
Of all the semi auto scooters out there, there is one that is far more popular than any other throughout Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos: the Honda Wave. Most of the locals were brought up fixing these scooters so getting them fixed anywhere, even on the side of the road is going to be a doddle compared to any other less common model. The same goes for finding parts. We met a guy in Laos who was on his second bike because he bought a Yamaha scooter in Vietnam which broke in Cambodia, unfortunately there are no Yamaha scooters in Cambodia so he couldn't get the part he needed and had to sell it for pennies and buy a new one.
The same can also be said about buying a Honda Win motorbike, if you are planning on leaving Vietnam with it please note only backpackers have Hona Wins, so if something big blows you could find yourself in a bit of a predicament.
I opted for a Honda Win where as Carly went for the Honda Wave. Over the 3 months my starter broke, I went through 3 spark plugs, all my lights and indicators broke off at some point, my chain stretched and came off and my front suspension went too. Carly on the other hand lost a mirror, that was it. Embarrassingly too, her scooter was faster when we had a drag race on an old runway.
If I was to do it again, I'd still go for the Honda Win though.