A midlife chrysalis

In 2008, Top Gear aired an episode featuring Vietnam. Wearing makeshift helmets and loud holiday shirts, the three presenters rode the Hai Van Pass on local motorbikes. Afterwards, Jeremy Clarkson peered at the camera, and in a voice that sounded like he was talking through a very long pipe, declared that the pass was, ‘One of the best coast roads…(pause for effect)…in the world’. In an effort to dissuade like-minded travelers from doing the same, the episode was banned in Vietnam. Most consulates state that the roads are too dangerous to be attempted by people used to travelling Western conditions, and strongly advise against attempts at riding them. Travel information sites such as Tripadvisor, refuse to post any information endorsing motorbike travel for foreigners.

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But how risky is it? The statistics, if they can be believed, they are frightening. In 2013, Vietnam had 22,419 road casualties at a rate per…

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