Features/challenges: Vietnam Special: (Minsk • Piaggio Vespa • Honda Super Cub)
Original air date: December 28, 2008
The trio attempt to see if they can do what the Americans couldn’t in the Vietnam conflict – get from Hồ Chí Minh City (Saigon) in the south of Vietnam, to Hạ Long city, near Hanoi (Hà Nội) in the north, within eight days. The presenters are impressed to find they have been given 15 million Vietnamese đồng to buy a second-hand vehicle, but quickly discover that it amounts to US$1000 and that cars are expensive in the country. As a last resort, much to Clarkson’s chagrin, all three find themselves buying a motorcycle for the journey – Hammond buys a Belarusian-built 125 cc four-stroke Minsk, May gets a two-stroke Honda Super Cub and an unenthusiastic Clarkson purchases a two-stroke green 1967 Piaggio Vespa, with the trio learning that, should their bikes break down and be unable to start again, the producers have provided a 1973 Honda Chaly mini-bike as a back-up, complete with a Stars and Stripes livery and an audio system continuously playing “Born in the U.S.A.”. On their journey through the country, the trio deal with monsoon weather, sample local cuisine, get silk suits, uncover gorgeous scenery, partake in a motorcycle licence test exam, before finally converting their bikes for a journey across the sea to the finish line – a floating bar within the maze of limestone islets in Hạ Long Bay.
In reference to film-maker Francis Ford Coppola, the ending credits replaced the first names of the crew with the words “Francis Ford” (e.g. “Francis Ford Clarkson”, “Francis Ford Hammond”, etc.). To avoid copyrights, certain versions have Born in the U.S.A. replaced with The Star Spangled Banner while Jeremy’s teasing of Hammond with Springsteen’s lyrics is omitted as the context would be lost.