The eighth and final episode of the twelfth series of Top Gear aired on the 28th of December, 2008. The presenters traveled the length of Vietnam on three two-wheeled automobiles. Jeremy rode a scooter whilst Richard and James rode motorbikes. Along the way the presenters were given numerous challenges.
The trip started in the city of Saigon is Southern Vietnam. The presenters were given 15 million Vietnamese dong to buy a car. This made the presenters happy as they thought that this was a lot of money to buy a car. However, they soon discovered that the 15 million dong was only worth 1000 US dollars. Jeremy stood in the rain and asked passers-by if he could buy their car for the money he had. Later at lunch, they decided to buy bikes with Jeremy reluctantly trying to refuse. An hour later, they met the American War Museum with their bikes. Richard purchased a Russian Minsk, James purchased an ancient Honda 50 Super Cub and Jeremy purchased a Vespa which has no stand. A producer hands them a challenge. It says that they are told to drive themselves from Saigon to Ha Long City with an 8 day limit. A journey the Americans failed to complete in 10 years, but Jeremy dislikes it. Before they began their journey however, the presenters had to buy helmets. Richard was the only one who could fit a helmet and as such Jeremy and James went and had some made.
The next day they met up in a car park to start the journey, with James having a colander and wok as a helmet and Jeremy, a bucket. Jeremy's Vespa had mirrors added to his Vespa as well. James and Richard set off straight away and left Jeremy behind when he failed to start his Vespa. Along the way, James had to ditch the wok and as they drive along the road, a car drives on the wrong side of the road and a dog is on a motorbike. Eventually, and with the help of a tourist, Jeremy managed to start his scooter, buy a real helmet and begin the journey. While struggling to ride, he nearly crashes into a stalled motorbike and yells at a Vietnamese person driving the wrong side of the road. James and Richard later pulled over at a petrol station and Jeremy caught up to them, crashing into Richard's Minsk. However, they later left him again as Jeremy had to repair his Vespa's drive shaft and front brakes. Later, James discovered his bike was relatively powerless and as such was incredibly slow up hills. Jeremy's Vespa meanwhile, had broken down again and had to ask locals for help. James' motorbike eventually stopped as the elevation of the hill was too much for it's powerless engine. Richard arrived at the restaurant whilst James was forced to push his bike the rest of the way. Jeremy later discovered his many mirrors were placed in the wrong position and as such illuminated his face as opposed to the road ahead.
At the restaurant, Jeremy knowingly knew Richard hasn't had much to eat except Rice Krispies, so he ordered set menu B which was various dishes that had snake in them.
After drinking too much snake vodka, James and Jeremy took Richard's helmet and destroyed it by having a lorry run over it and brought him a new one, a pink helmet. Along the way in the rain, Jeremy curses his life and James mockingly sings Beach Boys’ 'Little Honda', but soon ran out of fuel and Richard's clutch cable snapped. James is soon provided gas by a polite man and after meeting up and were told by the frustrated producers that they can't just fix their bikes, they soon provided a back-up bike, a Honda Chaly mini-bike, painted and flanked in a livery (similar to the bike seen in the film Easy Rider and fitted with an iPod audio system continuously playing Born in the U.S.A. (Both the iTunes and NetFlix versions of the episode have "The Star-Spangled Banner" playing, however references to Springsteen and the song remain in these versions.) Eventually, they manage to get their bikes working and drive all the way to Nha Trang, along the way, Jeremy's headlight died and Jeremy taped a torch and they head into town where Jeremy buys a ship for Richard. They rode along the roads for a day and a half and went to Hoi An to buy new clothes as theirs got filthy. Since the clothes would take a whole day, they chose to go to the beach, but Jeremy gives up for some peace. Richard mistakingly rode his bike near the waves, damaging it and the backup bike mocks him. As his bike was being mended, Richard was lectured by a deaf and mute army veteran about how he fought in the war while James and Jeremy watched an event in town. After getting their new clothes, they took off and Jeremy asks who wrote 'Penis' on his helmet, which Richard replied that he did. Since James was too far back, the other two decided to buy him a statue which they christen as 'Darcey Bussell'. Along the way, Richard knocks some bins and a toll booth sign over with his galleon, ruining it. Atop a hill, to celebrate Jeremy's debut on a bike, Richard and James give him a painting. Later at the hotel, while Richard fixed the galleon as best he can, only to have a celling fan ruin it again, James and Jeremy persuade a few locals to spray paint Richard's Minsk pink, resulting in a local girl painting the other bikes pink. The following morning, Richard was mad at the two about the bike and didn't care if his galleon got hit by something again.
They stop at a local Vietnamese driving school where they discuss how Richard's bike looks similar to the helmet before a producer hands James a letter, which Jeremy thinks will be the person with the pinkest bike wins, but it wasn't. They have to take a driving test in Vietnamese before they can continue. James got his answer wrong, Richard barely got his question correct when asked which way the car must give way, but answered in English and Jeremy answered the legal age to drive which is 18 in Vietnamese. Later, they do a small driving test with Richard and James passing with flying colours, but Jeremy fails multiple times due to the Vespa's multiple breakdowns, using his feet and going out of line and tried using James's bike, but failed again. Not wanting to waste time, they decide to resume their journey, but as he got off the bike, Jeremy unintentionally broke James's statue and buys him some flowers as an apology, with Richard breaking one of Jeremy’s mirrors with his galleon. (To be continued)
After the visit to the Citadel and at lunch, Jeremy discovers that they are behind schedule due to them waiting for their suits to be made and Richard recommends that they cheat, and so they take a train. But before they got on the train, James and Richard scold Jeremy for ruining his painting since the spare wheel has come through it. They were placed in third class of the train and learn that would take 13 hours to get to Ha Long City. During the train ride, they each decide to fix each others’ presents to pass the time with Richard painting the ruined painting, getting paint on his shirt, Jeremy fixing Darcey, dropping hot glue on his suit, and James fixing the galleon. Once the train reached its destination they review the gifts to see that Jeremy replaced the missing hand with a piece of the shoulder, Richard painted a Land Rover and James brought a fan and chopsticks to turn the galleon into a Chinese junk. But as they take their bikes out, Jeremy crashes into James’ bike, breaking Darcey again.
When they left the station, they discover that they are in Hanoi, with the presenters blaming each other, such as Jeremy choosing the platform and James getting the tickets. They discover Hanoi’s traffic was worse and were unable to find any signs, ending up in the countryside as a result. But soon, they managed to rejoin the main road with Jeremy saying that if he kids buy a bike, he will burn it, its replacement and another replacement after some understanding. As he soon got crazy from the speed, Richard’s Minsk stalled again, the Honda once again mocking him, he manages to get the bike running again with James’ help, only to unintentionally fall, headbutting James’ groin and breaking his galleon.
During all that, Jeremy ends up falling off his bike, scraping his right arm, cracking some ribs, breaking his right leg and tearing his suit pants. Richard and James then decide to buy each other gifts with Richard having a lawn chair while James had a vase. Once they reunited, Jeremy cursed at Richard for suggesting bikes in the first place.
Eventually, they reach Ha Long City, tooting their horns in victory. As they get off and James breaks his vase, a producer hands them an envelope, saying that they haven’t finished. The actual finishing point is a bar in Ha Long Bay, which is only accessible by water. They then decide to turn their bikes into jetskis and spend the rest of the day building them.
On the final day, they unveiled their creations. Jeremy had one similar to a paddle steamer, Richard had a swan as a figurehead and James had completely disassembled his bike, turning it into jetski with a fibreglass hull, supported by some tied up logs. They soon go underway, with James starting Jeremy’s due to his cracked ribs, but in true tradition, James crashes into Jeremy and some netting before sinking. Choosing not to help, Jeremy and Richard move along the bay, with Richard helping restart Jeremy’s jetski, looking for the bar, even resorted to looking in caves.
Meanwhile, back on the beach, James had stolen some spare pontoons to replace the logs and had some fishermen tie them up as best as they could, and immediately went underway to try and catch up with the others, who were stuck in a cave with no reverse gear, singing Beach Boys’ 'Little Honda' again, but ends up losing one of his pontoons. Once they were out of the cave, Jeremy and Richard end up having some problems, with Jeremy almost getting electrocuted, and Richard’s steering making him spin around, resulting in him giving off many cusses. Despite these faults, Jeremy manages to find the bar and gets their first, choosing not to help Richard as he showed up until he got onto the deck.
As they drink beer while waiting for James, with only a few hours to go, Jeremy tells Richard he found out that some of the people living at the bar are born there, they fish, and die, spending their whole lives floating. Once James came across the bar, he loses his other pontoon and his bike stalls, causing the two to laugh at him as he tried to start it up again, ending up falling into the bay, but arrives by swimming along with the pontoon, managing to arrive hours before sunset.
- Based on the idea of this special, a luxury tour operator for Southeast Asia has come up with a tour 'Recreating Top Gear's glory days in Vietnam' which gives the chance for everyone to go through and explore some of 'the best coast roads' in the world.
- At just 6.70 million viewers tuning in, this was the least viewed episode of Series 12. This was a common trend for Specials, however.
- This is often considered the greatest episode of Top Gear in the show's history, holding a 9.2 rating on IMDb.
- The trio would return 10 years later to record the Seamen special, for The Grand Tour, making Vietnam the first country to be revisited for a special episode.