What we loved…
Cross Country Motorbikes – Freedom at it’s finest! There’s nothing but you and the open road…and herds of water buffalo. We bought motorcycles in Ho Chi Minh City and took the next 6 weeks driving north to Ha Noi. We rode past emerald green rice fields, wound our way through stunning karst mountains, drove along empty beaches, and swam in the endless sea of motorbikes in crowded cities. And that’s just what we did on our motorcycles. The time in between the drives was just as spectacular. Traveling Vietnam on motorbike is the adventure of a lifetime!
Friendliness – Unrelenting friendliness awaits around every corner. We had village kids chasing us down, screaming “Hello! I love you!”, and strangers offering to help whenever we had a motorcycle snafus (and we had a lot). Everyone wanted to feed us around every bend. Vietnam offers the biggest smiles, the warmest welcomes, and the most joyous interactions!
Food Culture – Foooooood!!!!! If we weren’t so active we’d be such fatties. One of our absolute favorite parts of traveling is tasting and smelling the uniquely different flavors each country has to offer. Vietnam is a bit of a cheat for us, considering we ate Pho at least once a week back when we had normal lives in Los Angeles, but that also means we had high expectations. Banh mi, pho, bia hoi, spring rolls, smoked meat, homemade sausage, coffee, you name it, we tried it, and we loved it all!
What we didn’t love…
Cross Country Motorbikes – But we just said we loved this. Confusing, I know, but there’s two sides to every coin. Along with the freedom and stunning views came the responsibility of keeping our motorcycles running and ourselves safe. This entailed a lot of motorcycle maintenance. We were riding such long distances that it meant getting an oil change a couple times a week. My entire engine had to be rebuilt – twice! We were at the mercy of tiny engines and sometimes terrible conditions – traffic, construction, fog, animals darting in front of you, huge trucks speeding at you on the wrong side of the street, lose gravel on sharp turns, mud bogged roads, crappy headlights, etc. It was sometimes downright frightening, and always extremely tiring.
The Vietnam War (or as they refer to it, The American War) – Being an American traveling Vietnam can be strange and uncomfortable. We weren’t even alive during the war, but we still feel the weight of responsibility and embarrassment for the atrocities that occurred. Terrible things happened to every American and Vietnamese soldier involved in that war, but having happened in Vietnam, innocent Vietnamese are still feeling the effects. From birth defects caused by agent orange, to leftover UXOs (unexploded ordinances) surfacing and going off – it’s pretty depressing.
Halong Bay – It’s one of the new 7 Natural Wonders of the World, so it’s understandably crowded, but it’s unfortunately poorly managed. It’s impossible to pick “the right” company to go with. The tour operators are not upfront. It’s hard to not feel like just one of the thousands head of cattle being quickly herded through the highlights. And if you don’t luck out with good weather, it’s not worth it all .