Assorted Adventures in Vietnam
To summarize my experience in Vietnam on motorbike is really hard. The experience is not made up of just one or two simply expressed stories. Instead it is made up of a bunch of little experiences, each evoking a different emotion. It is because of the varied nature of these little experiences that I feel pulled in a whirlwind of directions.
On my first day driving in the mountains I started the day with a flat tire.
Less than 20 kilometers later, I had another flat tire, thankfully near a mechanic. The road that day was quite bumpy, besides being hilly and curvy. We stopped to tighten the bolts that the road had shaken loose and discovered my headlight had shaken apart! Martin made me a flag instead [see my flag on Instagram] so he and Coy could see me easily.
Martin’s chain fell off a little while later. After a bit of inspection, a nut that was holding on the chain in order to turn the wheel was now missing. The bike couldn’t be driven. We were about 15 kilometers from the nearest mechanic, according to the friendly German who stopped to help. Coy tried pushing Martin but that didn’t work at all. Towing the bike, however, did work. Unfortunately, that meant I had to drive in the mountains on Coy’s bike – terrifying! But before I knew it, we had driven to the nearest town with a mechanic. The boy (he was barely 15) put the critical nut on Martin’s bike for free, and we were back on the road. Simple, right?
We like to take the time for quality breaks.
A plethora of abandoned resorts are just waiting for us to explore. I never know what we will discover when we stop for a break.
Vietnamese carry all sorts of things on their motorbikes.
Propane tanks – like 10 of them on one bike! 5 gallon water jugs – like 10 of them on one bike! Potted plants that are 2 feet in diameter and as tall as many Vietnamese people. Recyclables of all kinds in enormous quantities (after all, it’s not heavy; it’s just clumsy!).
New Year’s Day (February 8 this year) is a day to spend with your family. So, I saw a plethora of families on motorbikes. Most often it was two kids and the parents all on one bike. I saw a family of five on a bike. It’s common for the man to drive, the toddler to stand on the seat behind him and the mom to be behind the toddler, often sitting sidesaddle because of her skirt. I would take a picture, but they are driving too fast.
Pho is the most common noodle soup in Vietnam and usually is served for breakfast.
We stopped in a little town about an hour south of Da Lat to spend the night. We randomly found a nondescript cafe, and I got a boring meal of white rice and pickled vegetables for dinner. Afterwards, I learned that the woman had been a vegetarian for 40 years! She then gave me a bag of chili salt spice that I could put on anything. I suddenly loved this woman, despite the “meh” meal she had just served me. Then, she said she would make me vegetarian Pho for breakfast. We came back the next morning, and I enjoyed a delicious bowl of Pho with my coffee.
The drive from Da Lat to Nha Trang is 130 kilometers through a beautiful mountainous road.
There are no hotels along this stretch of road, so we had no choice but to make the trek in one day. Da Lat’s high altitude (1500 meters / 4900 feet) made for a cold morning. I got colder as it started to drizzle, the kind of drizzle that soaks you thoroughly. Good thing the rain isn’t making it hard to see, I thought… Then the fog rolled in. I couldn’t see more than a few feet ahead of me. I didn’t have a headlight. I was on the edge of a mountain. Slow and steady we drove. We stopped at some guy’s shack about halfway down the mountain to rest. It was next to a beautiful waterfall that I couldn’t see. I was so happy when the fog finally cleared!
Nha Trang is my home for five days.
The Vietnamese New Year (TET) requires we stay in a touristy town to ensure we can find food, gas, and lodging. We explored some pagodas and made friends with some Minnesotans.