Vietnam By Motorbike
After leaving Cambodia, we headed by boat to Vietnam. It was one of the most fun bordering crossing that we’ve ever done – speed boating down the river, via the immigration points, until we arrived at Chau Doc and our floating hotel, where we were staying the night. The next morning we went on a bit of a tour around the local town, before catching another boat further down the Mekong. After a couple of hours on this, we stopped, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, to catch our 7 hour bus up to Saigon. We decided on the way, that after all the travelling, we didn’t really feel like staying the night, plus I’ve been there before and wasn’t bothered about staying again. So instead, once we got to Saigon, I parked Jas up in a bar with our bags, and headed out to see if I could book a night bus to Nha Trang. We were in luck, and there was one leaving at 9 pm, which would get us in at roughly 7am. Perfect. So a few beers and a tasty feed later, we were back on the road. This time in a bus with weird horizontal sleeper type seats. I thought it was quite comfy, but Jas was too tall and struggled to fit. Luckily for us, there was one local guy up the back in some bigger seats, and he offered to trade, which meant that we were much comfier and got a surprisingly decent bit of sleep.
Unfortunately, our arrival at the pretty little beach town of Nha Trang also coincided with the early onset of rainy season! So the booze cruise that we went on around the island, wasn’t so much idyllic, as it was wet and cold! But we made the best of it and still ended up having a pretty great time. Jas jumped off the roof of the boat in to the sea, and we drank gross red wine from plastic cups while floating around with rubber rings (the bar was also a bigger rubber ring (bar man inside) attached to the boat by a rope)…such a random day.
One of the main things that we wanted to do in Vietnam was a motorbike trip. Some friends of ours had recommended Papa Hahn’s Easyriders after doing a trip with them the previous year, so on our last full day in Nha Trang, we borrowed a bike from them to get out to the local hot springs and mud pools, to try them out and make sure that Jas would be comfortable driving around in the crazy Vietnam traffic. Even though it was only a few km’s away, the traffic is mad, and took a bit of getting used to, but we managed to arrive without getting killed or lost, and headed in to the spa. We were offered heaps of different packages, ranging from mega flash and expensive (45 bucks – expensive for Vietnam anyway!) to basic and cheap (which we chose!). So for the bargainaceous price of $5 each, we got 20 mins in the mud bath, followed by a “hydrotherapy spa” (aka walking between 2 walls with heaps of strong jets of water spraying out), then another 20 minutes in a hot mineral water bath. After that we had unlimited use of all the swimming pools, which varied in temperature. Soooooo relaxing!
The next morning we woke up to torrential rain and were a little scared about starting our motorbike trip in this weather. Papa Hagn assured us that it would improve once we got away from the coast, so with that, we met our guide (his brother Cal), strapped up our luggage and pulled on the wet weather gear they gave us. Although the rain never stopped, we had a great day! Our first stop was a cafe in the middle of nowhere overlooking paddy fields, and this was where we first experienced Vietnamese tea and coffee. The tea is similar to green tea and drunk all day by the locals and we both got quite addicted to having some at every stop. Jas doesn’t like coffee, but I gave it a go and was obsessed after the first mouthful. It’s made by placing a little percolator over a small glass with some condensed milk at the bottom. Once the coffee has all filtered through (about a double espresso worth), you stir to mix the two and then drink. It is beautiful! Very strong and very sweet. The next stop was for lunch, for which Cal ordered us fried rice with chicken. Sounds simple, but with it they serve a little dish with salt and pepper mixed in it and you squeeze a quarter of a lime in it, mix it around and then dip each bit of chicken in it. Omg, it was so good! After eating I headed out the back to find a loo and was followed by 3 little girls who, in broken English, fired questions at me. What was my name, how old, where from, how long in Vietnam, did I like their country. I managed to escape into the toilet, but they stood outside the door waiting and it continued even while I washed my hands. They saw I was carrying a camera, so they asked if I would take their photo, then one of them took a picture of my with the other two. They were so excited by the camera and were shoving each other to get closer and look at the photos, so cute.
We carried on riding, and as we got further and further off the tourist trail, we attracted more and more attention from the locals. At first it was just the kids. As we passed them and they realised we were white, their eyes went wide and they stared open mouthed, before waving excitedly and yelling out “hello” with big cheesy grins on their faces. What was funnier was that by the second day, we started sparking the same reaction in the adults as well as the kids. That night we stayed in a little hut in the jungle. Apparently the resort is only used by locals for wedding parties and events, so we were the only ones there, which was odd. For dinner Cal ordered us stir-fried venison (which was beautiful), noodles with beef and a hot pot made with fox and young bamboo shoots. Fox is a disgusting meat, all fat and bone, no meat. And young bamboo is ok, but we couldn’t eat much of it – it did kind of just taste like tree!
I won’t go in to the specifics of the next 4 days because it’ll take ages, but the highlights were: visiting some locals house where I held a 30 kilo python and some babies, drinking scorpion wine and Laos wine (neither of which taste anything like wine), visiting coffee, pepper, rubber and pineapple plantations, seeing beautiful scenery, learning about how evil the Americans were during the war (and seeing the lingering effects) and visiting an orphanage. I know I should say that the best part of the trip was the countryside, the riding and the people….but although all of those things were beautiful and amazing…the best part was the food!!!! Jas and I both love trying local foods and escaping the tourists, but in Cambodia and Vietnam it’s so hard, because outside the tourist spots no one speaks a word of English, and most restaurants don’t even have menus, so communicating enough to order food is impossible without knowing the local language. With Cal by our sides, we ate only in local restaurants and apart from the gross fox/bamboo hot pot, everything we ate was beautiful, and dirt cheap.
So after 5 days of adventuring, we arrived in Hoi An, said goodbye to Cal and got settled in for a few days of rest and exploring before heading on to Laos.