A few things compare to the feeling of overcoming challenges that are new and frightening to us. This feeling is quite common when travelling. It is probably the exact thing that pushes us to put ourselves in uncomfortable situation and conquer our fears. Oftentimes, these instances bring forth magical experiences.
The first time I experienced this feeling in Vietnam was when at 11:00 pm in Ho Chi Minh City we suddenly bought 125 CC Yamaha Nouvos for 200 dollars and started a month-long motorbike tour of Vietnam. Before we hit the highway, we had to pass the city that houses 8,5 million people. Here each family has at least one motorbike that sits a father, mother, kid, and a dog. Sometime the list goes on to includes matrasses, bed frames, radiators, and even a haystack.
The first time that we drove through the city, I overcame initial fear and realized that our moto tour idea was actually taking shape, despite the fact that we knew practically nothing about motorbikes, none of us has a driver’s license, few of us had no prior experience of driving bikes and we didn’t know much about Vietnam roads either.
After starting the road trip, we soon realized how diverse and extremely beautiful Vietnam is. I experienced the country differently on a motorbike, as if I was closer to nature. The first two weeks we passed beaches with white sand, Texas-like red landscapes, wild jungles, mountains covered with pine trees that resemble Borjomi forests, and Hội An, an old French city of lanterns.
Several hours after leaving Hội An, we ended up driving on one of the world’s most beautiful roads Hải Vân Pass. The pass stretches on a mountain covered in tropical plants that overlooks the ocean and creates a mesmerizing symbiosis of the two. We were lucky to witness a large cloud of mist descending form the hill that made the place even more magical. Despite our initial fear, we went ahead and drove through the cloud, as if we disappeared in eternity for couple of minutes. I will never forget this feeling.
We left the city quite late, so we weren’t surprised that we couldn’t make it to our destination before nightfall. It was pouring and dark as we drove on a tiny stretch of land that falls between an ocean and a lake. Tired and hungry, we stopped at one of the villages on the way. Seeing how the locals reacted to our arrival, we realized that not a lot of foreigners pass by the village. We saw a child taking lice out of her grandmother’s hair with so much love and dedication at a family café on the road.
As we watched the face, a young Vietnamese man approached us and with the help of Google translate asked if we needed anything. He offered us to stay with him overnight and was worried whether we had warm clothes and food to eat. He was so caring and nice that at some point all of us thought that he could very well be a serial killer out to find his next prey. At this point, however, I remembered how previously in the middle of nowhere in Vietnam kids who has just learned how to walk and talk fixed our bike and how other Vietnamese invited us to their homes in similar situations.
In spite of the difficulties we continued our journey and ended up in the old capital of Vietnam - Huế. Here the most memorable place was ‘Tuy Tien Lake Park’ where, the only way how we managed to get inside in the evening, was that our inn’s owner was a cousin of the security staff of the park.
Despite some glitches, we continued our way and, in a few days, ended up in Vietnam’s old capital city Huế. Here Tuy Tien Lake Park made the biggest impression on us, which we were allowed to enter in the evening only because our homestay’s owner was a cousin of the park’s guard. We found out that the park has been abandoned for more than ten years. As the locals told us, it used to be a place where people came from all over Vietnam with their families to cool off on a hot day and have fun.
Now there are half broken fish tanks still full with dirty water, empty slides, pools full of palm tree branches and a building in the shape of a gigantic dragon standing tall in the middle of the lake spray painted with random messages done in secret by visitors. The place is not as joyful as it used to be, but there is something unique and fascinating about the park, just as it is now.
We couldn’t travel to Vietnam without visiting Phong Nha, which harbors world’s largest caves. Mountains covered in tropical plants that occupy all of Phong Nha, can be found in different parts of Vietnam in water and on land as well. We saw similar mountains in Ninh Binh rivers.
&After we were caught in the rain once again and realized that we had to drive alongside enormous trucks from Ninh Binh to Hanoi, we decided to take our motorbikes on a bus. Little did we know that we practically had to transport the bikes on our laps. After seeing the crazy traffic on the road, however, we realized that we were happy to have such a close relationship with our bikes. This is how our road trip ended. The next couple of days we spent in Hanoi, which, despite its large size has a certain coziness and old charm to it.
After we sold our bikes to a Ukrainian and a Georgian in Hanoi, I had time to think about what we experienced and saw during our road trip. I realized that if I hadn’t defeated fear and travelled Vietnam on a motorbike, I wouldn’t have experienced the magical nature of Vietnam so intimately, driven through the cloud on Hải Vân Pass and witnessed the kindness that the locals and the potential serial killer showed us.
For me, the most important part of the trip turned out to be exactly these random encounters with such open and kind people. Motorbike tours are not for everyone, but for those who love adventure and challenges, I would recommend to embark on this journey with a motorbike, but only by adhering to safety norms.