Backpacking in Vietnam for 16 days... it is as crazy as it sounds. We wanted to give you a look at some of the ups and downs but 16 days is a long time so we're breaking this one up into two parts.
Part 1- On the scooter
Ho Chi Mihn (Saigon), Nha Trang, and everywhere in between
Part 2- Planes, Boats, and Automobiles
Hoi An, Danang, Ha Long Bay/Cat Ba Island, Hanoi
Matt decided we needed to take this trip, and do it on a motorcycle, after watching an episode of Top Gear. Seriously. We went to Vietnam because of Top Gear.
Day 1. After a 21 hour flight we arrived in Saigon around midnight and immediately paid way too much for a cab to get to our hotel. We weren't very street smart at that point but knowing no Vietnamese and it being so late left us with little options for transportation. We slept for a couple of hours in a hostel before heading out to get breakfast and buy a motorcycle.
Breakfast was Pho on the curb, and somehow even though it was already 90 degrees the hot soup was fantastic. NOTE: If you do not like to see rats, try to avoid eating your food on a curb in the city. They love the leftovers.
This scattered mess is what happens when two people who don't speak the same language or even have the same currency negotiate the purchase of a "motorcycle". I put that in quotes because the "motorcycle" was a 110 cc scooter that had fake logos on it.
This is what a scooter looks like with 50lbs of luggage strapped to a rack that was welded on for a few cents. Now imagine 350 pounds of person on it. Yep... every Vietnamese person we came across laughed too.
Why the blanket you ask? Well driving hundreds of miles through the worst roads imaginable is not very comfortable on a bike like this. The blanket was the first attempt. A stolen pillow from a hotel room was second.
Needless to say we didn't last very long on the bike. But we will get to that.
We were not prepared for the heat.
We were so excited to get moving on the bike that we didn't think about making sure we were fully hydrated. It is insanely hot all over the country, especially in the city. We ended up getting a hotel you could rent by the hour (this is a common thing in some areas) so that we could cool off and drink water. Another fun fact- apparently everyone knows not to drink the water in Vietnam.
Even the citizens.
But not us...
Somehow Matt's iron stomach allowed him to drink the water without getting sick, but I wasn't so lucky. I am sure you can imagine how much fun it is to be incredibly overheated, while in pain on a scooter, while needing a bathroom regularly.
Moral of the story: A large bottled water (1L) should only cost 10,000 dong, or about 50 cents USD. So buy it!
These road side stops quickly became our best friend while on the bike. They were home to hammocks were we could relax, park our bike,
eat some amazing food, and even charge our phones!
The food was amazing throughout the country, but nothing beat the roadside woks. Our favorite breakfast consisted of pho, rice, pork, eggs, and some other type of vegetable broth- all for under $2. For people like Matt and I who love to try new foods but hate spending money, we were blown away.
The best part of our days on the bikes were the mornings. We were rested from staying in a hotel the night before (typically $8-10 per night), we weren't sore yet, and the temperature hadn't reached its peak. The other great thing was Bahn Mi. Oh my goodness. Being able to quickly drive up on the bike and then take it with us was the best. It differed based on where we ate it, but essentially its a sub roll filled with greens, some meat, and different sauces.
Now for the fun part.
It wasn't all sunshine and rainbows. Like I said, I was getting sick from drinking the water (yes it took me three days to figure this out), we were crazy uncomfortable on the bike, and oh yea- our luggage rack broke off day two. Basically, the plan was to get to Nha Trang, a beachy tourist city, so that we could get the luggage rack welded back on and get some relaxing in.
Instead, we got to Nha Trang and immediately dumped the bike in the middle of the road while trying to make a U-turn. We pulled off to the side, okay, just a bit shaken up. Then a bird pooped on my arm. If someone had given me a ticket back to the US I would have taken it. I cannot believe I am sharing this picture. Basically, this is what I looked like after driving on the bike, falling off, and being pooped on. That's when some magic happened. Matt got out his Google translator app and somehow got the message across to the guy at the hostel that we wanted to sell the motorcycle. He gave the man the keys, the bike, and the registration card. We sold the bike, and the man not only came back with the money, but he arranged for our overnight bus to Hoi An the next day.
We got cleaned up and spent the next full day being normal tourists. We enjoyed an amazing breakfast on the water, soaked up the sun, and
enjoyed the beautiful beaches of Nha Trang.
Part two starts with our overnight bus trip to Hoi An! View the full article here!