Adventures in Southern Vietnam
Okay, we admit it… We were a tiny little bit worried about the 130km ride from Hue to Hoi An on a rented scooter. But we did it, we survived, and it was by far the greatest adventure we experienced so far! But let’s take a few steps back…
The good thing while travelling on the “backpacker trail” is that you get to know many travellers who have done many things already in countries you will be travelling to later on. These travellers again have met other travellers and everyone tells their own and best experiences to the fellow colleagues on the road. So basically what happens is a mouth to mouth selection of the best hostels, must see sights, and tours. In our case many people have told us to rent a motorbike and drive from Hue to Hoi An. Everyone said it’s the best thing to do while in Vietnam and they couldn’t have been more right.
So after one day in Hue (which was just the right amount of time), we found a company which offered us to rent a motorbike (well, actually it was more a moped than a proper motorbike but basically it’s all the same: two wheels and a honk – all you need to get around in Vietnam) and deliver our big backpacks to the next hostel we were about to stay in Hoi An.
On the next morning we got a quick explanation on how we were supposed to get to our destination. We also received a sheet with different sentences in Vietnamese in case we would have gone lost or if the bike would have broken down and of course our motorbikes for the day. Three little sentences in broke english on how to use the bikes, the suggestion to honk on everything that moves and we were ready to start our journey further south.
When we left the hostel, the weather was not too promising as it was very foggy and while driving (kinda like driving through a cloud) we were becoming more and more wet. But the weather was not particularly bad in terms of the scenery. Driving through old towns, endless rice fields, and along unique coast roads. The misty weather in combination with the dead silence in the early morning made it worth slowing down our pace and taking a picture every now and then. After two weeks of travelling around Vietnam we can both say that this trip was the best way to experience the Vietnamese culture and lifestyle. We drove through old towns, along bumpy roads, and kids were running next to us and waving. Being away from all touristic places made the trip so overwhelming.
Making our way to the Hải Vân Mountain Pass which we had to cross on our way south, the scenery became even more stunning. The pass is known as the “weather barrier” between north and south. While it became more and more foggy on our way up the mountain pass, it felt like driving directly into the clouds, the weather changed immediately after leaving the top of the pass behind us. Just 100 meters down the road on the other side of the mountain pass the sky cleared and we were driving down looking at the blue sky, hot temperatures and along an absolutely stunning coastline. It is hard to put the sight we were presented into words. The pictures will speak for themselves.
Little side note for all the Top Gear fans out there: On the Vietnam Special Episode, the three English men did the same route. Jeremy Clarkson described this part as following: “a deserted ribbon of perfection — one of the best coast roads in the world.” We couldn’t have said it better.
Still astonished by the scenery, Chris didn’t realise that he was driving on a flat tire until a local guy, driving next to him, told him so. We were lucky under the given circumstances because we stopped right next to a workshop. The mechanic was able to fix the hole in the tire and we were on the road again in no time.
Arriving in the beautiful town of Hoi An we resp. Chris and not Toby, needed some time to just lay in a sun chair. We spent half of a day at the beach. Toby was getting more and more nervous while laying in his chair. After looking at the watch continuously and counting the seconds he decided to walk up and down the beach. Later this day we discovered the real beauty of this little village in the middle of Vietnam: the old town of Hoi An. Known for producing tailor made suits, dresses or anything alike in just two days for less than 150 USD the old town had a charm we haven’t come across on our trip so far. Motorbikes were forbidden, hence there was no honking or hectic. After almost two weeks in Vietnam we appreciated the quiet atmosphere with a delicious Vietnamese Coffee. We also found heaven on earth in this lovely town. We were lucky to experience the Vietnamese cuisine at it’s best. But more on that on another post about the Vietnamese cuisine.
After three nights in Hoi An we took a flight down to Ho Chi Minh City (HCM) – also known as Saigon. Unfortunately we didn’t have much time for sightseeing as we had to sit down and plan our next steps on our itinerary.
But there is one thing everyone has to see while in HCM: The War Remnants Museum. It is a war museum and contains primarily exhibits relating to the American phase of the Vietnam War. Exhibits include graphic photography, accompanied by a short text in English, covering the effects of Agent Orange and other chemical defoliant sprays, the use of napalm and phosphorus bombs, and war atrocities such as the My Lai massacre. Seeing those pictures and reading the stories made us realise what cruelties were happening in this beautiful country for over 17 years. Made us think a lot but the visit was definitely worth it.
Our time in Vietnam is now – sadly – over. It was an absolutely unforgettable stay and we are sure it wasn’t the last time we were here. Vietnam is a country with a wonderful culture, breathtaking countrysides, one of the most exquisite cuisines world wide and an exceptional lifestyle. Thank you so much for having us Vietnam, we will be back!
Now we are on our way to Cambodia which is waiting for us with the ultimate expression of Khmer genius, sublime and matched by only a few select spots on earth, such as Machu Picchu or Petra. You know what we are talking about. Mighty Angor Wat.
But until then, so long…!