One of my bucket list items is to motorbike through Vietnam. I made it a reality when I was there and booked a tour through Original Easy Riders for seven days, starting in Saigon and ending in Hoi An. My guide, Bin, asked if I wanted a scooter or a motorcycle, but stressed the motorcycle would be more comfortable for the long journey. So there I was day one on a Saigon sidewalk, getting a 5-minute lesson on how to work a fully manual motorcycle before getting thrown into Saigon traffic. Now if any of you have been to Vietnam and their two major cities know the traffic is ridiculous. I wasn’t worried because I’ve been riding bikes for the past 17 months throughout SEA, but still, this traffic is no joke. I learned just to go with the flow and ignore the horns honking Every. Single. Second. Bin helped me pack up my backpack on the back of my bike and off we went!
DAY 1 - SAIGON TO DONG XOAI (210 KM)
Starting from my hotel in Saigon, it takes us about 30 minutes to get out of town, which is pretty congested, but I did fine, and no stalls! Our 1st stop was Chu Chi tunnels where the military and families hid out during the Vietnam war. We walked through one of the tunnels, which is not for the claustrophobic! After, we took a small boat to cross a lake to the Ho Chi Minh trail. After we had exited the ferry, we stopped to see Thanh Hoa Bridge on the Song Ma River which was used to carry supplies across the river during the war. It was bombed in 1972 and the remnants are still there today. After we jumped back on the trail and headed to Dong Xoai for the night. The ride through the countryside is beautiful! It was nice to get away from the city and ride through the gorgeous green!
DAY 2 - DONG XOAI TO DAKMIL (200 KM)
Our second day was all about seeing how the locals in the countryside live. Our first stop was at a cashew plantation. I love cashews, but I did not know how labor intensive they are! The ladies (yes all women) were peeling them one by one. Once peeled, they get transferred to another room where women and children sort them into three categories: good, broken parts, and bad. Now I know why they’re so expensive! So crazy! Next stop was to see rubber trees. Yes, trees that produce your rubber bands. Did you know? I certainly didn’t! I thought rubber was manufactured by chemicals. It actually comes from trees and is Vietnams #3 export, coffee being #1 and cashews being #2. It was fun to see the process of how they cut into the tree, then watch the sap drip and harden into elastic. Our final stop of the day was at a local farmers house where they grow peanuts. The family gave us fruit to eat and were happy to talk with us about their farm and how they grow the peanuts. The locals are all so friendly and welcoming out in the country. They don’t get many foreigners out in these areas.
DAY 3 – DAKMIL TO DAK LAK (150 KM)
We visited two waterfalls this day. The first was fairy pool, after a small hike down to the bottom we had a pool of blue water and small falls to swim in all to ourselves. We stayed for maybe an hour then went off to visit Dray Nu Falls. They call this the Niagara Falls of Vietnam. This big beautiful waterfall is where many locals come to take pictures. There was even a wedding photo shoot going on when we were there.
DAY 4 - DAK LAK TO PLEIKU (170 KM)
Visiting Vietnam during monsoon season brings rain on and off all day. This day, it decided to rain all day long. I was comfortable wrapped up in my poncho and had a full-face guard on my helmet. We stopped at three places this day. First stop was a coffee village, where they have a museum of all the coffee presses and bean holders. We also stopped to see and eat tapioca plants and another stop to see how peppercorn is grown. We ended at a resort in Pleiku and stayed in cute little bungalows overlooking a lake.
DAY 5 – PLEIKU TO KON TUM (110 KM)
Today we visited was a park where there was a temple, a crocodile farm, pigs and deer. We fed the pigs and deer then went off in search of some coloring books to bring with us to Vinh Son Orphanage in Kon Tum. We sat in on a class of girls aged 11-12 who were learning English. They all looked happy and well dressed. They have a few sponsors including HALO from my hometown of Seattle!
DAY 6 – KON TUM TO KHAM DUC (120 KM)
Easy ride day! We drove through the mountains stopping at random waterfalls off the highway and to walk on ‘monkey bridge’ which is just a super wobbly bridge. These bridges, I could come to find out, are all over the countryside for motorbikes to ride on.
DAY 7 – KHAM DUC TO HOI AN (110 KM)
Our last day was jammed pack stopping at a pineapple farm where we ate eat small pineapples dipped in chili salt. We crossed one of the wobbly bridges on the bikes to visit a small village of Laos refugees and played with the kids. Our last stop before we finished in Hoi An was at a rice paper manufacture where we learned how they make rice paper. The vietnamese use either rice paper or rice noodles at every meal.