Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Nha Trang to Hoi An

After Dalat, we headed to Nha Trang by bus. Nha Trang is a popular beach destination for Vietnamese... and Russians. Our hotel seemed to be in the center of Little Russia - all store fronts, menus, and street names were translated for Russian tourists.

Although the beach was nice, we spent most of our time letting our stomachs adjust to the Vietnamese diet - which meant time spent near a bathroom...

One night, we stopped at an outdoor restaurant and were immediately invited to sit with a rambunctious Vietnamese family consisting of 4 adults and 3 kids. After some roasted duck, a few beers and shots, three of the locals (all motorcycle guides) had persuaded us to join their Easy Rider tour to Hoi An - leaving the next day.

After a bit of a delay (due to funky guts from another pair who were joining us) and a 20 minute tutorial on how to drive a motorcycle, we embarked on our 5 day journey with just our backpacks strapped to our cycles and faith in our guides.

We spent every day cruising through the Central Highlands along barely patched roads full of potholes, mud, and cattle. We passed through rural villages and small but busy suburban towns, wide-open rice fields and green, lush mountains, and stayed in every type of accommodation imaginable - from a cot in a longhouse to a 3-star hotel.
A photo posted by Raquel Minh (@globaltumbleweed) on

Our mornings started with a bowl of pho or egg banh-mi sandwich and our evenings ended with family-style dinners with our red-faced tour guides who kept the rice wine and cheap beer flowing.

A photo posted by Raquel Minh (@globaltumbleweed) on

We stopped at beautiful natural landscapes of lakes, waterfalls, and a giant boulder called Elephant Rock with the most amazing view. We also visited homes and shops of tradesmen to learn how rice paper, clay bricks, water buffalo drums, and rice wine are made... all simple and rustic operations where the blood, sweat, and tears of making a living is evident. I was surprised to find how physically hard the women and children work compared to the men who tend to the business negotiations.

A video posted by Raquel Minh (@globaltumbleweed) on

There were a few situations during our trip when the cultural divide caused some confusion. For example, on the first day, our guides encouraged us to crash a wedding where it seemed the whole town was attending. We politely declined, but not after standing in front of the venue while 100 Vietnamese faces stared at us. Another time, we spent hours drinking and singing in a karaoke room with our guides and then all the expats were surprised by the bill we racked up because no one bothered to tell us we were paying for the whole venue since they had stayed open especially for us... And then there was the afternoon when Rumblesteeze and I were left behind at a busy traffic circle and our guides couldn't find us for almost two hours but then tried to convince us we needed to pay extra since we "wasted their time"...
A photo posted by Raquel Minh (@globaltumbleweed) on

Overall, the Easy Rider tour was an amazing experience and opportunity to explore outside our comfort zones and view the "real" Vietnam. The rural and small-town lifestyle, which makes up a majority of Vietnamese culture, is full of hard-working people amongst a beautiful landscape.

But by the end, we were quite happy to arrive in Hoi An, a coastal town listed as a World Heritage site, for it's beautiful and quaint architecture. Hoi An is a popular spot to purchase tailor-made outfits, go to the beach, and enjoy lantern festivities which light up the roads of the Old Quarter. We took a few days to relax in our comfortable hotels, wait for our clothes to be made, and bike around town taking in the beach scenes and glow of lights before heading north to Hanoi.

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