In retrospect, maybe we should have done a little more research before embarking on this motorbiking journey of a lifetime, but to be honest I think if we researched too much we wouldn't have done it considering the morning of we read online that there are approximately 40 motorbike deaths a day in Vietnam and 75% of those involve tourists... but we went anyway bc we were committed and our mama didn't raise quitters. Fools perhaps, but certainly not quitters.
Honestly, this whole Southeast Asia experience is a lot like our motorbike rental. I have traveled all over the world, but this is a completely new region for me. I don't know the language, I'm not familiar with all of the customs, and the traffic laws are out of my grasp entirely (though I'm starting to realize that a red light means go, a yellow light means please go, and a green light means go faster). You can read all the books and do all the research you want, but there's no way to know everything you need to know going in. Every day is a crash course in something new (and more often than not we only understand half of it due to the aforementioned heavily accented English but obviously no complaints here bc you don't see us trying to speak Vietnamese), and for that reason alone, every day is also a new adventure. Every moment of this trip thus far has been incredible and unpredictable in every possible way, and I wouldn't change a thing about it. I never want to reach the point where I am underwhelmed by anything having to do with travel. I never want there to be a day where I see a waterfall and think "So what? It's just another waterfall." I want to appreciate and absorb every single moment as I sit and think to myself how unbelievable it is that the events in my life have led up to this point.
But the thing is, sometimes you forget. Sometimes you get comfortable, and you stop stepping out of your comfort zone. That's especially easy to do when you're traveling with someone else bc you're already in a little bubble of familiarity, so the Aussies we met in Da Lat were the perfect reminder of how to really experience travel. Coran, Declan, NaDav and Jonty are business students by day and the life of the party by night. We headed out into town for the New Years Eve celebrations with a vague destination in mind, but not necessarily a means or timetable to get there. It all started with the 10 of us piling into a taxi-van (two of us in the trunk) to get to the city center, but as soon as we were dropped off we realized how far away we still were from our desired destination. It was at this point that the Aussies took it upon themselves to befriend a group of six Vietnamese guys around our age and somehow convince them to literally drive us to where we wanted to go. Now for those of you who struggle with math like me, let me do the math for you. 10 people. 6 bikes. 6 drivers. Yup. Remember how I said they fit as many people as possible on the back of the bikes here and it’s insanity and I would never do it? Yeah... I did it. Declan and I found ourselves leading the motorbike charge on the back of our new friend's bike as he sped down the streets of Da Lat dodging bigger vehicles and weaving through other bikes with an effortlessness only a native could possess. It was one of those “How the hell did I get here” moments that I couldn’t even take the time to figure out bc I was too busy holding on to the two men in front of me for dear life and smiling bigger than I thought I could. In fact, Coran got a photo of us from his bike that I plan to stalk his Facebook for bc I never want to forget that moment.
Upon our arrival at the massive square in the city center, we hopped off our bikes and thanked our newfound friends (some of us quicker than others bc the cops had caught onto us and were literally chasing our new friends down on their bikes as soon as we got off). At this point we decided to make a meeting point and split up to wander the area and get into some trouble. In hindsight, it may have been smarter to set an actual time to meet at said meeting point, but hey A for effort and all that. Kyle and I wandered through the crowds and soaked in the atmosphere for awhile before running into Declan and deciding to splurge $2.50 on motorized spinning trikes which were even more awesome than they sound. I can honestly say that it was the best $2.50 I’ve ever spent and I’ve never had so much fun doing something so ridiculous. We sped and spun around the courtyard playing bumper trikes for the better part of thirty minutes before our bike batteries died and we were on the move again. It was around then that the fireworks started and we got to enjoy what for us was a second New Year’s celebration. The rest of the night flew by pretty quickly as it involved some very serious rollerblade races, heated hackeysack tournaments with the locals, and some stomach-ache inducing laughter before those of us who were too tired to continue the festivities climbed into the first taxi to come our way and crawled into bed for the night. Not only was our Lunar NYE an unforgettable experience, it reminded me why I travel and how to get the most out of every moment. Talk to the locals. Make a fool out of yourself. Take it all in. Bc you never know when you’ll be back – though if you’re like me, it’ll be sooner rather than later.
But for now, my makeshift sleeper bus bed and I are about to get reaaaal friendly, bc only 6h stand between us and Saigon! Until next time folx - XOXOX
PS. I made a new word. You know in the movie “We’re the Millers” the guy has “NO RAGRETS” tattooed to his chest? So we were walking to our hostel in the 90* heat with our entire lives in the bags on our backs and I realized… I packed too much. My bag is too heavy. I have……Bagrets. Get it? GET IT? I am a creative genius and the world is so blissfully ignorant of my talents, it’s such a shame. Kyle thinks it’s dumb but his opinion is irrelevant and I wouldn’t be surprised if you see this word in the next edition of Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary. Only time will tell.
PPS. We just got dropped off by our night bus in Ho Chi Minh City 2h ahead of time (aka 3AM), but at this point we are seasoned veterans and walked from the drop off point - which was actually in the city center for once - to a 24/7 coffee shop to enjoy a Vietnamese coffee (coffee w sweetened condensed milk) and plan our next move. As of now (4.30AM) we are in our hostel beds and waiting for sleep to take us. Actually I'm pretty sure it already took Ky, so I think I'll try and follow suit.
Happy Lunar New Year folx!
About the Author
Mouth like a sailor, great lacker of empathy, paper cut survivor, avid arguer, harsh critic of people who put clothes on their pets, easily distracte
USA, Mexico, Iceland, Austria, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Morocco, Malta, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Ireland, Denmark, Czech Republic, Hungary, England, Poland, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Scotland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Croatia, Greece
The Baltic countries,
if Covid allows for it (Latvia, Estonia, maybe a stop in Finland)
(in August in the US)