Become a Subscriber

Become a Contributor
Shop for Books by Our Contributors

Also Recommended

Global Adventure with Judith Fein and Paul Ross

Support This Site
Powered by Squarespace
25 Van Ness 25-word essays 40 State 40 Days 99cent store Adventure Travel Africa Aging Air Saftey air travel Airline fiasco Airline Passenger Bill of Rights airline safety Airplane airplane seat selection airport fiasco Alaska all-inclusive resort American Airlines American ignorance Amish Amsterdam Amtrak anger Arab Arabia architecture Argentina Arizona arm chair travel Art Asia Authentic Travel awards Backpack travel bad day baggage Bahamas Bali Balloon Festival ban whale watching Bangkok Barcelona beach being arrested Being authentic Belize Bellingham Washington belly dancing Belmont University Bhutan bicycling bike tour bikes bikes as therapy Billy the Kid bioluminescence Bird watching Birding birthday book contest Boycott Brattany Brazil Breaking news British Columbia Budget travel Buenos Aires Burma bus travel Cahokia Mounds Cairo California Cambodia Camino de Santiago Camping Canada Canadian Geese Cancer car travel Caribbean Caribbean rainforest Carnac Carnival Caving Central America Ceramics change your life Cheap travel Cheap trips cherish life Chetumal children China Christmas Christmas Day Bomber Claridges Class trip Classic Hotels claustrophobic flyer climate change coffee Colombia color contest continental airlines controversy Cook Islands Copenhagen Costa Rica courage cowboy culture Creative travel creative writing crisis Croatia Crop Circles cruise travel cruising Cuba cuisine Culinary travel Cultural travel Culture Cusco CVS cycling Czech Republic dance Death Death Valley National Park Denmark dining dining guide divorce Dominican Republic Dordogne Dubai Earthquake Easter Eco Travel eco-tourism eco-travel Ecuador Egypt elephant seal emergency preparedness England environmental commentary environmental problems Ethiopia Europe European Union excellence in travel writing expat living expats Faith falling family family resort family travel family vacation Fat Tuesday fear festival fiesta Filipino restaurant finances fitnees flight Florida Food forgetfulness forgiveness France French Camp Friendship frustrated flyer frustration gadgets Galapagos Garifuna Gaspe Peninsula Genealogy Germany Ghana gift guide Girona giveaway Glastonbury Festival global curiosity Global eating habits global nomad global warming good day Gorilla Trek Government GPS Grand Canyon grandparents Greece grief guys getaway Haiti happiness Hawaii healing healing journey hearing loss Helicopter tours hiking Historical travel Holiday Celebrations Home Honduras honeymoon horseback riding hotels How to how-to humor Hurricanes i do not love Venice i need a vacation Iceland Volcano Incas independenc India Indonesia inn reviews Inner Child Internal Reflection international marriage introvert iPhone app Ireland Islam isolation Israel Istanbul Italy Jack London Jamaica Japan JetBlue Jewish journaling Judith Fein Jules Older Kansas Karl Rove Kenya kindness of strangers land Language Las Vegas Latin America learning vacations Leukemia Library life lessons life transformation literature living abroad living like a local London Los Angeles loss Louvre at night love luxury hotels luxury travel Maine Malta Manatee Mardi Gras marriage Masonic Temple Massage Maui Maya meditation Mexico Michigan Middle East Military wedding Minnesota Missouri Molokai money Montana Monterey Moose Morocco mother's day mother-son travel motorcycle travel multigenerational vacation Music Musings Myanmar Namibia Nancy King National Prayer Day Native America nature Nepal Nevada New Mexico New Orleans New Year New York New Zealand Newfoundland Nicaragua Nigeria NNew Mexico noise Northwest Airlines Pilots Norway Nova Scotia Ohio Older parents Olive Oil Olympic Peninsula Washington orcas Oregon Orkney Islands outdoors ownership Pacific Northwest Parent's love Paris Partners Passover Paul Ross Pennsylvania personal essay Peru Pets Philippines photography contest Pilots Plane plastic plastic bags Poem Poetry police Politics Portugal postcards Pottery poverty Prague Prayer procrastination pueblo culture Puerto Rico Q&A Quebec Quito ranch vacation random acts of kindness rap song reading reasons to travel recession rejuvenation relaxation Religion Religious holidays remembering mothers Responsible travel. Sustainable travel restaurant reviews revolution River Rafting Road trip roadtrip romance romantic travel Rosemary Beach runway delay Russia Sacred Places sadness Safari sailing Samba music San Andrés de Teixido San Francisco Santa Fe Sardinia Saudi Arabia Scotland sea kayaking Sedona self discovery senior travel Serbia Shakespeare Shamanism shame Shopping short stories Sicily Siena silence Sisters ski vacation skiing Slow travel Slum Tourism Slumdog Millionaire small-group travel Soaking tub Sociology Songwriting South America South Dakota Southeast Asia soviet satellite Spa Spain spirituality Springtime SSan Francisco St. Louis St. Petersburg Standing Stones Steinbeck stress stuff happens Sumatra Summer cottage surfing surviving disaster Sushine Coast Switzerland Tacoma Taiwan Tanzania Taos Taxi Taxi Driver Tbex Texas Thailand The Netherlands the writing life Tokyo Tourism train trip Transformative travel transportation trash travel travel advice travel agents Travel Blogging travel commentary travel confession travel contest travel essay travel gear travel hassles travel humor Travel interrupted travel musings travel opinion travel photography Travel Reviews travel safe travel safety travel security travel technology travel traditions travel trends travel videos Travel with Kids Travel Writing traveling alone traveling with kids traveling with teens trekking trip to the dentist truffles TSA complaints Ttrain trip Tunisia turbulence Turkey Tuscany typhoon UFOs Uganda uncensored travel opinion UNESCO World Heritage Site Union Station United Arab Emirates United Kingdom Upstate New York Utah vacation vacation rental vacation tips Valentine's Day Vancouver Venezuela Venice Venice California Vermont Veterans Day Vietnam Vinayaka Chaturthi virtual vacation Wales Walking Washington Washington D.C. water project waves we don't care airlines weather wedding White Oaks Pottery White Sands National Monument why I fly why not to cruise why travel wildlife spotting wine Women travel workout World Festivals world peace World War I World War II writer's block Writing Yoga Yucatan Peninsula zombie boot camp
« A PRIVATE LOOK INSIDE EGYPT: What you don't hear about. | Main | Medellin, Colombia: Dance Capitol of My Heart »

Motorcycle Diaries in Vietnam

by Sasha Hill


When I think of Vietnam, I think of the motorcycles. 

My travel partner, Sierra, and I marveled at the sea of them, flowing in a colorful mass around the city streets. We zeroed in on individuals: tiny young women in heels, families with three generations along for the ride. What for us was a cultural statement of rebellion, of reckless daring, was for them just a means of transportation. My grandpa had once punctuated his description of my mother’s “wild” young adulthood by recounting a story of how she once rode a motorcycle up the East Coast with a friend. “I bet she never told you that”, he concluded, in dramatic satisfaction. If he could only see the middle aged Vietnamese ladies, demure in their business suits and protective masks. 

Vietnam was the final stop before we crossed the Pacific to home, after eleven months on the road, from Peru to Asia. We’d brainstormed the trip when we were fourteen, and spent four years planning and saving up. 

It was Sierra’s idea to rent the motorcycle. The trip itself was her idea. My role was usually to follow along, checking her only when the ideas got out of hand. Like when she proposed we schlep down from Granada, Spain to Meknes, Morocco a day early on no sleep to make it in time for a Halloween party. Sometimes I regretted my all too responsible reactions. Rent a motorcycle? We had no experience! What if we crashed? And right at the end of our trip.  

But I found myself saying yes.  

One of the employees of the motorcycle rental place brought out a large, shining bike. Just one. “It’s fine”, I hissed to Sierra, though we’d agreed one for each of us would cause less strife. I was getting cold feet, and felt perhaps it’d be better to trust in her driving confidence than my own lack of same. Sierra caressed the handlebars, patted the long cushy seat. “So how do you start it?” she inquired.

After a few such questions, the woman who was helping us caught on. “You have ridden a motorcycle before?” she asked, knowing the answer already. We smiled sweetly and shook our heads. I wondered if she or one of her male co-workers would stop us, but they just exchanged long looks and shrugged. “Riding motorcycle is easy”, the woman reassured me, “not like car”. 

Sierra took a few loops up and down the street. She pulled back up and patted the seat behind her. “Hop on”.  

We whizzed past rice fields and rivers, weaved around other drivers. Instead of tugging on Sierra’s shirt and begging her to slow down, I mentally urged her on. She seemed to hear my unspoken plea. We went faster, and faster. The wind stung my face as we passed yet another speeding local.   

We arrived at the beach. In Thailand and Laos, we Westerners were called Falang, in Cambodia Barang. We hadn’t figured out the Vietnamese equivalent of that useful word, but whatever it was, we were the only ones there. A man asked for 5000 dong to park our motorcycle alongside the others. On a wood slated platform, we unwrapped the mystery sandwiches  we had bought on the way and tropical fruit. Sierra swam and, as I spooned up dragon fruit and cracked open lychee, I amassed a group of spectators: child vendors with their baskets of chips or sodas.  I made them laugh by pointing to them and to the ocean, miming swimming, but they’d quickly recover their serious, unforgiving salesman faces and push their wares at me. When I took my turn swimming, they slowly dispersed. 

The bright afternoon light began to fade. We hopped a bit unsteadily back on to our motorcycle. This ride was quieter. 

Back in front of the shop, I murmured that perhaps I’d like to try driving the motorcycle. Just to say I’d done it. The shopkeepers didn’t hear me. “Wait”, said Sierra. 

The woman walked the motorcycle back down to the street. I climbed on. I turned on the ignition and it began to rumble beneath me. I let go of the brakes and it started to roll. On the busy streets of Hoi An, bicycles and buses and other motorcycles hurtled towards me. I was pointed in the wrong direction. Sensing a quick gap, I managed a U-turn. 

But of course, I was again on the wrong side of the road, just headed the other way. Feeling sheepish, I glided a bit more and then navigated back to the shop. I read amusement in Sierra’s face, bemusement in the motorcycle lady’s. 

You have to start somewhere.  



Sasha Hill, 19, is still in re-entry from her first (and hopefully not last) round the world trip. She will attend Barnard College in New York in the fall. Her blog, co-written with travel partner Sierra Clark, chronicles the ups and downs of their adventure. 

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...