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. 

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Vietnam’s Ha Long Bay: Surreal Doesn’t Begin To Do It Justice

by Fyllis Hockman 

Descending the steep, narrow plank, inch by inch, hand over hand along the long pole, I thought: “This better be one hell of a cave!” Exploring the other-worldly interior of Hang Trong Cave was to be one of many surreal experiences I was to have traveling along Ha Long Bay in northeast Vietnam.


In the 1992 movie Indochine, credited with putting Ha Long Bay on the map, Catherine Deneuve describes it as “the most remote outpost of Indochina.” Today, the bay still retains that end-of-the-Earth, Lord-of-the-Rings-on–water quality.   

The almost 600 square miles comprised of thousands of karst islands, caves and inlets, which we visited as part of a trip with Myths and Mountains tour company, create a solitary natural environment that belies description and inspires awe. I kept thinking how many times can I use the word surreal in one travel article? 

The boat we called home, replicating an old Chinese Junk, was basic, but we dined well and huddled about the crew as they studied tidal charts to determine our daily itinerary. Inflatable canoes, powered by guides, were our vehicle of choice for purposes of exploration. Cave opening too small to navigate? No problem –- just let some air out of the canoe. Very versatile.

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