Our journey north began with a stop in Nha Trang, a beach city with a similar feel to Huntington Beach in California, but filled with Russians. It is major Russian vacation destination, which has attracted many Russian business owners. In addition to a clean, long beach, there are a few islands to hop to. On our second day we booked a boat tour with its first stop at Mun Island (coral island) and snorkeled on some of the coolest coral I’ve seen. Next, we stopped at a floating fish farm/restaurant for lunch and had…. you guessed it, fish! The seafood BBQ was delicious and was followed by an hour of hand line fishing (no one caught anything). The last scheduled stop was to a private beach resort, which cost extra, so everyone on the boat vetoed this and coerced the captain to anchor in the bay to jump off the second level of the boat. This was the highlight of the trip. A couple of English guys, Katie and myself started the fun and soon we had almost everyone jumping.
From Nha Trang we braved another night bus to Hoi An. This one was less than half full, but the road was three times as bumpy. Hoi An is an amazing place. It is an ancient city located on a river delta. There was much to see in the small ancient city and the best beaches we have experienced in Vietnam were only a 4k-bike ride away. Our hotel provided us free bikes, so we took advantage and went to the beach each day for a run, surfing session, and relaxation.
Oh yeah, I’m pretty sure we were served dog at a local restaurant. We ordered flank steak and received mini ribs the size that would fit my previous suspicion (they weren’t baby-back pork). Dog is an expensive special occasion food here and sadly, we saw a huge truck full of dogs heading to Hanoi to be slaughtered.
From Hoi An we took a 2 day/1 night Easy Rider trip to Hue. Easy Riders are very popular in Vietnam and are a motorcycle ride from one point to the other, but on back roads with many scenic, cultural, and educational stops along the way. On the trip we stopped at an organic family share vegetable farm where they use seaweed as fertilizer.
Then to Marble Mountain where we hiked into marble caves with large Buddha statues inside and to Monkey Mountain with a gigantic female Buddha over looking the bay of Da Nang City. In the bay we saw a fisherman who speared a huge grouper and stopped to snap a picture.
Heading inland on the way to the Ho Chi Min Trail, we took a pit stop at an amazing, clean hot springs. After a 30-minute soak we came upon a huge tea field. Our drivers, Mr. Chinh and Mr. Binh, stopped and explained to us that green, yellow, and black tea all come from the same tea bush. Green tea are the new leaves/shoots that have not yet unrolled to become full leaves yet, while the yellow tea are the leaves that have unrolled but are still very light green in color, and finally the black tea leaves are the old mature leaves under both the yellow and green. On the side of a winding mountain road we stopped at a village Chief’s tomb, where the jungle had been taking back the sight of his resting place. One of the rituals of the passing of a village Chief is the carving of the casket and structure that houses the tomb. Ending the long day on the bike at the small town of P’rao, we had a wonderful local meal, beers, and watched a Vietnamese football match with some other Easy Rider groups.
On our second Easy Rider day we stopped at a local village and gave candy to the many, many children on Halloween, which was appropriate. These village people are breeders! Married at 15, first kid by 16 and that is just the start of it with some families having up to 10 kids. Continuing on the Ho Chi Min Road, our views were of old/new jungle recovering from Agent Orange and stopped to see cinnamon trees and learn about rubber extraction from rubber trees. Being served coffee from a 90-year-old woman at our final stop before reaching Hue was a great way to end this amazingly educational look at Vietnam. Even though it is on the expensive end, we highly recommend an Easy Rider experience if you want a glimpse into the real culture away from the normal tourist spots.
The 3-month mark of being on the road for us just passed. This month was more expensive with large visa fees in Cambodia and Vietnam and the addition of ‘can’t miss’ experiences such as the Easy Rider tour and elephant trekking. Here are our monthly stats we will continue to share.
Countries visited: 8
Overnight Buses: 3
Beds slept in: 58
Average spent each day: 85 USD