Goodbye, Comfort Zone – Hai Van Pass – Da Nang, Vietnam

In Vietnam, motorbikes are the primary mode of motorized personal transportation available to the average person. In the US, we have cars for our daily chores, SUVs for transporting large groups of people, and box trucks for moving big things like furniture and plants. In Vietnam, they do all of the above with just a motorbike. We’ve seen families of five (and sometimes a pet) precariously balanced on a single bike, weaving in and out of traffic. We’ve seen people transporting trees, dressers, multiple cages full of birds, and our personal favorite, a casket (hopefully empty), all on the backs of motorbikes. So when it came time to move to a new city, we figured we would get there the Vietnamese way – on a motorbike!

Driving here isn’t for the faint of heart. For the most part, traffic lights and lanes are suggestions, driving against the flow of traffic is common, u-turns are made whenever and wherever, and looking before pulling out is rare. With all of that said, driving here is actually organized…organized chaos. We’ve noticed that everyone is hyper-aware of what’s going on around them, horns are used liberally to communicate with other drivers (not to flip them the bird), there’s respect for others on the road, and nothing is assumed. We definitely wanted a motorbike experience, but weren’t up for the challenge of driving ourselves, so we booked a one way trip from Hoi An to Hue with a family that provides this very service. They met us at our Homestay in Hoi An bright and early. We strapped our backpacks to their bikes, put on our helmets, said a prayer, and set out for what would be a 100 mile joyride.

The family was absolutely amazing, and so was the ride itself. We were now the ones on those bikes weaving in and out of traffic. After about an hour of riding, we stopped off at Marble Mountains, which – surprise – are mountains of marble (they were slippery to climb!). There we met up with two other girls that would join us for the rest of the ride. We rode together up and over the Hai Van Pass, where we had amazing views of the coastline. We stopped off there to take some pictures, and were shown a village along the coast which is a community only for people with leprosy that are beyond treatment. This was an eye opening story! After some more riding, we stopped for a bayside lunch full of seafood that we would have never ordered ourselves. Christine tried everything and enjoyed it! After lunch, it started to rain, so we covered up with bright blue plastic rain suits and set back out. We went to the Elephant Springs, a clear water spring with rocks doubling as slides. It looked like so much fun, but it was just too cold and rainy for us to jump in. Our last stop was at a fishing village, where we went for a short walk to give our backsides a break. Throughout the day, we’d stop frequently for random coffees, laughs, and jumping pictures with our group.

We weren’t sure what we were getting into when we decided to do this. We were a bit apprehensive, to say the least. But we’re here to get out of our comfort zone, and today not only was that mission was achieved, but we ended up having a blast! Central Vietnam is a beautiful landscape, full of green rice paddies and mountains. We got to experience all of the the thrill of going out for a motorbike ride through the countryside, with none of the stress of driving; we just sat back and enjoyed the view. According to Kevin, this was his favorite part about Vietnam so far, and possibly the whole trip!