“There’s no way I’m getting on a motorbike in Vietnam,” I said.
Fast forward five days into our Vietnam trip: there I was putting on a helmet, and swinging my leg over to get on the back of a motorbike.
How did I go from saying that I’d never get on a motorbike to actually getting on one? Let me explain.
Days before our trip to Vietnam, I was worried about the insane traffic. I didn’t know how the hell we were going to see all of Vietnam if we were too scared to cross the street. I’d even read about many tourists renting a motorbike themselves. (Although it’s technically illegal for tourists to drive on the roads in Vietnam.) Since I’m not one who lives dangerously, or breaks rules (let alone in a foreign country) I told myself I’d never drive a motorbike in Vietnam.
When we visit a new country, Daniel is always against signing up with tour groups. There’s something unauthentic about arriving at an attraction in a foreign country on a bus with a bunch of other white tourists. The tours almost feel like a production line: you’re being shuffled from one place and on to the next all within a limited time frame. Going on a tour group in a foreign country is like eating McDonald’s in Thailand. It just doesn’t feel right.
In Thailand, we didn’t rely on any tours. We were able to book trains and go to the sites on our own. However, I heard Vietnam would be different because there supposedly isn’t as much English like there is in Thailand. (There actually is plenty of English spoken there.) I also didn’t want my indecisiveness to result in any arguments with Daniel. I figured why not take a tour? And so we did: a tour that departed from Ho Chi Minh that took us to the Cu Chi Tunnels and Cao Dai Temple.
The tour was terrible. The air conditioner didn’t work on the bus, and we actually spent more time on the bus than actually visiting the sites. Needless to say I was drenched with sweat by the end of the day. (The only saving grace was I brought my fan, which I accidentally left on that damn bus.) As I figured, the tour gave us an allotted time: too much time on certain things while other attractions not enough time.
We swore off doing any guided tours unless we needed to.
Days later we arrived in Dalat, Vietnam. Appropriately known as Little Paris. (It even has its own version of the Eiffel Tower.) It was where the French came to vacation. It is where the Vietnamese newlyweds come for their honeymoon. Thanks to Dalat’s cool weather people say it lives in a state of eternal Spring (although I was still doused in sweat during my time there).
Upon arriving we were still undecided on how we would spend our time there. We noticed our hotel was offering an Easy Rider Tour. (Uh, oh. Not another tour!) However, what made this tour unique was it’d be just the two of us and we could go anywhere we wanted. The only catch was that we’d have to travel by motorbike to each of the sites.
I decided to go over the pros and cons in my head.
- Pros: We wouldn’t be with a herd of other whiteys. We could go at our own pace. We could choose where we’d want to go. We wouldn’t have to worry about the air conditioner breaking.
- Cons: Death.
Seeing as there were more pros than cons, I agreed. For once in my life, I was going to take a risk and put all of my trust into a Vietnamese biker.
So there I was: putting on the helmet and swinging my leg around the back of a motorbike.
As we were zooming through the hills of Dalat, I was so at ease. I was taking in all of the surroundings around me. I was so glad I did it because if there’s one way to see Vietnam, it’s definitely on a motorbike.
We would stop every so often to see the sites Dalat had to offer: waterfalls, crazy houses, and coffee plantations. We even had lunch in a place I’d never dare to go in–too daunting for a whitey to just stumble upon.
The rain drops started falling, but we were still miles away from our hotel. I knew it was only a matter of time until it would come down harder. We were winding through the very same hills I was admiring earlier. I was no longer at ease. Now I was praying to some rain god to please let me arrive safely to my destination.
While the rain came down harder, I was starting to (unintentionally) squeeze my legs on the driver’s backside. I tried to take my mind off how fast he was taking those windy corners. Gee, I’m so glad I decided not to wear that white t-shirt after all. Welp, at least I’m not sweating on a non-air conditioned bus. But this wouldn’t be happening if I were on a bus! Oh god! The rain is coming down harder. The roads are just going to get slipperier.
My eyes were closed by this time. I decided to pray to the Flying Spaghetti Monster instead because that rain god wasn’t doing shit. I suddenly noticed we were slowing down. Then we were pulling over. Then we were stopped. My eyes peered open.Was I alive? I noticed all these other people around me. Are they just ghosts?
We were all crowded under a shelter that could only be compared to a convenience store. I looked around at all the people waiting for the storm to pass, Daniel and I were the only whiteys. Everyone was so quiet. The only thing we could hear besides the rain was the television, which appeared to be a home video of a bunch of elderly Vietnamese women singing and dancing. (Daniel said it must have been Vietnam’s Got Talent.)
Every few minutes, other riders would make a pit stop at the convenience store to buy a poncho. Each time someone would come in to buy a poncho, Daniel and I would look at one another. Our eyes were asking each other, “Should we buy a poncho?” Looking out at the weather, it was hardly improving. Worried that there’d be a poncho shortage, we gave in and bought two. (Fact: No one looks cool in a poncho.)
Riding on the back of a motorbike, driving through the meandering hills was an authentic experience. Much better than being stuck on a bus full of other whiteys.