Honeymooning Off-Road in Vietnam On Bike by Edith Zimmerman
Original full interview link: http://thehairpin.com/2012/07/honeymooning-off-road-in-vietnam
How did you figure out where to go and stay?
After lots of research, we booked a private moped tour with Offroad Vietnam, and man, am I glad we did – there was no way we’d have found our way through that part of Vietnam without a Vietnamese tour guide. Most people don’t speak English in the parts we visited, and many had never interacted with Westerners before.
But our private tour wasn’t “fancy,” though; we slept on the floor for a few of the nights. With that said, the hospitality, culture, and adventure were the most luxurious parts of our entire honeymoon. And the food – don’t get me started on the food!
What were the costs like?
While group tours are much cheaper, it was our honeymoon, so I was happy to splurge for a private tour, which was still really affordable. I mean, it was $695 a person for 5 days and 4 nights, which included EVERYTHING: bike, fuel, tour guide, accommodations, food, even rice wine.
How did you find your tour guide?
There are other cheaper tours in Vietnam but after doing research, Offroad Vietnam, the one we chose, seemed like the best, if not the cheapest. And even though their website looks insane (and the over-the-top reviews seem made up; they’re not), we booked them, and I’m so glad we did.
I loved our tour guide, Chung, who was 27 and adorable. He took such good care of me when I was sick, and would often stop us on our ride to gather flowers from fields and have us stand in really carefully constructed poses holding a bouquet for honeymoon photos. After he would take them he’d always say, “Very sentimental.”
One of my greatest disappointments of my trip is that on the last night, Chung got my stomach flu (see below), and he’d wanted to take us out to karaoke, but was too sick to go.
But Dorothy, mopeds are terrifying! Yes/yes?
Actually, riding mopeds in the countryside of Vietnam was so FUN. Most people ride mopeds, not cars, so there’s an awareness of moped riders that doesn’t exist here in NYC — what I mean by that is riding mopeds in rural Vietnam is as normal as driving cars here. With that said, if I could go back in time, I would take a lesson here before I left, because within an hour of learning how to drive a moped (they gave me a quick lesson before we left on our tour) I was riding on a highway out of Hanoi with tons of traffic.
For the most part, it all worked out, even though we were riding semi-automatic models that necessitated shifting gears with one foot. The first night of our trip, however, was pretty awful. Because I’d been sick and stopping all the time, I slowed us down, and we got to the most mountainous part of our trip as it became dark. Offroad Vietnam plans its itineraries specifically so you don’t drive in the dark, but in this case, there was no other option – we were in an area with nowhere to stop – just mountains upon mountains and had to press on for an hour or so to even get anywhere with buildings. (And I don’t know if this is interesting but here is a map of everywhere we went on our tour.)
The roads at this time of night were only used by 18-wheeler trucks, and, mind you, were twisty. Oh yes, have I mentioned I’d just learned to ride a moped the same day? Sharing a two-lane road on mountains with major trucks while feverishly ill. I honestly thought I was going to die at a certain point, and wondered if my husband would divorce me for planning a honeymoon that had basically turned into a crazy obstacle course.
Well, we made it alive, and the next morning I felt better, and the rest of the time we rode in daylight and I felt perfectly, perfectly safe. Still, I felt pretty stupid and scared that first night, and I’m pretty sure my husband (who was actually an experienced rider) did, too. But isn’t being frightened together supposed to be good for your endorphins or relationship synapses or something?
Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t want us to feel like we were almost going to die just after getting married. And we did the fancy resort/lying by the pool/fruity cocktails with umbrellas thing after this. But it was unforgettable to see the values of food, family, and community in action on our moped tour, and while I don’t want to romanticize it – the ethnic minorities are politically marginalized in Vietnam, and they are exceedingly poor compared to the rest of the country – I am so grateful I got to experience it.
I know that I can speak for both of us and say our “off road” tour was the absolute best part of our honeymoon, and probably one of the best trips – better than any fancy hotel or unexpected first class upgrade – we’ll have ever experienced together in our lives. The only thing I would change is if I went again, instead of picking a pre-arranged itinerary, I’d let Chung plan our trip for us. Otherwise, I wouldn’t change a thing.
You can also copy and paste http://thehairpin.com/2012/07/honeymooning-off-road-in-vietnam to read the full interview.
There are many more articles about motorcycling in Vietnam and you can read more by following this link