Vietnam, Motorcycles, and Solo Travel Disasters

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When I first started my trip the plan was to do as much of it by motorcycle as possible, including riding up the length of Vietnam over 1000 miles from Ho Chi Minh in the south to Hanoi in the north. The original plan was to do this part with my friend from college. However, after traveling with friends for over two months he wanted split up when we got to Vietnam and travel solo. I had gotten this feeling myself a few times, thinking it would be nice to just travel solo and not have to agree on plans with other people but, I didn’t think I actually would take that path.

One day in Thailand, about two weeks before we were supposed to get to Vietnam, Alan broke the news to me that he wanted to split up when we got there. My first emotions were of disappointment. We had been planning this trip together and I was pretty excited for it. Then a bit of excitement to travel solo took over. This was short lived as fear washed over me.

I didn’t have a lot of experience riding a motorcycle to begin with and now I was going to do it myself? I thought about abandoning the motorcycle idea and opt for taking buses instead but I knew I would regret it if I did. After some encouragement from Melissa, a wonderful, free spirited girl I met in Thailand who had just done Vietnam by motorcycle and didn’t have any prior manual motorbike experience, I decided to just do it.

This is light traffic in Ho Chi Minh
This is light traffic in Ho Chi Minh

And so I bought Stan – my 110cc Honda Win. It took me over a week to leave Ho Chi Minh and start my journey. Partially because I loved the city and partially because I was terrified of maneuvering out of the insane traffic (seriously, I’ve never seen so many motorbikes in one place). So after a day to mentally prepare I headed north towards Mui Ne all my lonesome.

Stan! My beloved travel companion
Stan! My beloved travel companion

…aaand shortly after shit hit the fan.

Naturally, my SIM card stopped working the day I left. So I had my map downloaded from maps.me but had no idea where I was on it. I had a vague idea of how to get out of the city and just went with it and stopped for wifi when I could. Pretty much how the story goes is I got horribly sunburned, horribly, lost, and the chain on my motorcycle broke. I luckily broke down in front of a mechanic and that had it all fixed up in about 30 minutes for less than $10USD. I continued driving but it was getting dark, my headlight sucked and I realized there was no way I would make it to Mui Ne tonight.

I turned around back into the village and tried to find a place to stay. I tried to ask a couple that spoke no english if I could put my tent outside their house or sleep on the floor but go no where after about 20 minutes of the weirdest game of charades you’ve ever played. Finally they got someone who spoke minimal english on the phone and then brought me to someone else’s house and put a man who spoke great english on the phone. They found me a guesthouse to stay in and all for free.

After showering and changing into clean clothes it was 7pm, I was mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausted, my skin was in pain from sunburn, and I was ready to just cry myself to sleep. I was about to fall asleep and a there was a knock on the door. It was a little girl with a hot noodle cup and the name and number of the man who I spoke to on the phone. I found a bag coconut candies I had in my pack from a Mekong delta tour and gave them to her as a gift. She said thank you and ran off back to the main house.

Instant noodles have never been this good
Instant noodles have never been this good

The worst day of my travels started to feel like the best. I had faced and made it through some of my biggest travel fears all in one day. Much of that thanks to the kindness from complete strangers. I woke up the next morning and found my way to Mui Ne feeling like I could get through anything the road had to challenge me with.

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