Viet­nam... off the map

Mitch Craw­ley zigged when he should have zagged, but the drama of get­ting lost in a for­eign coun­try proved a win­ner

Central and North Burnett Times - - EXPLORE -

RIDE a mo­tor­cy­cle in Asia? We’d said we’d never do it. And cer­tainly not in Viet­nam. No.

We’d heard the ru­mours. The ones how they ride wild, how they’re among the most reck­less on roads any­where in the world.

And yet still, de­spite know­ing all of that, there my wife and I were – strap­ping on hel­mets, adren­a­line pump­ing like pis­tons, ready to hit the streets for the ride of our lives.

We’d thought we were ready, too.

Thought we knew all about the one im­por­tant rule. The guy who’d talked us into hir­ing the bike had let us in on it.

He’d told us: “The one rule to re­mem­ber in Viet­nam is there are no rules.” And we’d lis­tened, thought we un­der­stood. But see­ing is be­liev­ing in Viet­nam.

See­ing trucks over­take into the path of other trucks is be­liev­ing. See­ing buses swerve on to the wrong side of a road at top speed to over­take is be­liev­ing.

See­ing cows stroll on to high­ways at peak hour is be­liev­ing. Hop­ping on a bike and ac­tu­ally do­ing it is be­liev­ing.

The ad­ven­ture we had planned was a round trip from Da Nang to Hoi An, in Viet­nam’s cen­tral east coast re­gion.

Take the in­land road there, we thought, and the coastal road back. We fig­ured that would give us the chance we wanted to see some quiet vil­lages, surf beaches and gen­uine sights not listed on any of the tourist maps.

It had all seemed so sim­ple in plan­ning, a breeze re­ally.

The prob­lem for us, how­ever,

It gave us the chance we al­ways wanted: the chance to see the real Viet­nam.

was that we got lost and in­stead of sim­ple we found road­works. In­stead of sim­ple we found a first half of the jour­ney that was twice as long as it should have been.

In­stead of sim­ple we found people beep­ing horns at us and shop­keep­ers star­ing as if to ask “What the bloody hell are you guys do­ing?”

We asked for di­rec­tions, but no one could speak English.

We wan­dered and strayed, went left when we should have gone right, zagged when we should have zigged.

Then, even­tu­ally, we trav­elled so far and went so hope­lessly off the beaten track that we ac­tu­ally be­gan to re­alise that be­ing lost in a for­eign coun­try was re­ally what we’d been look­ing for the whole time.

It gave us the chance we al­ways wanted: the chance to see the real Viet­nam.

And this meant that in­stead of sim­ple we had farm­ers work­ing in rice fields with large buf­falo.

In­stead of sim­ple we had waves rolling to­wards stretches of soft white sand and not an­other soul in sight.

In­stead of sim­ple we had lush green moun­tains and road­side wa­ter­falls.

We had views of bays filled with tiny wooden fish­ing boats and hills dec­o­rated with huge stat­ues.

Of course, mo­tor­cy­cling in Asia is a risk, we’d known that.

We even had proof when we saw the aftermath of a crash, saw a hel­met smashed to pieces and no sign of the rider or an am­bu­lance.

But if you’re pre­pared to use a horn, not freak out when a bus mo­tors to­wards you a high speed, if you’re pre­pared to ven­ture off the beaten track and let yourself en­joy it, then you might just find that hir­ing a bike in Viet­nam is the best $5 you will ever spend.

Get­ting lost and lov­ing it

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