This is the second post in a five-part series from a trip to Southeast Asia in May, 2017 with Sach and Goose. Check out the first one from Hong Kong if you haven't already and hang tight, the other three stories are on their way!
If there’s one takeaway that Sach, Goose, and I have from Vietnam it’s that the people are unnervingly nice, kind, and happy to help.
After checking into our hostel with the help of the strangely friendly staff we decided to explore the Old Town of Hanoi by foot, which, with the thousands of motorbikes zooming around can feel like a death wish. We made our way to Hoàn Kiếm Lake in the middle of town where three Vietnamese college students struck up a conversation with us. I’m ashamed to admit that my first thought was that it was some kind of scam so I immediately checked my pockets for my wallet and phone. It turned out they just wanted to practice their English, and this was the only way they knew how: striking up conversations with tourists in the big city (I wonder how they knew we were tourists…).
They likely would have been happy to talk for hours but we had a whole new city to discover so after snapping a photo of the group we continued our exploration of Hanoi. We haggled our way through the night market and ate mystery street food before enjoying some local beer overlooking the lake.
We took advantage of the friendly guys at our hostel to book scooters for the next day. After forking over the whopping $8 USD per scooter they recommended we do a tourist-friendly 8-mile trip to a local ceramic village. When we said we planned to go to the Perfume Pagoda the guys didn’t even try to mask their laughter. “Too far” is all they said. They probably had a point, especially given that Sach and Goose had never ridden a scooter before.
So we made the obvious choice and went to both.
Relying on phones with no service to guide us we made our way to the Bát Tràng ceramic village while we got a feel for our scooters before we committed to the 50-mile haul to the Perfume Pagoda.
We quickly realized that 50 miles in a car on a US freeway is very different than 50 miles on a scooter that tops out at 45 mph with the wind buffeting your face and the sun beating down on your knees. But after a handful of wrong turns and plenty of locals looking at us like we were crazy we finally made it to Perfume Pagoda where we chartered a boat up the river.
After exploring only one of the dozens of temples along the river we decided we didn’t have enough time to see more if we wanted to ride back to Hanoi with the sun instead of the stars. We asked our boatman to take us back to our scooters and then one of us felt the first drop. Rain.
As soon as the boat hit the dock we rushed to our mopeds, turned the keys, and gunned it into the Vietnamese countryside. We all looked at each other and laughed as we realized that we most certainly didn’t look nearly as cool as we felt on the beat-up rental scooters putzing through intermittent rain drops.
After battling a light rain, Hanoi’s hectic evening traffic, and more than 100 miles on scooters we finally pulled up to the smiling guys at our hostel a little after dark.
“How far did you guys make it,” they asked in broken English.
“We went to Bát Tràng and the Perfume Pagoda.”
All they could do was laugh as we made our way upstairs to nurse our tired bodies back to health and enjoy a cold beer.
after 100+ miles on the scooter.
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