How often do you hop on your motorbike at home to go grocery shopping, pick up a friend for coffee or head to work? Chances are you don’t own a two-wheeler at all. Asia, as a different planet that it is, harbors an entirely different modus operandi, and tourists are not exempt from it. The custom of using motorbikes in the beehive of Vietnam’s busiest cities as well as for exploring its remote and intact natural wonders is not just another option, but the only authentic way to see and feel the country.
You have not been introduced to Vietnam until you maneuver your way through Hanoi’s busiest districts. Or until you’ve spotted an entire family of locals in flipflops crammed onto a single vehicle, rushing to get their supplies for their street food stall, or take their kids to school. Now that Vietnam has opened its generous doors to a more vibrant tourist experience, you can cherry-pick from a wide range of motorbike tours that will give you that perfect Vietnamese experience you crave.
Meeting the Mekong Delta
The cities of Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh, and Hoi An are some of the most popular destinations for modern-day travelers. An emerging gem of Vietnam, the Mekong Delta, is slowly taking a relevant spot on that list. Nestled in the very south of the country, this little maze of natural and cultural diversity is a sight for sore eyes. Its humble villages are encircled by picturesque rice paddies where you’ll still spot hard-working people if you rise early enough to venture to the villages.
The floating markets are the tourist hit that won over the hearts of visitors, as a unique experience where you get to source freshly-caught and picked ingredients or wait for your own bowl of pho together with the locals. You can take your pick from various tours that will take you through the villages sprinkled all over the region, meet the friendly locals, and spend time admiring their Khmer pagodas, a remnant of their rich culture and history.
Bring out your inner foodie
Asian culinary rituals are not for the faint of heart, or the faint of stomach, for that matter. They are meant for true gourmets ready to swerve into the streets as early as five or six in the morning for a perfect portion of bun cha gio. Even more so, they are for the night owl who not only doesn’t mind but enjoys a hearty dinner in the tropical midst of urban Vietnam, sizzling together with hundreds of chattery locals. It’s precisely later in the evening when the fun begins and the locals start gathering in the streets.
Tours such as the XO Foodie wrap up the finest and locally beloved street eateries of Ho Chi Minh City into over four hours of all-you-can-eat palate explorations. They, however, will not serve your typical spring rolls, but the genuine dishes you won’t encounter outside of Vietnam. Brace yourself for an evening of colorful meals rich in texture as well as flavor and the cheerful clamor of the crowds you’ll be joining on your motorbike as you test the limits of your belly.
The cities of Vietnam
Although they all reside within the same borders, the cities of Vietnam differ so much in personality when it comes to their rhythm, mood, and heritage. The northern jewel of the country, also known as Hanoi, is a blend of French colonialism in architecture and deeply-rooted Asian tradition. As in the rest of Vietnam, you’ll get the best glimpse of Hanoi if you’re an early riser, and you can treat yourself to some egg coffee or perhaps a glass of creamy coconut coffee – both of which boast quite a kick!
In fact, coffee culture is so refined in Hanoi that they even have a dedicated coffee street – Nguyen Huu Huan. This is where the real life of Hanoi unravels as you join their slightly slower-paced beat and pull up a chair to the many locals enjoying their first morning brew. As your brain cells realize you’re ready for action, hit the streets to see the sights – the Temple of Literature, the bridge over the Hoan Kiem Lake that will take you to Ngoc Son Temple, and St. Joseph’s Cathedral.
Vietnam is certainly not your run-of-the-mill tourist destination. It’s a beehive of well-managed and loved entropy where locals know that the lack of steadfast rules doesn’t imply a lack of respect, and that anyone who wants to join their tempo needs to keep up with their beat – and that is precisely the only way to experience Vietnam and its true spirit. Grab your helmet, set your alarm for when roosters rise and enjoy the buzz!