Central Highlands motorbike trip with my son

Traveling with my grown son, yes!

I have one son and lucky for me, he’s awesome. Near the end of my time teaching in Vietnam, Kye (27 at the time) came to visit and seek adventure with me for about 3 weeks. We spent the first week in the Danang area seeing some sights together. He also went out exploring and meeting people on his own. The second week I had arranged a motorbike trip with a couple of Easy Riders (see below). We spent the days, each on the back of our guides Trong and Hy’s bikes.

Starting in Danang on a Saturday morning we rode inland to Kham Due and then continued south down the Ho Chi Minh Highway which roughly follows the infamous Ho Chi Minh trail used during the war. It is a two-lane road that runs north-south on the western side of the country. It was in good shape, except when occasionally it wasn’t. There were no tourist buses and the only other westerners we saw were on motorbikes, like us. Here’s some pics of my fabulously talented and good-looking son:

Travel Tip:Easy Riders are individuals and groups of men who give 1 day or longer tours on the back of their bikes. Most bikes in VN are just 100cc, the Easy Riders usually have 150’s that are all tricked out to look and sound like bigger bikes. Some cities have very organized groups with websites; they all claim to be the original group. Many of these guys speak several languages. Some got their English skills working with American’VNwKYEs during the war, which they paid dearly for, but are now able use to their advantage. I had great luck using Easy Riders in several cities, but like always, take the time to talk and research before making any deals.

Over the next days we stopped at 2 or 3 hill tribe villages a day. We made frequent stops at waterfalls, cafes, and nice views that were obviously places that our guides always stop. We also stopped at anything interesting that was happening along the road, like people harvesting or drying their crops. Trong always asked questions and translated for us, which really added to the experience. We were able to make connections with people on an hourly basis rather than just zipping by everything.

A couple of our night’s accommodations were fine, while one was pretty awful. We were traveling to some areas that foreigners have to have permits to be in (the guides take care of this) and all hotels in VN have to be registered to accept foreigners. So in a couple of these small cities like Buon Ma Thuot they are the only ones registered and there are so few tourists that they can give you a crappy room, cause you are stuck with them.

Aside from my back side getting really sore, by the end of the journey, that was my only complaint. We saw such beautiful sights; from magnificent waterfalls coming out of the jungle, coffee and tea plantations to small farms and villages. Absolutely magnificent views were seen all the way along the trail. We were invited into villages and homes. More stories and photos in the next post…

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Faces of SaPa

Hill tribe villages of SaPa area

Sapa is a small city in northern-most Vietnam surrounded by many hill tribe villages. It is a 10 hour night-train ride from Hanoi and can be socked in by cloudy, wet weather much of the year. All the while I lived in Vietnam, I wanted to visit the area, but my time off and the seasons never agreed. When I visited in 2012, I made it a priority to make the trip.

This was one of my favorite travel adventures ever, so I am going to cover the highlights in the next 3 posts. Here’s my basic itinerary for the week I spent in the area:

  • Took night train from Hanoi to Lao Cai at the Chinese border, arrived just before dawn.
  • Found a local bus to Bac Ha, spent 2 nights.
  • Hired motor bike guide to Can Lao for a remote, very local market day.
  • Market in Bac Ha the next day.
  • Bus to Sapa
  • Left next day for 3 day trek with my guide Zao.
  • Returned to Sapa, with sore throat and barely able to walk from achy muscles, but so very happy with my adventure.
  • Train back to Hanoi to recuperate at my friend Linda’s lovely home.

I took a lot of photos and I will share them as the story unfolds.

Above are a few of my favorite faces from the hill tribe people.  They are Flower H’mong, Black H’mong and Red Dzao ethnic minorities. I promise to tell you more about them in the upcoming posts.