I headed from Halong Bay to Catba island. The last official stop on my Vietnam adventure.
I had a hostel picked out right near the water.
That night, a group of us went to a sunset spot. The guy in the pic with the glasses is a friend I had met at the waterfall on the border way up north. : )
The next day I went on short hike in the national park and caught this cute little guy.
Later that day I explored the more downtown area.
I made my way back to Hanoi and my bike is up for sale. Still processing and smiling from all of the wonderful experiences I have been so thankful to have here. Hope you guys have enjoyed the pictures. It has been great sharing them with you.
Thank you for all the support, from the emails to the donations I have received. Who knows what’s next… I am not sure, but I am excited.
Driving down the road from Meo Vac I saw this guy just enjoying the view on this slightly raining morning and drove up a little dirt path to get this picture and of the nice scenery.
I am going to miss so much these quiet roads and seeing everyone out working away.
Well not everyone… : )
It is hard a lot of times to really capture so much of the experience in this blog but I do try. Driving these extremely quiet roads and then coming into very small villages, avoiding the chickens, being waved too by the kids, and seeing the classrooms with kids studying away is truly an incredible experience.
I am going to miss this so much when I do head onto the next thing. It’s fun seeing kids just be kids. They always shout out hello to me, and I see them doing funny things like dragging a stick back and forth for a long long time behind them. (And it makes me so happy to see it.) Takes me back. No special reason…maybe because its fun, maybe just because.
Check out this naked little kid waving away at me with some type of machete. 😀
So many gorgeous sweeping views too.
Cute dogs are everywhere roaming around and its fun to stop and pet them.
Lots of little local rest stops come up and this one convinced me to stop to grab a snack and drink today.
I eventually reached Cao Bang, and decided to press on to a home-stay closer to this waterfall I had heard about.
It started to get dark and I went to the place I would be sleeping. What a cool dynamic it was in this home-stay. It was a really neat experience with the grandmother watching the grandchildren and the mother and father cooking for us and pulling out extra beds when others showed up. They made us an awesome family dinner.
Everyone LOVES the pennyboard
Gma doing the dishes
Flying termites!! Remember these mom? : O
It was a very old raised wooden house with tons of mosquitoes and other insects. The family set up bug nets for us at night but I turned a fan on, allowing a small space at the bottom of the net to be blown away from the bed. : / The girl that was sleeping to my left saw a cockroach and was doing her best to get it away, and then it went between her mattress and the wooden floor. She was freaking out jumping everywhere on the mattress to try and squish it so she could actually fall asleep. Eventually, she found it again and moved it outside after it stopped moving.
At around 4 o’clock I woke up to something that felt like a gecko on my neck!!! I love geckos and didn’t want to hurt it so moved my hand up to this wet feeling thing on my neck! IT jumped away! I grabbed my phone and turned on the flashlight to see that it was a frog that had climbed on my neck! 😛 I was able to maneuver the cute little guy out and fall back asleep.
In the morning, after a breakfast provided from the family, I headed to Ban Gioc waterfall.
Gorgeous! Sadly, it is right on the border of China.. The other side of the water is China… You are not allowed to swim or go up to the awesome pools in the middle layer of the waterfalls. : ( There is barbed wire preventing you from even trying to get up there.
Pius had a drone and got this cool shot showing the crazy pools halfway up. His instagram is “s.pi.rit.us”. Thanks for the cool shot Pius! : ) Great to meet you guys.
Can you imagine if I could have gone up there!!? Ahh!! So cool.
On the way back I was hungry and stopped at this local lady selling something in banana leaves. Feeling adventurous I tried communicating to ask for two. She ended up giving me more than I paid for, a cucumber, and insisting that I have some of this chicken she had in a bowl.
I have really been so overwhelmed at the warmth of the Vietnamese and their kindness. She would say some stuff to people passing as I sat there smiling and some other guys showed up to smile with me. What a beautiful place Vietnam and its people are.
I ran into some other american travelers who I was able to help a little bit in putting on a patched tire, and stayed the night In Cao Bang.
Check out this cool row of outside barbers who tried to draw me to trim up my luscious locks!
From Cao Bang, I headed to Bac son on very off the beaten path routes and enjoyed the road to myself for a good long time. The locals would look at me and it felt different than my other trip so far. I really felt out of place but still welcome.
It was so peaceful out here. Potholes all over the road and lots of road to slowly enjoy the green quiet view everywhere.
Much further down the road I stopped to check out a view on this bridge and some friendly kids wandered over to practice their English and pointed enough to the pennyboard for me to pull it of the back rack for them to try.
So green. So great.
I stopped for a water and ended up having a beer with some locals while waiting out some rain.
The family that owned the little store even offered me to stay in their house that night but I had already picked out another homestay. I met 5 slightly older Czech guys that night and then headed on down the next day to Halong bay.
Love my coconut drink stops.
Banh Mi lunch stop.
These guys (pictured below) stopped at the same place and we chatted with google translate for a little bit and he gave me some wet wipes as I was a little messy from the sandwich and sweating a bit. I was very thankful and he insisted on giving me the rest of the little pack. I asked to pay and pay for Thanh and his brothers sandwich but he wouldn’t let me! As I tried to hand the lady the money he spoke to her in Vietnamese and even payed for my sandwich! He said welcome to Halong and gave me a huge smile as he set back off on his bike.
I set off amazed.
Further down the road was this great sight! The head of the pig is stuck in the middle. You can just see it’s snout.
I am gonna really miss the roadside fruit stands too.
And to finish us out for the night.. Here are a few pics of Halong Bay.
So cool to be in a place where it isn’t over run by tourists and people will walk over quickly to excitedly take a picture with ya.
So fun seeing what life is like for some of the kids here. : )
The next morning kept pace with the level of awe being heavily laid on me as the scenery kept changing in the best ways all around me.
I wish I had written down the name of the amazing local guides. They were all so wonderful. The leader of the group stopped us at this random house on the way and said “just one second!” It kinda looked like a mechanic shop. He walked in and started chatting as he would always do (like everyone is his best friend,) and then after a minute walked out with some longan fruit, and explained that it was his sisters and her families house! So awesome! She walked out and we all said hello before heading on down the road.
Please enjoy these nice pictures showing just a small glimpse of how lovely the roads and scenery are!
I have thought about organizing a tour myself… Hmm….A friend from Puerto Rico was actually leading tours here for a couple months. You might spend like 20 dollars a day… Maybe. The first place I was staying for the night with free breakfast was 90,000 dong. Thats $3.95. (The beds are pretty hard, but hey! $3.95)
At this point in the day we got to Lung Cu.. The very very northern part of Vietnam and we came upon this unofficial way to get into China! Our guide said to be careful as the Chinese police are not very nice. Just a quick peek.
Aaaaaanddddd we were back to Vietnam.
Just down the road we got to a lookout and wow Vietnam!
On our way back we took a small break, and I started climbing things and just goofing around. (As I love to do.) And everyone else started really getting into it!
Such an amazing group. I am so thankful to be able to do this amazing experience with! Love you guys! We kept driving with so many smiles and having all the fun there is to be had. : )
Its pretty funny how there was no flagger or anything. Haha. We just rolled up beeping away and then slipping past once he saw us and stopped for a second.
We climbed some rocks after taking a really bad/fun road to this gorgeous viewpoint.
We made it to our next sleeping arrangement and had nice dinner before going out to enjoy some Vietnamese karaoke.
The next morning I would only be joining the group for a fairly short but brilliant ride before they headed back to Ha Giang while I headed another way.
The Ma Pi Leng pass is equally as impressive if not more than the other stuff I have seen in the past couple of days. What a sight!
They had a nice no falling sign that you can see in the picture right above!
Don’t worry Mom! I was very careful as it really did drop pretty much straight down in a lot of spots!
After saying our goodbyes, I got a myself a guesthouse in Meo Vac and have been working on my blog. It is raining here in this little town between the mountains.
Thanks for joining me everyone.
Until the next time then.
P.S. I am getting really good at using chopsticks.
I thought I had seen what there was to see in Vietnam. I thought I had captured the best of the best beautiful scenery that Vietnam had to offer. Boy was I dead wrong.
My mind has been blown over the past couple of days with sights that are the most dazzling parts of my best dreams. Views that took my breath away, and motorcycle roads that are the best I have ever ridden.
Hanoi to Ha Giang started to remind me how much I enjoy the calmer less bustling peaceful towns.
People I had met and talked to from Southern Vietnam had said how the North was their favorite. When I set off the next day the roads remained wonderfully empty with enticing mountains coming into view.
Look at those babies! They surely have some cool secrets.
Coming up to Heavens gate I couldn’t help but have my mouth open at the scale of the mountains all around me.
Breathtaking! To my utter excitement the roads took the most sweet, lovely, curving route up, up, and even further up. I was beaming! I couldn’t help but want everyone to be able to do this in person. I was stopping everywhere, just saying “WOW!” over and over.
The road kept climbing with more lovely switchbacks.
With some coolness from the elevation I slowly rode by farmers, kids on bikes, and small towns at the top of these mountains. At one nice little coffee break I met Megan, Erika, and Maarten from Holland. They were on a guided tour and invited me to ride with them. Off we set down the mountain a stop at some very anatomically shaped landmarks.
The road from here kept getting better and better. There is so much to just try and take in. What is it they say again? A picture is worth a thousand words. COMMENCE THE beautiful pictures DUMP!
We kept riding right on the edge of the cliffs, with our hearts racing from the unparalleled beauty around us.
It was really cool being able to join their group with the local guides knowing everyone at these unique stops from doing the trip so many times. With the bridge (above) we stopped and sat down for some tea that this lady was selling for about 25 cents a cup. The guides were chatting it up like old friends. I felt so disappointed that I wasn’t able to connect with people like you can knowing the language.
So many things to appreciate as you slowly motor along, like the people swimming down at the river, the locals with their kids, and especially the truly magnificent surroundings.
I cannot believe I hadn’t heard about this enchanting fairy tale of a place and heavenly motorcycle roads before, and hope that it doesn’t change. I am thankful to say I have seen a lot and this place really raises the bar.
I am going to break these picture heavy posts up and work on the next one right now.
The next day started with a 3 hour boat trip (for a whopping 8 dollars) through gorgeous scenery near nihn binh. Here are some pictures of the boat trip at Trang An.
Fun fact about the area, it was actually a filming location for the movie King Kong skull island.
Many of the caves we went under were quite a tight fit.
The silence in this area as we rowed around was so wonderful.
If you look closely at the pictures you can see that the people rowing would even switch to their feet sometimes to give their arms a rest.
The next day I set off for Hanoi. This was a big milestone for me as it was the last place on my map that I had originally planned on going to. I could sense that feeling of change in the air. It is kinda exciting and scary at the same time not knowing exactly what is next or how much you will miss what is starting to come to a close.
It was quite a short ride from Nihn Binh at around 3 hours. The road had some very intense cliffs.
I honestly don’t know if I am going to be able to drive without getting tons of tickets back in the U.S. The way that people can and do drive wherever there is room on the road here is the most amazing thing. One way street? Nope…. That’s a two way street for motorbikes. Its going to be so boring having to stay inside the lines and not see fun things while going down the road everyday.
Hanoi is so fun. So many shops, so many things to see. Please enjoy this nice compilation of pictures! : )
There is constantly so many people I bump into who I have met further South. Always so much fun seeing familiar faces.
There is a really neat game here that people play using their feet, a net, and a little hacky-sack like thing. These guys were very skilled and played right outside of my hostel.
Phong Nha had another boat-able cave to be explored, and a group of us set off for the dock.
It was only on the way out that we got off the boat and did a little exploring at the entrance of the cave. One poor guy who was supposed to watch and make sure people weren’t damaging anything, was so exhausted and kept nodding off. I sat there and watched him try and stay awake. He was one of my favorite attractions on this cave tour!
There were some really huge stalagmites and stalactites.
I moved to check out another hostel in Phong Nha and everyone in Vietnam has loved my penny board. At the first hostel the lady checking me in got really excited and grabbed the board to try it out. The ladies at the second hostel got equally as excited and I smiled so big watching them try it out with pure joy on their faces.
For those that don’t have a motorcycle to drive through Vietnam, many people take sleeper buses. I saw one on the side of the road and snapped a pic really quickly.
The next day I headed out to Vihn along the ever lovely Ho Chi Mihn highway.
Very charming roads.
I didn’t try and see anything in particular in Vihn and just had a nice quiet time. I had picked up a little bit of a nasty cough and took it easy to feel better. On the motorcycle route many people only go to Vihn as a stopping point to break up an otherwise very long ride.
I grabbed a bite to eat and had a nice chat with some local ladies who impressed me with their very good English.
They steered me toward a local delight of Che. Which had a kind of syrup/yogurt, red beans, mango pieces and some other stuff. It was good. Very similar to some of the stuff I had grown up with in the Philippines.
The next day was the push to Nihn Binh. The road offered up a taxidermy shop with either some very strange looking Vietnamese deer or a different level of skill in the art of preserving animals!
I stopped for lunch at a spot with a whole bus full of military guys. They were friendly and we talked with google translate for a little bit.
My route took me to on some very quiet roads with lots and lots of potholes. With excitement and adventure pumping through my veins, I would keep smiling and shouting back hello to the local kids and say hello in Vietnamese to others riding beside me.
One group of guys piled three deep on a scooter gave me a very warm response and kept my smile going strong as I passed them. Just down the road, my throat was parched and I was lured into this stop with a group of delicious looking coconuts just sitting by the side of the road. The same friendly group of guys showed up and stopped at the same place just a couple minutes later. They insisted on paying for my coconut, offered to buy me a beer to have with them, or even another coconut if I wanted. We chatted about my trip, how beautiful Vietnam is and more!
Such a great group of guys, right around my age, who worked out here! We shared some pictures and many smiles. (These kind of interactions are my favorite, by far!) It was so so good to meet you guys! Thank you for all your kindness and I hope I can repay the favor sometime if you are ever traveling through my country. : )
I rode out thanking them so much, and feeling like I was losing some really good friends. It was only a short ride to my hostel in Nihn Binh and the next day I headed off to a beautiful little hike with some others staying at the same spot.
At the second peak we got a beer and all just sat at the edge enjoying the view and breathing in the fresh air. And what a view.
We went to one other large temple and huge pagoda as well but I wasn’t convinced to add any pictures of it here except for this one at the top.
And that is where I will leave it on this one…
As always, hope you enjoyed!
P.S. The other thing so many people ask me is about my seat cover/bath mat. Here’s a bonus picture of another rider from the hostel trying it out. haha. So comfy!
Waking up early we headed with a small group to be briefed on our jungle trek.
We were told to be careful where we touch and watch out for bombs.
The first thing that we signed was this release to not sue pretty much no matter what happened. The first picture with the red was this poster about landmines still being a problem in Vietnam. Reading about this, coming from the U.S., really was horrible. I am so thankful to not have to worry about this back home, and so sad that this is a real concern here.
We each were given a pair of trekking boots and started to head up into the Jungle. It was a 12 kilometer hike and was a full day trip.
The guide and the other porters all wore these great sandals.
With all the rain the path was super muddy and our guide “Man” gave us some more info once we were about 1 hr into the trip. We all gathered around and started to understand the release waiver as we learned about these green extremely poisonous green snakes. Man told us how no one should be touching any of the bushes as the small snakes like to sit there and wait for prey. These green snakes are so venomous that within 1 hour of being bitten your heart will stop. He continued to say how other hunters in the jungle would be bitten and then cut of whatever was bitten to stay alive and not have an arm or leg but still have their life!!! I definitely would be keeping my hands close and trying not to die.
After following our guide for another half hour or so, I started to loosen up a bit and not worry. Our whole group was able to push the thought to the back of our minds and start to have some fun. (while still being cautious!) There was also a plant like poison ivy that we had to watch out for and Man, without joking, said to let him know if we see something else like a bomb. He (29 years old) has been doing this for 3 years now. I asked him if he has seen the snakes to which he said yes. His English wasn’t that great, but I asked if anyone had ever been bit, or broken an ankle. (The path was wonderfully challenging.) I am not sure if he heard me but he didn’t really answer. I proceeded to ask if he carried the antivenom, but didn’t really get a response either. He must not have heard me. : /
ARMS up! Elbows in!
Man would shout out when he saw some poison and we would all relay the message back! “Poison, left side!” Or “Poison, both sides!”
Phil tripped on the trail and fell into this bush that was right by the poisonous one. Here is the review seeing if he fell into the bad one or not.
His arm didn’t show any signs of a rash forming. Whew.. close one. That would have stayed with him for about a week if he had fallen just a little bit differently.
We had made it to the backside of the dark cave and went in about 700 meters.
The group all turned off the lights and yelled once we were far enough in for complete darkness! : )
The next cave we headed too was the nicer one for swimming.
I talked with Man a bit more on this leg of the trip asking if he had ever gone to the biggest cave in the world (which is in his backyard) and he said no. It costs 3,000 dollars apparently and is a 4 day/3 night excursion. That is so much money for me and even more so for someone here. They only allow so many people in a year and you have to be put on a waiting list if you have the money and time.
Here we are excitedly getting into the water of the Hang E cave. Swimming 300 meters back and not knowing what was under was a bit un-nerving. Even more so when we shut the lights of here and all screamed out. One of the other guys in our group said near the entrance he had seen a water snake swimming near him.
Man said they are not poisonous though.
We headed out to do the long trek back and set off with a fast pace.
I had so much energy and had fun challenging myself to scamper up the hill and even manage to make our guide tired and want to take a break! : D
I couldn’t help but smile at how alive and great I felt. I also thought how working a regular 9 to 5 desk job would be just a horrible fit for me right now.
We all made it to the top and enjoyed some pictures before heading back down to the vehicle for a celebratory beer all together.
And that’s all for now folks.
I hope you’re enjoying my blog!
P.S. I want to thank those who have gone out of their way to Paypal me some money from the bottom of my heart. When I receive those emails I am really jumping up and down with excitement. Thank you to those who send me notes or comments as well. I enjoy reading them when I have internet and am really so thankful that you guys can share my adventure with me.