Flight Centre’s Kim Seumanutafa travels to South East Asia, Vietnam. Covering over 600km’s on a Vespa from the coastlines of Ho Chi Minh to the highlands of Nha Trang on a 6 day tour with Vietnam-Vespa Adventures. From the buzz of the local markets and local culture to the quiet fishing villages. Read how Kim experiences Vietnam travel on a Vespa scooter riding through it and soaking up the scenic views of the countryside.
Vietnam travel had never been high on my list of must-do's. I didn’t think it was very safe and even a little unhygienic but to my surprise these were the things I enjoyed most about Vietnam.
It wasn't until my husband picked up a Jetstar inflight magazine and came across an article featuring Vietnam Vespa Adventures. He brought the magazine home, showed me the article and 3 days later we had booked ourselves on a Vietnam tour.
Our first day in Ho Chi Minh City (which the locals still call Saigon) was hot, humid and a total culture shock. Our tour director (Steve) met us at the airport and helped us catch a taxi to our hotel because he didn’t want us to have a ‘bad experience’ with one of the dodgy drivers (awesome) but that plan fell down when I left my passport behind in the taxi (not so awesome). Steve made a few phone calls and after promising a reward of 200,000 dong (about US$10) my passport was found and delivered back to me. From that moment I knew Vietnam Vespa Adventures was perfect for my Vietnam travel experience.
Saigon has a very colourful history so off we went to visit the War Museum, but not before we stopped at a bank to change some of our US Dollars to the local currency of Dong. We found the banks there give you a better exchange rate for larger notes ($50-$100) than they do for $20 notes or smaller. We had no problems using USD throughout Vietnam even though the government had just passed a law forbidding this (an attempt to abolish the black market). However we didn’t think it appropriate to pay the War Museum entrance fee in US Dollars.
One of the best decisions we made was to join Vietnam Vespa Adventures “Saigon After Dark” tour. Riding pillion on retro Vespas and racing through the bustling dark streets was exhilarating. There is no better introduction to the local way of life than bumping knees while going through a roundabout. Taking photo’s and video on the back of the Vespa was easy because no-one travels more than 30km/hr in the city but I did have a guy try to snatch my camera as he zoomed past – so I definitely recommend using your wrist strap if you’re going to attempt this!
Video of what it is like to travel on a Vespa in Saigon at night time.
Video of us riding in Da Lat, Vietnam
Food is being cooked and eaten everywhere you look, but if you’re not ready to eat from the street stalls just yet, then dinner at the renowned Quan An Ngon (it means ‘delicious’) on Pasteur Street is a must. This restaurant is made up of the very best street vendors who each have their own kitchen downstairs. You can walk around and look at each signature dish or simply order from the menu at your table.
On tour we rode nearly 600kms along the tropical coastline and up into the highlands, stopping along the way at local markets, restaurants and fishing villages. We saw rice paper being made, drank rice wine and danced with an ethnic minority family and visited a traditional fish-sauce manufacturer.
Each day was an adventure as we followed the road around sweeping corners with breathtaking views. The country roads were in better condition than I had expected but you did have to watch for large potholes, bikes pulling out in front of you and the odd water buffalo, lazily crossing the street looking for shade. Most days were around 35°C and sunny so I am glad we chose to ride scooters instead of sitting in a stuffy tour bus – in my opinion Vietnam travel is best experienced with the wind in your hair, the sun on your face and a foul smell up your nose.