Vietnam Continued

Vietnam is definitely the land of “Things on Bikes”. Here is a man driving with over a dozen jackfruit attached to baskets on his scooter. These smelly but tasty fruits are incredibly dense and heavy.

Bananas are another common crop, hence their presence on scooters. The vast majority of people do not own cars, but scooters and/or bicycles. If you wander off of the main roads and into the alleys or deep into the countryside, you’ll find that many of the lanes are so narrow that a car couldn’t possibly fit on them.

Not only produce, but livestock, is carried around on scooters. Here is a man with a selection of chickens fastened to the back of his bike. I’ve also seen ducks, and even pigs, riding as passengers.

People even use their scooters as beds to nap during the hot hours of the day. I have no idea how they are able to maintain such balance.

This was taken from a pagoda in Dalat. Due to its mean facial expression, I think it is supposed to be a guard.

We also stopped by the Valley of Love in Dalat, a perfect place to take cheesy photos. For anyone who is interested, they host a fine selection of plastic big cats.

We traveled to Lak Lake one night to do a homestay in a longhouse. Upon arrival to the cafe that arranges these homestays, we discovered they had an elephant to the side. I think the elephants in this town are only used for tourists to ride into the lake.

In this small town, the animals definitely seem part of the community. Pigs, dogs and chickens graze around between the properties. While nice to look at during the day, they do make it hard to sleep at night, by constantly barking or crowing in the dark.

Many miles later, we made it down to the busy city of Saigon, or Ho Chi Minh City. Being the biggest city of Vietnam, it consequently seemed to hold the highest concentration of traffic. It is normal to find people driving the opposite way down one-way streets, on sidewalks, right into busy traffic, or anywhere a bike may possibly fit. Though it seems chaotic, traffic does go on like it does anywhere else. One just cannot drive the way they do in their home country while riding around in Saigon.

After a few days in this busy, crowded city, we decided to take a nature break and go check out a mangrove forest. This part of the country is the Mekong Delta, so all of the land is separated by small rivers, which requires taking a ferry from one point to another.

Once we got there, we wished we had a boat to go around, rather than a scooter.

Off the long, flat, paved road, we found one of the muddy paths leading into the depths of the mangrove forest. If you head down one of these, make sure you wear some sturdy hiking or rubber boots, as a few inches of mud will stick to your shoes.

We walked down this path until it got too muddy and slippery, and admired the sturdy, intricate roots that these trees stand from.

The wet mud on the ground is full of little holes that tiny crabs crawl into and out of. If you look closely (in the picture or in nature), you can spot a mudskipper. I don’t know if these creatures need to hide from many predators, but they certainly do embody a good camouflage tone for such an environment.

Vietnam So Far

First starting out in Vietnam, we were trying to figure out what to do. We were in the central coast of the country, and as Vietnam is a long, coastal country, we could either make a move north or south. That gave us some time to check out the tourist sites around us.

This is from Marble Mountain. It was full of caves, Buddhas and candles.

We went to Hoi An for a couple days, which was probably the most touristy place so far. We drove out to My Son from there, to check out some Cham ruins.

The ride there and back was full of rice fields.

We rented a scooter went up to Hue from there, and on the cloudy ride, this was on the way there.

In Hue, we bought a scooter from another foreigner, so we had to return the first one to Hoi An. So, I got to learn how to drive semi-automatic for the first time, in a foreign country, in the rain!

Though a good skill to have in these parts, these types of bikes do not exist in the United States, so it is only a temporarily useful skill.

After returning the bike, we made a decision to head southward, as the weather was warmer.We ended up spending days riding for hours and hours at a time, observing the agricultural and natural scenery, stopping at night in small towns. Vietnam has so many visitors that even in the smallest, off-the-map villages, we ran into other westerners. During one of the rides, we noticed this foot bridge. We only took a picture of it from one side, as it looked a bit sketchy to cross.

Most of the area we passed was largely rural, hence the omnipresence of cows. In some towns, at any point, a cow, pig or dog can run out into the middle of the street while you are driving. This might be very dangerous in a car, but on bike, you have more opportunity to maneuver, plus you aren’t driving too fast anyway.

Through the hills, some of the driving can get quite windy, so you’ll be forewarned. Some signs even let you know that the area has a high cow population.

Many of the landscapes reminded me of parts of California or the Southwestern United States I’d been to. I realized how little I knew about Vietnam before I had actually come.

From the movies, I thought it was all jungle, but in reality, the natural surrounding is quite diverse.

Rubber tree plantations are quite fine places to stop for a picnic, with all of the symmetrical cleared space, plus the umbrella-effect from the top of the trees.

Apart from landscape, this is a very populated country, so lots of different types of houses and buildings line the road.

Philippines Photos

This is the beach behind where we stayed in Moalboal, Cebu. You can make out the next island, Negros, in the background. Most people travel to this city for scuba diving, but as I don’t practice that sport, I spent most of the time dazing away at beaches like this.

Here’s a lake up a volcano in Negros, the next island. It’s a refreshing break to go up in elevation and escape the intense heat and humidity.

The jungle road on the way back down to town. Half of it is paved, half is not, so it can be quite bumpy, then smooth, then bumpy, but full of tropical plants the whole ride!

These lazy bum cats lived on our porch in Boracay. They would meow on and off all day to be fed, and whenever we’d go outside or open the door, they’d run into our place like they owned it. If we ever went outside with food, they’d start jumping up and try to bite it out of our hands, before we’d brush them off. They were friendly company, nonetheless.

As the Philippines is a country of thousands of islands, a popular mode of transport is by ferry. Bridges are not very common, so travelers will usually end up on a boat at some point or another. Some are big, some are small, some are sweaty, some are air-conditioned. Some are built up well, but others make it so you get splashed with ample seawater during your ride.

Vigan sausages are not vegan. They are made of pork, like most of the food in this country.

The vans are known as Jeepneys. They are a common way to get around in a city. They are kind of like a collective open-air van taxi, bigger than a car, smaller than a bus. Many of the drivers paint their Jeepneys in their own fashion. Some are very colorful, and many have Christian sayings like “God-powered” or “Jesus is lord”.

Another popular mode of transport is the tricycle. It is a motorcycle attached to a cart that has a wheel underneath. These are cheap to ride, but you’ll usually have to talk down the initial price offer with the driver if you’re not a local.

This bell tower offered a delightful view of a cemetery and mountains off to the east. This window was about one story high, so it was fortunate to have such a window not be screened or barred off from the outside. One must be careful to sit there and not fall, naturally.

An old mansion with antique furniture, also the site of some Tom Cruise movie.