These days, travel is easy. Flights are cheap and, even in the remotest countries, tourist infrastructure is well established. Anyone can do it. But very few actually head off the tourist trail. You’ll meet so many travellers, clutching their guide books as if they’re bibles, heading from one ‘safe’ location to the next. And why not? If you want to find a quality hotel where the food is good, why not seek the opinions of those who know? It’s logical! But realize that it limits you.
For me, the best thing about travelling by bike is the freedom of choice. And if you’ve got the time, in north Vietnam, there is a lot of choice! All those side roads that you’d normally drive straight past; every one of them is an opportunity.
I spent two months in the north, searching for roads that would show me a different side of the country. It was hard work. It was a little bit dangerous at times. It was dirty and uncomfortable, but it was an adventure. The best times I had were on roads with no signposts and no tarmac. They were in villages with no names that aren’t on maps or road signs, or in guide books.
The most welcoming people won’t speak your language. But you’ll be amazed at how well you can communicate with smiles and gestures and laughter. Curiosity and comedy are the greatest social lubricants and you’ll find that, in the poorest places, people are more than willing to share what little they have.