by Cesar Rufo of eatclimbtravel.com
For the good chunk of my 27 years, I feared motorcycles.
I refused to come near them, let alone drive one. To me, the risk wasn’t worth it. I’d already met heaps of foreigners who’d gotten into motorbike accidents, and I’ve witnessed quite a few myself.
But then I heard about the Hai Van Pass.
The Hai Van Pass is a winding 21km mountain pass on Central Vietnam’s coastal Highway 1. It was featured in a Top Gear episode and Jeremy Clarkson called it “a deserted ribbon of perfection—one of the best coast roads in the world.”
I’d heard stories about this scenic drive, and many of the travelers I met likened it’s awesomeness to that of the Big Sur.
I was hooked. I had to see it myself, and I had to do it right.
I decided I would go to the city of Hue, rent a motorcycle, and drive 8 hours south to the city of Hoi An via Highway 1 and the Hai Van Pass. And I’d do it solo.
I had no idea what I was doing. So the kind owner of Sunny Fine Guesthouse, the homestay I stayed at in Hue, went with me to the motorbike shop in the morning to help me pick out a bike. I got psyched up for the journey until I remembered one small detail: I’d never driven a motorcycle before. And I was still massively terrified of them.
So naturally I turned to YouTube and watched a video on how to drive a motorcycle. I was all set.
I was nervous. I called Gizem and my brother the night before to let them know what I was up to. You know, just in case.
So it turns out that I was a natural. No bumps or hiccups. After the first hour, I got the hang of it.
I think the famous saying goes: “Life is about the journey, not the destination.” Or something along those lines. Whatever it is, my motorbike trip fully embodied that message for me. Driving solo across central Vietnam was one of the most rewarding, thrilling, and meditative experiences of my life.
I marveled at the beauty of the scenic countryside that passed me by. I drove across mountains, past idyllic fishing villages and rice paddy farms, through sleepy beach towns and bustling cities. I’d get lost after taking a wrong turn or two, but would take full delight in the process of simply being lost.
I’d start randomly singing lyrics from the likes of Bon Jovi to the Avett Brothers. I’d ponder about how awesome life is and how thankful I am to experience it. I loved having nothing more than my motorbike, my backpack, and the open road in front of me.
I think this eight hour drive echoes the emerging theme of my travels so far, which is to keep pushing the envelope and to live as fully as possible. It was one of those defining moments in life, a story that I’ll promise to tell my grandkids one day.
Now I dream of coming back to Vietnam, buying my own motorcycle, and riding the entire length of the country from north to south. If you have the opportunity to see Vietnam, do it. And maybe do it by motorbike. This country is too damn beautiful.