Light drizzle had accompanied us the last hour of our first day’s ride through the lush green central highlands of Vietnam. I sat behind Truong as he led my husband on I on a four day trip through a small part of his fatherland. We had departed from the quaint riverside town of Hoi An that morning in the hopes of exploring a less tourist-ready part of the country by motorbike, and having something of a classic adventure.
Mr Trong, our motorcycle guide, is a member of the Easy Rider community, a group of motorcyclists who established practice in the 1990’s taking travelers on trips across Vietnam. There are more imitation outfits that real ones so finding a reputable guide requires considerable research. We were fortunate enough to come across a gentleman whose passion truly lies in sharing his story with visitors in the hopes that we gain greater insight into his culture, his life and the inner-workings of his country and it’s history. On a bike he is in his element. He know the roads of his country intimately and has a keen eye for any people, or places or things that he can draw on to tell a story or to introduce you to an experience of authentic Vietnamese life.
The morning’s journey had involved back-roading the countryside of outer Hoi An, going past the eerie ruins of the My Son Cham temple complex, and heading onwards towards the jungle-lined, mountain passes along the Laos Border. The four day three night trip would take us on a part the infamous Ho Chi Minh Trail, past local villages, and renown battle sites, onwards to the DMZ and the sobering Vinh Moc tunnels, finally to end in the imperial city of Hue.
We stopped often to take photographs, to taste local delicacies, smell things, to have a look in on different villages, to walk through community initiatives or historical sites all in pursuit of getting a new perspective of the land we were visiting. Truong himself was a war orphan – we passed by the town in which he was raised as a Catholic and was eventually adopted by a Japanese family. He served in the army and has had several different careers. His knowledge of history and nature is detailed and absorbing. He started doing trips because he enjoys teaching and finds a certain freedom on the road.
The North Central region is home to a diversity of ethnicity, to several war monuments, battle sites and memorials, and is home to the Unesco heritage sites of Hoi An, and Hue. It is a bridging region between the North and Southern regions where mountains, jungle, farmlands, isolated villages, bustling towns and coastal roads can be explored, with gliding s-bend mountain passes, snug paddy by-ways, long scenic rural roads, and offset with crazy city traffic. With so much to see the tourist trail is alive and well in this area, and to get to escape the agencies and exploitative trip packages is refreshing. It is a return to simple, good business – get value for your money, enable a skilled entrepreneur and support a community of riders that aim to provide an enriching adventure.
Trong is such a great example of how powerful a personal story is and how a business can be created out of sharing that with travelers. He is a host in the true sense of the word, and the value of seeing a place through the eyes of someone like him is immeasurable. We have since endeavoured to make it a priority on future travel to continually seek out experiences like this.
With a past steeped in rich culture, such tragedy, complex socio-politics and immense natural beauty, Vietnam is such a treasure to explore. If you ever do consider do a journey through the country by motorbike, he would be a person you want along with you as a guide, a storyteller, an adventure-seeker, a great cook, a pro mechanic, an excellent rider, a gentleman, and friend.
A Good holiday is a break that leaves us feeling connected to the places we visit. We want to leave friends in towns and cities, to wonder what they may be doing on a particular day and to remember great rides, good meals, and legendary stories. This was a trip we will not soon forget and whenever I make vegetable pho or drip coffee, I am right back on the bike winding down the side of mountain road, watching the drizzle, listening to the loud hum of the passing jungle. Easy-riding, the Good way.
You can view our album of this adventure here.
Find Trong’s contact details here.