In the book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, the author describes how riding through the countryside on a motorcycle differs from driving through it in a car. He likens driving in a car to sitting in a climate controlled box and watching the world pass by as though on a TV screen, whereas riding on a motorcycle forces you to be present in the scene around you. Feeling the wind and the sun, seeing the views from all angles, smelling and tasting the elements around you – it all comes together in a more full experience than you could ever have in a car.
I’ve always agreed with that sentiment when it came to road biking – viewing the beautiful passes in Colorado is far more amazing on the back of a road bike than in the back seat of a car. But I’ve never experienced a long ride on a motorcycle. So when the opportunity presented itself for us to enjoy the most scenic part of Vietnam on the back of a motorcycle behind an experience guide (rather than crammed into the back of a crowded bus or through the dirty windows of a train car), we decided to take it.
These tours are called Easy Rider Tours here in Vietnam, and are quite popular. We rode from Hoi An up to Hue along the East coast, which took about five hours with frequent stops. All of these photos were taken from the back of the motorcycle as we were driving (with the exception of the shots from the top of Marble Mountain.)
Our guides planned to take us to China Beach for a quick stop, but John rerouted them to Marble Mountain just outside Danang. The beaches in Vietnam are lovely, but we are far more interested in temples and caves. You can see the temple at the top of the mountain below, and the tower next to it which houses a giant elevator. We skipped the elevator and climbed the stairs instead, just to prove to ourselves we are still hearty travelers.At the top there are several lovely temples and statues.More impressive than the temples, however, are the caves. Most of them were too dark to photograph, but they housed several beautiful sculptures. It’s hard to tell the scale of the buddha statue on the right, but it’s massive.After our quick stop, we crossed the bridge out of Danang, heading north.There is a lot of smoke and haze in this part of the country at this time of year. We couldn’t get a clear answer as to why from our guides, but I later read that farmers burn their fields at the end of the dry season to prepare them for the next round of crops, which causes the area to be very hazy this time of year.The road over Hai Van Pass.These bikes were so much more stable and comfortable than the little motorbike we had in Bali. Our guides easily strapped our big bags on the back which then served as little back rests for us while riding. The seats were padded and cushy, and the shocks made the ride smooth while allowing me to move around a bit to take photos without disrupting the driver.John and his guide, passing us on the highway.We had a fantastic lunch at a local restaurant in this little village. Vietnamese food never ceases to impress me.Ocean on one side of the road, mountains on the other.
One of our guides used to be a bank manager, but decided that he preferred riding through the mountains every day to sitting in an office. He’s 55 years old, and makes the trip twice a day nearly every day of the week. I can’t blame him for preferring this scenery to a cubicle.We made our way into Hue in the afternoon. Satisfied with our choice of transportation, we checked into our hotel suite (have I mentioned you can stay at a luxurious 3 or 4 star hotel in Vietnam for $25 a night??), and headed out to enjoy a cheap beer on the riverfront. It was a pretty good Monday. :)