hoi an day 3


We enjoyed some of our best meals of Vietnam in Hoi An, which is renowned worldwide for its culinary offerings. You would be hard pressed to find better Cao Lau, Com Ga, Banh Xeo or Banh Mi anywhere in the country. On day 3 in Hoi An we booked a cooking class with Hoi An Eco Coconut Tours to learn how to make some of these legendary dishes ourselves. Fresh spring rolls, homemade peanut sauce, Banh Xeo and papaya salad with prawn crackers are some of the dishes we will be happy to import back to the U.S. on our return.


We were enchanted by the numerous vignettes one can experience in a walk through Ancient Town at night. Shop-owners and residents burn incense and various offerings in small metal pyres on the street to honor their ancestors. This is especially important around the season of Tet. During this time they invite the souls of their deceased family members into their homes to join in welcoming the New Year.


hoi an day 2


While wandering the Ancient Town area on the second day of our stay we ventured into the Reaching Out Tea House and Craft Workshop. This extremely special organization supports the differently-abled population of the area by providing opportunity to learn skills and gain employment in their hospitality and fair-trade businesses. The tea house is staffed exclusively by speech and hearing impaired servers; blocks with common phrases written on them are used to interact and place orders. All tea and coffee products are locally sourced and organic. We highly enjoyed the Vietnamese tea tasting set and a cà phê sữa đá served in beautiful hand-made pots created in the nearby workshop.


One of the most famous icons of Hoi An is the Japanese Covered Bridge spanning a waterway in the Ancient Town area. The bridge was created in the late 16th Century by the Japanese community to connect them with the Chinese district for the facilitation of trade.


hoi an day 1


Our first night in the historic city of Hoi An happened to fall on a very special time in the lunar cycle. Not only was it a blue moon, but it was also a super moon and lunar eclipse all falling on the same evening. Unfortunately we didn’t really get to witness any of that due to cloudy weather, but we did get to participate in the beautiful full moon lantern festival, which occurs in Hoi An on the 14th day of every lunar month. We enjoyed walking the waterfront area of Ancient Town as it came alight with lanterns, floating candles and fiery altars used by the locals to honor their ancestors.

One of the most important things we learned about traveling in Vietnam is that you must always barter. We’re usually happy when we can get half of the original asking price. Even the youngsters are sharks when it comes to the art of the deal.


central highlands - easy rider tour day 6

At this point the back seat of the motorcycles had become our living room, the bungee-tied luggage our recliner chair, and the endless passing bucolic scenes our Netflix. We had absorbed so much in this 6-day span that it would take weeks to mentally unpack the slice of humanity and life that we had just been served up on these 150cc Honda dinner plates. A short half-day on the bikes brought us to our terminus: Hoi An. There, we said goodbye to what felt by now like old friends, and hello to some folks who were sure to become new ones.


central highlands - easy rider tour day 5


Nearing the end of our Central Highlands trip we frequently took breaks from the bikes (we were all getting serious “numb bum” at this point) to explore more of the unique localities we were passing. Pictured above are scenes from day 5 of the trip including a traditional Rong community house belonging to the Katu minority ethnic group. The Katu comprise around 40,000 slash-and-burn rice farmers and cassava and maize cultivators living along the Laos-Vietnam border. Outsiders actually dubbed the group its name Katu which means “savage” in the local dialect. Historically they practice some unusual customs including buffalo sacrifice, ritual masks and above-ground burial of the dead.


central highlands - easy rider day 4


One of the most bittersweet experiences on our motorcycle trek was our visit to the Vinh Son 4 Orphanage near Kon Tum. We brought some school supplies to give to the kids in the orphanage as numerous facilities like this one in the area are fairly impoverished and need all the help they can get. When we arrived, the kids (mostly girls) were pretty shy and didn't care much about the notebooks and pens we brought. After some time hanging out they opened up, and really began to have fun when we started taking photos and playing with the camera. Considering their situation the girls seemed pretty happy, but the experience made it easy to appreciate our upbringings and we wish that everyone in the world could be so lucky.


We started our motorcycle trek with two guides and ended it with two friends. Thang and Tin Tin gifted us a robust introduction to their country and people over 6 days of being together nearly 24/7. This kind of personal interaction taught us more than we could ever learn on a normal guided tour or the internet. Sharing beers, laughs and stories with these two made the entire trip totally worth it even in its early stages. Despite the unfortunate past between our countries, we had no trouble connecting and enjoying one another’s company immensely. 


central highlands - easy rider tour day 3

Throughout the journey our guides introduced us to some of the resourceful ways that locals of the Central Highlands make a living. On this day we learned about the process of making rice paper and noodles, as well as sticks of incense; two very important elements of the Tet Holiday which was fast approaching at the time of our visit. Male laborers in the incense factory smoke tobacco out of traditional bamboo water pipes during their long workdays and invited us to join in before we got back on the road.


central highlands - easy rider tour day 2


We started off day 2 of our Easy Rider adventure with a tour of Lak Lake on a traditional long wood dugout canoe which was constructed by the inhabitants of Jun Village. The centuries-old process included careful selection of a large, unbent tree in the nearby jungle. The boatbuilder would then drive a knife into the trunk, and leave offerings like meat and fruit at the base of the tree. Upon returning in about a week, if the knife was still lodged firmly in the trunk, the builder would be permitted to fell the tree and go about constructing the canoe. This process is rare now that deforestation has become such an issue in Vietnam, and the government strictly controls tree-cutting. 


central highlands - easy rider tour day 1


The morning following our exciting night in Da Lat we met Thang and Tin Tin, our Easy Rider guides, for the beginning of an incredible 6-day motorcycle trek through the Central Highlands. One of the first sights they shared with us was a visit to Elephant Falls which lies on the Cam Ly river about 30km west of Da Lat. Ancient locals named the falls after the resemblance of an elephant in the large mossy boulders that surround them. This was the first of many days enjoying the wonderful scenery of Vietnam from the back of our motorbikes.




On our single day in Da Lat we enjoyed renting a motorbike and zipping around the area, taking in the sights of the beautiful highland city which was developed as a colonial resort by the French in the early 1900s. As dusk descended we were heading back to our accommodation when all of a sudden the streets exploded with the sounds of motorbike horns and the visage of waving red flags and yellow stars. We had stumbled upon the city-wide celebration of Vietnam's victory over Qatar in the AFC U-23 semifinals. 


For our night in Da Lat we booked an incredibly unique room (the Termite Room) in Hang Nga Guesthouse, popularly known as The Crazy House - one of the city's most famous destinations. The house was created by Vietnamese architect Dang Viet Nga. The bizarre building is reminiscent of Gaudi's work and will likely stand for ages despite being deemed by some as “anti-socialist architecture”, as Nga is the daughter of Truong Chinh, who succeeded Ho Chi Minh as Vietnam's second president starting in 1981.