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The Road Less Traveled

A motorbike trip through Vietnam takes an unexpected turn.

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By Joshua Black

Travel Writer

30 Apr 2020 - 4 Minute Read

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It's late – my fiance and I are exhausted, and covered in mud. There’s an old woman yelling at us in Vietnamese, pushing me back into the sofa, refusing to let us leave the house. Behind is her daughter, who I’m desperately trying to stop from taking her shirt off. It’s utter chaos.

Helpless and confused, I wonder: how did it come to this?

We were on a two-month motorcycle tour of Laos and Vietnam. We managed to score a Chinese 125cc bike off a traveler in Pakse. Having just finished the first month in Laos, we decided to cross the border into Vietnam at Na Meo.

The crossing was relatively straightforward – mostly bemused laughs at our expense – but we got through without a hitch. Then the troubles began, with our pack rack snapping within the first 10 minutes. Next came the highway. The entire 110mi (180km) stretch of road was under construction.

Under construction, in this case, meant the road was non-existent. In its place lay the slipperiest mud slide imaginable. We were reduced to such a speed that ditching the bike and walking started to appear like a viable option. It was utter heartache.

The author and his fiance. (Note: Helmets were worn while riding.)
Joshua Black
The author and his fiance. (Note: Helmets were worn while riding.)

Exhausted and filthy, we were ready to throw in the towel. Ditch the bike, cancel our trip – it just wasn't worth it. Seven hours later, with night fallen and us at our lowest point, we finally reached tarmac.

Too defeated to appreciate the new-found road, we pulled into what appeared to be a restaurant, figuring we could ask for directions. We were ushered around the back by a teenage girl, and into her home.

That brings us back to where we kicked off. The old woman yelling, not in a scary way, but in an “I'm just going to repeat myself louder and louder and maybe you’ll understand” kind of way. Meanwhile, the teenage daughter keeps attempting to strip in front of us. Desperately wanting to get to a hotel, we try to leave. The old woman pushes us back down, continuing her tirade. We have no idea what we’ve gotten ourselves into, nor how the hell we are going to escape.

There’s a knock at the door – a man is standing outside. Now we really start to worry. We’re told to follow him with our bike.

It turns out, they’ve called him to lead us into town. The mother wouldn't let us leave because of this. The teenage daughter was just trying to ask us if we'd like to change our clothes.

This kindness continued for our entire trip. The people were so unbelievably helpful. It helped us find new strength in ourselves – the confidence, no matter how bad it gets, to just keep going.

The kids in the village.
Joshua Black
The kids in the village.

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Joshua is German-born, English raised, has lived in New Zealand and Australia, and is currently settling down in the United States.

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2 Comments

  • Joe shade said

    This was a good read bud.

  • Reginald Williams said

    Terrific story. Reminds me of how much I have loved my year (three separate trips) of living in Vietnam and makes me wonder why in the world you would want to settle in the US?!

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