Arrived in Hanoi by sleeper bus feeling disheveled, greasy, and tired. The weather was gray and a tiny bit rainy. Wasn’t sure where to go or what to do. A motorbike taxi driver offered to take me to the Old Quarter, so I went with him. He took me to a travel agency there. Spoke with the agent inside and decided to go to Ha Long Bay first to ensure I had enough time to see it.
After Hoi An, I went to Hue. At this point, I was worried about running out of time, since I could only stay in Vietnam for thirty days. I stayed in Hue for two days. It was lightly raining the entire time, so I wore my poncho and gritted my teeth. The first day, after I checked into my hotel, I walked to the Imperial Citadel and spent all afternoon exploring the ruins (bombed by the Americans) and the buildings still standing.
After Dalat and the six-day Easy Rider motorbike ride with Hien, I went to Hoi An. Hien dropped me off at one side of Hoi An and we parted ways. Stayed in a cheap hotel for $9 per night for several days. Browsed several shops and bought five paper lanterns in assorted colors, a dirty metal gong, a couple dirty coins, a few small paintings on scraps of paper, a marble tea box, and a marble candle box.
For six days, I rode on the back of Hien’s motorcycle as we wound our way through the back country from Dalat to Hoi An. My pack was wrapped in a plastic bag and tied to the back of the bike, Hien sat in front with his pack, and I was sandwiched between them. The weather was nice and warm for several days, but then grew cool and rainy toward the end.
I rode an open tour bus from Saigon to Dalat. It took about six or seven hours, and we arrived in the evening. I passed the time listening to podcasts, watching My Cousin Vinnie on my laptop, and chatting with a Thai girl, Pla, sitting next to me. She was going to Dalat for a weekend vacation with her two friends. She was really friendly and invited me to join her and her friends in their taxi after we arrived at the bus station.
I headed south from Saigon to the Mekong Delta to see some floating markets and river life. I met some volunteers from England and Australia on the bus from the Ben Thanh market to the bus terminal and decided to follow them to My Tho. I took a taxi with them to their hotel, got a room, and joined them for dinner. Afterward, I arranged for a four-hour private boat tour of the nearby river the next day.
I arrived in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon for the lazy…or stubborn) and took a taxi to my hostel, Long Guesthouse, in the Phạm Ngũ Lão backpacker area of District 1. The staff were very friendly and helpful, but there wasn’t a common room, so it was difficult to meet people, which I didn’t like. After a couple days, I chose to switch to another hostel, Saigon Backpackers, that was nicer and had a more social atmosphere.