Rachael Perkin previously shared just a few of her stories from the road in a Stray Days interview about her time travelling on the Lot pass. We wanted more, so this time she shared her travel diary on one of the highlights of her entire trip: a Two Wheel Experiences guided motorbike tour of Hue in Vietnam.
We arrived in Hue on the morning of a rather dull, cloudy day. As we disembarked from our Stray bus and looked around, we wondered what we could do in this small city to fill our day. It was then that our Stray Tour Leader suggested we take a motorbike tour around Hue. With it being such a reasonable price, and something none of us had ever done before, we decided to go for it – and are we glad we did!
Our guides rolled up at around 1pm just after we’d had lunch. They were all very professional in their green polo shirts and our lead guide Khoa was wearing a huge welcoming smile. We all gathered around the scooters to receive our safety talk and then one by one the drivers picked the person that they would be chauffeuring around the city on the back of their prized possessions, their scooters! I was the last to be picked (flashbacks to my school days when I was always last to be picked for the cricket team!), but I was lucky because I got to go with our Tour Leader Khoa!
When we were all aboard, Khoa told us that we could hold on to our drivers if we liked, but that the most comfortable way to ride was by grasping the handles at the back. Everyone immediately grasped the back handles and I, not wanting to seem too inexperienced, reluctantly grabbed the handles too. We set off and I immediately gripped poor Khoa very hard with my knees, which he noticed right away and quickly asked if I was okay, and if I felt safe. ‘Yes, yes, absolutely!’ I replied, but he could surely hear the quiver in my voice as I said it. He continued to ask if I felt safe every now and again throughout the tour – luckily once I was used to this way of travelling I felt extremely safe. All of our drivers were extremely careful and considerate and for this reason alone I would highly recommend the tour!
Not long after we’d set off, we were zipping through the historic streets of Hue and trying to ignore the clouds that seemed to blacken overhead. Khoa was speaking to me while we were on the bike, explaining certain things about the former imperial city as we passed by and asking me questions about myself. We felt the first drops of rain start to fall and he asked me how I felt about the rain – by that time I was used to the afternoon showers that often come during rainy season so I told him I didn’t mind at all. He informed me that they had packed gear for everyone in the case of rain, but that he didn’t want to stop the tour unless the rain began pouring very heavily. No sooner had he said this than the rain started to really come down.
He signalled to the group and we all pulled over on the side of a small road so the drivers could access their storage compartments and provide heavy-duty, knee-length ponchos for everyone. Laughing at how silly we looked, but now properly kitted out for the weather, we hopped back on the bikes, riding for only 5 more minutes before the heavens truly opened! We heard thunder and lightning and the rain was coming down so hard we could barely see. We were driving through the rice paddies in Hue, during a thunderstorm and everyone was laughing and waving their hands. Rather than being put off, it’s one of my most surprisingly beautiful memories that I will always treasure.
Not long after this, we reached the first stop on our tour – a traditional rice farming museum.
We hopped off the bikes and went inside to discover a museum made by some of the local villagers in Hue to educate people on the more traditional methods of farming and making rice from before machines came in to lend a helping hand. Khoa took us inside and walked us around, offering stories about his own experiences and answering questions from our group. We even received a demonstration of the very old machines by a lovely Vietnamese lady.
Once we’d been thoroughly educated about traditional farming methods, we hopped back on the bikes and headed off to our next destination: a king’s tomb, where Khoa showed us around and explained all about the royal lives of the Nguyen dynasty. Reigning from 1802-1945, the Nguyens were the last ruling family of Vietnam, and many of their royal monuments, tombs, temples and pavilions are the city’s most important landmarks.
As we ventured further out into Hue’s countryside, we drove through a huge red forest and saw the most majestic view of the river and Hamburger Hill …
…before we stopped in a tiny village for a break.
We stopped at a small shop run by a woman who made incense. As she was sat outside rolling and arranging the sticks of incense, our guides asked her to give us a demonstration. We even tried to help her for a few minutes – she was very kind and only laughed a little bit at our awful attempts! Suffice to say, none of us qualified to continue as incense-making apprentices.
By this time the rain had stopped, so we tucked away our lovely ponchos (though we were sad to see them go!) and climbed back on the bikes for a real taste of what life is like in a small village in Vietnam. We just had to hold on and enjoy the ride as our guides expertly handled the scooters, weaving through the village’s tiny roads, up steep hills and down narrow passages. It was an easy and relaxing was to observe every day local life.
To finish off an already excellent tour, we made a stop at the city’s official symbol, the Thien Mu Pagoda, to view the beautiful sunset, followed by a brief ride around the Imperial Citadel before being returned home.
This tour was an amazing way to explore the old capital of Vietnam. Experiencing the crazy traffic, greeting the friendly smiling locals and exploring the twisting alleyways, you immediately feel like a part of this fascinating city. If you really want to explore Hue I totally recommend doing it on two wheels!