After a bumpy, sleepless, and slightly scary, overnight train ride from Hanoi, I arrived in Hue and quickly suited up to keep heading South in the best way you can in Vietnam... by motorbike.
A few months prior, two of my friends in Seoul had visited Vietnam and made the trip between Hoi An and Hue with a motorbike tour company called Le Family Riders. They highly recommended the bike ride, and, after making the trip myself, I too have nothing but praises for this company.
Keep reading to find out why biking the Hai Van Pass with Le Family Riders was a highlight of my backpacking trip, and one of my favorite travel experiences to date... You may just decide to put it at the top of your Vietnam to-do list, too!
Bright and early that morning in Hue, I was promptly picked up by Uy at the train station. He's the head driver for this family run company, and there's no surprise as to why. I was a bit nervous about the ride, but he was so candid and professional that my worries were quickly put to rest. I strapped on my helmet, put on an orange vest, and, with my two backpacks in tow, zoomed off with Uy to meet the rest of the crew.
The first question I asked my friends when they told me about this trip was, "What about your backpacks?"... No, we did NOT make the whole journey to Hoi An with two people and all my stuff on the bike. Before I tell you about the trip itself, know that luggage is not something you'll have to worry about with this company.
Yu's mom met the group in the morning and everyone's luggage was put into a truck that was driven to Hoi An later that day. All you'll need is a small backpack filled with essentials for the ride. I thought I had everything I needed - sunscreen, my bikini, GoPro, toilet paper, money, extra camera batteries... but as far as essentials go, there was one unexpected thing that I, unfortunately, forgot.
What happened next was a nightmare come true... (Spoiler alert: Travel isn't always perfect. There are road bumps... and I refuse to look back on this trip with rose colored glasses and forget that this part happened... It wouldn't be honest. I also refuse to leave this part out, because, without telling this bit of the story, I can't quite give the proper praises to this amazing company)... buttttttt, it might also be a bit TMI, so skip ahead about four paragraphs if you're easily grossed out... or a dude... or both.
So, here's what happened...
Our first stop for the day was a teeny little (likely family-owned) open-aired restaurant where I ate some noodles for breakfast and we all had a cup of Vietnamese iced coffee, (which you have to try if you haven't already - it's so bomb).
Before leaving for the second leg of our ride, I went to the bathroom and realized that unbeknownst to me, I'd at some point started my period... Every. Girl's. WORST. NIGHTMARE... and, my personal nightmare come true on that particular day... at the start of my 128 kilometer motorbike ride down the Hai Van Pass.
I used the last of the toilet paper in my backpack to create a makeshift pad (poor planning... should have packed more toilet paper) and went on about my way thinking I'd outsmarted mother nature. Wrong.
Not only had Mother Nature decided to hit me with the red river of reassurance twice that month, but she also decided that, on that day... the day of my 3+ hour motorcycle ride... said red river was going to flow with a flippin' vengeance. So, long story short, about 15 minutes in to the second leg of the ride, I started to feel reallllly uncomfortable. As embarrassed as I was to mention my lady problem to Yu, my male driver, I knew I had to... and so I did.
Yu could not possibly have handled my awkward news any better - (the guy clearly has a sister... a sister who I actually borrowed a pair of shorts from later that day). When we arrived at our next stop, I got a tampon from an Irish girl in the group... and I know this is probably something I should have done to begin with, but, when backpacking Southeast Asia, these can be hard to come by, and I didn't want to deplete anyones, likely, limited stock. Yu called his mom, who agreed to meet us with the truck at lunch so I could get a change of clothes from my backpack.
Aside from mild cramps and Mother Nature's annoyingly horrible timing, my lady problem was solved...
...Meanwhile, we'd arrived at a swimming hole, so I threw on my bikini, jumped in, and continued to enjoy the day.
After enjoying a swim, we headed on for a seafood lunch by the water. This can be said for most meals I ate in Vietnam, but OH MY GOD THE FOOD WAS INCREDIBLE. We had a few beers and an awesome, extremely filling, spread (all of which was included in the cost of the ride). We stuffed ourselves silly, and continued down the Hai Van Pass.
We made a few necessary stops for epic photo ops, stretch breaks, and, of course, cups of coffee. Then, it was smooth sailing down the coast to Da Nang, a beach-side city, not far from Hoi An, where we explored caves, temples, and hiked to catch the sunset (which, as you can see, was epic).
After leaving Da Nang we only had about 30 kilometers to go. We arrived in Hoi An well after night fall... which was perfect because it allowed us to catch our first glimpses of the lanterns this city is so famous for. The drivers directed us to their family's tailor shop (something else the city is known for) where you could get literally any clothing item you can think of made. Whether or not you get clothes made at the Le Family's tailor shop, this is definitely something you should do while you're in Hoi An... so save room in your luggage!
Finally, one by one, the drivers took all of the riders and our belongings to our hostels and hotels in Hoi An.
By the time I arrived at my hostel at the end of the day, my butt was a little bit sore, and I was a whole lot exhausted... but it was the best kind of exhausted. Despite my unfortunate lady problems, my trip with Le Family Riders was exciting, fun-filled, and absolutely beautiful. The drivers made everyone feel welcome, safe, and they made sure we all had a killer time.
I'm SO glad that I took this trip with Le Family Riders.
Not only was I able to see a lot of Vietnam, but I learned a lot too.
Thanks again to Uy and the whole Le family for the incredible experience (and to Alexa and Maggie for the recommendation)!
If you're planning to go from Hue to Hoi An, (or vice versa), THIS is the best way to do it.
Interested in booking a ride?
Check out their website at lefamilyriders.com
or shoot them an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up!
What’s your favorite thing to do in Vietnam?
Let me know in the comments below!
I was a guest of Le Family Riders, but, as always, all thoughts, opinions, bad luck, (and TMI stories) are my own.