This post was last updated on September 18th, 2014
It’s a pretty bold statement, but we think we can back it up.
What’s the #1 reason to visit Vietnam?
To experience the land of ‘hallos’.
During the past few weeks of cycling, there have been multiple moments when we considered hauling the bikes over a cliff. Moments when we thought there was no way we would make it over one more mountain or through one more pothole or around one more horn-blaring eighteen-wheeler. But each and every exhausted time we convinced ourselves we were giving up on this ridiculous venture, a voice would call out:
“Hallo! Hallo, Hallo, Hallo, Hallo!”
The source to these calls would vary. Sometimes we would turn to see a group of children, frantically waving, running to the road to cheer us on and try for a high five before we passed. Other times we would find old women, sitting and fanning themselves outside a market, gifting us with a toothless grin. Then there were the times when we couldn’t find the voice’s owner at all. But each and every time, their energy and excitement to offer a simple hello was all the encouragement we needed to pedal just a little bit farther.
Cycling has awarded us with a unique glimpse into rural Vietnam and the everyday lives of the people who live there. Here are just a handful of the memorable interactions we were able to capture on camera. Experiencing the land of ‘hallos’ and having the opportunity to meet such warm, curious, and kind people certainly tops our list of favorite things about Vietnam. We hope it will win you over too.
Our friend from the popular restaurant Lac Thien in Hue. While the owner is deaf, that doesn’t stop him from communicating with the tourists that filter in to try his famous Bun Bo Hue and pick up a free bottle opener. While we typically don’t frequent restaurants recommend in guidebooks, this was one place worth the stop – even if only to meet Mr. Le Van Trung.
We stopped at this family-run restaurant to rehydrate. Unfortunately they didn’t have any beverages, but that didn’t stop the women from petting and awing at my sweat, admonishing me for not wearing long sleeves, and insisting we take a group photo. After commenting on Dan’s leg hair, they finally let us continue on our way.
Our bikes held up pretty well on our journey, but there was one moment when my brakes stopped working (luckily on a flat strip of road). This scooter mechanic was more than happy to help, free of charge. The children showed us their English schoolbooks and quite proudly demonstrated their knowledge while we were waiting.
The infamous dragon dancing troupe that gave us a free roadside performance.
Our favorite time of day is when school lets out. Nearly all the students have bicycles, so we often find ourselves with many companions on the road.
This friendly guide was roasting a chicken and insisted we join in the festivities. After we thanked him for the delicious meal, he also offered to show us around his village and invited us to spend the night at his family home.Unfortunately we couldn’t take advantage of the latter option.
Making friends with a businessman from Saigon.
More friends at the waterfall! Getting off the bikes for an afternoon actually allowed us to take many photographs of the people we were meeting.
Strangers continuously thrust their babies upon me, then step back to giggle about it. This baby looks as confused as I feel as to why this is a good idea. I’m not sure how many babies I’ve made cry during my time in Vietnam, but at least the parents – and Dan – get a good laugh out of it.
He might not be able to say ‘hello’, but look at that big smile!
Next time *should there actually ever be a next time* we decide to cycle through a country, we will definitely do so with a video camera running. There is just no way to capture the authentic friendliness of the people and the impact their ‘hallos’ have made on us during our time in Vietnam. For now, that just means you have to visit Vietnam to experience it for yourself!
What unexpected memorable moments have you had with locals on your travels? Have you experienced the ‘land of hallos’?