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’?
Halong Bay, Vietnam: Is It Worth It? On Being Open to New Possibilities
Through the Eyes of a Veteran: Tour de Vietnam: Cycling Northern
A Tour of the DMZ Vietnam
An Unexpectedly Wonderful Town 4 Reasons to Love Dong Hoi
Tour de Vietnam: Cycling Central Vietnam Navigating Hue’s Ancient Past
A Pinterest Inspired Hoi An Shopping Spree Hoi An for Non-Shoppers
Our Most Terrifying Moment Cycling and Tour de Vietnam: Cycling Southern
the Kindness That Saved Us From It Vietnam
The Ultimate DIY Guide to Cycling Introduction to Vietnamese Cuisine
These photos are gorgeous! Especially the first one and the facial expression of the baby is so funny, some great moments captured!
Naomi recently posted…A letter to year abroaders
Thanks! We had a lot of fun meeting all sorts of friendly people. :-)
I’ve been reading all your vietnam adventures, and I loved it from your blog. And it straightaway went into my bucket list. They sure a bunch of welcoming people in the world. Loved the baby pic :)
I just love this! So proud of you two for completing this adventure, and so amazed at the experience you had and the amazing people you met along the way. These photos make me smile so much!
Thanks for following along! It has been quite the ride :-p
Thanks for sharing your adventures in Vietnam. Never been, want to go and it’s been great to take a virtual tour through your blogs and photos!
Bernadette recently posted…Define Your “Happy Place” & Go Often – You’ll be Shocked & Weirded Out by Mine!
It is a pretty special place. We hardly do it justice. I hope one day you can check it out for yourself :-)
This was a great read! I’ve wanted to go to Vietnam for a while and this post makes me want to go even more!
Wheeltolive recently posted…Stranded in Kanazawa
I hope you get the chance!
you two are so cute. you see the beauty in just about everything. =)
Nicole recently posted…Wednesday’s Wonder: Before I Die
Thanks! :-) It’s pretty easy to see the bright side when we’re surrounded by smiles.
It makes my day when I see random people in Asia smile and say Hallo.
Turner recently posted…Volunteering at Tiger Temple: Getting Bitten By My First Tiger
Us too! It was very motivating to have everyone cheering us on while cycling :-)
Although I am extremely happy for you guys that Vietnamese locals have warmly welcomed you in their country, but unfortunately I had a different experience. When we were cycling, locals tried to rip us off, we were invited for a dinner just once during 2 month cycling and people didn’t smile a lot. I guess it was a bad luck, but good to know you had a great time with Vietnamese :).
Agness recently posted…Travel Reading Recommendation:“Boon Dockers: A Journey through America one Walmart at a time”
Sorry your experience wasn’t as friendly. There were lots of times people tried to take advantage of us because they assumed we have money to burn. We just tried to stay smiley and friendly and most of the time locals wouldn’t give us too much of a hard time.
Fantastic photos and a wonderful adventure. Although the biking itself sounds like too much work, Vietnam looks wonderful through your eyes.
Rhonda Albom recently posted…Photos: Exploring the Sherwood Forest In Search of Robin Hood (Linky)
Thanks! We have heard lots of mixed reviews of Vietnam and were so pleasantly surprised with our experience we just had to share it :-)
Those are indeed some furry, furry legs Dan has there; easy to see why they were noteworthy! And I love the look on that baby’s face. Just hilarious!
Sam recently posted…Acrophobia: A Personal Story
That baby had no idea why he had been thrust on to me and quite frankly neither did I :-p
Totally agree: the people are definitely Vietnam’s greatest asset! I admit that I was surprised to find how warmly we were welcomed by strangers because Vietnam definitely doesn’t have the friendliest reputation amongst bloggers and travelers, though now I can’t figure out why! I definitely think it’s a country that rewards those travelers who decide to forgo the night buses and take the roads less traveled through the country.
Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) recently posted…One Weird, Wild Christmas
We were pleasantly surprised at the kindness we received. I think for us being on bicycles (as opposed to motorbikes or public transport) we were allowed that extra bit of accessibility. We found the more we smiled, the more people smiled back :-)
Your reasoning is pretty close, Steph. Vietnamese people have a weak spot on “cái khổ xa nhà” it means “suffering being far from home”. When a person is in the middle of nowhere all they can think is what will you eat and where do you sleep. My mom used to say that.
Fabulous post! I was very pleasantly surprised by the friendliness of the Vietnamese people, though luckily I didn’t have any babies thrust my way. The kids are so cute I might not have given them back!
Heather recently posted…Shanghai Aquarium: An Underwater Adventure
Luckily we didn’t have an extra seat for him, although I don’t think Dan would have been too pleased about an additional traveler :-p
Great story, I remember the friendliness but more so the energy and vitality. Everyone had a ‘plan’. Take a train at least once. Super place.
The entrepreneurial spirit is definitely alive and well in Vietnam. I think it will come a long way in the coming years.
So many smiles! Can’t help but crack one myself. :)
Devlin @ Marginal Boundaries recently posted…Comment on A Hiking Trip to Milanovo, Bulgaria by T.W. Anderson
It was great to have so many people smiling and cheering us on. We couldn’t have made it from Hanoi to HCMC without them :-)
So Funny!!delicious burning chicken um um um.
steive@green lotus trekking recently posted…Trekking in Nepal