Travel often provides unexpected delights and experiences that are both unique and priceless!
As an adventurer at heart, I crave to explore and discover new places, people and experiences.
A big part of my love of travelling comes from creating my own personal itineraries so as to ensure I own the experience and not a travel company that herds you into a bus and to and from set locations.
Nope, for me it’s all about settling in and exploring on my own time and agenda.
Very little is pre-planned other than a notion to see a couple of important sites. Other than that, it’s all freeform exploring.
This week I’ve been thinking back to all of my trips over the years to share with you some the unexpected delights of my travels.
Ranking right up there was my trip to Vietnam. I guess I didn’t know what quite to expect with the mysteries of this magical land.
My trip from Toronto began by flying into Hong Kong (another of my favourite cities that always has so much to see and do) and spending three relaxing days wandering the streets and alleyways to soak up this cosmopolitan and vibrant city.
To fly into Vietnam, I had to have a pre-arranged visa sorted before I could board my flight from Hong Kong.
The entry process at Hanoi’s Noi Bai airport was one I’d never experienced…
Effectively everyone with a visa mills about a booth where you submit your passport and then wait until your name is called, whereby you enter a corridor to a back interview area.
Answering any additional questions before having your entry permit stamped into your passport.
Once this has been accomplished you can exit to retrieve your bags.
As with all airports where English is not the primary language I pre-arrange an airport pick up to ensure I have a reputable form of transport, but also understand my final hotel destination without trying to converse via google or some other translation app.
My first unexpected delight was that Hanoi is primarily a scooter city. On the drive from the airport the taxi was stuck in a sea of scooters for as far as the eye could see…
Over the next couple of days as I explored this incredible city this translated into braving the scooter traffic when crossing the road.
My only piece of advice is that you have to be brave to step off the curb but never hesitate or look at the scooters zooming toward you – just walk confidently and they will always navigate around you.
My next stop was a $99 return flight to Da Nang on the central coast and my next stop on my exploration of rural Vietnam.
For some reason while I was planning my trip this place called out to me, so accepting this as my fate I booked four days at this incredible resort.
What I learned was that the usual clientele were mostly French and Japanese couples getting married…
Given that I was travelling alone I had my own personal concierge (Thanh) and became friends with the Manager of the restaurant (Anh) who provided me with opportunities to explore both the local area as well as the local foods.
I think my most unexpected delight (of which there were many on this leg of my trip) was my day exploring the surrounding local villages on my bicycle.
Few leave the resort to explore unless under the supervision of a driver or guide.
However, given my uncanny knack for finding adventure I decided to use of the bikes from the resort and ride out into the surrounding countryside for the afternoon with nothing but my camera and a sense of adventure…
Many might see me leaving the perfectly safe confines of the resort to explore were a tad foolhardy, and in retrospect you’d likely be right!
Although what I found was an afternoon filled with beautiful scenery, friendly locals and time to experience the real Vietnam without any oversight.
Riding my bike along the top of paddy bunds, with water buffaloes wallowing in the mud of a creek while locals planted the new crop of rice. I felt as though I was on a movie set…
What I found were the locals, although we weren’t able to converse per see were always smiling and friendly.
At one juncture I was riding down the narrow street of the village when an old man stood in the middle of the road ahead of me and gestured for me to stop…
Perhaps, I had broken some local village rule, or maybe inadvertently offended him in some way. I slowed to a stop in front of the man on the dusty street.
He smiled broadly to show his one tooth and pointed to my back wheel.
As I turned, I realized that I had been riding with the kickstand down since taking my last series of photos, with that he bent down and pushed it up for me.
Then stood up and slapped me hard on the shoulder and belly laughed as he shuffled off.
When I arrived back at the resort later that night I told Thanh about my adventures in the surrounding villages, with that all she said, “I’m glad you’re back safe”.
Enough said! Now that’s an adventure.
Until next week