Revving up to see Vietnam

EVERY visitor to Vietnam has quaked at the tsunami of motor scooters on the roads - and it's not just seniors who are frightened.

Crossing the roads is a walk towards possible death. You must step into the tsunami of scooters, focus on the footpath across the road and pray.

Fortunately, every scooter driver in Vietnam (apart from foreigners) has built-in scooter DNA.

They can weave and duck and manoeuvre and merge and zigzag, so you, crossing the road deep in silent prayer, become a boulder in the middle of a fast-flowing river.

You must let the rushing current of scooters flow, gush and surge around you. It sounds impossible. But the good news? It works.

In Ho Chi Minh City there are 13 million people and 10 million scooters. That's some hefty ratio.

Relaxing on the 38th floor in the Club Lounge of The Reverie Hotel in Ho Chi Minh, watching thousands of scooters from the luxurious safety of high above is one thing.

But being down on the frenetic streets on the back of one of them is quite another.

Ann Rickard on the back of a bike.
Ann Rickard on the back of a bike.

So it was that I found myself in the bustling city of Nha Trang the next day during a stay at The Anam, the luxurious beachfront resort in the southeastern coast of Vietnam.

While The Anam is all about swaying palm trees, sandy beaches, luxury villas and indulgent spa treatments, a motor scooter tour in nearby Nha Trang will fulfil all your adventure fantasies, especially The Nha Trang By Night tour which will have you on the back of a motor scooter immersed in the tidal wave of bikes.

It's no good being a sissy, you must put your faith in the driver. You have no control as you approach a frantic roundabout where giving way to your right or left is not a consideration.

You just merge with the thousands of other bikes and make it through the roundabout to your exit.

There you will be met with several thousand more bikes weaving perilously around you.

How anyone does not receive an unasked-for foot amputation or an unrequested limb removal is nothing short of a miracle.

But there is a gentle and unspoken etiquette among the chaos.

That locals' DNA at work.

Oh, but the thrill of being among it all, the adrenaline rush, the uninhibited freedom as you let the frenzied traffic have its way with you.

Our scooter tour took us first to a bread house - a wall-opening in a large rock on the side of a dusty road - where family members baked baguettes (banh mi) in a pizza-like oven before handing them over to mama squatting on the road who cooled them, put them in a giant bag on the back of her son's scooter and sent them off to be sold to restaurants and cafes within minutes.

Next to the bread house, a locals' market where tourists rarely venture, the freshest vegetables, fish, noodles, and live frogs were sold on the road, their vendors squatting comfortably on rocks or tiny plastic chairs while they weighed and sold and laughed and chatted.

Shoppers pick up fish, noodles and tofu most nights after work to load on the scooter and take home for dinner.

All ready in 10 minutes.

Then back on our bikes to a pancake parlour - another opening on the side of another dusty road.

Tear off a bit of pancake, wrap it in the delicious greens and herbs, dip it into a chilli sauce - a visit to street-food heaven for a couple of dollars.

The ebullient general manager at The Anam resort, Herbert Laubichler-Pichler, will have his team organise a scooter tour for you.

We reckon the food and market tours are best, but there are cultural tours if you want to meet local artists and learn religious traditions.

Adventurers will love the forest tour, a trek to waterfalls and swimming creeks, and for the curious, The Feel and Live Nha Trang tour will introduce you to the countryside to see rural life in Vietnam.

After a tour on a scooter among the mayhem, followed by a restorative spa visit back at The Anam, we guarantee you will feel more alive than you ever have before.

It beats jumping out of a plane or climbing a mountain as many seniors seem to think they are obliged to do just because they are seniors.

And nothing will make you feel more like a local than being on a motor scooter in Vietnam.

For more information on scooter tours and The Anam resort, go to theanam.com.


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