Vietnam is at the same time an easy and a difficult destination for backpackers.
Why difficult? Because the omnipresence of the motorbikes makes it difficult to hitchhike (although in theory I know we could both fit with our backpacks on a motorcycle with the driver, his family and several cats, I preferred not to try…). Because every piece of free land is used for growing rice, which likes its soil wet wet wet, ergo, making it unsuitable for camping.
Because circling the very local streets, you get to see grilled heads of animals not intended for eating. Because flowing with the rhythm of the road and skillfully crossing the street is as great of a challenge as dancing the tango with an uncle at 3a.m. at a Polish wedding.
Because while you shop at the market with the newly met Trang, you will realize that as a tourist, even if you believe everything is cheap, you are still overpaying. Because during dinner at Trang’s, it will turn out that this elderly lady speaking to you in Vietnamese while offering you some water in a small plastic bottle, actually has a not very well aged moonshine in there and, moreover, she expects you to answer her questions.
Because after dinner at Trang’s you may lose half of your hair, since it’s the first time his daughter and her friends have seen a blonde and let’s start plaiting her hair. Because when you come home to visit Huy, his grandmother may laugh at you, as you can’t wrap rice in banana leaves gracefully enough.
Why easy? Because of the user-friendly public transport and cheap hostels with ubiquitous wifi and happy hour bars. Because coffee is ridiculously aromatic (objectively, not only because every coffee tastes great after China!), and you can buy fresh French baguettes inherited from colonizers at every corner. What’s more, there are kitkats and Haribo gummy bears! Because you can roam the country on a rented motorbike. Because you are never further than 200 meters from beer (the cheapest beer in the world, to my best knowledge) and the food is just so delicious!
Because in order to see the Vietnamese “postcards”, you do not have to look for them or walk far. Every second person wears a triangular straw hat and carries luggage on bamboo sticks, in each pub there’s rice wine with snake or scorpion corpses. You can take as many exotic photos as you only wish!
Because to rent this motorbike, you do not need to know how to ride it! Because you can reach every tourist attraction by coach with an organized tour, be brought to a hotel, get hammered in the evening for very non-Western money, in the morning take a rickshaw to the number 1 restaurant on TripAdvisor, ask the waiter “Is it real Vietnamese food?” and receive an affirmation followed by a barely noticeable contemptuous look.
And you can return home happy to have had such an authentic holiday.