Recently Jaz, Grasshopper Adventures Guest Support Specialist, and her father took a celebratory recce with the Grasshopper's Vietnam team to memorialize his 65th birthday. They joined the ever popular Highlands & Coast tour which takes in a generous assortment of rewarding riding and local highlights. Now back from her odyssey she has kindly shared some standout moments from the journey.
I’m not sure how I managed to make it 7 years living on-and-off in Cambodia without making it to Vietnam, so when I had an opportunity to go on a Grasshopper Adventures tour, I knew the beautiful country I’d heard so much about had to be my next travel destination!
I was originally planning to go on my own - I do have a soft spot for solo travel - but then considered that my dad and I have recently enjoyed biking together. He and my mom have offered me so many opportunities to travel since I was young, and since it’s my dad’s 65th birthday this year, my present to him ended up being the 7 day Highlands & Coast of Vietnam tour. He was psyched, and we were both expecting it to be a lot of fun - but I don’t know if either of us were prepared for how much of an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime experience it would truly turn out to be.
I could write pages and pages about the trip, but I’ll spare you the details and touch on a few aspects that stand out, while letting the photos speak for themselves.
The scenery was truly breathtaking - on multiple occasions I remember coming around a corner being met by yet another gorgeous vista and muttering to myself, “Are you serious?” There was no shortage of “this can’t be real life” moments.
I’m originally from Vermont, the green mountain state, and I hadn’t realized how much I had missed the beauty of the highlands. Cambodia is certainly stunning in its own way with its emerald-green rice paddies, extraordinary temples, and charming villages, but it is a very flat country and there is something about a mountainous backdrop that I appreciate in a different way.
In all honesty, my dad and I are recreational riders who enjoy casual rides on the weekends; we are not very experienced cyclists. This trip was a great fit, as it’s one of the more laid back trips in Vietnam (unlike our more intense routes in the North!) Still, the hills on the first couple of days certainly presented a challenge for us.
There were times we weren’t sure we would make it - and luckily we knew the support vehicle was always on hand if we needed it - but we surprised both ourselves and each other by pushing ourselves to complete the very rewarding climbs. Turns out, nothing is more bonding than mutual pain & pride.
Admittedly, on some of the rainier and long-distance days, we did treat ourselves to some time in the van.
Unfortunately weather is one aspect of the tour that nobody has control over. We did face some significant downpours and impressive puddles, and the temperatures didn’t allow for much beach time, but in the end we were having so much fun that it was all part of the adventure. The locals were very accommodating, inviting us to find cover in their homes, and wanting photos as well!
Anyone who travels knows that the people you are with can really make or break a trip. We were lucky to be accompanied by fantastic travel companions - a Canadian couple and returning Grasshopper riders - who we are still in touch with post-trip.
Our guide Thang was amazing, ensuring the trip went smoothly and acting as a great source of knowledge. I interrogated him with countless questions about Vietnamese culture during meal times, and he was always happy to share.
I knew the historical sites of Vietnam would be powerful, especially as an American since our countries have such intertwined histories. It was even more meaningful to experience these with my dad who was a young man during the draft and then protested in the streets during the war. Confronting the impacts of US policy - and especially learning more about it from a non-American perspective - was eye-opening and heartbreaking. It served as an important reminder to be politically aware and involved, which is especially relevant in today’s uncertain climate.
Food is always a highlight of travel for both me and my dad, so we were very much looking forward to exploring the world-renowned cuisine of Vietnam. It certainly did not disappoint! We were very thankful that Thang chose delicious dishes with diverse flavors at every meal, so all we had to do was sit back and enjoy.
I was also amazed by the abundance of local snacks and fruits at each stop - we were certainly in no danger of going hungry. And of course, another highlight was the delicious Vietnamese coffee! (Which also made for a perfect souvenir and gift for loved ones.)
Most of my recent trips have been done as a young budget traveler, so the comfortable hotels we stayed in were a very welcome step up from simple budget guesthouses that I have been used to. When you’re in need of a good night’s rest after 80km of cycling, you realize the true value of a quality hotel room!
This trip turned out to be such a wonderful experience that we wanted to treasure the memory of it in some tangible way. My dad had always said he would never get a tattoo -- but after conquering one of those hills, I must have caught him in a state of euphoria when he wasn’t thinking clearly! Lo and behold...
I now have more enthusiasm than ever for assisting current and future Grasshopper riders to plan their upcoming journeys. It’s great fun to be a part of the process that will lead to an amazing and unique experience of their own. And of course, I can’t wait to get on my next Grasshopper ride myself!
A few extra shots below from our adventure show the regions diversity, from the highlands and rolling greenery to the cities and coastal fishing towns ...