Danang – Adventures on a Moto

Marble Mountains, Vietnam

Danang is NOT a tourist city. In fact the guidebooks have approximately a third of a page on it, and basically say “oh it’s a city, nothing major here, you can skip it” which is really too bad because it’s such a cool city and has incredible beaches!! It’s modern and growing like crazy with gorgeous new architecture, and fun hip social scene. It’s definitely not on the tourist trail – which was great for us, we wanted to experience the real Vietnam.

As such, though, it’s not a particularly walkable city and we quickly learned we needed a moto (motorbike, scooter, moped). There are very few cars, but about a one to one ratio of motos to people. We rented our scooter from “Mama’s Motos” at Bread of Life Bakery and Café. It was a Yamaha Deluxe LX edition, with faux leather trim that had “LX” embossed into the naugahyde in a very familiar pattern; it looked exactly like a Louis Vutton purse pattern, Our moto affectionately became known as “Louie!” Rick and I really liked calling it a scooter for some reason – and Rick really liked driving it – and singing about driving it while driving it!

We were so glad we had a moto, we would have missed out on so much without it. Here are our favorite Danang adventures on a moto:

Scootin’ around out on the town with friends

This was just after our friends Christophe and Sakura invited us out to dinner with their local friend and tutor to experience real locals food. It was such an awesome dinner. Afterward we all rode around beautiful Danang!

Exploring the Marble Mountains

We took our moto on and adventure to these crazy mini-mountains made of limestone and marble with caves running throughout them. We climbed mountains and dove into exploring the caves. Many have temples and massive Buddha statues in the caves… we got a secret tip that if you really want to see the caves you have to go up on the alters and around behind the statues and there are stairs and pathways to deeper caves there – we had a blast exploring.

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Historic Hoi An

We met up with our friends from Cat Ba Island here. Hoi An was a great port city in the 1800’s, but then the river filled up with mud and cut it off, so this grand city was basically abandoned and forgotten. Which means that when the American War (as they call it in Vietnam) was going on, it had no value to either side and was left alone, and therefore not destroyed. It’s main economy now is tourism. And at night the city is lit by lanterns which give it a magical glow. Oh and I got a custom made pair of leather sandals!

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Just make sure you know how late your scooter parking lot is open… we found out the hard way when we went to get our motorbike at 9pm and they lot that had hundreds of motors earlier was now dark and empty. Our Louie was nowhere to be seen. Through charades we managed to get a guy to wake-up an older lady that had our moto locked up in her kitchen… we paid a dollar to get it out of “lock-up.”

Admiring the awesome bridges of Danang

Crazy bridges! There are nine in total (some still being built) – We learned a feng shui expert advised the city 20 years ago that to be prosperous it needed to build nine prominent bridges across the river. Here are a few of our favorites: The Dragon Bridge: made to look like a huge dragon and on Saturday and Sunday nights it shoots fire and water out of it’s mouth; The Han Bridge: all lit up with a rainbow of lights that change and at midnight every night it spins sideways; The Sail Bridge: beautiful artistic suspension bridge/scripture that is lit with vibrant colors.

Danang, Vietnam

Tam’s epic tales

Christophe suggested we go get a burger at Tam’s Pub & Surf Shop because she had good stories – and that was the under statement of the century!! Tam was 12 years old when the Vietnam/American War started. She was befriended by a Navy man and started selling Cokes and beers to the troops to make money for her family. She couldn’t wait to tell us her incredible tales. She was buried alive once and American troops rescued her. She was told to take a bomb disguised as a Coke can into an American base by the NVA, but instead told the Americans what it was and saved dozens of lives, she was almost killed by the NVA for doing this. She escaped from a war prison. Survived being a cast away on an island. And she absolutely loves to be reunited with American soldiers that she knew during the war – and has the photos to prove it.

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Tam’s  joy is contagious and we felt so fortunate to get to hear about her amazing life. Oh and she still surfs and rents out surf boards! Here is a video (that we didn’t make) that gives you a quick introduction to Tam:

See a Real Fire-breathing Dragon

I know we already mentioned the bridges, but the Dragon Bridge’s weekend displays really shouldn’t be missed. We parked Louie on the sidewalk with all the other locals right next to the bridge. There are tons of little pop-up restaurants selling drinks, and street food. We saw a big circles of kids with guitars and drums playing music. Just a fun little party that lasts about an hour or so every Saturday and Sunday night. The vendors start setting up about 8 pm the fire and water show starts at 9 pm and the whole thing is wrapped up and gone before 10 pm. It’s kind of like the moto equivalent of tailgating I guess.

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Beautiful beaches – China Beach, My Kye, Etc.

The beaches were great and stretch for miles – we played in the sugary soft sand and the surf. The waves were quite strong, in fact they have lifeguards out all day everyday and they only allow swimming in a small areas due to the really strong undertow; they even have a lifeguard in the water keeping tabs on the ever changing currents. But in that area we had so much fun body surfing into the beach. The breaks were just perfect.

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Want to know more about what we did in Danang?

Thankful: Random Acts of Kindness on the Road

Rick having fun on a bicycle!

I’ve been reflecting on some of the best parts of the trip so far, and one of the coolest things has been moments where a random stranger went out of their way to be kind to us. It’s happened in every country we’ve been to, and often in a moment when we most needed it because we were feeling beat down or taken advantage of or just tired and hungry (probably hangry).

It restores your love for fellow humans, your ability to trust others in a foreign place where you often can’t even communicate, but that daily requires at least some leve of blind trust in someone you don’t know. It’s just reminds me of how important those “little things” I can do for others – and how it may not be such a little thing to the recipient – I know they haven’t felt like little things to us when we are the recipients. I’m more determined than even to be vigilant to see when there is a kindness I can provide for someone else, and to stop of make people more of a priority than my plans or productivity. I am so grateful to these people for the help and kindness they have given us – it has made our trip!

So in the spirit of Thanksgiving, and so I have it written down and never forget, here are just a few of the kindnesses we are so grateful for:

Christophe & Sakura: invited us into their home to stay for a week (and a longer invitation if we could have). They welcomed us as part of the family. Not just a place to stay but genuine friends. We ate with them, they in fact treated us to many dinners, showing us the best places in Danang that we never would have found!! And even arranged for their Vietnamese tutor to take us all out for a true locals experience. They opened up their home and their lives to us and it was one of our favorite experiences on the trip!

P1070579Beer Guy Between Halong Bay and Danang: We had a couple hour stop over to change busses and decided to grab some street food and beer at one of the sidewalk “pop ups” (a food cart that they set up mini plastic stools and tables around). We had a couple Bahn Mi, then decided to get a couple of beers. We sat for a while and when it came time to pay we asked how much, knowing beers should be 5,000-10,000 dong (that’s $0.25-0.50). The vendors friends (seated near us, but that he had been chatting with) started telling him to charge us 55,000 per beer and telling us in broken English 55,000 per beer. The vendor shook his head at them and showed us with money from his wallet that it was 10,000 per beer. We had been overcharged a few times earlier that day, and were feeling pretty skeptical and taken advantage of… so this was just what we needed to restore our faith in people and bring us back to a positive mindset. Thanks beer guy for choosing the right thing to do, over your friends bad influence and making a few extra bucks!

P1070346 Wolfpack Hostel Owner: If you’re ever in Dalat you absolutely have to stay at Wolfpack Hostel. Cheesy name? yes. Incredibly kind owner? YES! Can’t say enough great things about this guy, the hostel itself is great, comes with free breakfast, a clean great place, he arranges tours from you that are the BEST and no commission for him. But he goes way beyond that. A couple things that stood out, he booked a bus ticket for us and had them pick us up at the hostel (a challenge to get that)… and if they hadn’t been willing to, he was planning to take us to the bus stop on his moped, for free, because a taxi would have cost us – he insisted. Then that night we asked him where we might buy a bottle of Dalat wine and were planning to walk there… he said, oh no, you shouldn’t do that, I will go get one for you… and I’ll buy a couple more in case the other hostel guests want some too. We gave him $1 for our bottle (which is the cost for it, no extra for him) and he shared the other bottles with us and the guests. And then the next day Rick wanted to get a little money just before our bus got there, he started walking to where he though an ATM was, and our hostel guy sees him going down the rode, picks him up on his moped and takes him to the ATM to make sure he’s not late for the bus and doesn’t have to walk that far. Just awesome!

Friendly Street Informant: ”I’m not selling anything” man in India: Well India was challenging to say the least, the super aggressive culture wore on me… a lot… people in my face yelling at me, grabbing me, pulling me to their tuk-tuk or shop or wherever, touching me, more yelling, literally every step you took in some places. I may have had some times where I turned a bit cynical and put on my “Don’t mess with Texas” voice and mean girl face, I’m ashamed to say, but I’ll own up to it. I felt it was necessary because, in India, “no thanks” usually translates to “yes please tell me more about what you want to sell me, pull me into your tuk-tuk/shop, and follow me for the next 5 minutes yelling at me”. Saying “NO” as I would to Ruger when he’s bad (firm, authoritative, a little angry) and a hand up was much more effective – sometimes they yelled at me, but they were yelling anyway, so what’s the difference? Anyway, after a very long day of being yelled at, we were approached my a man saying “oh, you should look at this temple up the street, it was made by such-and-such king, and has a beautiful viewpoint and mugal architecture…” (this was a typical scam to get you into a shop), so I immediately launch into “no thanks, no, no, no, NO!” and the poor guy looks at me confused. Then he kind of laughs and says, in very good English, “oh, you must have had a LOT of people hassling you to sell stuff today. I’m not selling anything. I don’t have a shop. I just thought I would tell you about my town. Really, no shop, no tuk tuk” I felt quite bad, and apologized. He proceeded to give us some history of the temple and area, we talked about how long he had lived there, where we were from, then parted ways.

 Monkey Protector: Little boy with a slingshot that watched over us and kept the monkeys away while we were at the river temple. Each time one would come near us, he would hold up his little slingshot and scare them away, then give us this huge smile.


Security Guard at Phi Yen Hotel: One night we shared a few of the Longan fruits we had bought with him. We got to our room and started eating them and they did not taste as good as we had remembered, but thought oh well. The next morning, he kindly asked us how much we paid and told us that we overpaid for them… and that they were bad fruit. He told us we should always insist on tasting before we buy and don’t pay more than 20,000 dong/kilo.

 Drugs to the Rescue: After two nights of no sleep due to the altitude I was feeling a really loopy, and needed sleep. We ran into a couple of American guys in Manang and quickly got to chatting about our experience so far. I mentioned not feeling great because of the lack of sleep. They kindly offered to share their sleep aid with us, and it saved me! As I type I realize it sounds kinda sketchy, but really it wasn’t and it made all of the difference. Thank you friends!!

 Meals and Directions on Trains in India: Trains in India are an experience, the biggest challenge is there is no notification of what stop it is or when your stop is, you just have to intrinsically know. Also there is no notification of how long the train will be at a stop or when it’s about to leave – which is important to know if you have a 20 hour train ride and want to hop off at a station to grab food. We had two different train rides where incredibly kind passengers in our berth even though they didn’t speak English at all helped us know when to get off. And when we couldn’t get food on the ride, they insisted that we share their homemade dinner and breakfast. And it was delicious!! They broke their bread into smaller pieces, found plates from fellow passengers, scooped out the curry for us and smiled proudly as we enjoyed. They would watched out the window for our stop and make sure we know when it was coming up. Without them I think we would have ended up in Sri Lanka, and starving!


 Blog and Facebook Comments: It may not seem like much, but the comments people leave on our blog or facebook mean so much! This trip is amazing, but occasionally we feel rather isolated and disconnected and just a little comment from someone on the blog or facebook can make us feel so special and like people still know we’re alive and remember us. So THANK YOU so much for doing that. It means the world to us.

Finally, I’m so thankful for our families and friends who have been so supportive in helping us live out this dream. The encouragement and support, patience and understanding has allowed us to chase a dream and calling God had for us. We get to tell that story to other people as we travel – how great we had it with amazing jobs, co-workers we loved, irreplaceable amazing friends, dear families, and how hard it was to leave – and that’s not the story for most folks traveling long term. Many folks were running away from a life they didn’t love. I feel so incredibly blessed to have loved where I was, and to have that as a solid foundation to begin our travels from – not running away from something, but running to something. Thank you all.

We are a little sad today that we are missing Thanksgiving (doesn’t really feel like it in tropical Cambodia). We are missing you all, missing sharing love and laughter and gratitude over turkey and all the fixin’s. But excited to see our awesome friends Alvin and Jennifer Paulson TODAY in Bangkok!!!!!! What will Thanksgiving look like Thai-style?!? No idea, but I’m sure it will be a blast with the Paulsons and we will be thinking of everyone back home.

What We’ve Been Doing in Danang

Danang, Vietnam

Danang, Vietnam

Ironically, we’ve spent the longest time we’ve been in any one place since we left, in a city we never intended to go to,  in a country that wasn’t in our plans – Danang, Vietnam. And it reinforced for us again that God has us on this journey, and is directing our steps as to where to go.

Danang, Vietnam

How’d we end in up Danang? God’s perfect timing.

We knew we wanted to do mission work or volunteer work during our time in Southeast Asia and were excited to get started. We had a couple of contacts and potential opportunities from Indonesia to Cambodia, but those didn’t work out when we started getting into specifics, they didn’t have a need for us right now. Rick reached out to one of his good friends from college who had taught English and helped at an orphanage in Danang… Bryan put us in touch with the Orphan Voice and they were willing to have us, said just let us know a day or two before you show up and helped us with our visas, where to stay, all that.

We hop on a bus from Cat Ba Island (well minibus, to bus, to boat, to crappy bus, to crappy bus, to sleeper bus) and what was supposed to be 20 hours later, and turned into 30 hours later, we were in Danang.

We get to our hotel and call Tony, who leads the orphanage, and he says “well, this weekend is a little different. We won’t be here, there’s a retreat with our church. Want to go? The van leaves in 15 minutes!” I’m in the shower at this moment (30 hour bus rides make you want to shower!) and so Rick yells at me to get out and pack up, we’re headed out.

We didn’t realize how badly we needed re-center, refocus, be around other believers, be reminded of God’s purpose, until we got there. It was God’s incredible plan that we were there.

The retreat was put on by Danang International Fellowship (an expat church). The speakers were incredible – Eric and Rachel DuFour. One of the biggest things we got from it is that we don’t have to have our long term calling figured out right now – Rick and I just the weeks before had been really putting pressure on ourselves to figure out what we want to be doing with this travel and after this travel and really started to stress about it, or at least feel frustrated. But they reminded us that we just have to say “Yes” to God each day and do what he has for us that day – not have the future all figured out, that’s God’s job. What a refreshing truth.

God's Perfect Timing - Ranbow on the beach Danang, Vietnam

On top of the amazing couple speaking, we met a ton of incredible folks. Jeff and Nancy, a couple who have moved their family to Vietnam to help the deaf here. In Vietnam, a person with any sort of a disability is considered a burden to their family and society – they aren’t allowed to go to school, there is no therapy available, no education even. For deaf folks, there is really no use of sign language in Vietnam… so they will live their whole lives without communicating with anyone, being discouraged by their family, no allowed in school, they cannot get jobs, it’s just a sad and hopeless life.

Jeff and Nancy have brought sign language to central Vietnam. They are training kids and adults. And they have a restaurant that employs all deaf staff, giving them an opportunity to earn a living they never would have had, plus a community of others who have learned sign language so they have people to talk to. They are expanding in more rural areas. It’s really incredible. And that’s just one of the couples.

We also met Christophe and Sakura – and instantly connected with them. (INCREDIBLE people – we heart them so so so much!!!) We met them Sunday of the retreat and chatted over lunch and after for a couple of hours – about long term travel which they had done a couple years ago, about their work and mission in Danang, about their passion for business and providing employment, laughing about stories of crazy adventures in Canada and Costa Rica.

Well they just have huge hearts and the next day we got an email from them asking if we would like to stay at their house while we were in Danang. We “moved in” a week ago and have loved every minute we spent with them. They are our kindred spirits on the other side of the world! We got to hang out with Christophe, Sakura, Noah (4 years old) and Saya (almost 2 years old) – by the way their incredible kids speak French, Japanese, Vietnamese and English!

Danang, Vietnam Danang, Vietnam

What about the babies?

We went to Danang to work with Orphan Voice – they run two orphanages and provide vital help to eight other orphanages, as well as run a therapy school for kids with disabilities, and a home for victims of sex trafficking, and a home for youth at risk of being forced into sex trafficking among other things (they’re pretty busy!). We got to help with the elementary aged kids one day and help the prep/paint part orphanage alongside a World Race team which was super fun! The next day we went to see the baby orphanage that was in the rural area. I know this will be a shocker for y’all but as Rick put it I “took to those babies like a fish to water.” I changed my first cloth diaper (really 3 bandanas and a combination of multiple knots that would make a sailor squirm). Sweet faces and sad stories, but in the middle of it you’ve got the laughter of these kids. It was heartbreaking and heart warming at the same time.

We had a blast playing with them but my arms are still sore from holding babies all day!

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But then Rick’s graphic design skills were discovered! There were so many things that needed to be designed for Orphan Voice, for the therapy center, for a deaf school, for a Christmas in Danang musical. It was really cool to see him be so willing to jump into dozens of projects and give help that was so valuable! We spent the next few days working on design projects. 

From there it was really cool to see how we both got opportunities to put our skills and abilities to work to help a bunch of different folks. Rick got to design art for the walls of Christophe and Sakura’s business’s new office. He helped with newsletters, signage, business cards, letterhead for three different organizations. I was asked to write a marketing plan for a new business that teaches and certifies people to teach English abroad. I also got to teach marketing 101 to a group of college student interns. And (most exciting for me) I got to work on some menu strategy and marketing for a restaurant that trains and employs people who are deaf, and where all proceeds go to continuing to help the deaf community in central Vietnam.

Danang, Vietnam Danang, Vietnam

Rick and I were both surprised by how much we had been craving getting to do some work and thinking and be productive and contribute to something bigger than ourselves. We really enjoyed it! God puts people right where he wants them right when he wants them there.

But it wasn’t all work hard… we played hard too! Check it out in our next post!

Danang, Vietnam

We would love for you to consider helping the groups we partnered with in Danang, Vietnam:

Orphan VoiceSponsor one of the super sweet kids from our photos!

Danang International Fellowship & Bread of Life – Help employ the deaf in Danang.

Eric and Rachel DuFour – Pray for their ministry

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Danang, Vietnam