The world works in mysterious ways sometimes, and when you travel long term you start realizing just what a sense of humor life can have. One thing Anthony and I always joke about is how we’ve had a relationship full of happy accidents, starting with us meeting at all. We met while taking an English class our first semester at UMASS Boston that we were in purely because we both registered late for classes. Had this not happened we likely never would have met as we were in two different majors that never would have overlapped again. Some of our favorite restaurants back home have been places we’ve gone when our initial choice was closed or on a long wait. Our travels have been no exception to this rule. Last summer, we ended up in Lisbon after a week in London simply because the rewards seats on a flight to Prague were fully booked and we had to quickly pick a different destination. Neither one of us knew what to expect since Lisbon still seems to be a bit off the beaten path for most American travelers, but it was absolutely amazing and is still my favorite city even after being on the road in Asia for three months.
The point of this post is to reiterate something we’ve already mentioned a few times: don’t plan too much, and ultimately expect your plans to change a thousand times over while traveling long term. This trip has already been full of happy accidents that have kept the two of us on our toes and have led us to some of the best experiences we’ve had so far. In Koh Lanta, we ended up eating at a restaurant right on the water too many times to count when initially we had been heading to the restaurant next door, only to find out it was closed for the night. Beachside Restaurant was a cheap and delicious place right on the sand with amazing staff, and we never would have ended up there if it hadn’t been for one of those random middle of the week closings that seem to happen all over Southeast Asia. In fact, being on Koh Lanta an extra week was kind of a happy accident as well. Although it was due to us getting into an actual motorbike accident (which was pretty awful at the time), we got to stay an extra week in a beautiful place on an entirely different side of the island. Sometimes you just have to see the silver lining.
Some of our best days on this trip have happened over the last two weeks during our initial time in Vietnam, and if it hadn’t been for a last minute itinerary change we never would have met some of the best people or had some of the best experiences. Anthony and I are currently motorbiking from Saigon to Hanoi, and since I have pretty much zero motorbike experience we spent a lot of time researching the best way to get out of Saigon which is literally the motorbike capital of the world. Initially, we planned to take a train up the coast to the town of Phan Thiet where we would then continue by bike as planned, however, only one train leaves Saigon daily to Phan Thiet and it’s at 6:30 a.m. They recommended arriving at least 40 minutes prior to the departure time if you had a bike, and since Anthony and I are not morning people we frantically searched for another option. This is how we found Vung Tau.
Vung Tau is a popular beach destination for many Vietnamese people, but not a popular stop with the backpacking crowd. We found out that there was a back road out of Saigon where we could take a ferry to a much less populated road that would take us to Vung Tau, and from there we could head up the coast. We quickly agreed that this was our best bet and although leaving Saigon was still PETRIFYING (more on that to come I promise), we somehow made it to Vung Tau in one piece where we spent the next few days hanging out with an Australian named Ben, a guy from Utah named Konner, and, the most amazing hostel owner ever, Judi. It was a town we totally would have missed and people we never would have met had we kept our original plan of heading straight to Phan Thiet and skipped Vung Tau entirely.
A few days later, Anthony and I were lost looking for a guest house in Mui Ne when Konner happened to spot us on the side of the road and escorted us to The Mui Ne Backpacker Village which was hands down the swankiest hostel we’d ever stayed in, and also reconnected us with Ben as well as his new friends from Canada, Hayden and Ryan. Mui Ne is 100 miles from Vung Tau so the fact that we ran into Konner at all is pretty amazing. This, paired with the fact that we had stayed in Phan Thiet the night before when it started to rain, and you have one of those awesome unpredictable moments where the world just does you a favor. Had we left Phan Thiet even five minutes earlier or had we made it all the way to Mui Ne the night before, we never would have run into Konner, and never had the chance to see him or Ben again.
After a few days in Mui Ne, Anthony ended up getting to have a boy’s road trip from Mui Ne to Da Lat to Nha Trang with Ben, Ryan, and Hayden while I chose to ride via the comfort of the bus (aka wimped out of the mountain roads), and we spent the new few days in Da Lat and Nha Trang with a huge amazing group of people. When you’re backpacking you tend to run into the same people, especially in Vietnam where everyone seems to be heading either from Saigon to Hanoi or vice versa, so I guess you could say we would have met awesome people regardless of timing, but I still believe a happy accident gave us some of the best memories. We never would have met our German friend Dominika who has promised to show us around Dusseldorf whenever we make it there, or made friends with Vincent and Sanja, the couple from Luxembourg who are two of the nicest people I’ve met ever, or shared a dorm in Da Lat with Toby, Eve, Ben, and Luke, the four friends from England who kept me laughing for two days straight. So the next time you’re traveling, and you miss your plane, or your bus breaks down, or you’re too afraid to navigate a motorbike through Saigon and take the backroad, remember that things rarely ever go as planned on the road, but the bumps will lead you to something you weren’t expecting, which is part of why you’re traveling in the first place.