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How did I end up in the middle of the Jungle?!?!?

Updated: Apr 24

I had what 'society' would see as the perfect life; a well paid job in finance, the cars, bikes, a house, an apartment and a beautiful girlfriend, but deep down I was pretty unhappy and unfulfilled. Life isn't a rehearsal - "there's gotta be more than this!"

I’d travelled a lot; India, Canada, Europe, most of Asia but it had been 8 years since my last big trip. Travelling was the only thing that made me feel truly alive; new places, new faces, different cultures, adventure, discovery, a complete sense of freedom – a break from the norm!

I would sit in various offices drenched in artificial light, in a constant artificial temperature, often looking over my screens at other offices, thinking to myself “what are you doing!!” I finally decided enough was enough! I told work I was leaving and put my house on the market, had a frank conversation with my girl and bought myself the biggest holdall I could find.

I went from all the trappings of the West to a 90l bag! You wouldn’t believe the release I felt, the realisation that I didn’t need any of this material crap I’d been accumulating, I felt free again! I will build a new life elsewhere! I went to Dubai, to see an old friend and also to check it out. I didn’t like it, it felt like a supped up version of the life I’d just decided to leave behind; snazzy rooftop bars, trendy restaurants, fancy cars, yada yada…it was Manchester on steroids!

So what now? Spain! I speak a little Spanish, the weather if great, I love the food, Spain – I’ll go to Spain. I’ll buy a little lifestyle business, I’ll drink beer and eat Tapas in-between riding my bike through the trails and hills of Andalucía. So there I am, sat by the pool in Dubai, scoring the internet for businesses for sale in Spain. I get a random message from on old Insta friend…. “ Sup Ross, I’ve moved to Saigon, if you wanna holiday, you can crash at mine!”. Well, well, well, I’d better put a call in to Emirates!

The deal was done, I landed in Saigon. I was energised, excited to the point of being giddy. I figured I’d use up my 90 day visa and then maybe go to Spain. Saigon (HCMC) is a fabulous city but it takes time and local knowledge to find the sweet spots and make it livable. I rented an Airbnb and bought my first bike; the legendary Honda XR150. It was pretty gutless compared to my Ducati back home but I didn’t care. Here, Red stop lights were just an advisory, I didn’t need to wear a helmet, the pavement was fair game and if I accidentally cut someone up – nobody cared! Wow, what a place….life everywhere, sights, sounds, smells. It was total vindication, I’d made the right decision, I was buzzing!

Alas, I stayed too long and before I knew it, it was time for a new visa. Off to Cambodia for a week. Coming back to Saigon with a new 90 day visa was awesome but I’d already decided I needed to see more, maybe all of this incredible country, Spain will wait.

I made a few modifications to my bike and set off on my route North (I’ll cover this in a separate post). Let’s fast forward a bit. I’m finally pretty much done with Vietnam, I’ve been and seen everywhere, not broken but definitely ready to move on. Except, Ha Giang, my last stop, everyone had told me it was the highlight of Vietnam, so I figured i'd save it until last and leave on a high!

As I rode from Hanoi, 26th June 2019, the scenery changed, similar to Sapa and Cao Bang. Twisting roads, rice paddies, crystal clear rivers, hot as hell but with fresh, clean air and a very distinct feeling of being in the far North again. However, this was different. It’s a hard feeling to explain but the closer I got, the waves of peace and contentment were becoming strangely noticeable. It was raw, it was authentic, it was real. I’d not seen a single other tourist the whole day. As I entered the city, penned by mountains in the distance, I stopped at a little roadside shop for a beer, I sat on a little plastic stool, watching Ha Giang go by and thought “hmmm I like this place”.

I was beat from my 7 hour ride from Hanoi, I checked in to a random hotel near the bus station and pretty much crashed. At breakfast, I met another solo traveler looking to start the loop that day too. Off we went, no guide, no map, no real plan. We explored, we got lost, we got stuck, it was a genuine adventure. After 4 days, my Loop buddy had to return to Hanoi for a flight, so I carried on to Meo Vac. I stayed in a cute Homestay… “Little Yen’s”, where I met a bunch of German, Dutch and Canadian guys and girls. As we’re chatting over some beers, we discuss what’s next after Vietnam. I tell them of my Spanish plans and one of them says “oh there’s a half finished hostel for sale in Ha Giang”.

The rest, as they say, is history!


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