When I think about the times I came closest to death, I think about Vietnam: Almost mowed down by traffic, almost blown up by explosives, almost bit by cobras.
Vietnam was also memorable because of a unique idea: riding a tandem bicycle around Hanoi, picking up a variety of passengers, and gathering a piece of their life story. It's an idea any traveler can adopt and I highly encourage it.
Transporting the bike from the store was a rectum-puckering experience. Neither the cameraman nor I had been on a tandem before, so we negotiated the technique as we crossed through the heart of Hanoi at rush hour. Thousands of motorcycles, lorries, and cars galloped past us. And if you know Vietnam, you know these vehicles can be coming from every possible angle. Don't just look left. Don't just look both ways. Look 360° all the time.
I'm always excited to come back to the taco trucks of Los Angeles, but there are certain travel destinations where I never tire of the food. Vietnam falls into that category. I could slurp pho for weeks straight. One thing you should not slurp is the tap water. A crew member drank out of the shower nozzle and had stomach problems for half a year.
Overall Vietnam can be a tough destination for the independent traveler. Destinations like Sapa and Halong Bay have been overbaked in the tourism oven. Yet, the places we feature in the episode are packed with genuine people and moments. If you avoid the popular hotspots and take unique angles to your approach, Vietnam is an extremely rewarding destination.
Watch this episode on the Travel Channel this Saturday at 9PM