Hitchhiking – Our first experience


We decided to give hitchhiking a go. Rick had lost his wallet so we were down 500,000 VND and the bus from Ha Giang to Hanoi was 250,000 VND pp. We were inspired by one of the volunteers at the school we were volunteering at, as he had told us he’s hitchhiked with no money (well 1USD per day) from Malaysia! It all started when he fell ill with Dengue fever and had to spend 2 weeks in a Malaysian hospital. The bills came to $3000 USD which was all of his savings and the insurance company told him it would be a long time for him to receive reimbursement! He was stuck, or was he?

Instead of calling it a day, he decided to see how far he could get without money. He had some incredible stories, riding under the bus with the baggage for 13 hours, police paying for his bus ticket as they were worried for his safety, people laying out meals for him when sleeping on the street and offering full hospitality if he knocked on someone’s door for some water. He is planning to continue all the way to Europe, first heading through China. We thought if he can travel through 4 countries, then we could get a lift to Hanoi.

We started out at 2pm and estimated we would get to Hanoi by 9pm as it had taken 7 hours on the bus up. The well hitchhiked volunteer warned us that we might not get a lift all the way into the city and it might take a lot longer than the bus. We were optimistic and got one of the students helpers to write a sign in Vietnamese saying ‘Hanoi’ on one side and ‘We don’t have any money’ on the other.

We walked to the main road and stuck out our thumbs, we walked about 500m, then someone stopped! We showed him the sign, he didn’t speak English but ushered us in! I used google translate to explain we had been volunteering teaching English and were on our way to our next project. Thank goodness for google translate! It had saved us more than once on this trip!

After a few phone calls with friends of his that spoke English we found out that he was indeed travelling all the way to Hanoi, he also said he would be happy to take us without payment as we were doing something good for the society of Vietnam.

We were thrilled! I asked him if he did this run Ha Giang to Hanoi a lot and he replied ‘Yes’ with a grin that suggested that he did it many, many times a week.

We didn’t get to know much about our driver, but he wore big jewelled rings, smoked a cigarette every 10-20mins, had a fat wallet full of cash and 2 phones that kept ringing, about 20-40 times on our journey… You be the judge!

Now as I mentioned before, it took us 7hours on the way up. However our driver was incredibly fast and skilled. I did not have a seat belt. Rick was anxious the whole way in the back as our driver, swerved, overtook and raced around the winding, mountain roads where we had nearly been killed earlier that morning. One would think he was mental, but I had confidence he knew what he was doing. Lo and behold we made it safely to Hanoi in a mere 4 hours!! He dropped us at the bus stop, Rick gave him a Rum Buffalo CD to say thanks and we bid our farewell.

That was it! Our first but certainly not last hitchhiking adventure.