With more than 50 million motorbikes across Vietnam, the best way to see the country is to get on one yourself or jump on the back of a local's bike. As foot hits gas, your senses are blown through the back of your cranium as you try your best to absorb everything the country has to offer.

Photos & Words: Nick Phipps / @nickphipps_

Your eardrums ring before your eyes can adjust. Your nose tingles before you realise what you're smelling. It is chaotic and crazy, loud and bright. When on a motorbike in Vietnam, don’t bother looking left or right as you will panic... and that’s when it can go wrong. Just look ahead, understand the flow of the other vehicles, and stay calm. The surrounding traffic will anticipate your moves and go around you.

I arrived in Vietnam at the end of September, not knowing what to expect, ready for the unfamiliarity on offer. Touching down in a foreign place, I won't tire easily. I spent my first days getting acclimatised, wandering the back streets of Hanoi. In Vietnam, you can live pretty simply. A small chair and table, preferably plastic. Something delicious, usually in a bowl. And a can of cold beer, ideally a local one.

A cold beer can sometimes be difficult to find, so it’s usually accompanied by a cup or glass of ice. Depending on how good (and adventurous) you are feeling that day, sometimes it’s just best to drink the beer warm. The things that people find a drag back home are the indulgences I adore in a new place.

As I traversed across the country, I found myself deep in the backstreets of the places I ventured through. I spent a lot of time at coffee shops where the locals didn't speak too much English. A simple ‘white or black’ and ‘milk or no milk’ was the easiest way to communicate. Sometimes, pointing at a menu or a picture sufficed. Hours would go by and I would’ve walked halfway across the city I was in, chewing through half a roll of film, before parking myself in another back street to enjoy a cheap beer and a chat with the locals.

The Vietnamese are some of the friendliest and most welcoming people I’ve ever met. I’m not sure if it was because I looked like a tourist (walking around in my Soloman shoes and a camera around my neck), however, I was always greeted with huge smiles and constant waves.

One is hard-pressed to visit Vietnam without acknowledging the horrible history of the war. Claiming the lives of more than 3 million people between 1960 and 1970. That’s two decades of one of the most documented conflicts the world has seen. More than 130 photographers from both sides of the conflict are recorded as missing or having been killed. When visiting Vietnam, the War Remnants Museum in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) should be at the top of everyone's list.

Check out more of Nick's photography, HERE.

December 19, 2022