Updated: Jan 4, 2020
We've done it! Road less Traveled, the unscripted adventure travel show that we started filming in 2011 has made it to the end of the decade, and we've now produced 50 episodes, across 5 seasons. The series has aired on nearly every territory worldwide, save for Australia and NZ, so it's safe to say that at least one person on every country on the planet has very likely seen the show! It's quite a milestone for us and it definitely wouldn't have been possible without the support of the channels we work with, as well as the work dynamism the RLT crew holds.
We decided to start Season 5 in the country of Vietnam, and while the rest of the world goes on Holidays to the known tourist hot spots, we were taking an old underpowered 150cc Kawasaki enduro bike with the aim of connecting the North of the country (Hanoi) to the South (Ho Chi Minh) via a see-it-all roadtrip. Well, happy to say, that after 1900km, we've made it, all parts in tact (except a rear turn signal), and rubber side down. It's been an epic road trip. Along the road we experienced varying weather, lovely locals, unique topography and of course the coast of Vietnam.
Our underlying theme for this trip was to figure out what it means to be a hero. Vietnam has no shortage of heroes given its history. In Hanoi we got to explore the bomb shelters built under the world famous Sofitel Metropole hotel. We were guided by a historian who was in the bomb shelter during the bombings of Hanoi and she shared her unique experience and perspective with us. What we took away from that segment was a newfound respect and awe at the resilience of the Vietnamese people.
After leaving Hanoi we ended up in the gorgeous Ninh Binh province and the Cúc Phương National park where modern day heroes are working tirelessly in protecting endangered species like otters, pangolins and bin turongs to name a few. These species are hunted and consumed as exotic meats - certain body parts supposedly granting near magical 'enhancing' powers to the consumer.
Further south we arrived at another awe inspiring location - the villlage of Vĩnh Mốc. There was a complex of tunnels constructed under the village to protect the inhabitants during the war. Over 9000 tons of bombs were dropped by the US army in that area alone. The locals had built over 2000m of underground tunnels, 30m deep - in 2 years, and not a soul was lost to the bombings - quite a testament to the heroism and the resourcefulness of the Vietnamese common folk.
No shortage of heroes - you get the idea!
You hear about the awesome Vietnamese cuisine, it is indeed fantastic, but pho for every meal can start wearing you down. Its a tasty dish but it's not very calorie dense, so you never feel full/satiated for very long. We started off eating well in Hanoi, from Banh cuon, pho, bun ca, etc. However, in the rest of the country, it was a different matter. The meat to carbs ratio isn't optimal for us Americans. After a week of pho, the crew started craving fast food burgers..And we're all seasoned travelers.. Its gotta be the lack of calories! Sure we had banh mi's, but the filling, while tasty, is again, not very satiating.
You also hear about the amazingly friendly Vietnamese people - and happy to report that it is absolutely true. Its fascinating that just a generation ago, we were at war with these people however they were able to flip that switch and forget all past transgressions. We were welcomed by villagers, we were offered to partake in libations in sleepy little villages, it was just a phenomenal experience as travelers.
Now about riding in the country - it is a bit of a dangerous place to ride, without a doubt. You have to have your wits about you all the time, heads on a swivel. There's no indication that a person (even from an opposing lane) will barge into your tangent. The chances of t-boning someone is tremendous and no one offers a second glance. We stayed mostly on the coastal route however, I would suggest taking more of an interior route. Ninh Binh, Hai Van pass and some beach towns had amazing scenery, but I'd downgrade it from my 'bucket list' ride list of countries. No one tells you about the pollution on this ride. Diesel fumes persist everywhere, and you need a hardcore gas mask to avoid getting a lung full of fumes. Would I do it again for a shoot? Yes. Would I do it for leisure? Maybe, but i'd definitely select a different route, hugging less of the coast, and heading more towards the interior landscape, sleepy villages. Only peeling out to the coastline for the really scenic bits.
Overall, its been a fantastic shoot, another great episode in the books. Starting off season 5 with a bang! Next location, Bali! Then, Philippines where we return for an epic romp - seasoned viewers will know we've done 2 episodes in Season 2 of the Philippines. We've dug up some fantastic RLT stories and I'm sure it'll be epic to film/experience.
Other locations include Sri Lanka, India, and that's far as my vision goes for now..