How To Explore South East Asia On Your Own – Part 1

Sebastian in Sa Pa.

How To Explore South East Asia On Your Own

On Your Own Godammit!

Part 1 of x.

by Sebastian Heart

Exploring South East Asia is an adventure for everyone, young or old.

There’s 6 big reasons

  1. It is cheap
  2. It is an adventure
  3. The weather is beautiful
  4. The landscape is fantastic
  5. The people are nice, very nice.
  6. It’s rough

I am enduring the regular dull English college class as a young man, 22 years old, pretending listening to yet another dull and tedious presentation by a fellow classmate. I am looking outside of the window where the sun shined.

I realized I was ‘caged’, I was trapped, I had to get out of this classroom. I was not living life but I was slowly fading away, it felt like I was in prison. Just sitting there and listening, not moving, I felt my life was stalled.

At that moment I realized that life was not meant to be like this. Life is meant to be lived before death, in my case ‘more on the edge’.

I thought of one thing I’ve always wanted to do. I had two months of ‘free time’ (holiday) to do that such a thing that up-coming summer of 2015.

I have always loved motorbikes, adventure, and traveling, so it had to be a combination of thoset. I remembered an old relative which I spoke a year ago. This guy went to South East Asia for almost a year and came back as a new man. Sitting in class I decided then and there that I would also fly to South East Asia, ride a motorbike for two months and be badass while adventuring through the country. I felt the nerves, I was a little tense, but I knew that doing something scary would teach me something good. I was not going to back down from my own challenge. I felt scared to be honest.

I had $3.000 dollars which I saved from my previous summer job, after doing some calculations I found out one can easily live on one thousand US dollars for two months in Vietnam. I was going to be a king with $3.000!

After searching for some cheap flights one afternoon on Skyscanner I found a flight to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam (a.k.a. Saigon) and a return flight from Hanoi to Amsterdam.

Vietnam is a long thin country so I decided it would a beautiful adventure to ride the nearly 2.000 kilometer coastline from Saigon to Hanoi in two months. I took inspiration from Top Gear after watching an Episode where the show’s hosts did this, to be found here.

My route through Vietnam over the course of two months
My route through Vietnam over the course of two months

I shared my plan with friends and family who said I was reckless or crazy. I heart the exact same things every time.

“But the roads there are dangerous, and they drive like crazy people over there.” 

“Why can’t you do a tour around Europe or America? It is much safer.” 

“They are communist over there, if you are white they will try to rob you or kidnap you.” 

I didn’t listen to these ‘excuses’ and you shouldn’t either. Life is too short to let someone else decide your fate. You cannot let fear stop you from doing what you desire, that is self-sabotage. I booked a flight and to be completely honest only The flight booking was the only scary thing of my entire journey.

The decision to choose something you want is scary, doing it itself is not scary at all – it is easy because you envisioned yourself do it.

A month before my trip I was already prepared, I wanted to prepare minimally but I failed with my luggage, I took way too much unnecessary clothes, equipment, and camping tools with me – such as a sleeping bag and a mattress which you never use when sleeping in hostels. I could have dropped 50% of my luggage right away before traveling and that would have safed me a lot of carrying troubles, as the first week in Saigon I already had to let go of 50% of my belongings.

You can buy everything in Vietnam for a third of the Western price (with some haggling). Coats, bags, t-shirts can all be bought there for a half the price and it is the same quality as we have over here.

I went to Amsterdam Airport, said my goodbyes , and went off into a new world.

After 14 hours of flying and a layover in Singapore I went through customs in Ho Chi Minh City. As soon as I stepped out of the airport I faced a wall of taxi drivers, an enormous busy street, and loads and loads of Vietnamese people.

It is a universal law in almost all airports that the first cab drivers you encounter will always rip you off. I found a list of cab companies that are known to push customers , so I walked a little further and found a cab driver licensed under Vinasun (Vinasun and Mailinh which had a better reputation, they will not rip you off). I gently walked over and asked the price to go to the inner city. I offered him 4 dollars to take me to the inner city and after some haggling we agreed on 5 dollars, 5 dollars for half an hour cab drive!

As soon as I left the cab I was in the inner city of Saigon, after one hour of walking around of asking directions I got to the backpackers district in Bui Vien Street.

By now all my anxiety was gone, and it was replaced by a sense of opportunity, I guess this is what they called travelers high.

I met Europeans, Aussies, Americans, and Asians – all from every corner of the world. I was immediately attracted to this street.

Taken from
Bui Vien street in Saigon (this is the backpackers district) Source:

My first impression was: This is Tortuga from Pirates of the Caribbean. Merchants, drug dealers, massage outlets (brothels), motorbike taxi drivers. Adventure!


I met some amazing people in this street alone, at the night when I dropped of my luggage and got a hostel sleeping place I decided to take a look in this vibrant city. I met an Australian, like Jack Sparrow, who told me all the ins- and outs- of Vietnam and Saigon. The right prices for food, fares, and gas, as well as some basic Vietnamese language and customs.

Priority #1 upon arriving somewhere. Find an insider and get informed about the cities and area’s you are in.

At the night I found myself drinking with a group consisting of- a model beauty from Canada who took a break from modeling – a professional rugby player from Australia – a worldwide traveler from Portugal  – another Canadian who quit his job and starting an entrepreneural venture which allows him to travel the world for six months a year – and a Swiss traveler who knew all the ins and outs about motorbikes.

Great solo travelers from all around the world.
Great people from all around the world having a blast.

Driving through Vietnam is easy, even in the inner cities of Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi it is easy – the only thing you have to do is to (1) keep your eyes open,  (2) be aware of the traffic flow and (3) do not be an idiot.

I purchased my very first own vehicle in Saigon, with cash money baby!


Don’t start doing wheelies on the streets or near the side of the road, just ride calmly and enjoy the spectacular views and green landscape scenery that you can find in South East Asia.

I traveled with others for a while, and alone, just go with what you feel. Don’t overthink too much , just drive rougly to the direction of the next city and experience the hell out of it.

In the case you are too scared to go on your own, here’s what I experienced.

  1. How to negotiate, you’ll have lots of opportunities to buy stuff where the real price is doubled or tripled by the seller. Become a master.
  2. You don’t need to speak a language to communicate, sign language, with facial gestures say more than enough.
  3. You’ll grow balls.
  4. You’ll develop a mindset.
  5. The only thing stopping you from your dreams is yourself.
  6. To have freedom and personal choice is a privilege in this world.
  7. All women, not just the native women,  fancy a man who is traveling alone.
  8. You’ll see a lot more perspective into the Western world when you come back.
  9. You are much more capable than you think.
  10. You are very privileged, our human rights, social welfare, and Western values do not get the appreciation they deserve.
  11. ‘Diving into the deep’ gives you character.
  12. You’ll be amazed at the level of stupidity some Westerners emit.
  13. Danger can be present in the blink of an eye, so keep your eyes open at all times.
  14. Don’t think too long, otherwise you’ll end up not doing the things you want.

If you fear being alone in South East Asia I will guarantee you that you will never be alone, unless you want to be alone. It is easy to connect to people, it is easy to connect to Asian people, it is easy to connect to Russian people. You won’t even need internet, just bump into a group of people you like and you’ll immediately have a connection.

Now you can do two things:

1. Go out, book some flight, and explore the world!

Everything and everyone will be still be here when you get back.

2 Or, stay tuned to for part II.


Click ‘ flight purchase‘ –  ‘click click boom!’ Adventure time baby! You won’t regret it.

Here’s a song to get you into the mood.

– Play it ≥ –

It’s all inside of you.

-Sebastian Heart

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