American man explores Vietnam on bicycle
Update: Feb 21, 2023
 Have you ever thought about leaving your comfortable life behind and exploring a totally different land? Can you imagine how much you can fall in love with a country after spending months on bicycle just to explore it at a slow pace? Check out a story about James Demin from Michigan, his bike tour around Vietnam, and how he has developed love for this land. 

Reporter: Hi James! You have been to Vietnam many times. What first brought you here to Vietnam?

James Demin: Anthony Bourdain is the shortest answer I can get. He passed away a number of years ago. He was a chef in New York city and he became a travel writer, and he had documentaries on a couple of American channels about where he had traveled from the chef perspective. He has been famous for having eaten Bun Cha with former President Barack Obama here in Hanoi. He was always talking about food and culture with people and has traveled a lot to many countries, especially Latin America. While I was doing the travel there, I started watching more Bourdain. He spent a lot of his time in Vietnam.  So once I saw his documentary on traveling here and the way he described life here, it made me very interested. That's why I initially came to Asia to travel and kind of following his footstep. And here I am in Hanoi.

James Demin (Photo courtesy of James Demin)

Reporter: So Anthony Boudain is the one who actually inspired you to travel here first. But I guess you may enjoy life here as you have returned and settled down, right?

James Demin: Having lived in Hanoi before I knew I am being comfortable here so I decided to return and live here again. It was COVID time when I was here the last time. Hanoi was much calmer and much more peaceful place. I lived in Tay Ho and I worked online, so I had kind of a peaceful life. Now I'm in Ba Dinh district. But I do love to live in a smaller city in Vietnam. I love the country of Vietnam and I'm very glad that I came back to Vietnam.

Beautiful coastline view (Photo courtesy of James Demin)

Reporter: Your bike tour around Vietnam was quite interesting and challenging as I can tell from all the pictures you posted online. So how did you start your bike tour in 2020?

James Demin: I was in Vung Tau so COVID hit, I bought a ticket back home to Los Angeles. I got to the airport, and all the flights were showing “On time” but then when I put my bag down and looked up, everything went to “Cancel”. In an hour before taking off, my flight got canceled. I couldn’t get a flight out for fifteen months. But in that meantime, I was in HCM city. At that time, I just wanted to do something and I had already done long bike tour in America. From HCM city, I went to Dong Nai. When I got to Danang, I put my bike on a train and from Hanoi I did some bicycle tours. I rode out to Ba Vi, and camped in Ba Vi. I rode up towards Ha Giang. I headed south to Ha Long, and spent a week in Ha Long. And from Ha Long to rode back to Hai Phong. I have seen more places around Vietnam in a slow pace.

James's equipment for the bike tour (Photo courtesy of James Demin)

Reporter: How long did your tour last? And how did you manage to work, cycle and enjoying time around Vietnam?

James Demin: When I did my bicycle tour of Vietnam, I stopped in Quy Nhon for a week. I rode a bicycle from HCM city to Danang for over 3 months. I was working and teaching online. I set my schedule up to teach for four days a week and had three days off on the road each week. So I started off from HCM city and I rode from HCM city to Bao Loc, and I rented an Airbnb there for a week. I taught my students online. During the time that I got back on bicycle and rode down to Cam Ranh. I spent a few days in Cam Ranh teaching, and I got back on my bike and headed to Quy Nhon. I stopped in places along the way. I spent the better part of June, July and August just slowly riding a bicycle from the south to the central coast of Vietnam. The summer of 2020 was my amazing time on the road.

Beautiful sunset (Photo courtesy of James Demin)

James Demon's bike (Photo courtesy of James Demin)

Reporter: What is the most difficult thing you faced on your bike tour? And what do you love the most about touring around on your bike?

James Demin: There are two kinds of roads in Vietnam. So you are either on busy highway with a lot of trucks traveling or you are on a tiny road especially on the mountains. It was in June and July during the rainy season and it was about 35, 38 DC when I did my bike tour. Between Cam Ranh and Danang I just sticked to the coast. It was hot but the ocean was right there. So I would stop and swim in the ocean three or four times during the day. Sometimes I was the only one at the beach. It was really amazing.

A fishing village (Photo courtesy of James Demin)

Beautiful coastline view (Photo courtesy of James Demin)

And the big part of the reason why I came back to Hanoi this year was because the love I have developed to this country on my bicycle tour.

Local people are very excited when seeing James and his bike  (Photo courtesy of James Demin)

Reporter: Thank you, James, for sharing your fantastic story.

Minh My

VOVWORLD - - February 14, 2023