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AFAR staffer Alex Palomino got off the tourist track inVietnam—this is what she discovered.

I like to go with the flow when I travel, which is why my husband and I didn’t plan much for our trip through Vietnam. I did want to see Ha Long Bay, so after a couple of days in Hanoi, we took a bus 107 miles southeast. The bay was beautiful. We stayed on a boat and kayaked between green limestone mountains. But it also felt touristy. In search of a more authentic experience, we headed to the village of An Bang, where we found the Spirit Bird B&B, run by two German expats. They introduced us to their neighbor, Chu, who invited us to his house. We brought beer and sat on a straw mat, drinking, while he told us about his involvement in the war. We also shouted yo! [cheers] a lot. The next day, we rented a motorbike and rode out to the Marble Mountains, low peaks covered in temples, Buddha statues, and caves. It was my first time driving a bike and I loved it. It wasn’t like being on a bus—we could hear and smell everything and feel the sun. I was inspired by the Vietnamese attitude toward life. Most people are so relaxed, but they’re also busy so they’re direct. It feels like they have their priorities straight. –As told to Ashley Goldsmith

To see more of Alex's photos from Vietnam, pick up a copy of the March/April 2017 issue.

>>>Next: Vietnam's Bowl of Secrets

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