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Hitchhiking in Vietnam

Listen with RealAudio: Hitchhiking in Vietnam

Karin Muller was born to travel. The early signs all pointed to it: Her mother's stories about growing up in Africa...her own upbringing on four continents...not to mention the years she spent in the Philippines with the Peace Corps.

Even after Karin settled down and established herself as a successful management consultant, her wanderlust would not go away. So... heeding her instincts, she gave it all up and took to the road to see the world.

Her first trip was a search for the "real" Vietnam which inspired her book, Hitchhiking Vietnam. Karen dropped by to talk about the discoveries she made on that journey .

Karen Mullers's book Hitchhiking Vietnam is available from Amazon.com.


Check out the following excerpts from here book:

Nuts and Bolts

Cameras and accessories:

  • Girl in boat with produceOne-chip Hi8 Camera
  • Nikon 8008s with 35-135 zoom lens.
  • SB25 flash
  • Five filters for the Nikon, three for the Hi8 camera (polarizor, UV, red/yellow enhancer, tobacco)
  • An amazingly heavy Bogen tripod with a fluid head
  • 60 hours of Hi8 tape
  • 27 pounds of customized batteries that didn't work
  • Hi8 camera battery recharger
  • 130 rolls of slide film (I used 123 rolls)
  • 50 AA batteries (every piece of equipment operated on AAs, including the flashlight)
  • Microcassette and 42 two-hour tapes
  • Lens cleaning solution
  • 70 ziplock bags (That was 25 too many)
  • Pelican case (which I hardly ever used, it was so big and bulky)


  • Three pairs of socks and underwear
  • Polartec light jacket and three shirts
  • Two pairs of pants
  • 1 pair of shorts
  • Reebok shoes and sandals
  • A large assortment of medication, both prescription and non-prescription
  • Shampoo/toothbrush/soap(detergent)/toothpaste/hair-ties/deodorant
  • Sunglasses
  • Hat
  • Not enough tampax
  • Flashlight
  • Compass
  • Pocketknife
  • Basic motorcycle repair tools
  • Duct tape
  • Sewing kit
  • Toilet paper
  • Pens and paper and notebooks
  • Water bottle
  • Iodine tablets
  • Vitamins (eventually)
  • Too many books
  • Origami
  • Juggling balls (fillable)
  • Life magazine (for locals)
  • Laminated photos from home
  • Dictionary and grammar book
  • Passport/visa/photocopies

Sand Dunes Things I wish I had brought:

  • More tampax
  • Mom
  • Frisbee
  • Vitamin C
  • Sunscreen
  • A real cameraperson
  • My SB25 user's manual

Anatomy of an Adventure

  • 7 months
  • 6,400 miles
  • 4,000 dollars (excluding airfare and visa)
  • 63-pound backpack
  • Vietnamese vocabulary: 1,800 words
  • Transportation: bicycle, motorbike, train, bus, hitchhiking, truck, water buffalo, horse, fastboat, plane, outrigger, canoe, hiking
  • Floating Market113 hours on the train
  • 42 hours waiting for rides
  • 52 motorbike breakdowns
  • Small companions: mosquitos, bedbugs, spiders, ants, bees, mites, fleas, centipedes
  • Large companions: 1 rugged Alaskan, 1 handsome German, 1 unfriendly eagle, 4 leopard kittens, 1 infant endangered gibbon
  • 14 arrests (2 in Cambodia)
  • 1 explusion (from Vietman)
  • 4 haircuts
  • 134 lodging houses
  • 52 hours of Hi-8 video footage
  • 4,644 slides (129 rolls)
  • Consumed:
    • 429 bowls of soup
    • 8 pounds of weeds
    • endless green tea
  • Stolen: 1 glove, 1 bottle of shampoo, 1 liter of gasoline
  • Purchased: 23 uncut rubies
  • Injuries and illnesses: 1 punji stake impalement, 5 colds, anemia, giardia, scurvy, assorted motorcycle burns, split ends

You can see much more of Karin's photos, essays, and thoughts, if you head over to PBS online.

About Karin Muller

Vietmanese Gate Karin Muller was born in Switzerland and raised in the U.S., the Caribbean and Australia. Karin, 32, speaks five languages and lived in the Philippines for two years as a Peace Corps volunteer. Karin currently resides in Arlington, Virginia, and is preparing for a number of trips sponsored by PBS for a hitchhiking series based on her travels and writing.

A published author whose previous work includes two pieces of short fiction published in the 1994 Sideshow anthology and "Castles in the Tide," published in the 1994 Deep South's Writers Conference Chapbook. Her work will also appear in a forthcoming anthology by Houghton Mifflin about women and their adventures in the wild.


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