A Travellerspoint blog

3 Day Easy Rider Tour Dalat to Nha Trang - Day 1

sunny 29 °C

The day started early with a cheery grin from TiTi and Hiep as they waited outside our hotel for us. These guys make you laugh for no apparent reason and seeing them sitting outside mucking around with their motorbikes you just can’t help but have a chuckle. Looking at their old ‘battle-axe’ Hondas is an experience in itself, every scratch and dint holds a story and the thought that we might be making our own stories on these bikes over the next three days was a slightly daunting one.

On the way out of town we stopped at a little house and followed TiTi inside. Half of the house was dedicated to the production of tofu. Apparently while the kids are at school mum and dad make tofu all day and then after school the kids hurry home to start work as well. In Vietnam only hard effort pays the bills.

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Further out of town we also had the opportunity to witness coffee bean de-husking, mushroom drying, and a tea farm.

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^^ Drying mushrooms
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^^ Coffee being de-husked
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^^ At the tea farm

Next stop was at Cam Ly base, an old U.S Army airbase that provided air support for the south army fighting in the central highlands. Most of the base has been dismantled and in some local houses you can see parts of the helicopter landing-bay now being used as fencing.

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The guys are super knowledgeable and are constantly spewing information the entire ride, they are like text books on motorbikes and it is impossible to write down everything they were telling us, so I’ll just try and remember the main parts of the day :).

Next stop was Phi To village, a local village where the K’ Ho minority people live, our first taste of the real tribal Vietnam. They live in small mud houses and most of the men are out in the mountains with the water buffalo in the rice fields for weeks at a time. We had the privilege of touring their small village and handing corn candy to the children. Corn candy is also a first, an actual lolly that tastes like corn, wasn’t horrendous but I wouldn’t say it’s a real treat, although the kids couldn’t get enough.

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^^ Angelo. . .
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^^ Where's Blacky?
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^^ Lots of pigs in Phi To
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^^ Family in Phi To

After more twisting and winding up the mountain roads we stopped at another small village. Darsal village is where the Chil minority people call home.

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Further up the road the boys let us off and we slowly wandered along the mountain pass, admiring the view and stretching our legs. The guys are really considerate and concerned about the health of our arses and are stopping every 10-15 minutes for a little walk along the road, also one of the reasons why it takes 3 days to get to Nha Trang.

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It wasn’t long before we entered Dak Lak province and stopped at Krong No for some much needed hydration, although we accidently walked through the meat market which was fairly disturbing. I’m still deciding what was worse; what the meat used to be, or the air thick with enormous black flies.

Next stop was a little village where the Taq people live. All the minorities have different construction methods and these particular people use bamboo and mud for their dwellings. It was funny when we walked around the house and found the huge satellite dish for the plasma tv inside. Obviously silk worm farming makes good Dong.

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^^ Silk worms
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Next to the village was a chance to test the Vietnamese bridge construction. As much a structure as it was an arranged bundling of sticks. Fairly frightening but exciting crossing, although apparently they drive motorbikes over it, which is really scary!

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Further up the road was a real bridge, but also a place where some Vietnamese people from the Mekong call home.

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Finally we make it to Buon Jun village where we are spending the night. We had the option of private bungalows outside of the settlement, but we chose to rough-it in a homestay right in the heart of the village, alongside the dogs, roosters, pigs, goats, and buffalo.

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^^ Learning about rice
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^^ Buon Jun Village

Today was packed full of so much that I can’t write about it all. If the next couple of days are like this one, we are going to need a couple of rest days when we arrive in Nha Trang!

Cheers, Kyle

Posted by KyleMac 02:49 Archived in Vietnam Tagged dalat rider easy nha_trang easy_rider titi hiep motorbike_tour cam_ly phi_to darsal chil dak_lak krong_no buon_jun Comments (1)

Dalat - Day Trip with the Easy Riders!!

sunny 26 °C

The morning started with some Pho Bo (beef noodle soup) from a lady sitting on the footpath. It was different compared to all the other pho bo that we had tried, it had some sort of weird pink sausage in it and a big chunk of what we would call ‘grizzle’. We read somewhere later that day that fried tendons were a big hit in this area so I guess that’s what the chunk of super chewy discoloured meat was, we didn’t eat it though - partly because it looked horrendous and partly because it seemed impossible to bite and chew.

Shortly after breakfast TiTi arrived and introduced his friend Hiep, they are both in their 50’s and both members of the founding group that now call themselves Easy Riders. The easy riders are a group of amusing freelance motorbike guides that was formed after the war by some friends that decided they wanted to tour the Vietnam countryside, and make some money by taking tourists along with them. Many of them are well educated, in fact TiTi holds a Bachelor of Economics while Hiep has a Bachelor of Science majoring in biochemistry! They both speak fluent English, French, and various forms of highland dialect and because of their age they definitely offer an immense insight into the culture and history of Vietnam, especially the war.

Our first stop was the Linh Qua Ng Buddhist temple, a beautiful, big temple that had great statue-garden representing the life of Buddha. Kirby even made a small donation and lit some incense with the monk.

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We wound through the orchard terraces along the hillside as we climbed even higher into the Dalat mountains.

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^^ Kirby with TiTi

At one point we were dropped off at the base of a ‘small hill’ according to Hiep, and were told to walk over it and they will meet us on the other side. After a mild asthma and heart attack we made it to the top and collapsed as we absorbed the breathtaking view (threatening to take our last breath :)). When we carefully descended down the other side, they cheekily greeted us with ‘How’s your legs? Hahaha’.

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The coffee plantations in Dalat and the surrounding provinces have pumped a lot of money into the region and it is evident in the many French style houses that we passed. Each time we passed one Hiep and TiTi would both point and say ‘VIP French Villa’. At first we just nodded and looked, but after a few hours of every ‘French villa’ being pointed out we couldn’t help ourselves and started cheekily pointing out the French villas before they could. I think they enjoyed us joking around with them, they were definitely fuelled by their humour and TiTi had one of those laughs that was either booming or booming. Very amusing guides!

We did so much in one day; coffee plantations, orchards, flower farms, noodle making, bamboo weaving, fish farming, silk making, rice wine production… We even went to Elephant Waterfall and Linh An temple.

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^^ On the bike with Hiep

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^^ Stopped at a big flower farm

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^^ Noodle making

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^^ At Elephant Falls

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^^ At Linh An Temple

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^^ View from Temple

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On the way back to Dalat we stopped on the side of the road, high up in the mountains, and Hiep and TiTi told us about the war and showed us the part of the forest that got napalm bombed, you can still see where the fire scorched the earth.

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^^ You can see where the forest is attempting to recover

Our last stop was the ‘Crazy House’, an artsy hotel that has all kinds of weird and wonderful statues and rooms. I felt like I had fell down the rabbit hole as I ascended up the legs of a giraffe to find myself looking into a room made like Poo Bears house. It is so hard to describe something that you can’t really imagine until you’ve been there, the photos don’t do it justice either.

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^^ It's crazy hard to describe the crazy house hotel

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After that we sat down and had lunch with the guys. They proposed we go with them on a three day trip through the central highlands to Nah Trang, and although it was beyond our budget, we tore up our pre-purchased bus ticket and set our sights towards a more raw experience. The next three days are going to be awesome!!!

Cheers, Kyle

Posted by KyleMac 03:47 Archived in Vietnam Tagged dalat rider easy crazy_house easy_riders easy_rider titi hiep motorbike_tour Comments (0)

Dalat - Yay natures air-conditioner turned on!!

sunny 24 °C

The day started with some near death experiences as our maniac bus driver drove us perilously through the mountain passes high into the clouds, but let’s not dwell.

Dalat sits around 1500m above sea level and offered us a much-needed escape from the stifling heat of the tropics that we had currently been experiencing!
The farmers of Dalat pride themselves on not growing rice, but instead flowers, strawberries, and coffee, and the local markets are the most beautiful we have seen so far, not to mention tasty :) I picked up a kilo of strawberries for around $3 and munched on them while we strolled around.
Before we left Ho Chi Minh the receptionist at Kim’s Place told us we were lucky to go to Dalat and that it was very romantic and lots of honeymooners in Vietnam head there, we now know why. The whole city is draped around a massive blue lake with mountain peaks everywhere in the distance, the views are intoxicating (or maybe it was just the lack of Oxygen).
We basically just strolled around all day eating and drinking, at one point while we were sitting on the lakeside a crazy man introducing himself as TiTi told us he was an Easy Rider and we should go on a day tour around the area with him and his friend tomorrow on the backs of their motorbikes. We thought it sounded cool so that’s what we’re up to tomorrow.

Cheers, Kyle

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Posted by KyleMac 02:12 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Mui Ne

sunny 27 °C
View To Muine on KyleMac's travel map.

We arrived in Mui Ne at about 2am. Mui Ne itself is just a one street town on the edge of the beach, with pubs and clubs lining the beach front, and hotels and housing scattered along the other side of the road. The bus just kicked us off at the edge of town and drove off before we even had a chance to wake up and get our bearings. Immediately we were surrounded by harassing motorbike riders who insisted on taking us to a good cheap hotel for $15 - $20. We had learnt by now that the going rate for a motorbike ride is around 50 cents a kilometre and Mui Ne itself is probably only 10km long at best, so we passed on their offers and decided to try and find something ourselves. However, the motorbike riders in Vietnam have some supernatural ability to sense uncertainty and getting away from them was impossible. In Ho Chi Minh there is no closing time and nearly every hotel had a receptionist that slept in the lobby, effectively making them 24hr, Mui Ne on the other hand was most definitely shut! We anxiously walked the strip of Mui Ne looking for any sign of life apart from the creepy man on the motorbike shadowing us into the darkness. Tensions were rising as he kept on swooping in informing us we were lost and we needed him to help us. With thoughts of back alley murders creeping into our minds we needed to get away from him, so we found a gate that was partially open and we walked up into a pitch black property with no idea what was up the top of the driveway. No one was awake and there were no lights on so we started yelling Xin Chao (Hello) into the darkness. Thankfully two Chihuahuas woke up and ran over to us causing a ruckus. It wasn’t long before an old couple came out and we asked if this was a guest house, luckily it was, and for the first time in an hour we felt safe again.

In the morning after the sun was well up we ventured out to see what Mui Ne had to offer. A few quotes from our Lonely Planet guide book include; “The best all-round beach in Vietnam”, “Activities abound”, “You’ll smell Mui Ne before you arrive, and you’ll see the pungent source in clay vats along the palm-lined road. This is nuoc mam (fish sauce), for which Mui Ne is famous”.
In our two days in Mui Ne we probably saw about 20 tourists in total, it was almost like a ghost town. The beach appeared to have been hit by a large storm and suffered massive erosion; the stairs down onto the sand hung two meters above the beach itself. There were no beach activities occurring while we were there, although it obviously had a history of wind/kite surfing from the various street advertisements. Our nostrils weren’t even assaulted with the thick scent of fish sauce as we failed to encounter a single clay vat during our entire two days.
Mui Ne was a real shame for us as we had read so much great stuff about it.
We’re not sure why it was like that when we arrived. Maybe it’s just past its hay-day, or we came during a lull, but whatever it is, Mui Ne didn’t live up to its reputation. Maybe next time we visit Vietnam, we’ll stop in sleepy Mui Ne to be greeted with a lively beach town that we so sadly missed.

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Our next stop is Dalat, a mountain city in the central highlands that prides itself in its flower and strawberry farms (yum!).

Cheers, Kyle

Posted by KyleMac 23:23 Archived in Vietnam Tagged beach vietnam mui_ne muine Comments (0)

Mekong - Day 3

sunny 31 °C
View To Muine on KyleMac's travel map.

Our last day cruising the Mekong Delta :( If only we had more time!

This morning we went out on a quiet, dawn cruise through the stilt villages. These ingenious people have literally constructed houses that sit on top of a large canoe. Pretty hard to imagine until you really see the little boat nestled down just above the water line and a huge house sitting on top of it!

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At one point a chicken coop even floated by us!

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The cruise was really beautiful and peaceful as we slowly drifted by the locals conducting their daily duties on the water, but in true Vietnamese style something unexpected was about to occur.
The young lady that was driving our boat through the villages got a bit too close to one of the houses moorings and drove over the rope to the house. Needless to say a woman in her 60’s ran out from the house and the two of them began an epic screaming match. I thought I had been transported into an Oliver Stone movie as the battle raged over my head. Our tour guide even sunk into his seat, as if he could somehow avoid being stuck in the middle of it. Eventually we just drove away and left the woman behind to deal with whatever problems were caused by our tour.

I don’t know whether it is my heightened senses due to being out of my comfort zone, but I feel like things in Vietnam can change so quickly you almost get left behind. Whether it is the gentle cyclo drivers who kindly ride you around the city giving you a good tour, ending in your robbery; to the gentle lapping of the Mekong in the quiet stilt villages, turning into a frightening mid-mekong skirmish.

Haha I guess it’s all part of the experience, and what an experience it is!

After all this it was back to Ho Chi Minh, where we waited in a bar for a few hours before catching our bus to Muine.

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The bus was awesome – it’s called a sleeping bus and it’s basically just 3 rows of bunk beds all the way down the length of the bus. Pretty awesome, but the sleep wasn’t that great :)

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Cheers, Kyle

Posted by KyleMac 23:12 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

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