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

sunny 30 °C

Good Morning World! It is the 8th of April and day three of our three day Easy Rider adventure from Dalat to Nha Trang.

Here is a rough map of the adventure we have been undertaking (google doesn’t have all the villages):

Today we are heading out of the mountains and down to the coast to our final destination, Nha Trang. On the way we stopped at some rubber tree plantations, cocoa farms, and pepper farms.

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^^ Rubber tree plantation
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^^ Collecting the rubber sap
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^^ Cocoa plant
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^^ Kirby learning about cocoa
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^^ Pepper drying
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^^ Freshly picked pepper
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^^ Dried pepper

One of the really cool places we stopped at was a wood furniture store. The men go out to the forest and collect the tree stumps and roots that fell victim to Agent Orange and illegal logging. They carve the most beautiful tables and chairs, dressing tables, and statues. You can pick up a full set of table and chairs, hand carved for around $400.

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^^ Dressing table in construction
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^^ Seat in construction

Most of the day was spent on the road as we had a fair few kilometres to cover before we hit the coast. The road we were travelling on used to be the US army’s major transport thoroughfare through the central highlands to support the northern bases at the frontline, and as a consequence it was the most ambushed mountain pass during the war. This unfortunately means it was also one of the most heavily Agent Orange sprayed areas in Vietnam and the landscape was noticeably scarred by the deadly toxin. In some places you could even make out the flight path of the plane, with rainforest on either side of a desolate poison highway.

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In recent years the land has now been able to support cultivation of rice fields as the poison sinks deeper into the soil; beneath the roots of the rice plants. However, when it comes to the rainforest in the area it is a different story.
Basically the forest grows normally until it reaches a certain height and the roots touch the Agent Orange that is sinking down into the soil. When the forest reaches this level everything dies and the once blossoming rainforest becomes a defoliated barren tragedy, a stark contrast to the rainforest we encountered in the deep Mekong. As you pass through this area an eerie feeling that something is missing niggles at your mind. It took us a while to work out what it was; birds. We didn’t encounter, nor hear, a single bird our entire time passing through this area, a strange occurrence considering there was no cities nearby or any other obvious reason for there not to be birds; obviously another fallout effect of the war.

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What the local people are now doing, instead of watching the forest continually struggle with dying and recovering, are planting Australian gum trees along the affected hillsides; as they grow tall before their roots hit the Agent Orange; they then cut them down and sell the wood. This is only temporary though, as the government has a strong stance on revegetating the devastated lands when the poison sinks further down and they are able to mend the forest. If only the DNA of the people could be mended to stop such a high occurrence of birth defects.

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Finally after a long day on the bike we exited Rotuong Pass where the rail, road, sky, and sea meet on the outskirts of Nha Trang. It is prawn farms galore around this area and we stopped to chat with some local fisherman and prawn farmers. Just as TiTi and Kirby were driving off to head into Nha Trang city Hiep mentioned that I had Science degree with a focus on animals and that I had also done some study on aquaculture and marine biology. As it turns out every single fisherman needed someone like me to work on their prawn and fish farms, and they were all gunning for me. After 35 minutes, some awkward laughing on my behalf, and about a thousand handshakes I had guaranteed myself a lifetime of work if I ever decided to stay in the area. Meanwhile in the city Kirby was having visions of a squashed Kyle on the road as we were considerably late. Thankfully I wasn’t squashed, just flustered from all the attention :).

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^^ Rail
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^^ Meets the road, sky, and sea

So this was it, we had arrived in Nha Trang after 4 days of action packed adventure with the Easy Riders. A few big hugs from the guys later (very cute) and we were all alone in our hotel room, left to reflect on what was our best experience in Vietnam yet.

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I would recommend for anyone and everyone to take a chance with the Easy Riders, they certainly aren’t a gimmick or a rip-off, and they provided us with insight into the history, culture, and way of life of the Vietnamese people that we would never had acknowledged had we not tore up our bus ticket from Dalat to Nha Trang.

Hiep and TiTi were amazing chaperons with great English, and the whole experience felt more like hanging out with two old friends than tour guides. So if you ever find yourself in the mountain town of Dalat in the central highlands of Vietnam, search out these guys, you won’t be disappointed!

Tomorrow we explore Nha Trang, and rest our weary bums, haha.

Cheers, Kyle

Posted by KyleMac 22:34 Archived in Vietnam Tagged road_trip dalat poison nha_trang easy_riders agent_orange easy_rider titi hiep motorbike_tour toxin rotuong_pass aquaculture Comments (1)

Saigon Adventure

sunny 32 °C
View 1st Day Mekong Trip & Ho Chi Minh on KyleMac's travel map.

Wow... The last few days have been hectic to say the least. I’ll begin the story on the 29th, our first full day in Ho Chi Minh.

After waking up from a night’s sleep that was endlessly serenaded by the horns of a thousand motorbikes we headed off to Ben Thanh Markets. Surprisingly however they were shut early in the morning. The instant we realised that it was shut something must have changed on our faces that displayed uncertainty and like lambs to the slaughter we were approached by a pair of cyclo drivers that offered to take us on a day tour to see the sights of the city for only $3 each.

Our tour commenced with a quick stop at a little restaurant where we were treated to the delights of the famous Vietnamese dish Pho Bo. It is a beef and noodle soup and can be purchased at 10 meter intervals all along nearly every street in Ho Chi Minh. It was super delicious and I am certain it will not be the last time we have it.

The next stop was the war museum and with an entry fee around 80 cents it was well worth it. The museum itself contains 4 floors each with a different theme. Nothing in the museum is censored and when you enter expect to get bitch slapped with endless images of maimed soldiers and mutilated corpses. It is a real eye-opener and makes you realise that every American movie of the Vietnam war that you see back in Australia is a 100% toned down version of what really went on over here. The stories of grotesque massacres and pictures on the wall of American soldiers having a big laugh with the severed heads of Vietnamese farmers all around them is fairly disturbing and it is no wonder they came back from the war so fucked up.
One of the things you notice when you come to Vietnam is the high number of people with physical deformities and the Agent Orange floor of the museum explains exactly why. Even in present day Vietnam babies are still being born with congenital defects due to the defoliation missions launched by the Americans over most of the jungle areas. A huge tank containing the deformed foetuses of many babies is fairly unsettling and you don’t need to spend much time in the room to feel like you need a shower.
I would recommend the War Museum to everyone who has the pleasure of visiting Ho Chi Minh.

After leaving the museum we felt like we needed to cleanse ourselves and clear our minds, and what better place to do it than a local mosque. It was a calm, tranquil escape from the bustling streets and a perfect place to regather your thoughts after an intense morning – plus it only cost a small donation ~50 cents to the man who looked after our shoes while we were inside :)

It was now time to end our cyclo trip, however this was going to prove harder than we first anticipated. The drivers of the cyclo’s took us to a bus shelter and when we hopped out they pushed their bikes in behind us, effectively trapping us inside the bus shelter with no way to get out. We thought it was time to pay our $3 (50,000 dong) but instead they pulled out some random price list that said 500,000 dong per hour per person!! We were pissed off and argued with them that they quoted us 50,000 for the day but they told us that was the cost of the museum etc. They got really aggressive towards us and starting yelling that we owed them 2 million dong each. We didn’t even have that much cash. We thought we were about to get shanked and left for dead in some bus stop so we gave them around 1.5 million dong before we quickly escaped.

After getting burned like that we have learnt to be very firm and not budge, it was just the fact that it was our first day in Vietnam and they could sense the fresh blood and our insecurities. Oh well…gotta learn somehow!

After such an intense day we just chilled out and drank 50c tallys of beer and got an hour massage each for $6 :)

^^ I took this video while we crossed the road on the cyclo's. The road rules in Vietnam are give way to things bigger than you and cross the road slowly so things have time to go around you haha.

Cheers, Kyle

Posted by KyleMac 01:05 Archived in Vietnam Tagged mosque vietnam museum saigon war cyclo ho_chi_minh ripoff agent_orange Comments (0)

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