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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)

3 Day Easy Rider Tour Dalat to Nha Trang - Day 2

sunny 33 °C

Last night we stayed in Buon Jun village and it was awesome. Not the best night’s sleep but a true experience. The sounds all night from the buffalo, pigs, dogs, and chickens was like listening to Mother Nature’s iPod, and I had a real sense that I was definitely making the most of this homestay.

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The morning began with breakfast at a little café outside of the village as we watched elephants and their mahout’s pass by.

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After our bellies were full of rice we headed out for the day. First stop was a brick factory. It was surprisingly run by mostly women but they were churning out huge amounts of bricks! How it works is they dig up heaps of clay from nearby and throw it into a pressing machine that spits out the long wet brick, and then the brick gets a fancy insignia rolled onto it and is cut by string into smaller more manageable sizes. The video gives you a better idea than me trying to explain it. I’ve never seen bricks get made, maybe this is the standard way, either way it was pretty cool.

  • * The Video Will Come Later When The Internet Is Not So Crap **

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Just down the road from the brick factory is the ancient Giang Son Catholic Church. Apparently during the war it was a big beautiful hideout for the Vietcong so the Americans bombed the shit out of it and only the front of the church survived. Now it just stands as a relic amid the rice fields.

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^^ Local boys admiring the tourists
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^^ These two ladies fell off their overloaded bike and thought it was hilarious, so I took a photo

A little further down the road we stopped and visited a sugar and mushroom producing family. During our time looking at the sugar being produced I noticed one of the family members slowly walking behind us before re-joining the rest of them sitting around the table, then the next one would stand up and nonchalantly wander behind us. When the next person did it I thought something was suss and watched her out of the corner of my eye. Turns out what they were doing was one-by-one walking past and admiring Kirby’s white skin. When we were leaving one of the girls came over and told Kirby that her blonde hair and white skin was stunning and she was very beautiful. Blushing occurred. On a side note – you have to be really careful what skin creams/sunscreen you purchase while in South East Asia as it is common for them to contain bleach to whiten your skin.

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^^ Sugar! Hiep and TiTi grabbed a big block for us both and were like 'try it' so we were walking around suckling on a huge chunk of sugar, my pancreas hurt.
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^^ Mushrooms - yummy!

Back on the bike for more riding through the beautiful countryside before we entered Eatling National Park. A striking, protected, open-woodland full of waterfalls and swimming holes. We visited Gia Long waterfall and then headed off to cool down. Getting to the waterhole was a challenge in itself. Hiep and TiTi wanted to take us to a swimming hole that we would have all to ourselves and that meant going a bit off the beaten track. Turned out we had to descend down the side of the hill/mountain before reaching our oasis. It was heaps of fun but a bit scary as a fall could result in some serious damage in a remote location. But since I’m writing this we didn’t die :).

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^^ Hiep guiding us to the water hole, haha
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^^ Eatling Park
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^^ Gia Long Waterfall

After cooling off and chilling out we just walked around taking pictures and admiring the landscape, we also ran into a park ranger. When you imagine a park ranger you think of a man in a ute, with a wide-brimmed hat and a walkie talkie. In Vietnam the park rangers are decked out in full military apparel and wield massive machine guns and machetes. Fairly intense, but around here there is a lot of illegal logging and what better a deterrent than a machine gun?!

It was now nearing the end of the day and we found ourselves in Buon Ma Thuot where Hiep and TiTi treated us to a 4 star hotel, the best we have been in all trip! Good times, good times.

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^^ As you enter Buon Ma Thuot
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^^ Feasting on Spring Rolls

Cheers, Kyle

Posted by KyleMac 21:49 Archived in Vietnam Tagged churches children road_trip vietnam feasting dalat easy_riders machine_gun easy_rider titi hiep motorbike_tour buon_jun brick_making giang_son eatling_park gia_long Comments (0)

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)

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