Aimee, Lisa, Nicola, Kevin and I were met outside Mojzo Inn by six Vietnamese men on motorbikes. They were Easy Riders, a group of older men, often veterans of the Vietnamese/American war, who tour Vietnam by motorbike. The famous Easy Rider Tours are a great way to see Vietnam and I had heard nothing but praise from people I had met. The majority of backpackers miss out on one of these tours as they are a little pricey at roughly $60 a day but a friend of mine said “if you have the money then do it” so I did!
The five of us decided to travel between Nha Trang and Da Lat by motorbike which usually takes three days but we asked the Easy Riders if we could compact our tour into just two days and one night as Lisa and Kevin were a little short on time. No problem they said and we agreed a price and itinery before being waved off by our friends at Mojzo Inn. I was on the back of Dung’s bike who was clearly the best guide as his English was exceptional and like me, he loved a good natter.
I learnt more about Vietnam, it’s people and history from Dung than I had in my first ten days in the country and he didn’t mind my over curious mind and responded each time I lifted my helmet lid to shout “what’s that”. I found out all about the war and that the red flags on the lampposts throughout the central highlands marked the day of attack on the area, I also learnt about Vietnam’s current political state and how communism has almost disappeared and even learnt why he hates the Russians.
His knowledge certainly kept me entertained, along with the thrill of riding through Vietnam as like the whole of Asia, the rules of the roads are that there are no rules. I was told my overly large helmet was merely to keep flies put of my eyes and when I asked where I should hold on, was met by a “I’m not too sure” kind of look.
Zig-zagging through traffic coasting the twist and turns of windy mountain roads was certainly exhilarating and after a short while I started to relax. There was no doubt Dung was an excellent driver even though his favourite pastime involves riding his motorbike after “happy juice” otherwise known as Rice Wine!
On our way to Lak Lake, our base for the evening, we stopped at various points to take photos or learn about the farming in the area. There doesn’t appear to be a single thing Vietnam doesn’t produce; coffee, rice, veg, fruit, silk, flowers, wine we saw it all. Despite their laid-back “don’t give a toss” attitude the Vietnamese are clearly hard workers.
During our trip to a pepper farm I accidentally walked over the pepper seeds left out to dry, luckily the sound of crunching went unnoticed!
Our stay at Lak Lake was pretty horrendous and some miscommunication meant we didn’t get to enjoy dinner with our riders and instead went to a local place which could have been the reason for all of our group coming down with food poisoning, apart from me. It was either that or the previous nights meal at Kim’s Cafe in Nha Trang (which was awful and took 3 hours to come I must add) as news broke that Pheobe and Jamie, both still in Nha Trang, were also ill.
The next morning got off to a slow start after trying to explain that a few of us wanted to go straight to Da Lat in fear of not finding a suitable toilet stop when in need. I continued to learn so much from my guide and enjoyed cruising the highlands with the wind in my hair.
My favourite part of the trip was a visit to a coffee plantation where I enjoyed a cup of a weasel coffee famous in Da Lat. Weasel coffee is made from coffee beans taken from weasel poo after they are fed it (this happens naturally in the wild). Although nice, it wasn’t worth the extortionate price tag and my regular morning brew tastes just as good.
I loved being on the road, even if we did encounter a few near misses and I saw so much. Here are some of the sights I saw along the way….
We had to stop for a while due to falling rocks caused by roadworks and various types of cattle in the road. I also saw what I believe was a fatality on the road, not the first I’ve seen on this trip, which reminded me why it is so important to have your wits about you.
Life in the mountains is simple but good. Local people are incredibly friendly with children waving “hello” just like in Cambodia.
I learnt that there were two types of villages, the cultural villages with traditional Vietnamese people and minority villages, with over 54 in the highlands. These people come from different cultures but live in harmony with one another. There is little crime in the central highlands and a real community feel with neighbours helping each other build wells or fix bikes.
A quick stop at Elephant Waterfall is well worth the visit.
Sadly our late start meant we didn’t get to see everything we had planned and it was dark by the time we arrived in Da Lat. However we still saw a lot during our two days and got the chance to visit a man and his snake.
I was sad to say goodbye to Dung and the rest of the Easy Riders who had given us an enjoyable couple of days cruising the central highlands of Vietnam. There were some instances where I felt a little short changed like paying for coffee when they previously said it was free or not having time to visit the Buddha when they stopped every hour for a fag, but overall the experience was worthwhile and I am so glad I can now call myself an Easy Rider. If you have the money then do it.
Living life, loving travel,