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Day 1: Nha Trang to Dalat

View Doyle and Dan's Adventure on doyledan's travel map.

Day 1: Nha Trang to Dalat

I was a little bit nervous when we woke for the beginning of the Easyrider tour having seen the crash the day before and also never been on a motorbike before. I'd been on a back of a moped with Dan a couple of years earlier in Thailand where basically I was the worst passenger ever, imagine Hyacinth Bucket from Keeping Up Appearances on the back of a moped, shouting out for him to watch out for every chicken and crack in the road even if it was on the other side! Fortunately when I met our guides Mr Bin and Mr Lan I was immediately put at ease and was excited to get going on our next adventure. We had a lot of stuff with us particulalry as Dan now had a guitar with him as well (and so did Sam) so it was fun to see how the guys expertly strapped all our stuff securely to the back of the bikes.


Kitted out with our helmets, Sam had a rather fetching Red Gucci number, we got on our bikes and prepared to head off. I was with Mr Bin, Dan was with Mr Lan and Sam was driving himself. As our convoy pulled out of the narrow alleyway onto the main streets we were soon in the midst of the Nha Trang traffic making our way out of town. The bags strapped behind us acted as a backrest so you could comfortably sit on the back and relax, not needing to hold on and it was really exciting part of the hum of the traffic.

There was no turning back and we were on our way...


Mr Bin spoke to me as we made our way through Nha Trang and his enthusiasm for the tour was infectious and he was excited to be showing us the real Vietnam over the next couple of days. He asked me if we had seen the big white Buddha whilst we had been in Nha Trang and I said we hadn't so this was then our first stop. The white Buddha is 25m tall and sits on a lotus flower at the top of 150 steps which we struggled to get up in the heat and with our slight hangovers. On the lower level around the Buddha were what looked like rows of walls but on taking a closer look these were lined with memorial plaques for people who had passed away with incense burners for people to pay tribute. Each one had a picture of the person engraved in the stone. There were hundreds of them and as I slowly walked through I came across a mourning family paying their respects and so quietly backtracked to leave them in peace. The last thing they needed was a tourist watching them during this personal time.


As we waved goodbye to Nha Trang we were soon going through the suburbs when we pulled over again. A little surprised to be stopping again so soon we hopped of and were led down an alley to the back of a shop as Bin had something to show us, how to make rice paper! We were welcomed into the back by a group of women who were making the rice paper and it was great to watch and also to sample some ourselves, although the fish sauce we dipped it in was really strong. It was great to see how they were made and then dried on bamboo racks. It was also impressive to see the ladies resourcefulness too, as gas is too expensive they were burning the husks of the rice to fuel the heat needed to make the rice paper. Nothing is wasted.


These random stops would be repeated throughout our trip, meaning we got to see so much that we would have missed on our own.

The main road we were on after Nha Trang had great views of the mountains and the amazing greens of all the agriculture in the area from rice paddies to fields of sugarcane and corn.


We pulled over the side of the road and were beckoned by Bin to follow him into a farmers field where he promptly pulled up one of the plants to show us the roots that are grown and harvested. None of us could identify it but all had a nibble, it turned out that this was Tapioca and played an important part in the people being able to survive in the jungle during the war.


We continued through this amazing landscape and I was in the front when Bins phone rang and when we looked behind us the others weren't there. We turned round to find them and Sam had got a flat tyre. Lan rode the bike to the next town to get it fixed and as we were waiting by the roadside it seemed the perfect setting for an impromptu jam session which resulted in a few odd looks from the locals driving passed!


I had fun trying to take pictures of butterflies and flowers in the grass by the roadside but had an even better result of finding a lizard!


Bike fixed we were ready to roll, our next stop was the minority village of Cau Ba and after negotiating the Monkey Bridge and being chased by some geese we were welcomed in to take a look at one of their houses and meet the family.


There are several minorities in Vietnam of people all with their own separate language to Vietnamese and traditions. This is back to basics living in houses where the walls are made out of clay and several family members live in the same room, relying on the land and their livestock but they were all smiles and happy to see us.

After lunch at a lovely local rest stop by a river we started to make the climb up the mountain roads towards Dalat. We would be climbing to 1500m above sea level. Travelling these roads by bike gave us some amazing views that we would have missed or not appreciated on the sleeper bus.


As we got higher we could see waterfalls coming down the sides of the mountain, the jungle that clung to its sides and the clouds around the top. Before we knew it we were thick in the mists, such a dramatic change to the heat of the earlier ride, so we stopped to put on our jackets at a viewpoint where it was impossible to see anything! After being here for a few minutes Dan and Lan still had not caught up with us and so Bin headed into the mist to find them. You can imagine what went through my head but Sam kept me calm and they were soon with us. Turned out the bike had overheated and had needed to cool down, and although nothing to worry about I still gave Dan a big hug when he got there.


Just as quickly as the mist had surrounded us it suddenly disappeared and we were back under the blue sky with great views around us once more. It was so random but really cool. Bin and Lan then took us to the next surprise stop on route, a fish farm on the mountain! All we knew was that these were 'special fish' as we followed Bin impressed with how he calmed down the huge guard dogs that looked like dire wolves that were not that pleased to see us! The fish being farmed here were Sturgeon and are really expensive at $35 per kilo (hence the guard dogs!) and a delicacy particularly in China. They are only farmed here due to the conditions and the very fresh water that's the farmer is allowed to use from the surrounding national park. As Bin tried to show us one of the fish it almost escaped and splashed him as it went back in the water!


We continued our ascent in the sun and passed several places where repairs were being carried out on the road due to landslides from the rainy season where they essentially have to rebuild the road again!


The agriculture in the area had changed to mainly coffee plantations and Lan showed us the coffee plants and explained that there are 3 types Mocha, Arabica and Robusta. We were looking at Mocha and these plants only last for 10 years and stay relatively small before they need to be replanted. What was interesting is that the berries don't grow on the same part of the stem for each crop but grow onto the end. When they are red they are ready to be harvested and dried out in the sun before the shell is removed to reveal the bean to be made into coffee.


It was only fitting to go and have a cup made from the beans from this farm, although I opted for tea as I'm not a big coffee fan but the boys loved it! Bin and Lan took this opportunity to check over the bikes with the assistance of a little helper. So cute!


As the sun was going down we continued on to Dalat which is famous as for growing all sorts of flowers and the greenhouse tunnels were everywhere as we approached the city. As we were a bit late we saved going and looking at this until the next day as they were closed and continued into town.


Entering Dalat at rush hour was really manic particularly the roundabouts with bikes and buses coming from all directioms and I was glad that we had Bin and Lan driving us through it. Sam who driving himself handled it like a pro though and we safely made it through to our hotel.


What a day! We had seen and done so much and sitting down to a well deserved dinner (once the restaurant finally remembered to bring me mine) and a couple of cold beers we wondered what the next day would hold...


Posted by doyledan 02:13 Archived in Vietnam

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