A Travellerspoint blog

December 2012


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 Comments (0)

Mud Baths and Rollercoasters

Nha Trang

sunny 30 °C
View Doyle and Dan's Adventure on doyledan's travel map.

Day 1

Arriving in Nha Trang was a bit of a shock to the system after the quaintness of Hoi An as we were surrounded by loads of tall buildings and new resorts being built along the beach. Escaping the usual barrage of motorbike riders plying to take us to our hostel we opted to walk the short distance to Mozjo Inn and after a couple of wrong turns and bumping into a couple of Aussie girls we had met in Halong we found it. They told us that the night before the streets had been flooded due to a sudden downpour and where they had been sitting outside their hostel had been underwater and the hostel had to put barriers up to stop the water getting inside. Not that there was any evidence of it in the morning as all the water had gone and the sun was beaming.

As we weren't able to check into our room until 2pm we were initially at a bit of a loss as to what to do as we were shattered after another bad bus journey, this time with a screaming baby who needed a nappy change in the early hours of the morning on the bus! Not very pleasant but what else could the mother do. What made it worse was the other disgruntled passengers who angrily complained to each other about it, paying no heed to the fact their aggressive tones were probably making the baby cry more! Fortunately our hostel gave us free cold water and they have a water filter system on site for their guests to have free water and reuse their bottles doing their bit for the environment.


After a shower to freshen up and with a clearer head we decided that the only thing to do was to head to the Thap Ba Hot Springs for some relaxation in the mud baths.

It was exactly what we needed and within 15 minutes the hostel had organised a pick up and we were on our way. We opted to go in the communal mud baths rather than bothering with one for a couple which was more than double the price. Even though up to 8 people could supposedly go in one mud bath we were pleasantly surprised to only share with one other couple for a short time before having it to ourselves. Result! The mud bath was cool and soothing which was great particularly as I had burnt my arms a bit whilst cycling the day before. We had a buckets which we could pour the mud on ourselves with and it didn't take long before we were covered, although you had to keep pouring it on as the mud was surprisingly thin, I had expected it to be thick. Once we had wallowed for long enough it was time to stand in the sun for the mud to dry which it did in seconds before washing it off in the hard showers, as well as trying to scoop out the mud that had collected in our swimwear!


Next was a hot spring water bath but as we were walking there we were directed to go between two walls and suddenly water was sprayed out at us from both sides...just in case you hadn't done a good job in the shower yourself :). They weren't lying about the hot water, it was scorching and took a few tentative goes before we were in although I could not put my arms in due to the sunburn. You are only allowed in the hot water for 15 minutes and we didn't even manage that hopping out after about 10! We definitely felt relaxed though and the combination of the mud and hot water left our skin super soft. We then had free time to enjoy the pool and also the hot waterfalls around it.


The pool was over 30 degrees so again you could only be in it for 15 mins at a time and it was too hot to really swim in so we just floated about a bit before getting a cold drink. Not really wanting to be in the midday sun as it was a roasting day Dan opted to get a full body massage whilst I went to get a manicure and pedicure. My experience is the only part I would not recommend at the spa. After being directed to where the beauty therapist was I knocked on the door as I could not see anyone. It turns out she was taking a nap behind a screen and rudely shooed me away miming that she would be sleeping for another 5 minutes. After hanging around looking at some of the small stalls nearby she appeared in the doorway with a face like a dogs arse and grunted that I should come in. This was not going to be the relaxing pampering I had hoped for and even after giving her my best winning smile and trying to make conversation it was clear that she did not want to look at me, smile or talk, instead she just pulled me about making the odd grunt if my hand or foot wasn't in the right position and shoved the choices of nail varnishes in my direction to take a look. It was a bit of a relief when Dan appeared in the doorway as it eased the tension and I was glad when it was over. To be fair though what I can't really quibble with is the price as I got both the manicure and pedicure for 40,000 dong which is just over a quid!

Back at the hostel we had the pleasant surprise of being upgraded from our dorm room to a private double room with ensuite for our first night.

We had decided that we wanted to do an Easyrider tour after being told how much fun it was by John and Peter when we were in Sapa. We decided that even though we already had bus tickets booked to take us from Nha Trang to Dalat and then Moi Ne that we would rather go by motorbike. Easyrider touts are everywhere in Nha Trang and we wanted to make sure the company we chose was a good one so spent some time online and emailing a couple of companies until we found Mr Bin who's website was great and answered all our questions straight away and our 3 day trip was booked leaving the day after tomorrow. We celebrated with a glass or two of Dalat wine with dinner at The Verandah, the food was great, the wine not so much! We had planned to pop back to the hostel quickly before going back out but I ended up falling asleep so we would need to see Nha Trangs night life another night.

Day 2

The night before we had seen what looked like several Eiffel Towers lit up in the sea and realised that these were the towers for a cable car to an island and wanted to check it out. It turns out this was the cable car to get you to Vinpearl Waterpark and so we decided to spend the day there checking out the rides and waterslides. Our hostel pointed us in the direction of the bus stop and after hopping on the right bus and getting our ticket for only 11p we were on our way. Not far from the final stop as the bus turned the corner I noticed a crowd to the side of the road and thought there might be some street performer behind them but as the bus got closer through a gap in the crowd we saw it was the aftermath of a terrible accident with a truck and a motorbike. Everyone on the bus gasped and it was clear from the position of his limp body and the bad head wounds that there was no hope for the rider. We were passed it in seconds but I was really affected by it and it felt wrong that we were heading to a theme park when that had just happened. It was a quiet and reflective journey in the cable car and Dan tried his best to distract me, but it wasn't ideal considering we were heading on our own motorbike trip the following morning.

It turns out that the cable car is the longest over sea cable car in the world and as we approached you could see Vinpearl written on the hillside in the style of the Hollywood sign and we could see a ride sweeping all the way down the side of the hill and Dan was keen to have a go.


When we got off the cable car we were in a small theme park area and after riding on the pirate ship and carousel we headed to the entrance for the hill slalom and started the long ascent to the top in our little car. When you get to the top you are in control of the breaks and we raced down the turns which was fun, only problem was there were a group of girls on cars in front of us who were going slow so we soon caught up with them and had a slow finish but it was fun.


After some lunch overlooking Nha Trang Bay with the sound track of American rock in the background we checked out the underwater world aquarium which was really cool with a long tunnel section with a travlelator that took you through whilst sharks and rays swim all around you. It defiantly made us look forward to learning diving later in our trip. There is meant to be a mermaid show where a woman dressed as a mermaid swims in the tank to Little Mermaid sound track but I think to Dans relief (and my disappointment) we missed it!


Next was the water park itself with its wave machines and slides which was really fun. We joined some Russians to go down the family slide on a huge dingy. Only problem was our one was broken and one of the guys was really big so when we went down and hit the water at the bottom he sank right through the hole! There are a lot of Russians in Nha Trang and apparently this is because there is some kind of tax back agreement on flights here between Vietnam and Russia...I did here this in a bar later so not 100% sure this is true but would make sense.

We had heard from Sam and Alan who we had met in Sapa that they were also in Nha Trang. It was Alan's last night before heading home and Sam was keen to join us on the motorbike tour the next morning so we met up for dinner and a catch up. Food at the Red Lantern was great and Dan and I opted for the beef BBQ which is cooked at the table which was delicious. Alan had a guest at dinner of a baby gecko which appeared on his arm out of nowhere and seemed to like being on his shirt. We moved on to Why Not bar running the gauntlet of all the bar girls trying to get us in their bar instead? For some reason they thought I would be the one to sway the group and lots of shouts of "come on lady" and occasionally being physically pulled in the other direction (they are quite strong) we got to the bar we wanted and passed the evening drinking rubbish vodka to send Alan on his way!

Tomorrow I would become a biker chick eek!


Posted by doyledan 04:36 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

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