A Travellerspoint blog

Vietnam

Last days in Saigon...

ChuChi tunnels and War Remnants Museum

With great difficulty we finally dragged ourselves away from the beach, grabbed some yummy mushroom pancakes (normal ones!) and hopped on the bus to Saigon. I was looking forward to reading as I had found the second Game of Thrones book on the shelves at our hostel to swap but after all the sun and sea air I slept most of the way to Saigon and to Dan's amusement every so often smacked my head on the window as I failed to stay upright in my seat. Such a caring guy!

After sleepy Moi Ne entering Saigon was mental and it being dark too definately made it more interesting. There was no doubt that we had left the tranquility of the coast behind us as we passed sporadic piles of rubbish burning at the side of the road whilst our bus jostled with the 4 lanes of trucks, buses and cars trying to get into the city. There were several moments that I held my breath as we squeezed through impossibly shrinking gaps but Dan was unfased/oblivious as he was engrossed in the football game on his phone. Highlighted by the slightly worrying 'addicted' rating Dan is given on the game stats that either shows 1) how many long bus journeys we have been doing or 2) that he should just put the game down :)

After being dropped off on Pham Ngu Lao street we found our hostel a short walk down one of the alleyways just off the road. The friendly staff Thanh Thuong helped us organise a trip to the ChuChi tunnels for the next morning, our bus to take us into Cambodia the day after that and even carried my bag to our room. Although I had protested I was glad they had not listened as we were on the fourth floor! Settled in we headed out into the buzzing lit streets in search of dinner. Bars and restaurants lined the streets with their plastic chairs spilling out onto the pavement mainly jam packed with other travellers sharing their tales over beers. As we settled down to eat outside one of the restaurants we watched the bustling streets of hawkers, bikes, locals and tourists as the nightlife of the city came alive. Children ran among the tourists trying to sell flowers, bracelets and books. There was even one kid, no more than 6 years old and seemingly on his own, trying to impress people with his fire eating!! It is always hard seeing kids out on the streets so late at night approaching complete strangers for money not knowing what characters they might meet. Another change was that this was the first place we had been in Vietnam were we had noticed bars of prostitutes right amongst the regular bars and restaurants. There were two such places just opposite each other both trying to get the attention of the men walking by waving and shouting to get them to walk over, and after a few quiet words in their ear taking them inside. Not really what you want to be watching whilst you eat dinner but a reminder of the seedy past this city has that is still present today. We moved on and found Universal Bar which had a great live band before turning in.

We had breakfast at a stall right outside our hostel before being lead through the alleyways picking up other people along the way before starting the tour to the ChuChi tunnels. Our guide for the day was also called Chi and on our way he told us things about his culture in Vietnam. One of them was the importance of FengSui. We had noticed that some men had grown their fingernail on the little finger of their left hand, this was due to FengSui as if the little finger is longer than the last crease on the ring finger than it means you will have a long life, if it is shorter you get round it by growing the nail. Another thing is that men will often keep just one long hair on their right cheek as this will bring wealth. One of the most interesting though was how the belief in FengSui affected the importance or more the lack of importance of women in Vietnam. The ideal family situation is to have 3 generations living under one roof as this brings good luck and is good FengSui, but due to the tradition that when girls marry they move into their husbands family home if you only have girls then you will never achieve good FengSui as when they marry they leave. This is why Vietnamese prefer to have boys rather than girls. If a girl is not married by the age of 25 then no man will marry her, so I would be a spinster here!

Chi mentioned how his friends sometimes ask him about western behaviour that they do not understand as he is a tour guide. They could not understand why we spend time out in the sun whilst locals try to find the shade. He had to explain to them about how we like to get a tan which is an odd behaviour to Vietnamese as only people who work outside all the time have tanned skin which is a sign of being poor. In their eyes 'Why would you want to look like that?' If you work in an office all day you will have lighter skin and this is a sign of being more wealthy, as well as being fat and not skinny. He also highlighted the influence that China has had on Vietnam which can be seen in the belief in FengSui and also that most people are Buddhist. They do not have Christmas here and he remarked how he did not get it until he was shown a movie and now he loves Christmas....that movie was Love Actually :)

At ChuChi we sat and watched a video about how the VietCong used the network of tunnels during the Vietnam War and we were shown a map and also a model of the tunnels.

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The tunnels comprised of three levels which helped them to be able to survive underground. If people tried to smoke them out they could open vents and retreat to lower levels. If they tried to fill the tunnels with water they would let the water run through to the lower levels so they would not drown. They had to live down in the tunnels sometimes not coming up for days at a time during heavy bombardment, this meant everyday life had to go on underground despite the lack of ventilation, light and space in the tunnels. Cooking for example had to be carried out in the tunnels and to stop being detected by the smoke that needed to escape from the tunnels they came up with a filter system that comprised of a number of chambers in succession that gradually released the smoke to the surface at a point further away so as not to alert people to their presence.

Alsatians were used as sniffer dogs to try and locate the VietCong and the tunnels and there were several ways that the Vietcong countered this. One was to rub lime and chillie around their ventilation holes (they used ant hills for natural ventilation to help them blend into the jungle) in order to stop the dogs sense of smell.

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Another method was to set booby traps for the dogs hidden under the ground and so when they walked over them they would fall into a pit of spikes and be killed.

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This was the first of many booby traps that we were shown some used within the jungle and others would be within the tunnels themselves. As we were shown each one we all flinched at the thought of falling or stepping on one but also marvelled at how these were thought up. I cannot imagine the horror of knowing you had to walk out in areas that had these. It is no wonder the American soldiers were so traumatised by this kind of warfare, particularly as not all of them would result in an instant death. Here are a couple of examples...

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Fox holes were also used to position gunmen at different points that could then pop up and disappear. We were able to climb inside one. The entrance hole was small but inside there was a wider space in order to crouch inside with the lid on the hole. Some of the larger guys struggled to get in and out of the hole and we were a bit paranoid about getting stuck in there.

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Chi told us how the Vietcong would saw in half unexplored bombs to collect the TNT inside to use to make their own landlines and grenades. It was a very dangerous job as at any point their sawing could detonate the bomb but this is another example of their resourcefulness.

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Before we went to the tunnels themselves we had the opportunity to shoot AK47s. Standing next to the shooting range it was hard to get over just how loud the gunshots were. It went right through you even with ear defenders on. I could not imagine being surrounded by constant gunfire and bombing. I nearly hit target a couple of times but was happy to leave the range and try to find some quiet.

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Now it was time to go into the tunnels themselves. There are 100m of tunnel that tourists can go into with exit points every 10m in case you need to get out. These tunnels have been widened for tourists but still were much smaller than the tunnels we had been in further north and some of the larger guys that went in first came out instantly as they could not fit! As we waited to try I started to get a bit anxious and at the underground entrance I decided not to go in as people were stopping along the way and waiting behind me. I did not want to be down there with noway forward or back in case I panicked as sometimes I get claustrophobic in crammed hot trains and last thing I wanted was to pass out in a underground tunnel! Dan was braver than me but as I forgot to take the backpack off him he came out after 10m when it got narrower as it was getting in his way. When we met the rest of the group at the end those who had made the 100ms said how narrow it was and one girl said she almost got stuck crawling through as her shoulders were too broad. I definitely made the right decision!

Below is a pic to show how small the original tunnels were (spot the bat!) and then one of Dan in the 'widened' tunnel (and it got narrower)!

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Can you imagine living and fighting down here!!

In the afternoon we went to the War Remnants Museum.

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This is a place you must visit if you come to Saigon.

It is hard trying to put into words the experience of visiting this museum. There are several sections which deal with the atrocities of the Vietnam War and the photos they have inside are shocking, heartbreaking, infuriating and just unbelievable. There were moments when a photo will just stop you in your tracks and although it is hard to look at you also cant look away. I think one of the things that shocked me most are the repercussions of the use of Agent Orange and other chemicals which contained dioxin which according to the information at the museum 'scientists have agreed this is the most harmful and toxic chemical discovered by mankind'. Not only did they do so much damage during the war but have resulted in the next generation being born with all sorts of health problems, deformities and severe disabilities. Sadly this will affect many generations to come too. These people were not even part of the war and have to continually suffer today due to this method of warfare. Unfathomable.

Although I feel this is something everyone should experience I have decided not to put photos I took at the museum on here as I know some people may find them too upsetting and not expect to see images like that on this blog.

Our time there also flagged up the importance of the photographers that risked their lives and many who also lost them to take the images that showed the world what has happened in Vietnam. I spent sometime reading the biographies of the photographers that were part of the 'Requium' exhibition at the museum and so many were last seen going back into war torn areas then listed missing or known dead.

I would be very interested to visit an American museum that deals with the Vietnam war to get their perspective on what happened as I find it all hard to understand.

A very sobering day

Sxx

Posted by doyledan 06:44 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

It's Good to Be Free


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Despite the unfortunate events with our easy rider tour we where in good spirits when we reached Mui Ne and ready to have some chill out time by the beach.

As soon as we realised that where we were dropped off wasn't by a beach we quickly decided we needed to find somewhere else. It took a lot longer than anticipated because we didn't realise just how long the strip of beach is at Mui Ne. Fortunately having walked a short while from the backpacker hotel which was fully booked we found a nice hotel by the beach and got a room for three.

Looking out from our hotel onto the beach and down the coast we could see why this place was called the kitesurfing capital of Vietnam. It was an incredible sight.

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Because we were going to go to the sand dunes with the Easy Riders we decided we had to make our way there after settling in. It's recommended that you go the for sunrise or sunset and seeing as it was the afternoon we decided on the sunset at the red sand dunes. Our hostel organised a trip using a jeep as transportation and we were off. It was great to be in the breeze as the jeep had no side or back windows. Sam and I were planning to slide down the slopes and were kitted up , however from this picture we look as if we were ready to rob a bank, haha!

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We bypassed the local fishing bay which lended itself to a photo opportunity.

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The red sand dunes themselves are pretty small but good enough to have a view over the surrounding area. When we reached the dune we were met by a group of kids selling the plastic mats used for sliding down the dunes. They were conniving little buggars especially when Sam asked for change and got refused despite the fact that I had just given them split bills to pay him back.

Once we reached the the top of the dunes we managed to get some decent photos just before the sand swept up and started to get in the cracks of the camera. Sarah managed to grab a video of me sliding down the bank. Due to the size and type of sand and perhaps our technique we didn't go very fast.

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After the sun went down we headed back to the hotel to grab a bite to eat and Sam suggested we go try out the mini golf up the road. The course was a labyrinth of 18 holes set within a hotel backyard it was great fun and it got a little competitive towards the (from my side admittedly) so much so that the last ball on the 18th won me the match.

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After the golf we bypassed the 19th hole and headed back to the hotel to wind down and catch a glimpse of the moon which was shining bright with the stars.

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The next day was a leisurely one, Sam decided he wanted to try out the kitesurfing and Sarah and I decided we wanted to to get the tan on.

I joined Sam for a little while to see what was involved as I was tempted to try it out but was glad to be chilling rather than taking a mouthful of sea water for a hour as Sam described it.

Upon seeing him return on the shore he walked back and I managed to take a photo of him looking like a bat, while I was waiting to see if I could catch a glimpse of him in action in the sea I marvelled at the technique of some of the pros and caught some action photos.

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The rest of day consisted of three things ....

Doing This......
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Viewing or walking up this .......
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And this.......

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We said our farewells to Sam that evening as he had little time left on his Visa, and we had be going back and forth as to whether we should stay a little longer. In the end we managed to come to our senses and get a couple more days in to relax and figure out the next leg of the adventure which would be Cambodia and Sarah took on the mammoth task of writing the Easy Rider blogs and at the same time perfecting her tan lines.

I did decide the next day upon having a chat with a Thomas, a guy we met in Nha Trang and subsequently in Mui Ne a few days later, that the white sand dunes were worth visiting in order to have a go at quad biking. He told us that his tour also consisted of riding an ostrich which would have been quite fun but questionable as to whether it would be fair on the ostrich.

The route to the white sand dunes showed off the best of Vietnams coast.

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It was a relaxing period of time to say the least and even meant we began to question whether we should leave at all. The beach life is an enviable one and I for one began to get use to it. However, the prospect of journeying on to the next country is to good a thrill and I think we were ready to say goodbye to Vietnam after this leg.

That being said we still have Saigon and the Cho Chi tunnels to tick off the list .

Stay tuned for more tales.....

Posted by doyledan 22:10 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Que Sera, Sera...

Day 3: Di Linh to Mui Ne


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We needed to be up early in order to make it to Mui Ne in time for the afternoon bus that Bin and Lan needed to get back for their next trip. Despite the fun the night before we somehow managed to be up at 7am and ready to go. A breakfast of omelette and baguette sorted us out.

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The plantations in the area we were now in had changed from coffee to tea and as far as the eye could see were tea plants. Bin showed us how to pick the tea leaves by just nipping the first three off the end of the stems. He explained that it is only possible to take the very new leaves at the top as the stems get too thick further down so it is harder to pick.

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We would be continuing our journey along the mountain pass which did not fail to deliver on amazing views.

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Whilst travelling through the national park and stopped to take a little walk into the jungle. Bin told us more about how people had lived and survived in the jungle during the war even though it was very dangerous. We spotted one plant with massive thorns on the leaves, let alone all the poisonous snakes that live there!

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As people were hiding in the jungle the Americans used herbicides and defoliants known as Agent Orange to try to force people out of the jungle foliage and also to destroy the crops the local people depended on, but by having knowledge of root plants such as Tapioca they were able to survive in the jungle. He told us that even today babies are being born with deformities as a result of the chemical weapons used by the Americans.

By another minority village we stopped at another great view. The people in this area used to live in the jungle but we were told that now they are supported by the government in this village with electricity and a school, whilst relying on crops such as corn for their income. Again they have their own language and Bin told us how they are very poor people living on not a lot.

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We continued on the mountain pass and as we went round the hairpin bends it was fun to look behind and see Dan and Sam on their bikes coming round the corners before I disappeared around the next one. At one section we stopped to take a video of the guys as they went down and I think this section may have been used by the Top Gear guys when they did their bike trip in Vietnam.

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Leaving the jungle behind after turning down the kind invitation to share lunch with some road workers that were cooking by the side of the road we came to a cotton farm. Now I knew cotton came from plants but had not seen it before and was amazed it it essentially is balls of cotton on a plant! Amazing!

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Some sights on the road...and yes the ducks are alive!

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As we were descending from the central highlands all morning the change in temperature made it very warm being on the bikes and this meant that Dans bike continued to have problems with overheating so there were several times we had to wait for it to cool down. We took in the bright greens of the rice paddies and pinks of the dragon fruits that were the agriculture in this area.

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We could tell we were getting closer to Mui Ne as we started to see sand on the road and across the landscape, so different from the landscapes we had seen before so we knew we were getting closer to the sea and and the sand dunes it is famous for.

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This is where Dans bike finally conked out in the heat fortunately not far out of Mui Ne so we had to stop our tour a bit early as Bin shuttled us into town with our bags before having to help Lan with the other bike. We were meant to go to the red sand dunes but it would not be possible and so Bin gave us some money back so we could get ourselves to the dunes later, which Dan will tell you about in the Moi Ne blog.

These things happen and it all adds to the feeling of adventure :) We had an awesome time on this trip and it definitely has been a huge highlight of our time in Vietnam!

Massive thanks to Mr Bin and Mr Lan for your expert driving, great knowledge and sense of fun and adventure! Also thanks to Sam for joining us on this part of our journey and stepping up to take the rice wine shots for the team. OW!!

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Safe travels to you all

Sxxx

Posted by doyledan 19:32 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Hit the road Jack!

Day 2: Dalat to Di Linh


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Day 2: Dalat to Di Linh

Its odd how tiring being on the back of a bike is even when you are not driving but refreshed from a good sleep and breakfast (we decided not to go with the 'bread with fist' option on the menu) we were ready to get back on the road humming 'hit the road jack' which was a firm favourite with Bin and Lan.

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We had read that Truc Lam Monastry was a beautiful serene place to visit and so had asked for it to be included in our tour. Dan and I were able to take the cable car which offered great views over Dalat, including Lady Mountain (aptly named due to the twin peaks as you will see in the photo below), whilst Bin, Lan and Sam rode the bikes to meet us there.

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It is easy to see why people say you could sit in the gardens of the Monastery for hours. It is so peaceful with the sound of wind chimes and calm and it was lovely to walk around the gardens and the pine forest that surround it. Definitely would recommend taking some time here to find your own little spot and just be.

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If you have an idea on how you make a tree grow like this can you let us know...awesome!

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Back on the bikes we went through more of the pine forest and around a big lake whilst making our way back into town. It was a great ride and soon we were in the narrow streets of Dalat and stopped outside a house. After taking off our shoes we went inside to find that this local family were making tofu! They supplied tofu to the local restaurants and market and their family had been making tofu for years. As we watched them make the tofu people were coming in to buy it fresh. Made from bean curd the mixture is heated before being poured into slats, wrapped and then pressed to squeeze the water out. After a few minutes it was ready and we were able to try it. I don't normally like tofu but fresh like this it was really good and so I had a couple of pieces.

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As mentioned before Dalat is famous for its Flower City and we stopped off at one of the greenhouse tunnels made of plastic and bamboo to take a look at flower farming. There were flowers of all colours and they had so many rose bushes too.

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We waved goodbye to Dalat and hit the road...

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Next stop on the road turned out to be a place where they make rice wine and weasel coffee. You read that right...weasel coffee...this is where the weasels are fed coffee beans which then come out in their poo, and yes this is then dried and turned into coffee. It is seen as a delicacy and is expensive compared to other coffee. It was sad to see these beautiful animals in the cages being 'harvested' as it were. I do not think they stay in the small cages all the time as we saw a larger enclosure where they could run around but still I felt a bit uncomfortable about it all. The boys gave the coffee a try but I was happy not to be a coffee drinker and able to turn it down. I also somehow managed to get out of the shot of rice wine too!

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I was really looking forward to our next stop 'The Elephant Waterfalls!' and after dining like kings on some great local food for lunch we followed Lan to the waterfall and were not disappointed. It was huge and in full flow.

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Climbing down to the bottom was a bit hard in places particularly with short legs, a tendency to fall over and paths that had part fallen away. Without Lan leading us I'm not sure we would have gone down on our own or found the narrow path through the Banyan roots to get to a ledge behind the waterfall. The force from the water coming down was so strong that we could not get too close and the power of the spray alone almost knocked my contact lenses out! It was great to be so close to all that power and we got truely drenched.

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Continuing to make our way to the bottom we all had the Indiana Jones theme tune in our heads as we clambered over roots and jumped over steps that had fallen away. I left the guys to explore closer to the bottom of the waterfall not trusting my footing happy to just take in my surroundings. It was beautiful!

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And of course you can't visit the elephant waterfalls without riding some elephants!

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Back at the top of the waterfalls we stopped to look at some traditional hand weaving where the women made silk scarves and amongst other things. It takes up to 7 days to make a scarf in this way and it was hard to make out exactly how it was possible to make the intricate patterns that they did, amazing skill involved. We spent sometime there mainly as I was playing with their little girl who delighted in taking my bracelet off one hand and putting it on the other over and over again.

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Next stop was a mushroom farm and I've never seen anything like it. It was almost like walking into a scene from an alien film when you find the eggs of the alien! The mushrooms are grown in plastic bags filled with soil and lime and they need humidity to grow so there are perfect conditions here, evident by the thousands of mushrooms!

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As well as being tasty mushrooms are also good if you want to dress up as the B.F.G or an elephant!

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The silliness continued as we stopped again to check out another local plant which contains red seeds which are used in Vietnamese cooking called 'curry'. Turns out the red paste inside has other uses as well...

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We (sorry I should really change that to Dan) must have looked odd as we continued our journey into Di Linh although we did see some odd sights ourselves.

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This was just the beginning of a very fun night in Di Linh with our new friends Bin and Lan. With an amazing buffalo BBQ we shared stories and lots of laughter getting more raucous with the more rice wine and beer that was consumed.

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I am not quite sure how to describe some of the hilarious conversations but lets just say it was a brilliant way to end day two!

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Sxx

Posted by doyledan 05:55 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Easyrider!!!

Day 1: Nha Trang to Dalat


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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.

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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...

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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...

Sxx

Posted by doyledan 02:13 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

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