Published: June 26th 2009June 22nd 2009
Nha Trang gave us our first big beach experience since we've arrived in Vietnam and for many it appears to be paradise. We met numerous ex-pats who are now calling this city on the water and sand..home. Lobster and seafood of all types are sold by pajamaed women slung with flexing bamboo rods over their shoulders and perfectly balanced baskets on each end. On one end, 30 pounds of seafood, the other 30 pounds of boiling water in a pot. The beach is long and full of parks and appears to be well preserved from the large touristy resorts who's shadows loom over the sand. We found a good, clean mini hotel named Ha Van with an outstanding roof top bar giving one a nice view of the city and cheap, cold beer. While staying there, a French Canadian recommended we see Dalat, a highlands town 4-5 hours away. We'd been pestered by E-Z rider tours in the town nearly every day since we arrived but felt a long sweaty trip strapped to the back of a strange man on a motorcycle, may end up being a little piece of hell. We were unsuccessful in finding any guidance on how to
do this trip on our own so we thought we’d do it and document it on the web assuming it was successful. We opted for our own ride and set out to find a shop that would rent us some motorcycles without taking our passports and asking too many questions. We'd been forewarned that if you mention you're leaving town, you can forget about securing a motorcycle. We did get some curious looks when we mentioned 3-4 days of hiring the bike but eventually money won out (50,000 Dong a day) for manual bikes and we were on our way! We never found a map which would show the new road constructed for the highlands part of the trip but locals we're quick to offer directions and before we knew it, we were weaving through traffic on the outskirts of town putting the chaos and honking behind us. Within an hour, we were passing through small villages greeted by children flagging us down to say “hallo!” and introducing us to their front yard of pigs and other pets/livestock. The roads were narrow, pitted and shared with oncoming shipping trucks hell bent on keeping a schedule. Ace like motorcycle skills were
required to high-five children just a split second before avoiding a washed out portion of road. We made little headway before one our bikes sputtered to a stop but fortunately just in front of husband and wife couple who were tinkering on some mo-peds. She ran over with a couple of petrol filled water bottles and filled us up. We knew just how fortunate we had been and never missed a chance to tip off our tanks again…you never know when the next station is. Two hours in, we began to break out of the hot and humid layers of air and climbed the mountains exposing ¼ mile high waterfalls, and expansive views of jungle. Our 135cc bikes struggled on some grades but low gears and patience put us over the peaks. We logged just one overheat and due to some furious shifting a sandal was our lone casualty…sort of. As much like our time in Sapa was butterfly season, it was dragonfly season in the highlands and we were pelted by these rather weighty creatures several times. As impressive as the thousands were at avoiding us, some were lost as our forehead, neck and chest sped through the zipping
squadrons…visors are recommended. Atop the peaks, a great deal of government farming was supporting small towns with million dollar views. We were very fortunate to catch highland locals walking the mountain roads, returning from long days in the fields with rakes, hoes and bundles of spare clothes over their shoulders. Again, we were amazed at just how quickly they would wave or flash a smile to random folks touring their towns…granted, we never did see another tourist riding their own bikes throughout the trip. 6 hours later, we descended from the peak of 5000 feet and descended into Dalat and the lovely Xuan Huong Lake in the center. Dalat was compared to the mountainous area of Sapa in the North. Although we didn’t quite see the same charm, it’s evidently the #1 honeymoon destination in Vietnam as an escape in the cooler climate. We’ve attached a somewhat funny picture which shows Dalat’s radio tower alongside a gorgeous park and its easy to see its likeness to the famous Eiffel Tower in Paris (added for romance?) Dalat is also well known for it’s flower garden, golf course and walking path around the lake. The cooler weather required we keep pants and
poncho nearby as rain would come down in buckets with little warning. We stayed just two nights and sampled some local Dalat wine with dinner. (the world’s winemakers have little to fear..eesh) The bikes came in handy to explore restaurants off the beaten path which we recommend…the best Pho is on the streets with the little red chairs and many LOCALS. English is not spoken, menus are not given but a smile and pointing at a simmering pot of Pho does just the trick.
We both agree that the highlight of this trip was THE TRIP getting to Dalat and would recommend it to some of the adventurous folks out there. This however is not a trip for kids and if you’re beginner on a motorcycle…maybe think twice. Also, check your bike’s condition. We found out the hard way that fuel gauge, breaks and seat locks are all very important. Have fun!!
A special thanks to our friends and family that have already given to our charity drive for the Kianh Foundation through the Just Giving website. (http://www.justgiving.com/shaneanderin/). Every dollar counts (remember it's in British Pounds). Many thanks!
Search Words: RideYour Own Motorcycle to Dalat.
There are more photos below