Published: December 29th 2006December 5th 2006
Got up to the ever strange site of a green mesh surrounding me........yip, a mozzie net, something I couldn’t quiet get used to on my travels, especially their erection! Read on for a prime example of this. I was looking forward to this trip ever since arriving in Dalat, after hearing all about it through the Lonely Planet. So much so, that I had to buy an especially tacky leather biker jacket for the journey. For those of you new to the Easy Rider experience, I had better explain myself before ye draw yere separate conclusions!! There are many connotations to the name Easy Rider, personally I think they could have came up with something better, but it really is a group of mostly ex war veterans who give motorbike tours around Vietnam. With that explained, I’ll move on.
We took off from Peace Hotel at 8am in the morning. The plan was a trek around Dalat countryside and then heading north to Lak Lake. The weather was what we say in Ireland as “dodgy”…. Meaning it could piss or shine, god only knows! This was because there was a storm from the Philippians moving north up along the
Milling in progress
coast of Vietnam. I had nothing but my sleezy jacket, but Nam my driver, came well prepared. He had a full wet suit for both of us, luckily enough; we did nay need em that day. We took route 14 north out of the town centre. And what became an immediate interest was that this road is the only road up through the Central Highlands and therefore was the only route the South Vietnamese and American convoys could travel. This became apparently obvious when my driver pointed out the mass amount of pine trees on the higher right hand side of the road. What used to be dense jungle was destroyed by fire bombs to stop any Viet Cong ambushes. The post war Vietnamese Government planted pine trees in these empty regions due to their evergreen nature and ease of growth.
The first village we reached by the name of Nam Ban had a distinctive smell about it. Coffee I was informed. We stopped at a Mocha plantation; these plants are the smallest and bear the least beans out of the four different coffee plants found in Vietnam. To make up for it, they have the strongest flavor and richest
taste and highest price tag. The others are Arabica, Robusta and Cherry. For the coffee lovers out there, you may find it interesting to know that the Mocha Latte you eagerly order contains less then 20% mocha beans, and for something even more interesting involving coffee beans and monkey feaces, go to animalcoffee.com!!
Most houses had what I called “Coffee Gardens”. As the name suggests, they have coffee beans laid out for drying and were regularly turning them with whatever means possible. The beans are left out for three days in the sun, the shell is then removed and the bean is dried for another 3 days before blending. Being South East Asia where wastage is not an option, the shells are recycled to fuel the silk factory.
The other ingredient needed by the silk factory is indeed, silk. Before my trip, I was ignorant as to how silk garments are produced and put together, but not anymore. I will never eat another silk worm again!! One night in Bangkok, but that’s another story!
Nam showed me a silk worm farm, where the eggs are bought from China and left for 28 days before they are attached to a
bamboo structure for spinning. The worm produces silk in a cocoon fashion until it is trapped inside its own work. At this stage it is picked and brought to the factory. That’s where we headed after to view the process from cocoon to scarf. The cocoons are boiled to kill the worm and the silk thread is attached to motors which feed it onto wheels where it is dyed and woven into an end product. The dead worms are then used for animal feed and drunk tourists!!
Onwards towards Thac Voi waterfall, like other sites, it comes comlplete with its tourist name of "Elephant Falls".... couldn't see the resemblance.
Moving away from the beaten track, as only the easy riders know how, we go through another village, one occupied by the Ngong minority people. This minority hill tribe is known for their longhouse tradition, one which adds an extra few meters to their house with each daughter born into the family. This is because the daughter invites her husband-to-be into the house until they are wed. To be honest, I found their rice wine production more interesting! Further outside the village, Nam stopped off at a Mushroom plantation,
Work in progress
but no ordinary one, these are called cats ear mushrooms and are not for the faint hearted?! Have a look.
Back on the road to make tracks towards Lak Lake before dark. We stopped for something to eat at a place called La Vey. French for “over there”. The story originates from the French colonization of Vietnam and how they used the prisoners to farm the coffee plantations. The prisoners eventually revolted and dispersed into the valley calling themselves the Viet Minh. When the French asked the locals where the prisoners went, the locals would point down into the valleys and answer with La Vey. This was the beginning of the French Vietnam war.
Eventually we arrived at lak lake to a warm reception and delicious meal. Fish hotpot with a difference. A few beers later I retired for bed, only to be met by another feckin mosquito net. The picture tells a thousand words!
There are more photos below