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Published: February 18th 2006
The open road
as we got to the Mekong Delta it became hotter and flatter
As you can tell from my previous entry, Easy Riding is the perfect way to get off the Sinh Cafe minibus beaten path. You'll still be on the Easy Rider beaten path, as Duc regularly does this tour and he's been doing it for 11 years, but it is a much better beaten path and you will see The Real Vietnam, as they say. I recommend them wholeheartedly. The only bad part is you will be kicking yourself for all those days you wasted doing the silly touristy things.
My advice for Easy Riding:
- There are now about 70 legit Easy Riders (who have the official name tags) and countless wannabe Easy Riders around Dalat. BUT- Duc said about 30 of those 70 legit Easy Riders weaseled their way in with lofty connections and do not have a very good grasp on the English language and are quite unenthusiastic about their work. When I met Duc my first day in Dalat and made arrangements to take the day trip with him the next day I was approached by at least 10 other Easy Riders during the day. They would offer their services and I would say, sorry, I'm
this picture was taken as we were speeding along the Vietnamese highway
hanging out with Duc #12 tomorrow. And they would immediately back down, which pretty much never happens in Vietnam. That is a good sign. I was very lucky as Duc is near the top of the Easy Rider totem pole. Don't worry about finding an Easy Rider, they will find you. Duc followed me to the hotel after I got off the tourist bus, and he was very relieved that I did not need any convincing.
- Take a day trip before spending a lot of money on a long trip to make sure you can understand the guide and get along with him.
- Read their little black book with the reviews from past clients. If they have customers who did a week long trip coming back a couple years later to do a month long trip that is a very good sign.
- $50 a day is a lot of money in Vietnam when you can do the Hanoi-Saigon open ticket for $22, but consider that your guide has to pay for fuel and he's away from his wife and kids. In reality its a bargain.
- Bring your guide a kickass Swiss Army
Woman making Hue style pancakes
In Dong Xoai, which is a big city but with few foreign tourists so I still created a stir
knife for a tip. They have this thing about pocket knives. I would have given Duc mine, but I might need it for stabbing people, so I told him I would give it to him in May. If you feel uncomfortable giving someone a knife give them something they can use while they're on the road like a quick drying towel (Miss Selzler thank you so much)
And after a month in Vietnam seeing the touristy and the non-touristy, my advice for travel in Vietnam is:
- Don't bring shampoo. You can buy packets of Pantene and crap like that for 3 cents a pop.
- Bring as little as possible. Easier said than done, of course, but really- try.
- Exception: bring AS MUCH SCHOOL SUPPLIES AS POSSIBLE. People told me that you can buy them in Vietnam for a fraction of the price, I found that simply not true. Go to OfficeDepot.com and buy $100 worth of pencils and pencil sharpeners and lug them over and give them to a school out in the country. You can buy school supplies in Vietnam, but the quality is poor and its about the same price
Kids eavesdropping on us
They were trying to be all stealthy but I caught them.
as it is buying in bulk from Office Depot. I asked Duc what they especially needed, and he told me what I already knew: they need everything.
- When buying clothes here buy at LEAST two sizes bigger than you would back home. If you wear a small in the US, buy a large. If you wear a medium, buy an XL
- Don't worry about plug adaptors, they've brilliantly designed them to accomodate both flat and round pronged plugs.
- Get off the tourist track for at least a couple of days. Get away from indoor plumbing and take a shower Vietnamese style.
- Its generally not worth it traveling in Vietnam during or after Tet. Getting around Vietnam can be a nightmare and all the prices skyrocket, and by all means STAY THE HELL AWAY FROM DALAT during that time. A $4 room magically becomes $20, and you're still going to have to fight for it.
- TIP. TIP. TIP
. The girl who cleans your hotel room (yes, even your fancy one) makes $40 a month working like a dog. If you leave her 10,000 dong a day you're giving her half a
HELLO HOW ARE YOU
they would yell, and I would say, "fine thanks, how are you?" but their English had run out so they would yell louder HOW ARE YOU and I would say FINE THANKS HOW ARE YOU repeat ad nauseum.
day's wage. On tours especially- tour guides are paid very poorly. If your guide did a good job, give them a couple of bucks. So many people did not tip a cent, it was nauseating.
- Have fun. Be patient. Its a great country, great food, great people. You'll love it. If you're wondering how can I travel there by myself- trust me, if I can do it- anybody can do it. A monkey could travel in Vietnam. All you need is dollars and they'll practically drag you around. I had no problems at all traveling alone.
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