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Published: July 29th 2011
Honestly... I'll be late to my own funeral even if there is a chauffeur. When we hit the driveway, I decided not to actually drop Shauna off but hijacked her until I stopped the motor scooter near reception. We walked back up the drive with our Circle K plastic bag brimming with beer and water to discuss the Easy Rider trip. Over the street food in Phan Thiet, we decided to ask if Duc and Lam would do a 2-day trip because honestly we just couldn't afford to go 4+ days, it was just outside our budget for this trip.
Rocking up we waved as I pointed to my watch, "sorry guys... I really thought we'd be here a bit early but Shauna just had to have beer," explained I of our tardiness. "No problem. Let's sit over there," he directed us towards a group of benches. "Do you like my office?" Duc said as we turned to sit on the bench. "It's gorgeous," Shauna admitted. "Okay. Let's look at the map," Lam started unfolding and laying it into our laps, "we here in Muuui Nee. We take off around 9am tomorrow, head for Daa~Laaat. It'll take about
four hours to reach but stop many times. Stretch legs, go pee, take walks along the way. See the sights, check out the dunes, fruit farm, and flower factories. Stuff you not see with bus ride," he's explaining with a bright smile. Funny thing is we read it as Dalat and he's pronouncing it as Daa~Laaat. Emphasizing tones when needed. "Tomorrow we reach Daa~Laaat around one maybe later. We get you into your place, settle down, check out Daa~Laaat. Next day, long trip up to Daaak-Laaak. We hit up silk worm farm, factory, Elephant falls, minority village and good food. It takes about 5 hours. Then we go to Buuun Ma Thuooot, see big beautiful waterfall, ride elephants, go for swim, stay in minority village, eat with villagers have special wine, good times. Next day we head down to Nha Trang, see the sights, cashew factory, jackfruit, take walk, see waterfalls... okay?" "We're talking four days right?" I ask. "Yes. Mui Ne to Dalat. Dalat to Dak Lak. Lak Lake to Bun Ma Thuot. Bun Ma Thuot to Nha Trang. Four day, three nights," he responds.
I look at Shauna. She's looking at Duc. Duc is running around laughing and explaining how much "fun" we are going to have. Okay, so he's not actually running, but he was full of energy.
"You guys love it. Buddha says, so man!" He enthusiastically points at us, "Big brother Buddha." "Buddha agrees," I reply. "Let's take a minute and look it over," Shauna says. "Yea. You guys look it over. We'll go for a walk," Lam states.
We begin looking at the map. "We are in Mui Ne and we want to go to Dalat. Dalat is where we planned on spending a couple of days because its in the Central Highlands. We were going to go hiking, see a couple waterfalls and canyoning," I restate for the record. "Yes. And we said we wanted to end up in Nha Trang, so you could scuba dive, remember." Like I would just forget about wanting to scuba dive the one place in Vietnam that you are suppose to. "Well if we do this four day trip, I'll literally have no money for the rest of the trip," I state confidently. "Yea. It's quit a bit of money. But it sounds like so much fun," Shauna stated enthusiastically. "I know. I totally want to do it too. But I was planning on putting anything big. Like diving or fancy dinner or... on my credit card," I responded. "Okay, except you aren't suppose to pay for stuff this trip. This is my present to you," she said sourly. "I know. But Buddha says --" "Fuck it! Let's do it!" Duc shouts across the parking lot. "Exactly," I reply with a huge smile.
"Maybe we could meet them in Dalat. Do a couple of days down to Nha Trang? Would that be a good compromise?" I suggest clearly out of my head. "Sounds good to me. But I don't want to put these guys out of making money," she retaliated with a good conscience. Totally, dislike when she does that. "It's not like we cannot just ask them. They are right there," pointing at the two guys chatting twenty-five feet away. "Duc. Lam. Can we ask you something?" "Sure," they reply in unison walking back over to us.
"Here's the thing. Shauna and I, wanted to spend two days in Dalat, hiking, checking out the city, going canyoning and taking it easy," I begin explaining, "but we totally want to hook up with you guys and do a couple of days in 'the real Vietnam' riding across the country." "So, we really wanted to know if we could meet up with you in Dalat?" Shauna chimed in, "Or maybe we could do a one day trip up to Dalat?" "One day to Dalat, is not good for us," Lam started to explain. "We understand that but no harm in asking," Shauna sparked. "What are your plans after Nha Trang?" Duc inquired. "I think we are heading to Hue then Hoi An," I began to reveal our undefined itinerary. "Why, don't we do six days, five nights up to Hoi An? We could do the Ho Chi Minh Trail? Lots of history up there, lots to see... Hamburger Hill, Camp Carroll, Vinh Moc Tunnels... It's a great trip," Lam expresses the hidden beauties along the winding country roads.
Everything they talk about sounds magnificent. Whether its cruising down the Ho Chi Minh Trail, checking out waterfalls in the highlands or visiting minority villages. But the problem doesn't rest in what we are willing or not willing to do. It really stems directly to what we can afford. And this being our 3rd day into a 14 day trip. Its difficult to judge how much money we actually need when dealing with Vietnamese Dong and US Dollars. Half my brain is working in American dollars thanks to hotels and restaurants. Then you have to switch over to dong, for vendors, clothing, retail, ticket admissions and transportation. But then there is this intermingling difference between everyone's exchange rates. At this point, we know it's suppose to be 20,000 dong to 1 USD.
Either way these guys are asking us both to spend 5,345,600.00 dong on a four day trip. That's 10,691,200.00 dong. Enough to see us through the remaining 11-days of our vacation. We just need to be careful with how we spend and this will be a great trip, even with the diving, canyoning, ATV rides and mopeds. But... main this would be an awesome add-on to the trip. Screw the kayaking around mangroves or limestone caves. Let's hit the road jack!
"Wow! It all sounds awesome. Except my pocket book cannot handle that right now," I laugh, Shauna laughs, everyone laughs. "Seriously... I really want to hang out in Dalat. Is it possible to meet in Dalat and do a trip?" I continue. "It would give us time to catch a couple of possible tourists going to Dalat or Nha Trang," Duc says to Lam. "Then meet them in Dalat," Lam finishes, "bringing them back down to Nha Trang." "Not a bad idea," Lam asserts. "Then you two get to hang out in honeymoon city!" Duc laughs. "What?" I inquire. "Dalat, is known in Vietnam as Honeymoon City. It's where all Vietnamese go to for their honeymoon. It's very friendly to new married people," Lam states the hugest grin on his face ever! Seriously, I thought the guys face was going to crack.
"Why, not... honeymoon city. Perfect. It should be quiet and peaceful," Shauna insists then, "does this work for you guys? Meeting us in Dalat for a two day trip? It's really all we can afford." The two of them look at each other. Then look at us. Then they walk away talking in rapid fire Vietnamese. They look at the two of us holding the map. As we sit there wondering why we didn't read more into this when we were in our apartment in South Korea. Walking back over to us, Duc smiles at me and says, "Fuck it! Buddha says Go Crazy!" Lam brightens up saying "we will make it work. We will need you to give us $50 deposit each now. Then pay remaining at end of trip." Smiling I look at Shauna, who is also smiling at this good news. "Big Buddha brother, we're gonna have fun!" Duc looks at me as I am pulling a huge wad of cash out of my wallet. "What's $50 in dong?" I state out loud. "One million dong," Lam states. What? Seriously... no way. I start counting my fingers and toys, strumming out how much it really is... I look up and over to my left, "do you have a million dong?" "No. But I have a bit of both," Shauna replies, "do you need help?" "Yes. I have 700,000 dong but need $15 US," I explain. "Here's a twenty." "Okay, here's 400,000... no... I mean here's 600,000 dong and twenty bucks for me and... Shauna." "Give me a moment." "Women," I state loud enough for everyone to hear when Duc bursts out laughing.
"When you get to Dalat, tomorrow," Lam begins... "you'll be in honeymoon village," Duc laughs. "Call us, to let us know your hotel and we will pick you up at 8 on the 8th," he finishes.
"Eight on the Eighth," I repeat, "I like the sound of that." "Me too," Shauna says handing over the remainder of her deposit. "We will give you our phone number then just be sure to call us," Lam explains again. While he and Shauna are digging for a piece of paper, I hand Duc my camera stating we could just take a pic of his sign on the front fender of his motorcycle. Everyone ignores me, except Duc who snags the camera walking up the driveway. Smiling, I am elated we will be on a motorcycle tour of Vietnam in a few days.
"Your camera is funny," Duc returns trying to push the shutter button. "Sorry, it started acting up yesterday after I was on the beach." "Computer camera on the beach?" "Yep. Not the smartest thing I've done." We both laugh walking up the driveway. Stopping at the bikes, I squat down, snapping a pic of the plaque. It reads;
Mr Duc -- Adventure Tour
Face book: DUC FREE RIDER
Ema l: firstname.lastname@example.org
Phone: + 84 0935 774426
"Free riding in Vietnam..." I begin but it fades away as we reach the other two. "Got it?" Shauna asks. "Yep. You?" "Yep." "Well, we have to get going. We are meeting our other clients who you met earlier today on the road for dinner," Lam states. We all shake hands. "Remember. Give us a call tomorrow," he reminds us again. As if we are going to give some random guys $50 each than forget to call back? "Will do," I respond, "See you at 8 on the 8th."
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