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A terrible easyrider tour across the beautiful Central Highlands of Vietnam

VIETNAM | Wednesday, 9 July 2008 | Views [4542] | Comments [4]

From Saigon, I took a bus to Dalat, a former French hill station at an altitude of almost 1500m on a plateau in the Central Highlands. My time here was short since River, my easyrider tour guide, picked me up from the bus drop-off to take me to the hotel, from which I went to dinner, and then back to the hotel to sleep before starting the tour the following day. It's a shame I did not have more time to see Dalat, since it has a reputation for being quirky. It is, supposedly, Paris in the mountains, or the Vietnamese French Alps. Go to the right cafes and you may see Vietnamese wearing berets. A nearby radio tower looks like a miniaturised version of the Eiffel Tower.

Next morning, we hit the road on a 6 day tour up the Central Highlands then finishing across in Hoi An, on the coast of Vietnam. My 70-litre backpack was strapped to the back of the motorbike, with me sitting behind River. Our final destination for the day was Lak Lake. But we made a few stops along the way at coffee plantations, a silk farm and the Elephant Waterfalls. The journey was absolutely breathtaking. The mountainous landscapes were filled with every shade of lush - almost violent - green. Mountains angled in from every direction, their tops hidden by the misty clouds. The road which we followed weaved along the edges of these mountains, revealing the valleys of undisturbed forest below.

Of course, not all of the region is untouched. In fact, a great deal of the forest area has been cut down to use for cultivating all sorts of vegetables and fruits, which we would ordinarily associate with Europe. The region around Dalat is also famous for its wine, which is much milder than other wines, and so easily drinkable.

Half-way through the trip we met up with an Australian couple - one a botanist, the other a professor of microbiology - also doing an easyrider tour, except to Nha Trang (where I had previously been).

Lak Lake was a serene village inhabitated by the M'nong minority tribe.Early morning musts hang above the calm waters and mingle with the columns of woodsmoke rising from the longhouses. River and I were sharing a "homestay", which was not in my view a homestay since no one else lived there. But still, I cannot deny that the slow pace of life in this village, on the lake, and on the rice paddies, was refreshing in a way.

I was not in a good mood at the end of the evening however. After a lovely dinner, and in mid-conversation with the Australian couple, River suggested that he take me back to the hut to sleep. I did not particularly want to go to sleep, but said that I would go if he wanted to - as it was too dark to walk, I needed to travel on his motorbike to get back to the hut. After leaving me at the hut, he went back to the restaurant saying that he would be back soon. Soon was not in fact very soon. So I was annoyed that I had been stranded in the hut, my evening cut short when I still had energy.

I woke up at 6.30am, unsure about what time we were leaving this morning. I knew that the couple were leaving at 7.30am, but River never communicated to me our plans for the day. He was asleep at 6.30am, so I decided to stay in bed and wait for him to wake up. I dozed off and woke up at 7.30am. Still he was asleep. Eventually, at 8.30am I got restless and got ready very slowly - using the very basic facilities located elsewhere.

At 9.30am River woke up. It turns out that he had been out until about 2am drinking and playing cards! I couldn't believe that I had been excluded from this - surely he could have at least invited me!

Well, we hit the road nonetheless towards Boun Ma Thout, which is a thriving city and the provicial capital of Daklak Province. I decided to keep my concerns about his behaviour to myself for the time being, as we had to spend the next 5 days together 24hrs/day.

We checked into a lovely 2* hotel which, compared to the previous night's homestay, was luxury. The three of us went to the market to buy some fruit, and then went to a small restaurant to eat fresh spring rolls (something I had had before, but the couple were new to). From there we did a roundtrip to the Dray Sap Waterfalls  (20km from Boun Ma Thout) which are several different cascades all next to each other. In one waterfall, we went for a swim in the lake at the bottom, before climbing to the waterfall and having a 'waterfall massage' under the cascading water. I could only bear 15 seconds of the 'massage' before escaping - it was just too strong/powerful to stay any longer. Another waterfall was an impressive 100m-wide torrent which created a spray that justified its name as the 'waterfall of smoke'.

Back at town, we went for dinner which was barbequed goat - it wasn't bad but it wasn't great either.

Post-dinner entertainment was a game of pool - locals (i.e. the 3 tour guides) versus foreigners (i.e. us 3 customers). We lost 2-1. Unsurprising really, considering the amount of free-time these guys have to play pool.

The next morning I went down for breakfast and was surprised to hear River giving lots of excuses whilst strongly suggesting that we go directly to Nha Trang, instead of the original 6-day tour to Hoi An. Words cannot express how pissed off I was. I slammed my hand at the table at his behaviour, but relented simply because I did not want to spend the next 4 days with a tour guide that did not want to guide me on a tour.  Our ride to Nha Trang was very direct, without any stops except to show my a rubber tree forest which I had seen plenty of before. Moreover, we were caught in a storm with a torrential downpour. Some water managed to reach my backpack through a small hole in the plastic, and soaked my journal and (EVEN WORSE) my sketchbook. And, to make it even worse, my bottle of after-sun had opened in my bag! River just dropped me off at Nha Trang Train Station and booked me on an overnight train to Hoi An. I gave a short goodbye, took my bag, and walked off in search of a coffee shop to kill time until my train arrived and to vent my anger at being in the same city I was in a week previously.

Tags: coffee, easyrider, motorbike, river, silk, waterfalls




River is awesome. I did the 4 day journey with him and had the best time. I have another couple from the US that did the same tour 2 years later and said it was the best thing they did on their entire journey around all of Asia.

River has the kindest heart and really accommodated us throughout our entire journey. I am sorry that he took you back to your hut. Maybe he thought you were tired, maybe he didn't want to have to stay up until 2 cause he knew he was, maybe he didn't want to party with you. Whatever the case was, River was great.

Ricky Restrepo

  Ricky Sep 15, 2011 3:05 AM


Wow - strange to have a comment on a post from so long ago. It seems like a distant memory now. And it's strange how things stay on the internet for so long! These stories were written mainly for my friends and family back home while I was travelling. It didn't occur to me at the time that the wider world would be interested in my writings. But I note that 955 people have read this post (which is more than my friends and family combined), so I thought I should respond to Ricky's comment in the interests of balance.

I would not want to discourage anyone from going on a tour with River - I have also heard many positive things about him and his tours. My experience was probably an isolated one and should not reflect generally on the quality of his tours. Regardless of who you go with, I would recommend the Easyrider tours as being a great way of seeing a truly beautiful part of the country. The central highlands are one of the lasting memories I have of Asia - which is impressive given that I was travelling for a very long time.

Safe travels,

  Jonathan Fernandes Sep 16, 2011 4:03 AM


Our group: The Original Easy Riders enthusiastic and knowledgeable generation with years of expriences is so ready to help you connect with the real Viet Nam, the bit forgotten by most Western tourists. We want to share with you the lives of the Vietnamese minority; to understand more about people, culture, cuisine and the hidden charm of the country. Don't miss out on this great opportunity to discover the heart and soul of Vietnamese.
Following the link below to see:

  Vietnam Easy Riders Nov 2, 2012 5:58 AM


We booked with River but Quang & Sang turned up at our hotel in Hoi An to take us on a 5 day tour to Nha Trang. It was awesome best thing we did in Vietnam. Quang & Sang were heaps of fun. Had a great tour although Ian had a sore bum from the bike. We surprisingly ran into Quang in Hoi An 2 years later. JUST DO IT!

  Trisha & Ian Jan 7, 2014 5:45 PM

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